The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

Ulster Dialects

Category: Land + People

By G. B. Adams

We may distinguish roughly four types of English spo­ken inUlster:

(1)    The various dialects spoken in different localities by the mass of the rural and urban population. They shade off into:

(2)     The fairly well defined regional type of pronunciation and idiom which inUlster, as in other parts of theBritish Isles, has been evolved among the educated classes. This form of Ulster English rejects grammatical word-forms which are wrong by the standards of written English, but on the other hand admits many local word usages including idioms Vhich can be traced to Gaelic, though not to the full extent that may be heard in dialects spoken where English has only recently displaced Irish. These two together consti­tute what may properly be called Ulster English, but in addition there are

(3)   A small minority ofUlsterpeople who through their family or social connections withEnglandor from having been educated there speak naturally “standard” Southern English or a close approximation to it.

(4)     Finally at the other end of the scale is the English spoken by those people whose native language is Irish. This is English learnt and spoken as a foreign language and out­side the Donegal Gaeltacht there are few such people now, but it should be remembered that in many other districts where English is now the established tongue there are many who are only a generation or two removed from those who learnt it as a foreign language.

From An Introduction to the Study ofUlsterDialects. Proceedings of theRoyalIrishAcademy, Volume LII, Section C, No. 1,Dublin, 1948.

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