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Hiberno-English (Irish English)


The English dialect spoken and written in Ireland today, often referred to as “Irish English” is in fact called Hiberno-English.

In the following YouTube Clip Ivan Borodin exhibits a brilliant example of The Irish Dialect and helps the viewers to understand what differentiates the pronunciation in the Irish Dialect compared to the typical English dialect.

The Hiberno-English is influenced by the Irish language and the accents vary between different parts of Ireland.

The accents are defined by different sounds. For example “I” becomes “uh-I”, the short “a” tends to lean towards the short “o”, and “r” can often be pronounced with an alveolar tap.

Another trait that differentiates Hiberno-English from other English accents is that “yes” and “no” are used less frequently in favour of repeating the verb positively or negatively instead. For example:

–          “Are you coming home soon?” – “I am.”

–          “Is your mobile charged?” – “It isn’t.”

This is mainly due to the fact that the Irish language lacks words that directly translate to “yes” and “no” and instead repeats the verb used in the question, negated if necessary to answer.

Other grammatical influences can be seen in words such as “now”, “so”, and “will”.

Now is often used at the end of sentences or phrases as a semantically empty word, completing an utterance without contributing any apparent meaning. Examples include “Bye now” (= “Goodbye”), “There you go now” (when giving someone something), “Ah now!” (expressing dismay), “Hold on now” (= “wait a minute”), “Now then” as a mild attention-getter, etc. This usage is universal among English dialects, but occurs more frequently in Hiberno-English.

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!”). (This contradiction of a negative is also seen in American English, though not as often as “I am too”, or “Yes, I am”.) The practice of indicating emphasis with so and including reduplicating the sentence’s subject pronoun and auxiliary verb (is, are, have, has, can, etc.) such as in the initial example, is particularly prevalent in more northern dialects such as those of Sligo, Mayo, Cavan, Monaghan and other neighbouring counties.

Will is often used where British English would use “shall” (“Will I make us a cup of tea?”). The distinction between “shall” (for first-person simple future, and second- and third-person emphatic future) and “will” (second- and third-person simple future, first-person emphatic future), maintained by many in England, does not exist in Hiberno-English, with “will” generally used in all cases.

If you are interested in hearing some Irish to see for yourself what it is that has influenced the Hiberno-English so greatly this video shows celebrities speaking Irish.


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