French - Doctoral Theses

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    The construction of group identities and the positioning of ‘Irishness’ in computer-mediated siscourse surrounding the repeal of the Eighth Amendment
    (University College Cork, 2021) Grant, Ciara; Howard, Martin; Devlin, Anne Marie
    In 2018 Ireland held a referendum proposing a repeal of an historic amendment to the Constitution which guaranteed the unborn child a right to life equal to that of the mother, effectively rendering abortion illegal in all but exceptional circumstances. The referendum on this divisive issue generated enormous public interest, resulting in highly publicised debates in both online and offline spheres. This study uses the online context of the referendum to examine identity construction and navigation by groups and individuals participating in computer-mediated discourse. Four major identity themes are identified in this study: national, gender, political, and religious. Data are collected from comments made by users on the public Facebook pages of major Irish news outlets. There are two major groups identified in this study: the Yes group which self-identifies as pro-choice and supports a Yes vote in the referendum, and the No group which self-identifies as pro- life and advocates a No vote which would retain the status quo. There is also a third group of Undecided voters, although there were few examples of these comments in the data corpus. Using a combined positioning theory and corpus-based approach to discourse analysis, the data corpus is analysed using both quantitative and qualitative methods, including the analytical software tool AntConc. The study finds that there are two divergent Irish identities in this debate. The Yes group positions Ireland and its people as a modern nation, evidenced by their support of increased access to abortion. This stance carries a wider symbolism including a greater emphasis on gender equality and women’s rights, as well as a separation of Church and State. By comparison, it was found that the No group’s version of Irish identity is focused on retention of the traditional family unit at the centre of society, emphasised by a difference from Britain and informed by Catholic values and morals. The study also identified a high prevalence of trolling by both Yes and No users. This is a discursive feature that is unique to computer-mediated environments and is influenced by the nature of online communication itself.
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    Voices from the outside: Homeric exiles in twentieth-century French writing
    (University College Cork, 2020) Burke, Catherine; Noonan, Mary P.; Irish Research Council; Fulbright Association
    This thesis explores the twentieth-century trope of the outsider but from a modern and Homeric perspective. The corpus of artists under review each develop a symbiotic relationship with Homer and his epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. It is an encounter that repositions the outsider, shifting our gaze from the pitiable, shunned ‘étranger’ to the creative, empowered, and vocal other. The position of the exile is recast as a Homeric exile of possibility. I begin the discussion with Marcel Proust, one of the cornerstones of French literary and cultural history. Through his masterful work A la recherche du temps perdu, Proust fashions a French epic deeply indebted to Homer, exploiting the figure of the Homeric bard to craft his modern response to the contemporary notion of the twentieth-century French outsider. The second chapter follows on from this, with Jean Giono and Naissance de l’Odyssée building on this idea of the storyteller and in particular the self-referential and metanarrative nature of the role, and how this impacts upon and advances the French Homeric exile. The result is an intricate exploration of the relationship with literary predecessors, one that oscillates from parasitism to symbiosis, with the identity of the artist moulded by the encounter. The third chapter moves to a comparative study of two French women, Simone Weil and Rachel Bespaloff and their respective engagement with Homer’s Iliad. This chapter explores a notable development in the Homeric reconfiguration of the twentieth-century modern French exile. The chapter provides evidence of female artists engaging with Homer, where the female response is not determined by gender and where the playfulness discernible in the previous artists is in stark contrast to the grim and gritty Homeric rewritings of these women. Both Weil and Bespaloff are at pains to reveal that the creative and powerful position of the reconfigured outsider is one hard fought. Chapter Four deals with the inimitable Claude Cahun, an artist who embodies the twentieth-century French Homeric outsider. In both her visual artwork and her literary work Héroïnes, Cahun represents a significant iteration of the French Homeric outsider. Throughout her work, she explores many of the themes of the thesis, interrogating the nature of art and the artist, the fluidity of the self, the metamorphosis of the artist, the performative aspect of identity and the role of the other. Chapter Five brings us to Monique Wittig, one of the most influential voices in the feminist movement in France. Her Homeric reworking of the Iliad, Les Guérillères, is in marked contrast to that of Weil and Bespaloff. Wittig wears her gender very much on her sleeve: this is a feminist revision of the Homeric Iliad and stamps a female voice on the figure of the Homeric exile in twentieth-century France. The thesis ends with a conclusion that ties the disparate strands together in a coherent illustration of the twentieth-century French encounter with Homer. The encounter is an intertextual exchange that saw the emergence of a distinct Homeric voice of exile, one that articulated a unique moment in France’s cultural history. From this fertile engagement avenues of possibility spring forth for the future Homer, the quintessential voice of exile.
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    Social and personal engagement and development during study abroad: experiential perspectives from Saudi language learners
    (University College Cork, 2021-02-24) Almohammade, Nesreen; Howard, Martin
    This thesis is a longitudinal study that aims to explore Saudi language learners’ experiences in a study-abroad environment. The study investigated their contact with the language, culture and academic life in Ireland and how gender influenced their sojourn experience. The research will reveal the impact of study abroad experience on Saudi learners’ language development and personal growth from learners’ perspectives. The study included ten newly-arrived Saudi language learners in Ireland and followed a qualitative research approach. Two face-to-face, semi-structured interviews were guided by three research questions about how the participants spent their time abroad, gender influence and overall perception of the study-abroad experience. Participants were interviewed twice, upon their arrival and three months after they settled in. The data from the interviews were analysed under the objectives of the study using computer analysis software. The data analysis revealed that learners’ expectations of their language use and social relationships with native speakers were not realistic and were challenging to achieve. However, once they modified their expectations, their perception of the experience changed positively. The findings highlight how the learners are active social agents who wish to socialise and use the language inside and outside the classroom in authentic real-life situations. Furthermore, communicating in the second language was perceived as the main challenge they experienced upon arrival, followed by interacting with the opposite gender in the case of female participants. According to the learners, their social networks included mainly other international students and co-national friends due to the fact that meeting native speakers was difficult except for those who lived with a host family.
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    Language practices and experiences among active and heritage speakers of Romani: a cross-country comparison of Czech and Slovak Roma
    (University College Cork, 2021) Plachetka, Martin; Howard, Martin; Irish Research Council
    This study examines Romani language use, attitudes and identity issues in the context of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Qualitative data on Roma language experiences and attitudes surrounding Romani use, transmission, maintenance and loss were collected through in-depth interviews. The research involved ten Czech Roma and ten Slovak Roma participants, thus allowing for a cross-country comparison. Thematic analysis provided findings that define the Slovak Roma as proficient and active users of Romani, whereas the Czech Roma emerge as heritage speakers of the language. The findings suggest that the Slovak Roma assign an affective value to Romani and a utilitarian language value to Slovak. On the other hand, the Czech Roma display both affective and utilitarian values to Czech, since they are not proficient speakers of Romani. The Romani language is seen as a reflection of linguistic and identity oppressions and discrimination over time. Therefore, its usage evidences a functional split between private and public domains. It is freely used with family, friends and relatives (e.g. in private), where the language receives the most positive attitudes as part of ethnic identity. On the other hand, it loses such positive attitudes in public domains, such as in formal and transactional situations (e.g. in interactions with public officials). The findings also indicate that language and identity carry a certain level of linguistic and social stigma among the participants. Although with some exceptions, the speakers positively recognise their membership of their ethnic group. However, unlike the Slovak Roma, the findings point to a slower and more gradual ethnic identity development among the Roma participants in the Czech Republic. This is attributed to their early integration within the dominant Czech society and realisation of their struggles throughout history. Overall, despite the positive attitudes towards Romani (at least in the private domains), the findings provide evidence of the presence of deep-rooted stigmas attached to the language and identity. These issues are explored using different theoretical frameworks, such as Bourdieu’s (1991) Theory of Capital, Phinney’s (1993) Model of Ethnic Identity Development and Hyme’s (1968/1974) SPEAKING Model.
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    Mapping pragmatic competence to the CEFR: a cross-sectional study of L2 English requests
    (University College Cork, 2018) McCarthy, Martina Maria; Howard, Martin
    This thesis broadly investigates the development of L2 pragmatic competence of English language study abroad learners at B1, B2, and C1 level. It also tests the validity of the CEFR descriptors for “sociolinguistic appropriateness” (CoE, 2018) against statistically analysed learner data. More specifically, the speech act of requests was chosen as the focus for this cross-sectional study which explores the influence of proficiency level and sociocultural variables on the exponents employed. Regarding the design of the study, an original five-question WDCT was used to elicit requests from 50 participants in each test group. This generated data of 750 request responses overall. The data were analysed using a quali-quantitative approach whereby the responses were firstly coded using a slightly altered version of the renowned coding categories delineated by Blum-Kulka and Olshtain (1984). Thereafter, statistical analysis was carried out using chi-square and binomial tests between groups and request situations to test the effect of proficiency level and sociocultural variables respectively on the employment of exponents. The significant results were then mapped to the CEFR descriptors for “sociolinguistic appropriateness” by using six hypotheses based on same. Three of those hypotheses stipulated that the number of exponents available increases in line with proficiency level, while the others referred to how C1 and B2 level learners adjust their use of language to the context but B1 level learners do not. Overall, all groups employed the same exponents. Naturally, the quality of language increased in line with proficiency level. However, the B1 group indexed their resourcefulness in drawing on their comparatively restricted linguistic repertoire to perform the same exponents as the other groups. Also, it was found that proficiency level did not have a profound impact on exponents. There were a few notable exceptions such as the B1 group’s reliance on can and please compared to the C1 group’s preference for would (you mind). In addition, there was some evidence of developing multi-strategy requests as proficiency level improved, but this was apparent in some request situations, not all. Furthermore, all groups responded in strikingly similar ways to the sociocultural variables of power difference, social distance, and the level of imposition. For instance, all groups were able to mark formality with address terms and greetings according to the context. Also, all groups recognised the need to use grounders in high imposition requests. Differences in how the groups adjusted their language according to the context in certain request situations shed light on the development of rhetorical logic (O’Keefe, 1988) and demonstrated an enhanced ability to attend to face-work in a range of contexts on the part of the C1 group. In addition, the results refuted the three hypotheses based on the developmental progression in exponents as suggested in the CEFR descriptors for “sociolinguistic appropriateness”. Also, the hypothesis that the B1 group does not adjust language according to the context was refuted. Hence, revisions to the CEFR descriptors for “sociolinguistic appropriateness” were presented based on the results. Moreover, a proposal regarding a means to expand the scales and descriptors was put forth to reflect the wealth of literature on (L2) pragmatics. In explaining the results, it was deduced that the study abroad nature of the participants was an important factor since the results refuted the findings of many studies on EFL learners, for instance. The multidisciplinary approach adopted in the thesis showed how collaborative research across the fields of pragmatics, ILP, and the CEFR would be conducive to developing a more holistic understanding of L2 pragmatic competence.