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History

Academic research on Newfoundland English began in the early 1950s, when E. Ronald Seary was appointed Head of the English department at Memorial University. His research interests lay in place-names and family names.

Seary was joined in 1954 by George M. Story, and in 1959 by William J. Kirwin, who broadened the research focus of the department to include lexicography and dialectology. Together, they created the first dialectology and local-English-oriented courses taught at Memorial.

Under their guidance, their students became avid collectors of Newfoundland and Labrador language materials. These student collections, together with their own, formed the basis of the current collections of the ELRC.

In 1968, the MUN departments of Folklore and Linguistics were created. The following years saw a continuance, in the new departments, of the scholarly interests of members of what solely had been the English department.

Harold Paddock, a member of the Linguistics Department for thirty years from the early 1970s, carried out research in Newfoundland and Labrador dialect.

John Widdowson, who was closely allied with both the English and Folklore departments through the ELRC, investigated Newfoundland dialect, especially its lexical aspects. After moving to Sheffield, he has continued for forty years to make annual research trips to Memorial.

The 1970s saw the appointment of Sandra Clarke to Linguistics, Robert Hollett and Bernard O'Dwyer to English and Philip Hiscock to MUNFLA (Folklore). The following decade, the 1980s, saw the appointment to English of dialectologist Graham Shorrocks who eventually edited Regional Language Studies . . . Newfoundland for several years. In 2006, the Canada Research Chair in Regional Language and Oral Text was filled by Gerard van Herk.

Over the nearly fifty years of activity that the ELRC represents, many other people have been closely involved. In the 1960s and 1970s, Joan Halley was central to the then-Dictionary Room, doing most of the clerical, design and bibliographical work. In the 1970s Sheila Lynch was Seary's assistant and co-investigator for his Family Names project at the Centre. In the 1990s Jacob Larkin helped guide the transition of the published DNE to its online format. Over the years, dozens of other researchers and students have been active in the ELRC and its predecessor.

MUNFLA was officially established in 1968 and its links to the ELRC have remained strong through various actors, Widdowson, Kirwin and Hiscock among them. Once projects reached publication, some specific ELRC research materials were transferred physically to MUNFLA (for further information, see the Collections section of this website).

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