Computer-aided contributions to the study of Irish dialects

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The LASID was compiled over two decades ago, without computers in mind, and the work which follows may be considered as an attempt to graft computer technology onto traditional dialect research methodology. However, in view of the benefits gained from this combination of disciplines, we hope that a foundation has been laid for future work. The computer is best characterized by its potential for data retrieval and the project described in this thesis should not be seen as exhausted, but rather as beginning. The program is available to other researchers. It may be used within the university itself, or by request, or may be accessed at a distance by telephone link-up, using the program and data in Q.U.B., or, where hardware is compatible, in any other institution where the software can be made available. It is my hope that other researchers will make free use of this facility.

The potential of this project may perhaps be judged by the amount of computer mill-time it has used. In the academic year 1979-80, for example, it used 13.20 hours of computer mill-time out of a total for the Faculty of Arts of 13.41 hours. As another basis for comparison, the whole Statistics section of the Faculty of Science used 16.15 hours and Medical Statistics used 13.31 hours. This LASID work is equal to 0.52% of the University's total mill-time, which is recognised as an extremely high work input for a single project.

In retrospect, I feel that the decision to use the computer has been well justified. Many of the problems which arose were technical rather than theoretical. The University's ageing 1906S computer, which holds the LASID data, has been plagued with mechanical failure and caused frustrating delays. However, the LASID material will soon be transferred to a newer, more reliable machine, smoothing the path for further developments.

My difficulties and frustrations in the Computer Centre have been greatly eased by the kindness and co-operation of the Centre's staff who inspired by their dedication and made life bearable by their good humour.
I am particularly indebted to Ciaran Devine and Brian McLaughlin who suited the program to my needs, ran the 'jobs' on the computer and tolerated my computing inadequacies. I am also inestimably indebted to Barbara Reid and her staff in the Computer Centre who performed the almost superhuman task of punching over 30,000 cards of very difficult data.

My work in the Computer Centre could never have been undertaken without the vision of Professor Wagner who encouraged me when I decided to embark upon a voyage to new territory. This act of faith sustained me during the long period of turning theory into reality. When Professor Wagner left Belfast, his successor, Professor Stockman, steered me towards completion with sagacity and patience. Without his guiding hand I would have run the danger of drifting around uncharted areas without reaching landfall. Finally, I must thank Teresa Flanagan of the Celtic Department, Q.U.B., who typed this thesis. The difficulty of such an undertaking, and her skill, are evident in the following pages.
Date of Award1982
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast

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