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Variation and Change in Dublin English

Sound shifts of the 1990s
Most recent changes
All sound files
Glossary  (essential to consult!)

This website has been constructed as part of the project Variation and Change in Dublin English which began in the mid 1990s (but not originally under that name) and which culminated in the book publication Dublin English. Evolution and Change (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2005). The project has, however, being ongoing and the author has continued to collect speaker data from Dublin and other parts of Ireland to monitor the manner in which speech variation, especially among young speakers, is leading to systemic change.

   Sound shifts of the 1990s

The initial impetus to examine Dublin English stems from the changes which took place in Dublin in the late 1980s and early 1990s – the original ‘Dublin 4’ accent. Initially, these changes were confined to a relatively small area of south Dublin. However, due to the unprecedented economic growth which began in Ireland in the early 1990s the change in pronunciation became more general as those speakers who shunned a too close association with the old, and in their view, backward-looking culture of popular Dublin began to dissociate themselves from those people they regarded as belonging to this local culture. The dissociation which set in manifested itself on different levels of society: people changed their lifestyles, the places they spent their leisure time and the destinations they chose for their holidays. And they changed their speech, adopting pronunciations which were unconsciously different from those found in local Dublin English. The details of these developments are given in the module Sound Shifts of the 1990s.
     The changes of the 1990s were at first innovations leading to change which then established itself as the new mainstream form of Irish English. Through the process of supraregionalisation advanced Dublin English spread out from the capital and its features were adopted by young acrolectal speakers, first females, then males, throughout the Republic of Ireland.

  Most recent changes

Although advanced Dublin English of the 1990s became mainstream it did not cease developing and in the past couple of years it has begun to show hitherto unrecorded features, above all the lowering of short front vowels. This is the latest development and is discussed in detail in the module Most Recent Changes.
     The ongoing investigation into Dublin English is being done within the framework of the sociolinguistic paradigm known as ‘Language Variation and Change’. The basis for all statements is provided by large sets of anonymous speaker data collected randomly in Dublin over the years, see the module Recording Dublin English. These have been analysed phonetically to trace minute variation and determine the possible trajectories this variation might take. The goal is to recognise where variation turns into innovation and then into change. This happened during the 1990s and the data collection and analysis which began in 1994 was borne out by later developments in that decade during which the pronunciation of Dublin English, and subsequently of southern Irish English in general changed dramatically. The most recent data collection (2015/16) points towards ongoing change among the young attesting to the dynamic nature of Dublin English which continues to evolve and re-define itself.

Short Front Vowel Lowering in English today


  All sound files

This website contains over 150 sound files which backup all the statements by the author and which document the many varieties and features of Irish English which are discussed in the various sections. The sound files are integrated into the text passages in various modules of the website. There is also a single module which list all the sound files.
    You will notice from the recordings (and perhaps know from previous personal experience) that the Irish speak quickly, much more so than most English, Americans, Canadians, South Africans, Australians, etc. (if you are in doubt, just listen to this speaker) This means that some of the snippets in the sound files on this website are very short. To make the feature in question recognisable, each sound file usually contains the snippets repeated three times in succession.


It is important to use the glossary frequently. The specific terms needed to describe present-day Dublin English are listed and defined in the Glossary. These terms have been devised as shorthands to describe the features of advanced metropolitan speech, e.g. NORTH-raising, GOAT-diphthongisation, R-retroflexion. While these might be intuitively obvious to readers it is important to consult the definitions in the glossary as these also contain spectrograms and maps so that users can acquaint themselves rapidly with the topics they will come across on this website.

Prof. Raymond Hickey
University of Limerick