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‘Northmen, Southmen, comrades all’? The adoption of discourse like by migrants north and south of the Irish border

  • Karen P. Corrigan (a1) and Chloé Diskin (a2)


The Republic of Ireland (ROI) and Northern Ireland (NI) have recently become attractive migrant destinations. Two main dialectal varieties are recognised on the island, but little is known about their adoption by new speakers. Focusing on a panlectal feature, discourse like, we conducted a quantitative sociolinguistic investigation of its adoption by seventeen young Polish and Lithuanian migrants in Armagh (NI), and thirty-six Polish and Chinese adult migrants in Dublin (ROI), with comparator samples drawn from native speakers. Findings show that like rates in both cities diverge, but that migrants mirror local frequencies. Clause-final like is restricted primarily to native speakers, but is twice as frequent in Armagh than in Dublin. English proficiency has a significant effect on the likelihood of young migrants in Armagh adopting the clause-final variant. The article's significance also stems from the original contribution it makes to our understanding of how sociolinguistic competence is acquired in ‘superdiverse’ settings. (Discourse like, identity, migration, Northern Irish-English, Hiberno-English, Ulster English, Southern Irish-English)*


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Karen P. Corrigan School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics Percy Building Newcastle UniversityNewcastle upon TyneNE1 7RU,


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We would like to thank the editor and anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments that have improved this contribution enormously—as have observations from audiences at New Perspectives on Irish English 4 and Sociolinguistics Symposium 22. We also wish to recognize Frances Kane for offering advice regarding the clausal positioning of Irish pragmatic markers and the efforts of staff at both the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and Northern Ireland's Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) for assistance with census materials. Corrigan is similarly grateful to the Arts and Humanities Research Council that supported this research (2012–2015) and Diskin extends her thanks for funding to the Irish Research Council (2011–2014). Hayden Blain, Joaquín Bueno-Amaro, and Dan Jordan should also be acknowledged for proofreading assistance. Remaining shortcomings are, as usual, our responsibility.

Extracted from Francis O'Donovan's lyric ‘On the One Road’ (1940). The article is dedicated to the memory of Jim Miller (1942–2019), a stalwart mentor and friend who died on 8th of February 2019 while we were writing. His research on the function of like in dialogue informs several of our arguments. We thus hope that this article not only makes an original contribution to furthering our knowledge of this discourse-pragmatic feature but also becomes ‘something to leave a memory of us, like’. This phrase—made more poignant in the present context—is drawn from Miller & Weinert's (1995:389) Scots corpus. It illustrates the clause-final variant that they deftly analyse in this groundbreaking work that subsequently features prominently in Miller (2009) and now here.



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‘Northmen, Southmen, comrades all’? The adoption of discourse like by migrants north and south of the Irish border

  • Karen P. Corrigan (a1) and Chloé Diskin (a2)


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