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   A Memorial University of Newfoundland Publication

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March 18, 2004


Linking to the global community
Dialects of the world
Dr. Graham Shorrocks
Photo by Katie Jackson
Dr. Graham Shorrocks

By Katie Jackson
SPARK Correspondent

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 for publication.

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 said.

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 things overlap.”

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.”


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Next issue: April 8, 2004

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