Lenguaje, Gramática y Filologías

Irish accent

Irish Accent

Fonética y Fonología Inglesas

Irish English


  • Ireland has two official languages, Irish and English. Irish is compulsory in schools but it is only in a limited part of the country that it is the dominant language. It appears along with English in most official documentation. The Irish speaking region is known as the Gaeltacht and is mostly in the west of the country in Counties Donegal, Mayo, Galway, the Aran Islands and Kerry, although An Rinn in Co. Waterford and a small part of Meath are also Irish speaking. However Irish is experiencing a revival all over the country and there is now a strong Irish media and cultural scene.

    The English use in Ireland is the same as that in the UK, except that the accent is different. And this essay is designed to make clear the differences between RP accent and the Irish one. In order to complete this objective, we have recorded three different speakers of the English language: the first one is a Young man from Dublin who is living currently in Galway, speaker b is a old man who was born in Galway and He has lived there the whole life, the speaker c is a well-known teacher in our college, He is Maurice, our Irish teacher. We will try to distinguish their accent by means of our recordings.


  • Irish English has proved remarkably conservative, neither British innovations nor American ones are found in Ireland.

    Neither RP nor popular accents of England exert much perceptible influence on irish English. There are, it is true, come educated and cosmopolitan-minded Dubliners who have adopted various RP characteristics. But such Irishmen are very exceptional. In Ireland RP is in no way taken as an unquestioned

    It has been said that the Irish people speak English better than any other race, better even than the British. But the English spoken in Ireland is different to what they speak in Britain or elsewhere. In some areas you might not notice it. If you are speaking to a native, chances are they will speak in a `mid-Atlantic' accent and use words that are common across the English-speaking world. When they speak amongst themselves, however, you might have more difficulty.

    Accents of the same language vary from place to place in any country and Ireland is no different. We say `tomayto' and they say `tomahto', but we can still understand what they say. However, some of the Irish accents are quite difficult. Part of the problem is speed. The Irish people generally speak quickly and it can be difficult to keep up. In some places, such as Dublin, is usual to drop the final `t' , for instance: what, at, brat, sweet and treat. This peculiarity, combined with the speed, makes comprehension really difficult, even trickier. In parts of the south of the country, they seem to stretch some words and also change the tone in the middle of a phrase, so that it appears to be the end of a sentence. It almost sounds like three or four short sentences in one. In the North, they raise the tone after a few words and then continue to the end of the sentence in the higher tone. It gives a lovely lit to what they say, but it can also be difficult to attune yourself to the accent.

    The other big difference between British and Irish English is a religious one. Ireland was a profoundly catholic country until the 1970's (it is still nominally catholic but the all-pervasive influence has waned). The Irish often use phrases such as `God Bless' or `safe home' when parting company. This habit is actually far more common in Irish (Gaelic) but the practice has continued even after the language has changed. It is quite usual to hear some people saying `the blessings of God on you' which is almost a direct translation from Irish. Other examples would include `God help us', `with the help of God, or `where in God's name did you get that'. Religion was so much a part of life that God gets mentioned very regularly. However, they say that the Irish language has as many curses as it has blessings, and that is another significant difference in the language that you will hear in Ireland.

    The Irish version of English has two significant differences to the British version. The most significant is probably the influence of the Gaelic language (which is called `Irish' by all Irish people). Very few words went from this language into international English (leprechaun and colleen are two that spring to mind), but in Ireland there are several more which people use without even realising it. This is more common in rural areas, where words like `lúdramán', `amadán', `giobail', and `sceilp' could very easily creep into a conversation.

    In HE, the voiced and voiceless dental fricatives, [D] and [T], have merged with the stops [d] and [t], respectively. Although native speakers of this variety still make some distinction between the two sound classes, it is so slight that outsiders may not notice it. This phonemic merger is captured in literature in <t> and <d> spellings instead of standard <th> spellings.

    In Irish language, aspiration is sometimes alluded to through spelling as well. Although this feature does not figure prominently in descriptions of the dialect, HE has a tendency to use greater aspiration with /p, t, k/ in syllable-initial position and some aspiration in syllable-final position.

    HE involves the sibilants /s/ and /S/. These were considered to correspond with similar Gaelic consonants, and therefore Gaelic rules were applied to the pronunciation of words in English. The main result is the use of [S] where other varieties would use [s], specifically in consonant clusters in which the final consonant is palatal, and in many words with initial <si-> spellings.

    In terms of vowels, HE did not raise /e:/ to /i:/ in words that had previously had an [E:] pronunciation, most notably those with an <ea> spelling,like tea, meat, and easy. They are pronounced with an [eI] diphthong.

    Irish accent is said to be rhotic if they pronounce this sort of “non-prevocalic /r/” (/r/ when it is not before a vowel, as in `farm' or `car'). Irish people have a `retroflex' /r/.By contrast, if they tap the “r” (by flicking the tip of their tongue against the ridge behind their front teeth), the vowel quality is likely to change slightly and they are likely to introduce a vowel between the “r” and “m” to make the last two letters syllabic.

    Hiberno-English provides the linguistic resources which identify their culture as Irish.

    Also, Hiberno-English is a singularly rich member of the family of English and owes much of its vivacity and inventiveness to the underlying influence of the Irish language and also to the turbulent history of the Irish and the English as well.

    The History of Hiberno-English deals only with external events that influenced languages spoken in Ireland. Two languages dominate any discussion of Language of Ireland - Irish and English. Although Hiberno-English is now the national Standard Language of Ireland, the Irish language was the principal language of most of the population until well into the nineteenth century. In many ways the history of the interplay between the two languages reflects the external history of the country. English has won the battle of dominance but only to a certain extent and from a certain point of view. The title of Hiberno-English with its two components clearly describes the relationship between the two tongues.

    English has been used in Ireland since the twelfth century. The Anglo-Normans began arriving in Ireland from about 1167 onwards, bringing with them the Norman-French and English languages. This meant that there were three languages current in Ireland at that time - Irish, Norman-French, and English. In addition Latin was used by senior clerics. Norman-French was spoken by commanders of the invading forces, who had been sent to Ireland by Henry II to conduct (allegedly) a moral mission to reform the Irish. The King had been authorized to do so by the only English Pope, Nicholas Breakspear, who had taken the name Hadrian IV.

    In England, Norman-French was used for diplomatic correspondence up to the reign of Henry IV (1399-1413). In Ireland, use of this language declined much earlier, from the beginning of the fourteenth century, but not before it had contributed a number of words to the lexicon of Irish (for example, dinnéar from Norman-French diner, buidéal from botel, and so forth).

    Irish is an Indo-European language and it arrived in Ireland about 300 B.C. as a Celtic Language.  There are two main groups amongst the Celtic Languages today labelled the q-Celts and the p-Celts which categories are dependent on the first consonant of common key words which have the same meaning   e.g. the English word head is 'ceann' pronounced 'q-own' in Irish and 'pen' in Welsh.  C-Celtic originated in Ireland and spread from there to Scotland and the Isle of Man where they eventually became distinct languages known by the group name Gaelic. They were dialects of each other until the early 1600's when wars between the Irish and the English put a stop to regular contact with Scotland.  The three p-Celtic languages are Breton, Cornish and Welsh and there is little similarity between these and the Gaelic languages except in the grammar structure.  

    There are four historic phases relating to Irish and writing in the language can be traced back to the Fifth Century when Christianity arrived in Ireland.  The following are the significant phases:

    Old Irish (600 - 900 A.D.)

    Middle Irish (900 - 1200 A.D.)

    Early Modern Irish (1200 - 1650 A.D.)

    Modern Irish (1650 until now).

    English continued in use, but such was the power of the Irish language that the authorities in England began to worry about the resurgence of Irish culture and linguistic influence. The authorities were especially concerned about this resurgence in that part of the country, to the north and south of Dublin, which came to be known as The Pale (I think more clarity in how the Pale is defined).

    To counteract this trend, a son of Edward III, Lionel, Duke of Clarence was sent over to preside at an assembly in Kilkenny. This parliament issued the famous

    `Statute of Kilkenny', written in Norman-French (more as a gesture, than as an indication that Norman-French was still generally understood).

    This document prohibited the ruling class and their retainers from becoming more Irish than the Irish themselves. It was directed at the settlers. Hurling was banned, as was entertainment of Irish minstrels, and other notably Irish pastimes. For us, the main interest is the ban it placed on the use of the Irish language and on the adoption of Irish names by the English.

    People breaking this rule would have their lands and property seized. This would not be returned until the `culprits' had relearned English.This statute was ineffectual, and the Irish language continued to make inroads into the Pale. Change only came about with the adoption of a new scheme for governing and administering Ireland - the Plantations which took effect from 1549 onwards.

    This resulted in speakers of English being `planted' at various places far beyond the Pale. The immediate effect was that for the first time Irish people away from the main population-centres, especially Dublin, had to face and mix with users of the English Language. Those who employed them spoke English, and they had consequently to learn English, just to receive instructions. Where the rules of the Statute of Kilkenny failed, sheer practicality ensured the eventual success of the English Language in Ireland.

    The English language benefited from the symbolical prestige attached to its being used by the people who had the power. In addition, Irish people began to emigrate to England in greater and greater numbers from the end of the sixteenth century. They had to learn English as quickly as possible. Understandably, they had to learn it through the lexicon, grammar, and syntax, pronunciation, and idiom of their vernacular language, Irish, which is substantially different from

    English - for example, in its verbal forms, which have no equivalent of `have' in English, and in its prepositional range. Thus an Irish person then, and now,

    may say `He's been dead with years', corresponding to British English `He has been dead for years', with the Irish preposition `le' (=with) being translated and incorporated into the English sentence, making it typically Hiberno-English.

    Use of the English language became further established from the late seventeenth century in Ireland. The Penal Laws from (1695) ensured that Irish people were denied formal education, and the informal education provided by the Hedge Schools played its part in the formation of modern Hiberno-English. English continued to flourish here throughout the eighteenth century.

    The great Seminary at Maynooth was established in 1795. Priests graduating from this college addressed their congregations in English whenever they could. From the 1780's the Penal Laws had been eased, thus helping to eradicate the polarization, on political and religious lines, of those who spoke English and those who spoke Irish.


  • It is said that people from Dublin spoke with enthusiasm, clarity and uniformity of accent. We can see some typical features of the Irish pronunciation, such as the unrounded vowel “a” which is found after a “w”.

    In Dublin, in the south,local vernacular tends to be non-rhotic, but middle class speakers tend to be rhotic. In Dublin it is very common to drop the final `t' in words such as what, at, brat, sweet and treat. This feature is really important in Dublin accent, because consonants are usually unvoiced at the end of the word and if the consonant is in other position in the word, the consonant is almost unvoiced, so that the consonant is nearly imperceptible because the softening and the weakening of the consonant, and this is really important.

    In Galway, the use of Gaelic is stronger, so that the influence of this dialect is more striking. This affects in the distinction between the alveolar plosives /t/ and /d/, and the pre-dental fricatives / / and / ð/ is usually lost. “t” and “d” are dental consonants, and not alveolar. For both plosives and fricatives, affricate consonants, with slow separation of the organs of speech, are often heard. Another feature of this English accent is that consonant “r” is in pronounced in all positions, whereas in English it is silent before consonants. This “r” is strongly pronounced after other consonant.

    The pronunciation of vowels usually shows similarities between English and Gaelic pronunciation, so that some Irish speakers preserve pronunciations that are no longer current in British English.

    Speaker B

  • He is a tall and thin person.

  • /h z  tl nd   tn p:sn/

    In this phrase we find the features of the Irish accent in the word “thin” that is pronounced as a dental plosive t , while the word “tall” is pronounced with the plosive t. The aspiration is present as well.

  • Thank you.

  • / tækj/

    In this group of words the feature that appears is the same one that in the last example,  is changed by t. Another time, we must say that the aspiration is clearly perceived.

    3) The bath is clean.

    / t ba:t z kli:n/

    Now, we find the dental plosive d instead of the dental fricative ð and the dental plosive t instead of the dental fricative . The aspiration appears again.

  • Take this path to go to that street.

  • / teik dz pæt t g t dæt tri: t/

    In this phrase we can see the pairs / t/ /d/ instead of the pairs // / ð/.Also we see the aspiration.

  • They both bought a tin of tomatoes.

  • / ðe b:t bt  tn v tma:tz/

    In this case, we find the dental plosive / t/ accompany with the aspiration, one of the most important features of the Irish English.

  • It's your task.

  • /tz j: ta:sk/

    We see the dental plosive / t/ at the very beginning of the word.

  • His name is Bart

  • /hiz ni:m z ba: t/

    In this case we see as the speaker lengthens the vowel /I/ instead of the diphthong /e/ and then the dental plosive t is used again.

  • You pat the dog.

  • /j pat  dk/

    Here, we should analyse the same features than before, that is to say, the dental plosives and the aspiration.

  • They are kissing each other

  • / de a: ki:z  ð /

    In this sentence is seen the union between the initial words “they” and “are. It ii really characteristic of Galway accent.

  • The thieves spent a lot of time in their den

  • / d ti:vz spnt  lt v tam n da ðn/

    The most important features of the Irish English are present here with the use of the dental plosives and the aspiration.

  • The cow's udder are weak.

  • / d kz 'd a: wik /

    In this case it is shown the dental plosive /d/ in the two words “the” and “udder”.

  • Eyre Square is there.

  • /: skw z de/

    The more important feature in this phrase is the pronunciation of “square” and the dentalization of the plosive /d/.

  • The farmer would breed livestock for profit.

  • / d 'fm wd brid li:vtk f prft /

    In Galway English, the behaviour of the “r” is quite typical as we can see in this sentence said by speaker b. It is shown in these sentence examples of aspiration and neutralization in the word “livestock”.

  • We will go to the Bazaar and then to the Venue.

  • / wi wil g t d basa: nd dn t d vnj/

    This is another example of how this Galway speaker makes aspiration and dentalization, two of the most important features of this accent.

  • I can't breathe if you smoke in the bedroom.

  • /a ka:nt bri:d iv j smk in d bedrm/

    A quite interesting feature in this sentence is that “th” is almost silenced, this feature of silent consonants is typical in Galway accent

  • Don't you dare tell her.

  • / dn d: tl h:/
    A very usual custom in Galway is the change of diphthong for a single vowel, for instance, the transcription of this word in RP is /d/ and in Galway accent we have / d:/

    Speaker c

    I'm going to tell you the story of how I am European in Spain which is a quite curious story

    /aim g t tl ju d str v ha ai am jr'pin in spen t iz  kwat kjrs str /

    This speaker has not very much Irish features, his pronunciation is not quite strong. But we can mare reference to the dentalized “t” in words like “tell”, or we can see the dental-plosive “th” in “the story”.

    It is also important the behaviour of a labial-velar-fricative in the word “which”.


  • Having studied these two accents of English language, we should attend several aspects of Hiberno English. This way by which Irish people pronounce English characteristic of this country, although there are some places that share some features of the way to speak it.

    It is said that standard accents (such as RP) were more likely to be considered as belonging to prestigious, pleasing and intelligible articulate speakers. And those which are a little different of standard English, by contrast, were considered to be used by low-status speakers and were regarded as unattractive. Rural accents were considered aesthetically pleasing, but subordinate to RP on the dimensions of social status and intelligibility. That's why we can understand that speaker b, which we have realized that his accent is quite different of that of speaker a and speaker c has a stronger accent, we should explain that this speaker is an old man who works in a college of the University of Galway, he works as a head porter. Because of these aspects of his life we can understand his strong accent.

    Another important reason related to the accent of a person is the place where that person has lived for a long time, both cases, speaker a and speaker c, have been changed their way of how pronounce English. In the first case, the pronunciation of speaker a is affected by their years living in Galway. He, as a native Dublin speaker, has a kind of standard pronunciation although we can see that he maintains typical characteristics of Dublin accent. We should clarify that our speaker a is a young man (about 40) and he was born in Dublin, however he moved to Galway because he married a woman who was born in Galway. All these factors can affect to his pronunciation

    Our last speaker is a well-known person, this Irish teacher (Maurice O'connor) This subject of the experiment is a young man from Ireland, but he has lived in Spain for several years. In addition to this, he is a teacher in a university college, so he speaks English with people who is not native from Ireland, and what's more, with people who are studying English but they don't know it perfectly.

    To sum up, we tried to make clear the differences between RP and Ireland English by means of three recording of native people, we designed this essay to distinguish Galway accent and Dublin accent, as a result we have obtained different recordings from each subject.

    Enviado por:Chinaneg
    Idioma: inglés
    País: España

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