Putting a Sight on the Substrate, Yessir
: Lexical and syntactic items from the Manx Gaelic substratum in Manx English as resources for marking a Manx linguistic identity.


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis provides a sociolinguistic insight into an understudied variety of English spoken on the Isle of Man, referred to throughout this work as Manx English. The Isle of Man is an area of prolonged and intense linguistic contact, and immigration (largely from the UK) has gradually placed Manx-born residents into a minority on their home soil. This research seeks to shed light on remaining lexical and grammatical items from the Manx Gaelic substrate in Manx English and describes the ways in which these may be linked with the marking of a Manx identity.

Data was collected from 30 Manx residents aged between 19 and 86 using an adapted version of an existing sociolinguistic research approach, the Survey of Regional English (SuRE) method (Llamas 1999, 2001). This enabled the collection of data on the levels of lexis, grammar, and phonology.

The data revealed that there are a number of both lexical and grammatical features from the Manx Gaelic substratum in the perceived usage of present day Manx English. These items are analysed in terms of their sensitivity to the social variables of age, location, the Manx Gaelic proficiency of informants, and informant levels of local and cultural affiliation. The thesis proposes that the (non-)retention of Manx Gaelic substrate items is associated with dialect contact-induced dialect levelling, although there is evidence of some concentrated distinction marking amongst the most culturally-active speakers.

It was found that two substrate items, specifically skeet and yessir, prevailed across the whole sample, and were quickly identified by speakers in their own descriptions of Manx English. It is proposed that these items have the property of sociolinguistic salience and are perpetuated in the sale of language commodities. The data reveals that it is these items, then, which have the most prominence and capacity to communicate a Manx linguistic identity.
Date of Award15 Apr 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorANTHONY GRANT (Director of Studies), IMOGEN MARCUS (Supervisor) & Carmen Llamas (Supervisor)


  • Isle of Man
  • Manx Gaelic
  • Language contact
  • Identity
  • Heritage language
  • Salience
  • Substrate influence
  • Dialect levelling
  • Local affiliation
  • Linguistic ideology

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