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    Research background

This section provides an indication of what work was done on Irish English in the latter half of the twentieth and the beginning of the twentieth century. For details of the considerable research activity of recent years, see the section on Research Trends.

Popular works

In the past few decades the field of Irish English has steadily received increasing attention by various scholars of different backgrounds and linguistic persuasions. In the late 1950s and 1960s the work of Patrick Henry was instrumental in bringing Irish English into the foreground of linguistic interest in the south of Ireland. Henry's two main contributions to the field are his doctoral thesis (Henry 1957) and the long article (Henry 1958) which presented a linguistic survey of Irish English which in the event never came to fruition.

In Ulster the seminal work of Brendan Adams and Robert Gregg at approximately the same time was responsible for knowledge of forms of English in Ulster spreading to scholars working on geographical variation in English. For the north of the country the breakthrough in terms of modern linguistics came with the pioneering work in Belfast of James and Lesley Milroy and their associates in the 1970s and early 1980s. Their studies established paradigms for sociolinguistic research which are still dominant in this sphere. In the south of Ireland the work of Alan J. Bliss at University College Dublin, in a much more traditional vein, led here to a gradual increase in research interest. Much of the work in the south, with Jeffrey Kallen and Markku Filppula, and to some extent in the north, with John Harris, was a reaction to the largely substratist stance of Henry and Bliss especially on the level of syntax (see the general overview in Filppula 1993). Work in the late 1980s and 1990s broadened the base for Irish English studies by closer investigations of the phonology of Irish English and of sociolinguistic developments in Dublin, by the present author, and of lexical aspects, by Jeffrey Kallen, Terence Dolan and Diarmuid Ó Muirithe. The field has continued to expand with younger linguists, such as Karen Corrigan, contributing new insights to the field by applying the techniques of formal syntax.

At the same time as this resurgence of activity was taking place in Ireland a rise in interest in Irish English became evident among linguists working on varieties which show an historical input from Ireland, from the north and/or the south (Hickey ed. 2004). This has been true in three particular cases.

The first is that of Newfoundland (Clarke 2010) where the Irish-derived community still speaks forms of English close to that of the area in Ireland where they originated from.

The second is the east and south-east of the United States which experienced considerable immigration from Ulster in the eighteenth century. The English of this area has been, and continues to be, investigated from the perspective of possible historical continuity with Ireland.

The third area to be seen in the light of Irish input is that of African American English and forms of Caribbean English (Hickey 2004). Here structural similiarities with Irish English have been examined and the possibility of transfer from Irish deportees and immigrants has been investigated in detail (Rickford 1986, Harris 1986).


Over the past century or so there have been a number of monographs on Irish English. These have been very different in range, orientation and linguistic stance. The first is Joyce (1910) which cannot be considered a linguistic work, no matter how favourably one chooses to view the author. The next is Hogan (1927), a piece of philological scholarship which retains its value to this day, especially in its historical sections. There is then a long gap until Henry (1957) which initiated the period of modern study of Irish English, albeit from a strongly substratist vantage point. Alongside such books there have been quite a number of largely unpublished PhD theses starting with that by Irwin (1935) and continuing in recent years with Benskin (1980), Hickey (1985, ‘Habilitation’, German post-doctoral degree), Filppula (1986, published by Joensuu University Press) and Kallen (1986) up to Corrigan (1997). A significant recent overview is Filppula (1999) which deals especially with syntax. For a more general overview, encompassing all levels of language, see Hickey (2007). Hickey (2004) deals comprehensively with phonology while Hickey (2005) investigates current changes in Dublin English. Kallen (2013) is the second volume of a set dealing with English in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland respectively (see Corrigan 2010 for the first volume). Amador Moreno (2010) is an introduction to Irish English, the first of its kind to appear.

Monographs dealing with the vocabulary of Irish English (in dictionary form) have also increased in number during the last decade or so, see Dolan, Terence P. 2012 [1998], Moylan (1996), Ó Muirithe 1996, Share (2008 [1997]).

The English language in Ulster has also been served by several book publications, especially Belfast English. James Milroy (1981) is an overview of English in this city. Lesley Milroy (1987 [1980]) represents a major breakthrough in sociolinguistic research based on social networks. Harris (1985) uses the same research model and has added to the considerable body of research on Ulster speech in its different forms. Henry (1995) is a study of non-standard syntax in Belfast. For Derry English, one should mention McCafferty (2000), the only full-length study of English in that city. Zwickl (2002) is a welcome addition to the study of English in the border region and Corrigan (2010) will be a significant study in this area too (here: rural Co Armagh). Fenton (2014 [1995]), Macafee (1996) and Todd (1990) deal specifically with the lexicon of Ulster English. Robinson (1997) is an overview of Ulster-Scots by a well-known historian.

Overview collections

Starting in the 1960s there have been a number of overviews presented as collections in book form. For English in Ulster, the earliest guide is Adams (ed. 1964) followed by Barry (ed. 1981). Ó Muirithe (ed. 1977) is more centred on southern Irish English as is the minor collection Ó Baoill (ed. 1985) and the more substantial volumes Harris, Little and Singleton (eds 1986), Dolan (1990) and Kallen (ed. 1997). Tristram (ed. 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006) are very useful overviews covering different forms of English in the Celtic regions. Hickey (ed. 2011) offers an up-to-date overview of topical issues in Irish English studies as do Hickey (2016) and Hickey and Vaughan (2017) – from differing perspectives.

Overview articles

The publication of such collections on varieties of English as Trudgill (ed. 1984), Cheshire (ed. 1991) or Milroy and Milroy (eds 1993) has meant that general articles on Irish English have also appeared which offer a good starting point for study in the field. Examples of such overview articles are Barry (1982), Bliss (1984), Harris (1984), Harris (1991, 1993), Kallen (1994, 1997). Trudgill (ed. 1984) appeared in a second edition as Britain (2007) with an overview article on southern Irish English by Hickey and one on northern Irish English by McCafferty.

Books on varieties of English

Collections with articles by Irish scholars are the best source of short overviews, see Overviews: Articles above. Books on varieties often suffer from the shortcoming that the presentation is unnuanced and the data second-hand. Furthermore, such books are frequently responsible for the perpetuation of errors (see section on misconceptions above). Among the books on varieties which can be recommended are are doubtlessly Wells (1982) and Lass (1987). The Irish sections in McArthur (1992), chiefly by Loreto Todd, should be treated with caution.

Popular works

There are many popular treatments of Irish English, either as a whole or for a particular region or city. In general these are of no linguistic value, except for confirming the popular perception of salient features or where nothing else is available and one must have recourse to them. One could place O’Farrell (1993), for southern Irish English, in this category. Beecher (1983) on Cork and Pepper (1981, 1982) on Ulster also deserve this classification.


Adams, George Brendan (ed.) 1964. Ulster dialects: An Introductory Symposium. Holywood, Co. Down: Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

Amador-Moreno, Carolina P. 2010. An Introduction to Irish English. London: Equinox.

Bailey, Richard W. and Manfred Görlach (eds) 1982. English as a World Language. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Barry, Michael V. 1982. ‘The English language in Ireland’, in Bailey and Görlach (eds), pp. 84-133.

Barry, Michael (ed.) 1981. Aspects of English Dialects in Ireland, Vol 1. Papers Arising from the Tape-Recorded Survey of Hiberno-English Speech. Belfast: Institute for Irish Studies.

Beecher, Seán. 1983. A dictionary of Cork slang. Cork: Goldy Angel Press.

Benskin, Michael 1980. The English language in medieval Ireland. PhD thesis. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.

Bliss, Alan J. 1984b. ‘English in the South of Ireland’, in Trudgill (ed.), pp. 135-51.

Britain, David (ed.) 2006. Language in the British Isles. 2nd edition. Cambridge: University Press.

Burchfield, Robert (ed.) 1994. English in Britain and Overseas. Origins and Development. The Cambridge History of the English Language. Vol. 5. Cambridge: University Press.

Cheshire, Jenny L. (ed.) 1991. English around the World. Sociolinguistic Perspectives. Cambridge: University Press.

Clarke, Sandra 2010. Newfoundland and Labrador English. Edinbrugh: University Press. Corrigan, Karen P. 2010. The Syntax of South Armagh English in its Socio-Historical Perspective. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Dolan, Terence P. (ed.) 1990. The English of the Irish. Irish University Review, 20:1 Dublin: n.p.

Dolan, Terence P. 2004 [1998]. A dictionary of Hiberno-English. The Irish use of English. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan.

Fenton, James 2014 [1995]. The hamely tongue. A personal record of Ulster-Scots in County Antrim. Fourth edition. Newtownards: Ulster-Scots Academic Press.

Filppula, Markku 1986. Some Aspects of Hiberno-English in a Functional Sentence Perspective Joensuu: University Press.

Filppula, Markku 1993. ‘Changing paradigms in the study of Hiberno-English’, Irish University Review 23.2: 202-23.

Filppula, Markku 1999. The Grammar of Irish English. Language in Hibernian Style. London: Routledge.

Harris, John 1984. ‘English in the North of Ireland’, in Trudgill (ed.), pp. 115-34.

Harris, John 1985. Phonological Variation and Change. Studies in Hiberno-English. Cambridge: University Press.

Harris, John 1986. ‘Expanding the superstrate: habitual aspect markers in Atlantic Englishes’, English World-Wide 7: 171-99.

Harris, John 1991. ‘Ireland’, in Cheshire (ed.), pp. 37-50.

Harris, John 1993. ‘The grammar of Irish English’, in Milroy and Milroy (eds), pp. 139-86.

Harris, John, David Little and David Singleton (eds) 1986. Perspectives on the English Language in Ireland. Dublin: Centre for Language and Communication Studies, Trinity College.

Henry, Alison 1995. Belfast English and Standard English. Dialect Variation and Parameter Setting. Oxford: University Press.

Henry, Patrick Leo 1958. ‘A linguistic survey of Ireland. Preliminary report’, Norsk Tidsskrift for Sprogvidenskap [Lochlann, A Review of Celtic Studies] Supplement 5: 49-208.

Hickey, Raymond. 1985. Kontakt, Konservatismus, Konvergenz. Eine phonologische Typologie des südirischen Englischen. Habilitation: University of Bonn.

Hickey, Raymond 2002. A Source Book for Irish English, with CD-ROM. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Hickey, Raymond 2004. A Sound Atlas of Irish English. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Hickey, Raymond 2004. ‘English dialect input to the Caribbean’, in: Hickey (ed.), pp. 326-359.

Hickey, Raymond 2005. Dublin English. Evolution and Change. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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

Hickey, Raymond (ed.) 2004. Legacies of Colonial English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hickey, Raymond (ed.) 2011. Irish English in Today’s World. Special issue of English Today, Vol. 106, June 2011. Cambridge: University Press.

Hickey, Raymond (ed.) 2016. Sociolinguistics in Ireland. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hickey, Raymond and Elaine Vaughan (ed.) 2017. Irish English. Special edition of World Englishes.

Hogan, James Jeremiah 1927. The English Language in Ireland. Dublin: Educational Company of Ireland.

Irwin, Patrick J. 1935. A Study of the English Dialects of Ireland, 1172-1800. PhD thesis: University College London.

Joyce, Patrick Weston 1910. English as We Speak it in Ireland. London: Longmans, Green and Co.

Kallen, Jeffrey L. 1986. Linguistic fundamentals for Hiberno-English syntax. PhD thesis. Dublin: Trinity College Dublin.

Kallen, Jeffrey L. 1994. ‘English in Ireland’, in Burchfield (ed.), pp. 148-96.

Kallen, Jeffrey L. 1997. ‘Irish English: Context and contacts’, in Kallen (ed.), pp. 1-33.

Kallen, Jeffrey L. (ed.) 1997. Focus on Ireland. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Kallen, Jeffrey L. 2013. Irish English, Vol. 2. The Republic of Ireland. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton.

Lass, Roger 1987. The Shape of English. Structure and History. London: Dent.

McArthur, Tom 1992. The Oxford Companion to the English Language. Oxford: University Press.

McCrum, Robert, William Cran and Robert MacNeil. 1992 [1986]. The story of English. Revised edition. London: Faber and Faber, BBC Publication.

Milroy, James 1981. Regional Accents of English: Belfast. Belfast: Blackstaff.

Milroy, Lesley 1987 [1980]. Language and Social Networks. 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell.

Milroy, James and Lesley Milroy (eds) 1993. Real English. The Grammar of the English Dialects in the British Isles. Real Language Series. London: Longman.

Macafee, Caroline (ed.) 1996. A concise Ulster dictionary. Oxford: University Press.

McCafferty, Kevin 2000. Ethnicity and Language Change. English in (London)Derry, Northern Ireland. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Moylan, Séamus 1996. The Language of Kilkenny. Dublin: Geography Publications. Published version of Ó Maoláin (1973).

Ó Baoill, Dónall (ed.) 1985. Papers on Irish English. Dublin: Irish Association of Applied Linguistics.

O’Farrell, Padraic. 1993 [1980]. How the Irish speak English. Cork: Mercier.

Ó Muirithe, Diarmuid 1996. Dictionary of Anglo-Irish. Words and phrases from Irish. Dublin: Four Courts Press.

Ó Muirithe, Diarmuid (ed.) 1977. The English Language in Ireland. Cork: Mercier.

Pepper, John 1981. Ulster-English dictionary. Belfast: Appletree Press.

Pepper, John 1982. Ulster phrasebook. Belfast: Appletree Press.

Rickford, John R. 1986. ‘Social contact and linguistic diffusion: Hiberno-English and New World Black English’, Language 62: 245-90.

Robinson, Philip 1997. Ulster Scots. A Grammar of the Traditional Written and Spoken Language. Belfast: Ullans Press.

Share, Bernard 2003 [1997]. Slanguage — a dictionary of slang and colloquial English in Ireland. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan.

Todd, Loreto 1990. Words Apart. A Dictionary of Northern Irish English. Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe.

Tristram, Hildegard L. C. (ed.) 1997. The Celtic Englishes. Heidelberg: Carl Winter.

Tristram, Hildegard L. C. (ed.) 2000. The Celtic Englishes II. Heidelberg: Carl Winter.

Tristram, Hildegard L. C. (ed.) 2003. The Celtic Englishes III. Heidelberg: Carl Winter.

Tristram, Hildegard L. C. (ed.) 2006. The Celtic Englishes IV. Potsdam: University Press.

Trudgill, Peter (ed.) 1984. Language in the British Isles. Cambridge: University Press.

Trudgill, Peter and J. K. Chambers (eds) 1991. Dialects of English. Studies in Grammatical Variation. London: Longman.

Wells, John C. 1982. Accents of English. 3 Vols. Cambridge: University Press.

Zwickl, Simone 2002. Language Attitudes, Ethnic Identity and Dialect Use across the Northern Ireland Border: Armagh and Monaghan. Belfast Studies in Language, Culture and Politics, 5. Belfast: Queen’s University Press.