This article examines the nature and use of religious references across a range of contexts, and also age and gender groups to establish their patterning and functioning in contemporary English, with particular reference to Irish English. The examination is carried out by using quantitative and qualitative corpus-based tools and methodologies, such as relative frequency lists and concordances, as well as details of formulaic strings, including significant clusters. The paper highlights that religious references are high frequency items in informal spoken discourse and that they are predominantly used in non-religious contexts. In terms of age, their use seems to be characteristic of the discourse of the older speakers, while a gender-based analysis underlines their elevated use by male speakers. The analyses conclude that religious references are so commonplace in Irish English that their use, as a means of emotional expression, now seems almost ubiquitously acceptable among the represented groups, and when used, these items do not seem to cause offense.
© 2009 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, D-10785 Berlin