Fergus O’Dwyer

Thesis working title: Language and identity in a Dublin suburb

Supervisor: Professor Bettina Migge

Fergus O'Dwyer

I am currently a Linguistics lecturer at the Westfälische Wilhelms-University of Münster, and aim to finish my PhD thesis at UCD in late-2017.

My ethnography is conducted in a suburban sports -Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA)- club. Identity in interaction is at the centre of the thesis: I wanted to understand how identities are performed in male-only settings. Specifically, I aimed to interpret patterns of variation to create a better understanding of the relationship between linguistic variants and social element of interactions. I examined what kinds of interactional identities are recognized by people in the club and wider area, and how participants deploy linguistic and other social practices to negotiate their alignment with and dissociation from these identities. Language identity issues are explored through participant observation in a variety of contexts, followed by semi-guided interviews and recordings of selected natural interactions of interactions.

I first analyzed the social space from several perspectives ranging from the macro (historical, political, social, cultural, and institutional issues), and then collected primary data. The following emerged to be salient in this case: the typical linguistic behavior – or dominant types of talk- found in the club, two types of interactional identities (authoritative and “tough”), and three variant linguistic variables: the PRICE lexical set, word-final /t/, and the use of humour.

I primarily focus on how the language used orients speakers to certain interactional identities or social positions (e.g. authoritative). The principal findings of the study are that high and front PRICE realizations are often linked with a “tough” interactional identity. Backed and lowered PRICE tokens, and word-final slit, or fricated, /t/ realizations correlate with an authoritative identity. A collegial type of humour creates and maintains solidarity amongst club members, while another “edgy” kind of humour contain an underlying message of “I’m stronger than you”.