English Dialectology


English was imposed upon the Irish, but they have made it their own and have contributed some of our finest literature. Irish English is strongly influenced by Irish Gaelic:

  • r after vowels is retained
  • “pure” vowels (/e:/ rather than /ei/, /o:/ rather than /ou/)
  • /th/ and /dh/ > /t/ and /d/ respectively.

The sentence structure of Irish English often borrows from the Gaelic:

  • Use of beor do in place of usually:
    • I do.. (I usually write)
  • Use of afterfor the progressive perfect and pluperfect:
    • I was aftergetting married (I had just gotten married)
  • Use of progressive beyond what is possible in standard English:
    • I was thinkingit was in the drawer
  • Use of the present or past for perfect and pluperfect:
    • She’s dead these ten years (she has been dead…)
  • Use of let you beand don’t be as the imperative:
    • Don’t betroubling yourself
  • Use of it isand it was at the beginning of a sentence:
    • it wasJohn has the good looks in the family
    • Is itmarrying her you want?
  • Substitute andfor when or as:
    • It only struck me andyou going out of the door
  • Substitute the infinitive verb for thator if:
    • Imagine such a thing to beseen here!
  • Drop if, that, or whether:
    • Tell me did you see them
  • Statements phrased as rhetorical questions:
    • Isn’t he the fine-looking fellow?
  • Extra uses of the definite article:
    • He was sick with thejaundice
  • Unusual use of prepositions:
    • Sure there’s no daylight init at all now

As with the English of the Scottish Highlands, the English of the west coast of Ireland, where Gaelic is still spoken, is lilting, with pure vowels. It, too, is particularly pretty.

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