by Katie Jackson
Dr. Graham Shorrocks
By Katie Jackson
Ever wonder how an atlas is made? Well Dr. Graham Shorrocks
did, and he is now involved with the largest linguistic project
ever undertaken. A professor with Memorial University’s
Department of English Language and Literature, Dr. Shorrocks
is a linguist who specializes in dialectology. His current
area of research includes English dialects in Newfoundland
and in the Northwest of England.
Dr. Shorrocks is part of an organization called the Atlas
Linguarum Europae. This project is dedicated to plotting
large areas of dialects and producing maps that show the distribution
of the different linguistic forms. The atlas is concerned
with over 50 languages and their dialects and stretches over
a large expanse of land from Iceland and Ireland in the north
and the west of Europe, right over parts of the former Soviet
Union in the east.
The atlas is an ongoing project and has been since the fieldwork
started in the 1970s. The volumes of maps and commentaries
have been prepared more recently. The organization meets once
every year in Europe to discuss their next steps, and to critique
the draft presentations of the maps and commentaries.
After the critiquing process is finished, editing has to be
done. Dr. Shorrocks says that he has a fair amount to do with
the editorial process, and getting the commentaries ready
Despite having been involved with the atlas project for many
years, Dr. Shorrocks says that the project he is most proud
of is the two-volume book titled A Grammar of the Dialect
of the Bolton Area. The Bolton area study was extended
from his PhD study of his local dialect of Farnsworth, Lancashire,
in Northern England.
“I think probably the two volume Bolton Grammar
is the thing that cost me the most effort,” he says.
“If we allow for the fact that my PhD was done first,
and that the Bolton Grammar was completely re-worked
and involved a lot of new fieldwork, then you could probably
say that it has about 20 years of work behind it.”
Dr. Shorrocks became interested in dialects because growing
up he was a native speaker of a non-standard dialect. This
sparked his interest in foreign languages, and in his first
degree at Birmingham University, Dr. Shorrocks majored in
German and did his minor in French language. He then did his
master’s in Modern German Linguistics.
But it was not until he began his PhD studies that he began
researching the English dialect. “I found I had an interest
in languages and the study of language, and the study of dialect
is all part and parcel of that same general area,” he
Dr. Shorrocks has very recently been appointed editor of the
journal called Dialectologia et Geolinguistica / The Journal
of the International Society for Dialectology and Geolinguistics.
“Geolinguistics is a little bit wider that dialectology,”
says Dr. Shorrocks. “Geolinguistics includes …
the social dimension of language of [a] region and the social
variations of language as well as the geographical variations.
Geolinguistics would also include [the] political dimension
so it might involve looking at contact situations between
languages and looking at languages and dialects across national
boundaries … and even questions of language planning.”
Dr. Shorrocks is also editor of a local journal called Regional
Language Studies, published by Memorial University’s
Department of English. Its purpose is to promote the study
of Newfoundland language and culture. It includes pieces on
Newfoundland English and occasionally French and Inuktitut
(Inuktut) as well. It also has some concern with Newfoundland
folklore and folk-life because, as Dr. Shorrocks says, “These
Dr. Shorrocks has written well over 100 book reviews, and
very recently published an article concerning Newfoundland
English in which he examines the Celtic influence stemming
from the Irish ancestry of many Newfoundlanders, and the use
of ingressive speech. Simply put, ingressive speech or use
of an ingressive airstream mechanism is when you breathe in
while speaking as opposed to breathing out, as is normally
done. When an affirmative “Yeah” is spoken while
breathing in, it is an example of ingressive speech.
Dr. Shorrocks has very recently received the Dean’s
Award for Distinguished Scholarship, from the Faculty of Arts.
As he understands it, this award is to “recognize scholarly
work that has raised Memorial’s profile, and raised
the profile of the Faculty of Arts at the national and international
levels.” It is a new award and Dr. Shorrocks is pleased
to receive it.
“It’s a form of acknowledgement for the work that
you’ve done. A lot of the work that I’ve done
has been international in its scope and implications, so I
was pleased to have that recognized.”