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English in Ireland

The terms listed below refer to parts of Ireland and varieties of English spoken there. The most general label for the English language in Ireland is Irish English, a term which is parallel to American English, Australian English, etc. The Latinate term Hiberno-English enjoyed a vogue throughout the 1970s and 1980s but is being used less and less, a few remaining authors notwithstanding. Attempts to use the two labels to refer to different forms of English in Ireland, e.g. by P. L. Henry and Loreto Todd, have not met with general acceptance.

English in Dublin

Local or vernacular Dublin English. This label refers to the traditional dialect of the capital of the Republic of Ireland. It is chiefly found on the North Side of the city and is used by working class and some middle class speakers, but only when they have a strong identification with popular Dublin culture. Otherwise, local Dublin English carries much stigma. It is easily recognisable through a variety of features such as [əɪ] in the PRICE lexical set, contrasting vowels in TERM and TURN, i.e. [tɛ:m] and [tʊ:n] respectively, the breaking of long high vowels as in school [skuwəl] or clean [klijən] and the lack of the FOOT – STRUT split, i.e. both are pronounced with [ʊ]. Two other important features are (i) low or absent rhoticity, e.g. square [skwɛ.ɐ] or [skwɛ:], and T-glottalisation or T-deletion as in put [pʊʔ] or [pʊ].

Non-local or non-vernacular Dublin English A reference to the speech of those individuals who do not identify themselves with popular Dublin culture and hence do not speak local Dublin English and strictly avoid the features mentioned in the previous paragraph. A label like ‘standard Dublin English’ would evoke the wrong connotations of educated, professional middle class speakers and so it is not used here. Speakers of non-vernacular Dublin English are essentially those who see themselves as not belonging to the lower social groups who use the local city dialect. Other features of their social presentation and behaviour distinguish non-local speakers from their local counterpart: their dress, leisure activity, range of travel, general attitudes to traditional Irish culture. Place of residence within Dublin is usually a fairly reliable indicator of local or non-local status, with the residentially less desirable part of the North Side being associated with local speech. However, here many young individuals, especially females, may show cross-over accents.

Advanced Dublin English A label used in this website to refer to the form of non-vernacular Dublin English which shows (i) features of the new pronunciation in Dublin from the 1990s/early 2000s in their strongest form and (ii) the most recent changes in Dublin English, such as short low front vowel lowering.

In this context note that Irish refers to the Celtic language, a member of Gaelic, the Q branch of Celtic, along with Scottish Gaelic and Manx, the latter now extinct as a native language. It is spoken by a small minority of people, chiefly on the west coast of Ireland (see branch ‘Language in Ireland ’ further down the tree on the left). Note that Celtic is pronounced with an initial /k-/ and that the Irish language is not referred to as Gaelic.

For more information on terminology, see the introduction to Hickey (2007).

Irish English Cover term for English in Ireland which can be more closely specified when needed.
Hiberno-English Latinate term for English in Ireland; similar to above, now obsolete in academic studies.
Anglo-Irish Older term for English in Ireland. Still found overseas as a linguistic term, e.g. in Canadian usage. Also a term in literature and politics.
Southern A qualifier used to refer to that part of Ireland which excludes the province of Ulster.
Northern A reference to the north, north-east of the country, intended frequently to be co-extensive with the province of Ulster and/or the state of Northern Ireland (which does not contain the north-west county of Donegal).
Ulster One of the four provinces of present-day Ireland (along with Connaught, Leinster and Munster) located in the north of the country. It now comprises nine counties, six of which form Northern Ireland, a constituent part of the United Kingdom, the remaining three being Donegal (north-west Ulster), Cavan and Monaghan (south Ulster).
Ulster English 1) A cover term for various forms of English used in Northern Ireland. 2) When labelled ‘Mid-Ulster English’, this is a specific reference to English brought to Ulster from the north of England and separate from the Scots element in the province.
Ulster-Scots A continuation and further development of the varieties of (western lowlands) Scots brought to Ireland chiefly in the seventeenth century.
East-coast A reference to the area from Dundalk – Drogheda (north of Dublin), including the capital, and down to Waterford on the south-east which was the original area of settlement by English speakers in the late Middle Ages. English in this region shows features, especially in pronunciation, not typical of the rest of the country.


Hickey, Raymond 2007. Irish English. History and Present-day Forms. Cambridge: University Press.