A corpus-based investigation of pragmatic markers and sociolinguistic variation in Irish English
This chapter aims to explore how pragmatic markers like and sure behave when investigated from an age and gender perspective. Using a small sociolinguistic-oriented corpus, the study adopts a multidisciplinary approach to reveal insights into socially-conditioned linguistic variation in Irish English. On a quantitative level, the study shows that both pragmatic markers reveal different levels of variation when explored across the social groups, which shows how they vary in terms of levels of attachment and status within an Irish English context. This sheds light on what stage a sociolinguistic marker is at (Labov 2001). Like, for instance, appears as a marker of youth (see also Tagliamonte 2010) while sure is used more consistently in Irish English and does not appear to be marked by either age or gender. A deeper more qualitative approach to the data uncovers more functionally motivated linguistic variation across the age and gender groups, which provides possible explanations for the patterns which emerge in the quantitative section of the chapter. Like, for example, appears to be more multifunctional than sure in the corpus, and when investigated further, there is evidence of how its function is perhaps somewhat responsible for its high frequency. Like appears to be used as a hedge by the younger groups when they are involved in topics where self-disclosure and personal involvement are common, in contrast to the older groups where such topics are rarely found. The findings from this study emphasise the use of corpus-based tools and methodologies in uncovering insights into sociolinguistics, and variational pragmatics on a small scale. Associations between topic, age, gender and pragmatic markers are discussed and questions are raised as to the interrelationship, if any, which exists between them. The need for further research is emphasised.