Irish English – also known as Anglo-Irish and Hiberno-English – is English as spoken in
Anglo-Irish is an established term in literature to refer to works written in English by authors born in
Hiberno-English is a learned term which is derived from the Latin term Hibernia ‘
Irish English is the simplest and most convenient term. It has the advantage that it is parallel to the designations for other varieties, e.g., American, Australian, Welsh English, and can be further differentiated where necessary. Throughout the present chapter this term will be used.
Those varieties of English are distinct from other varieties of English in that they have their own grammatical structures, vocabularies, sound systems, pronunciations, and patterns of intonation. The most significant varieties are the Northern and the Southern: roughly speaking, those to the north or the south of a line drawn from Bundoran in the west to
Modern Irish English derives from the plantations of the 16th and 17th cents. Parts of the north and east of
The standard spelling and grammar of Irish English are largely the same as common British English. However, some unique characteristics exist, especially in the spoken language, owing to the influence of the Irish language on the pronunciation of English.
Irish English Consonants
Speech in the whole of
With some local exceptions, /r/ is pronounced wherever it occurs in the word, making Irish English a generally rhotic dialect. The exceptions to this are most notable in
/t/ is not usually pronounced as a plosive where it does not occur word-initially. Instead, it is pronounced as a slit fricative /t̞/, between [s] and [ʃ].
The distinction between w /w/ and wh /ʍ
/, as in wine vs. whine is preserved.
In some varieties, the dental fricatives /θ/ and /ð/ become dental stops [t̪ʰ] and [d̪] respectively, making thin and tin, and then and den, near-homophones, where the pair tin and den employs alveolar pronunciation (as in other varieties of English). In other varieties, this occurs only to /θ/ while /ð/ is left unchanged. Some dialects of Irish have a "slender" (palatalized) d as /ðʲ/ and this may transfer over to English pronunciation. In still others, both dental fricatives are present since slender dental stops are lenited to [θʲ] and [ðʲ].
In such words as pine, time, come, the opening consonant is aspirated, the /t/ in time sounding like a cross between t and the th in three: aspiration of syllable - initial /p, t, k/.
/l/ is mainly clear.
Consonant clusters ending in /j/ often change:
· /dj/ becomes /dʒ
/, e.g. dew/due, duke and duty sound like "jew", "jook" and "jooty";
· /tj/ becomes /tʃ
/, e.g. tube is "choob", tune is "choon";
· /sj/ becomes /ʃ
/, e.g. sexual becomes "sekshual";
· /nj/ becomes /n/, e.g. new becomes "noo";
· /kj/, /hj/, /mj/ remain as in Standard English.
Irish English Vowels
The distinction between /ɑ
/ and /O;
/ in horse and hoarse is preserved, though not usually in
The vowels in words as boat and cane are monophthongs: [bO;t], and [kE;n] respectively, though not in
/ in night may be pronounced /OI/ or /JI
In some varieties, speakers make no distinction between the /V/ in putt and the /ʊ/ in put, pronouncing both as the latter.
In some old-fashioned varieties, words spelled with "ea" and pronounced with /I;
/ in RP are pronounced with /e;
/, for example meat, beat.
In words like took where "oo" usually represents /ʊ/, speakers may use /u;/.
/ of words such as cut tends to be rounded to [ɔ
] in most varieties.
The "a" in any and many is sometimes pronounced as /V/.
/ often becomes /ɛ
/ in words such as gave and came (becoming "gev" and "kem").
· Traditionally the /ai/ vowel in words like price and ride ranges in pronunciation from /əi/ in working-class speech to /ai/ in middle-class dialects. However, among speakers born after 1970, the pronunciation /ɑ
/ (more typical of other Hiberno-English dialects) has become more frequent;
· The /au/ diphthong in around and south is fronted to /æu/ or /J
u/. Upper middle-class speech tends to preserve this as /au/ ;
· Low-back vowels are typically lengthened, hence dog becomes [dɑ;ɡ], lost becomes [lɑ;st], etc.
· Working-class dialects are weakly rhotic, with some historically non-rhotic pronunciations (e.g. [pVUtJ] for 'porter'). Rhotic speakers pronounce written /r/ in all positions, while non-rhotic speakers pronounce /r/ only if it is followed by a vowel sound, and not always even then.
· In upper-middle class speech, however, final 'r' is often retroflex, a feature which creates a strongly rhotic auditory effect, and as such a clear means of disassociation from the city's weakly-rhotic vernacular.
· Final 't' is heavily lenited in working-class Dublin English so that sit can be pronounced [sɪh] or even [sɪ].
· Intervocalic /t/ is often voiced flap /d/: city [sIdi;]
Irish English vary substantially with rises on many statements in urban
GRAMMAR AND SYNTAX
The syntax of the Irish language is quite different from that of English. Various aspects of Irish syntax have influenced Hiberno-English, though it should be noted that many of these idiosyncrasies are disappearing in urban areas and among the younger population.
Irish lacks words that directly translate as "yes" or "no", and instead repeats the verb in a question, possibly negated, to answer. Hiberno-English uses "yes" and "no" less frequently than other English dialects as speakers can repeat the verb, positively or negatively, instead of (or in redundant addition to) using "yes" or "no".
"Are you coming home soon?" "I am."
"Is your mobile charged?" "It's not."
There is no indefinite article in Irish (fear means "a man", whereas an fear means "the man"), and the use of the definite article in Hiberno-English has some distinctive functions, which mark it out from Standard English by following and sometimes extending the usage of the definite article in Irish.
She had the flu so he brought her to the hospital. (This construction is normal in American English, but not in most British dialects).
She came home for the Christmas.
The Irish equivalent of the verb "to be" has two present tenses, one (the present tense proper or "aimsir láithreach") for cases which are generally true or are true at the time of speaking and the other (the habitual present or "aimsir gnáth láithreach") for repeated actions. Thus, 'you are [now, or generally]' is tá tú, but 'you are [repeatedly]' is bíonn tú. Both forms are used with the verbal noun (equivalent to the English present participle) to create compound tenses.
Some Irish speakers of English, especially in rural areas, especially Mayo/Sligo, use the verb "to be" in English similarly to how they would in Irish, using a "does be/do be" (or "bees", although less frequently) construction to indicate this latter continuous present:
"He does be working every day."
"They do be talking on their mobiles a lot."
"He bees doing a lot of work at school." (Rare)
"It's him I do be thinking of."
Irish has no pluperfect tense: instead, "after" is added to the present continuous (a verb ending in "-ing"), a construction known as the "hot news perfect" or "after perfect". The idiom for "I had done X when I did Y" is "I was after doing X when I did Y", modelled on the Irish usage of the compound prepositions i ndiaidh, tar éis, and in éis: bhí mé tar éis/i ndiaidh/in éis X a dhéanamh, nuair a rinne mé Y.
"Why did you hit him?" "He was after showing me cheek."
Using a- and -ing as a passive:
"Where were you? You were a-looking (being looked for) this last hour and more."
A similar construction is seen where exclamation is used in describing a recent event:
"I'm after hitting him with the car!"
"She's after losing five stone in five weeks!"
When describing less astonishing or significant events, a structure resembling the German spoken perfect can be seen:
"I have the car fixed."
"I have my breakfast eaten."
Irish has separate forms for the second person singular (tú) and the second person plural (sibh). Mirroring Irish, and almost every other European language, the plural 'you' is also distinguished from the singular in Hiberno-English, normally by use of the otherwise archaic English word 'ye' [ji]; the word 'yous' (sometimes written as 'youse') also occurs, but primarily only in Dublin and across Ulster. In addition, in some areas in Leinster, north Connacht and parts of
"Did ye all go to see it?"
"None of youse have a clue!"
"Are yis not finished yet?"
In rural areas, the reflexive version of pronouns is often used for emphasis or to refer indirectly to a particular person, etc., according to context. 'Herself', for example, might refer to the speaker's boss or to the woman of the house. Use of 'herself' or 'himself' in this way often indicates that the speaker attributes some degree of arrogance or selfishness to the person in question. Note also the indirectness of this construction relative to, for example, 'She's coming now'.
"Tis herself that's coming now." Is í féin atá ag teacht anois.
"Was it all of ye or just yourself?"
It is also common to end sentences with 'no?' or 'yeah?':
"He isn't coming today, no?"
Níl sé ag teacht inniu, nach bhfuil?
"The bank's closed now, yeah?" Tá an banc dúnta anois, an bhfuil?
Though because of the particularly insubstantive "yes" and "no" in Irish, (the nach bhfuil? and an bhfuil? being the interrogative positive and negative of the verb 'to be') the above may also find expression as:
"He isn't coming today, sure he isn't?"
Níl sé ag teacht inniú, nach bhfuil?
"The bank's closed now, isn't it?"
Tá an banc dúnta anois, nach bhfuil?
This is not limited only to the verb 'to be': it is also used with 'to have' when used as an auxiliary; and, with other verbs, the verb 'to do' is used. This is most commonly used for intensification.
"This is strong stuff, so it is."
"We won the game, so we did."
"She is a right lash, so she is."
There are some language forms that stem from the fact that there is no verb 'to have' in Irish. Instead, possession is indicated in Irish by using the preposition 'at', (in Irish, ag.). To be more precise, Irish uses a prepositional pronoun that combines ag "at" and me "me" to create agam. In English, the verb "to have" is used, along with a "with me" or "on me" that derives from ‘‘Tá....agam.
"Do you have the book? I have it with me. "
"Have you change for the bus on you?"
"He will not shut up if he has drink taken."
Somebody who can speak a language 'has' a language, in which Hiberno-English has borrowed the grammatical form used in Irish.
'She does not have Irish. Níl Gaeilge aici. literally 'There is no Irish at her'.
When describing something, rural Hiberno-English speakers may use the term 'in it' where 'there' would usually be used. This is due to the Irish word ann (pronounced "oun") fulfilling both meanings.
"Is it yourself that is in it? An tú féin atá ann? "
Another idiom is this thing or that thing described as 'this man here' or 'that man there', which also features in Newfoundland English in
"This man here. An fear seo." (anseo = here)
"That man there. An fear sin." (ansin = there)
Conditionals have a greater presence in Irish English due to the tendency to replace the simple present tense with the conditional (would) and the simple past tense with the conditional perfect (would have).
"John asked me would I buy a loaf of bread" ('John asked me to buy a loaf of bread')
"How do you know him? We would have been in school together." ('We went to school together')
Bring and take: Irish use of these words differs from that of English, because it follows the Gaelic grammar for beir and tóg. English usage is determined by direction; person determines Irish usage. So, in English, one takes "from here to there", and brings it "to here from there". Nevertheless, in Irish, a person takes only when accepting a transfer of possession of the object from someone else – and a person brings at all other times, irrespective of direction (to or from).
"Do not forget to bring your umbrella with you when you go."
(To a child) "Hold my hand: I do not want someone to take you."
Turns of phrase
Amn't is used as an abbreviation of "am not", by analogy with "isn't" and "aren't". This can be used as a tag question ("I'm making a mistake, amn't I?"), or as an alternative to "I'm not" ("I amn't joking"), and the double negative is also used ("I'm not late, amn't I not?"). This construction occurs also in Scottish English.
Arra is used also. Arra tends to be used after something bad has happened, when someone is looking on the bright side ("Arra, we'll go next week", "Arra, 'tis not the end of the world"). Arra comes from the Irish word "dhera" (pronounced "yerra"). As a result, the words yerra and erra are also used in different parts of the country.
Come here to me now, Come here and I'll tell ya something or (in
Reduplication is an alleged trait of Hiberno-English strongly associated with stage-Irish and Hollywood films (to be sure, to be sure). It is virtually never used in reality.
"ar bith" corresponds to English "at all", so the stronger "ar chor ar bith" gives rise to the form "at all at all"
"I've no money at all at all."
English phrases are "to be sure" and "to be sure to be sure". In this context, these are not, as might be thought, disjuncts meaning "certainly"; they could better be translated in case and "just in case".
"I brought some cash in case I saw a bargain, and my credit card 'to be sure to be sure'."
So is often used for emphasis ("I can speak Irish, so I can"), or it may be tacked on to the end of a sentence to indicate agreement, where "then" would often be used in Standard English ("Bye so", "Let's go so", "That's fine so", "We'll do that so"). The word is also used to contradict a negative statement ("You're not pushing hard enough" - "I am so!").
To is often omitted from sentences where it would exist in British English. For example, "I'm not allowed go out tonight", instead of "I'm not allowed to go out tonight".