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AI-retraction A feature of advanced Dublin English of the 1990s. It involved the retraction of the vowel in the PRICE and PRIZE lexical sets. Some speakers only had this for the PRIZE set, i.e. only before voiced consonants, similar in kind to the distribution known as Canadian Raising. This retraction was later considered ‘uncool’ by young advanced speakers and the retraction was reversed. Now (late 2011) it is virtually unknown among young, non-local females, though some older speakers, including males, who acquired/adopted this at a critical period of their lives still retain it.

  AI-centralisation (local Dublin speaker)
  AI-retraction (speaker has Dublin4 accent from the 1990s)


BACK-retraction A development in recent non-local Dublin English whereby the TRAP vowel is retracted before velars and these are then articulated further back than has hitherto been the case. With advanced speakers this retraction can be almost to a uvular stop with the vowel retracted as well, i.e. back = [bɑq]. This development is counter to the widespread realisation of back which in mainstream Irish English has a forward realisation of /k/ with a movement of the vowel forward as well, i.e. back = [bæk˖]. See also remarks under Ejectives below.

  Retraction of TRAP before voiceless velar stop with three non-local female Dublin speakers
  Lack of retraction of TRAP before voiceless velar stop with local female Dublin speaker

Belfast The capital of Ulster at the estuary of the river Lagan in the north east of the country. It was founded in the 17th century and expanded greatly with industrial development of such industries as ship-building in the 19th century. Linguistically it is an amalgam of Ulster Scots and Mid-Ulster English inputs along with independent developments of its own. It is largely Protestant though certain parts, like west Belfast, have Catholic majorities.

Brogue A term stemming from the Irish word either for ‘shoe’ or ‘a knot in the tongue’. Its actual origin cannot be ascertained anymore. The label was already known to Shakespeare and has been used indiscriminately in the past four centuries for any strongly local accent of Irish English. Occasionally, the term is used outside of Ireland as in ‘Ocracoke Brogue’ to refer to the local accent of offshore islands in North Carolina.


Change An alteration in the language system used by a social group. The term ‘change’ gains significance in contrast to ‘innovation’ which refers to an alteration, as in the pronunciation of a sound, e.g. stop to affricate, which does not hold for all speakers in a group and which does not change the sound system of the variety used by the social group in question. The difference between ‘innovation’ and ‘change’ is not clear-cut and there are transitions depending on how innovations are assessed vis à vis the system. For instance, short front vowel lowering is somewhere between innovation and change because it does not apply to all speakers of advanced Dublin English (but does to very many more than syllable-initial stop affrication) and occurs preferentially in rhotic and lateral environments. However, it shows patterning: KIT, DRESS and TRAP are lowered in tandem in the context of /r/ or /l/ and TRAP is lowered and retracted in other environments, e.g. in pre-velar position as in back.

CHOICE-raising The onset for the diphthong in this lexical set was raised as part of the original Dublin Vowel Shift of the 1990s and has remained raised since then. The raising is in direct contrast with the open vowel of local forms of Dublin English and varieties of English outside Dublin, on the east coast of Ireland.

  CHOICE — no raising with local Dublin speaker
  CHOICE — raised onset with non-local Dublin speaker - 1
  CHOICE — raised onset with non-local Dublin speaker - 2

In the above spectrogram the word CHOICE, as pronounced by two different speakers, is shown. The first speaker, who said [tʃɒɪs], with an open onset for the diphthong, has F1 at about 850 Hz indicating the open vowel. The second speaker, however, said [tʃoɪs] and her F1 is at about 600 Hz, a clear indication of a raised onset for the diphthong.

Colonial lag A reference to the fact that varieties of English at some distance from England, typically in former colonies, show features which have since disappeared from English English. An example from Dublin English is the retention of a long vowel in words like soft, frost, lost (a 19th century features). These words now have a short vowel in English English.

  SOFT lengthening with young non-local female speaker from Dublin

Cork The second largest city in the south of Ireland. It has an easily recognisable accent with distinctive intonational patterns (with great variations in pitch) not found in the rest of the south. Notice the dips in intonation in the following recorded sentence with the large final dip and rise (see arrows 1-3 and 4-5 respectively in the spectrogram).

  Undulating intonation with speaker from Cobh just outside Cork


D4 accent A label used to refer to an accent of non-local Dublin English which is supposedly typical of people living in postal area 4 in Dublin. While non-local accents are not confined to just this district, it is true that here and elsewhere on the south side of Dublin such accents are to be found.

  Dublin 4 accent (female speaker born in the early 1970s)

Dartspeak A term formerly used in Dublin to refer to new non-local accents of Dublin English on the south side of the city. The reference is to the suburban railway line which runs through many affluent suburbs in the south of Dublin. See ‘Dortspeak’ as well.

Dental-alveolar distinction The distinction between a dental and an alveolar point of articulation for coronal stops (both voiceless and voiced). Thus for all non-local speakers of Irish English, and local speakers in the west and north of the country, the initial sounds in THIN and TIN are distinguished, e.g. the words are pronounced as [ṯɪn] and [tɪn] respectively. Some acrolectal speakers use [θ] and [ð] for [ṯ] and [ḏ] when using a reading style. But even then the fricatives are usually confined to syllable-final, pre-pausal position as in bath [ba:θ] for [baṯ].
    In the spectrograms below you can notice the more forceful release of [t] (beginning of the first word in each case) and the weaker release and comparative lack of intensity of [ṯ] (beginning of second word in each case). This is the acoustic basis for impressionistic statements that the alveolar [t] is ‘hard’ and the dental [ṯ] is ‘soft’.

  TIN # THIN distinction (conservative Dublin speaker)

  TIE # THIGH distinction (conservative Dublin speaker)

  THEY with dental D (non-local Dublin speaker)

Derry The second largest city in Ulster on the banks of the river Foyle near where it enters the sea. It has always had a special status in west Ulster and in the context of Northern Ireland it is remarkable in having a Catholic majority. The form ‘Londonderry’ stems from the 17th century when London undertaker companies were commissioned to plant the city with English settlers. The longer form of the name is commonly used by English people and by Protestants in Northern Ireland.

Dissociation An active process in language development whereby speakers (unconsciously) alter their speech to make it less like that of a group they are in contact with. This was evident in Dublin in the 1990s where non-local speakers, typically lower middle-class females, altered their speech making it less like local Dublin English, e.g. by using a retroflex [ɽ] contrasting with the low rhoticity of local Dublin English or by raising low back vowels such as those in the THOUGHT lexical set, contrasting with the much more open realisation found in local Dublin English.

‘Dortspeak’ A variant pronunciation of Dartspeak with a rounded vowel in the first syllable. This was typical of the original Dublin 4 accent of the late 1980s and early 1990s but was later unrounded when the new pronunciation of mainstream Dublin English developed from this accent. The rounded realisation of /ar/ is very salient in the Dublin context and the object of much popular comment and satire, for instance in the Ross O’Carroll-Kelly books by the journalist Paul Howard, see

DRESS-lowering A development in recent non-local Dublin English whereby the TRAP vowel is retracted before velars and these are then articulated further back than has hitherto been the case. With advanced speakers this retraction can be almost to a uvular stop with the vowel retracted as well, i.e. back = [bɑq]. This development is counter to the widespread realisation of back which in mainstream Irish English has a forward realisation of /k/ with a movement of the vowel forward as well, i.e. back = [bæk˖]

  DRESS vowel with slight lowering
  DRESS vowel with moderate lowering
  DRESS vowel with extreme lowering
  DRESS vowel with three degrees of lowering in succession

In the above spectrogram F1 and F2 are progressively closer to each other from left to right due to the raising of F1; this is a clear indication of increased lowering of the DRESS vowel from left to right for the three instances from the above three speakers (slight, moderate and extreme respectively).

Dublin The capital of the Republic of Ireland and by far and away the largest city in the entire island with nearly one third (well over 1 million) people living in its metropolitan area.

Dublin 4 The postal district to the immediate south of Dublin city centre. It is traditional an affluent part of the city and is home to key institutions of Dublin such as the Royal Dublin Society, Radio Telefís Éireann (the national television station of Ireland) and University College Dublin, the largest university in the country.

Dublin Vowel Shift A series of vowel shifts which took place in the speech of non-local speakers in Dublin in the 1990s. The essential feature of the shift is the raising of the vowel in the THOUGHT lexical set, of that in the CHOICE set and the diphthongisation of the GOAT vowel. Further changes also occurred, such as fronting of the GOOSE vowel and retraction of the vowel in the PRIZE lexical set (/ai/ before voiced segments). The latter change was discontinued in the 2000s but the others have persisted.


East coast dialect area The part of Ireland stretching from just north of Dublin down to Waterford in the south-east and including the area somewhat inland. This is approximately the area of the medieval Pale where the first English settled. The dialect features found there stem from the forms of English first taken to Ireland. These features are still recognisable in local Dublin English.

Ejectives / pre-aspiration These sounds are formed by a closure of the glottis (the space between the vocal cords) and some point in the supra-glottal tract, for instance, the velum. Given the fact that the glottis is closed, ejectives are voiceless segments. During the articulation of an ejective the glottis is raised somewhat increasing the pressure inside the area between the glottis and the supra-glottal closure. When an ejective is released there is a sudden burst of the air trapped during the articulation. Ejectives thus have a sharper burst than aspirated consonants which show a pulmonic pulse of air on the release of the voiceless stop. There are languages around the world which have phonemic ejectives, e.g. many Caucasian languages such as Georgian, languages of the Pacific Northwest, native languages of South America and some Afro-Asiatic languages of north-central Africa. In English ejectives are rare though some speakers do have them as an idiosyncratic feature as in this moderate example and this extreme example, both incidentally from the same speaker of southern British English. As can be seen from the following spectrogram, there is a considerable intensity peak after the release of the [k] in the second example.

  SACK – young Dublin female with salient ejective /k‘/

The situation in Irish English is interesting from this perspective. Firstly, many advanced speakers of Dublin English have a central or slightly retracted realisation of the TRAP vowel. This is apparent in the reading style pronunciation of the word BACK (see Word List (2011) in the Recordings module). The pronunciation of BACK is accompanied by a retracted /k/, something like [k-] or even [q]. There would appear to be at least glottal reinforcement for this stop and the release is longer and stronger than that for conservative Dublin speakers (see second instance of BACK in the following spectrogram). What is not present in the advanced pronunciations is a raising of the glottis with increased pressure between glottis and [k-] / [q]. It is not there yet, although advanced pronunciations are moving this way now (late 2011). So the question for future monitoring is whether final /k/ will develop into an ejective, remain where it is, or reverse to a simple aspirated stop. At any rate the embryonic ejective quality of [k-] / [q] is not an idiosyncratic feature of a few individuals but a characteristic of advanced speech with in the community of young non-local females in Dublin at present.
   Note further that the first pronunciation in the following sound file shows slight pre-aspiration before the stop. This has been observed with a number of speakers who terminate the vowel articulation before the closure for the final stop in BACK.

  BACK – advanced female speaker (left) and older conservative (right)

Ethnography of variation A reference to external factors which determine how and to what extent speakers participate in variation present in their community, specifically how they engage in this variation to project their social identity, i.e. this variation is an integral part of how individuals present themselves in their social grouping. For instance, in the 106 individuals which I recorded in 2011 it was clearly predictable which had short front vowel lowering along with other features of advanced Dublin English such as GOAT-diphthongisation and NORTH-raising. If a young female was stylishly dressed, wearing makeup, perhaps with dyed or tinged hair, with a smartphone and a fashionable handbag then that individual invariably showed the features of advanced Dublin English (or had a switch-over accent). If, on the other hand, a young female was plainly dressed, no makeup, not obviously concerned with outward appearances then that individual would have less advanced features, e.g. slight GOAT-diphthongisation, moderate NORTH-raising and virtually no DRESS-lowering. If such a speaker came from the North Side of Dublin then that individual would be much more likely to use the vernacular accent of Dublin and show T-glottalisation, low rhoticity, lack of CHOICE- or NORTH-raising, etc.


FILM-epenthesis The pronunciation of the syllable-final cluster /-lm/ – in all varieties of English in Ireland (north and south) – with a schwa between the two sonorants, i.e. as [fɪləm].

  FILM with schwa epenthesis

First period The time span from about 1200 to 1600 during which English was spoken natively in towns in the east coast dialect area, such as Dublin, Kilkenny and Waterford, and some others throughout Ireland. In the later part of this period, there was a resurgence of Irish and the English language was greatly reduced in numbers of speakers. See Second period.

FOOT-STRUT split A reference to the split of Early Modern English [ʊ] into [ʊ] and [ʌ]. This happened in the seventeenth century in southern England (but not in the north) with the general unrounding and lowering of [ʊ], e.g. in cut [kʊt] > [kʌt]. The high vowel was retained in rounded environments, e.g. before [ʃ], a velarised [ɫ] and sometimes after a labial which is why push, pull and put still have [ʊ]. In the FOOT word Middle English /o:/ was shifted to /u:/ as part of the Great Vowel Shift, then shortened to [ʊ] but because the shortening took place after the [ʊ] > [ʌ] shift the word was not affected (contrast blood in this respect).
    In Dublin English the [ʊ] > [ʌ] shift did not take place (as seventeenth-century southern British English had no influence on English in Ireland) and so there was no FOOT-STRUT split. However, an [ʌ]-pronunciation was introduced for STRUT-like words (cut, cud, done, dove, etc.) through supraregionalisation, that is the local pronunciation without a split was abandoned with the rise of an educated middle class in Ireland, probably in the early nineteenth century, and the English pronunciation of STRUT-like words with [ʌ] was adopted. Hence the split is found in all non-vernacular forms of English in Ireland.
    See also the entry under the PUT-CUT split for further information.

  Pronunciation of month with [ʊ] (local Dubliner)

FOR-FOUR merger The raising of the vowel in FOR from [ɔ:] to [o:] in recent forms of Dublin English has led to a merger of the two lexical sets FOR and FOUR for all acrolectal speakers across the entire Republic of Ireland due to the adoption of the merger into new supraregional Irish English. Now (late 2011) only speakers over 40 are likely to differentiate word pairs like morning and mourning or born and borne (as in air-borne) with [ɔ:] versus [o:].
     In the spectrogram for the FOR-FOUR distinction, the greater intensity and the more even line for F3 can be clearly recognised. Notice for the second spectrogram below the vowels are not absolutely identical but are close enough for the speaker to confirm for me that she perceived no difference between them.

  FOR # FOUR distinction (conservative Dublin)

  Identical realisation of MORNING and MOURNING


GOAT-diphthongisation The pronunciation of the vowel in the GOAT with a diphthong starting at roughly the point for schwa, i.e. as [gəʊṱ]. There are intermediary pronunciations, for instance [goʊṱ] where the starting point is not centralised; this realisation is typically of many older mainstream speakers of Dublin English and Irish English in general. A monophthong in GOAT, i.e. [go:ṱ] is a clear indication of a conservative rural accent. The local Dublin pronunciation of the GOAT vowel is also as a diphthong but with a low starting point, i.e. as [gʌɔʔ]. A complete lack of diphthongisation, i.e. [o:] as the vowel realisation for this lexical set is typical western and south-western rural accents (see second audio file below).

  Different degrees of GOAT-diphthongisation with different speakers

GOAT realisations 1 and 2

GOAT realisations 3 and 4

  GOAT with monophthongal [o:] (local speaker from Co. Kerry, south-west Ireland)

GOOSE-fronting The pronunciation of the vowel in the GOOSE lexical ever further forward in the mouth. A degree of GOOSE-fronting has always been typical of Dublin English and is salient in words which have a short vowel in many other varieties of Irish English, e.g. book [bu:˖k]. In advanced Dublin English among young females the fronting can be quite extreme.

  GOOSE-fronting with young female Dublin speaker – 1
  GOOSE-fronting with young female Dublin speaker – 2


Hibernia The Latin word for Ireland, possibly deriving from the word for ‘winter’ but more likely from the name of an ancient tribe associated with Ireland.

High Rising Terminal A frequent feature among non-vernacular speakers of Dublin English. It manifests itself as a rise in intonational contour towards the end of declarative sentences which makes them sound like questions. This practice is commonly referred to as ‘uptalk’ and is similar to the similar high rising terminal found among young speakers, especially females, in many other anglophone countries.

  High Rising Terminal (young female speaker)

Hypercorrection A feature of non-standard, dialect speakers when they attempt to use more standard varieties. It is characterised by speakers ‘overshooting’ the mark, e.g. when individuals, who normally have [ʊ] for words like cut, but, done, love, use [ʌ] for all words where they have [ʊ]. While it is true of most words with Early Modern English [ʊ], there are some, like butcher, bush, push, where [ʊ] is still found in Standard English. Hypercorrection of this kind has been a common feature in Irish English. And is still found today among with speakers of local Dublin English.


Indicators In the Labovian tradition of sociolinguistics indicators are features which do not show sensitivity to social factors and which do not vary across styles. In Dublin English (and Irish English in general) the fricative realisation of /t/, i.e. [ṱ], does not vary across social groups or styles of language, i.e. it is an indicator, as are the dental realisations in the THIN and THIS lexical sets, i.e. [ṯɪn] and [ḏɪs] respectively. These are found with all types of speakers from all groups in Irish society.

Innovation This refers to a feature found in the speech of a minority of speakers within an identifiable social group. The essential point about an innovation is that (i) it is not found with all members of a group and (ii) it has not led to a linguistic change in the language system used by this group. An instance from current advanced Dublin English would be syllable-initial affrication which is found with some, but by no means all speakers. It is furthermore confined to female speech. Only time will tell whether this innovation will spread and establish itself in Dublin English.

  Slight affrication of /d/ with young female advanced speaker

Irish The name for either the people of Ireland or the Celtic language still spoken by a small minority chiefly on the western seaboard.


Irish-speaking areas in present-day Ireland (detail and overview of main dialect regions)


Jackeen A colloquial, and now dated term for a Dubliner.


KIT-KISS distinction The /-t/ in KIT is after a vowel and before a pause so that it is realised as an apico-alveolar fricative. The /-s/ in KISS is realised as a lamino-alveolar fricative. The two sounds are quite distinct (listen to the following sound file!) and are never collapsed in any form of Irish English. In the spectrogram one can recognised that the apico-alveolar fricative [ṱ] has friction at a lower frequency (the dark band begins at about 3,200 HZ) than the lamino-fricative [s] (the dark band starts a good 1,000 HZ higher). In addition the duration of the frication in KISS is slightly longer but this is not an acoustic cue for delimiting it from [ṱ] as a short [s] is not confused with [ṱ].

  The KIT-KISS distinction – realised by the words KIT, SORRY (non-local Dublin speaker)
  The KIT-KISS distinction (conservative Dublin speaker)

The following sound file contains the three words /pʊt/, /pʊs/ and /pʊʃ/ pronounced in reading list style by a conservative Dublin speaker as [pʊṱ], [pʊs] and [pʊʃ] respectively. It is immediately obvious that the three fricatives are all acoustically distinct. The third fricative – [ʃ] – differs from both [ṱ] and [s] in that it has friction distributed weakly over a much widely spectrum, starting about 1,500 Hz and peaking at about 5,500 Hz. In addition the [ʃ] fricative has lip-rounding which the other two do not (this is not apparent from the spectrogram).

  PUT — PUSS — PUSH (conservative Dublin speaker)


LAW-THOUGHT split A split which resulted from the Dublin Vowel Shift of the 1990s. Because this shift only affected the THOUGHT lexical set when the vowel was in closed syllables, the original more open pronunciation of LAW, i.e. [lɔ:] was retained and not raised to [lo:] as was thought [ṯo:ṱ]. The LAW set is now the only group of words where [ɔ:] occurs in the new supraregional form of Irish English (deriving from 1990s advanced Dublin English) because the former separate NORTH lexical set has merged with the FORCE lexical set, cf. for and four, both now [fo:r] and not [fɔ:r] and [fo:r] as used be the case.

  Different realisations of LAW and THOUGHT

  Identical realisations of LAW and THOUGHT

Leinster One of the four provinces of Ireland in the east, south-east of the island containing Dublin. It consists of twelve counties.

Lenition A complex process in Irish English with a variety of realisations in varieties differing by degrees vernacularity. The simplest form of lenition is the fricativisation of /t/ to an apico-alveolar fricative [ṱ] intervocalically and after a vowel / before a pause. This is found in non-vernacular speech throughout the Republic of Ireland. In local varieties, especially on the east coast, [ṱ] can be further lenited to [h] or a glottal stop or be absent entirely (for more details, see the discussion in the module on lenition).

L-velarisation The pronunciation of laterals in syllable-final position shows secondary velarisation in Dublin English. This is a traditional feature of Dublin English and is present in non-local forms of metropolitan speech. However, a clear L has always been typical of accents outside of the capital and of mainstream Dublin English before the 1990s. But with the rise of a new pronunciation in that decade, the velarised [ɫ] of local Dublin English was adopted into advanced forms of English in the capital although most of the other features of the new pronunciation were motivated by dissociation from vernacular Dublin English. With the spread of the new pronunciation beyond Dublin to the rest of the country, velarised [ɫ] became a feature of non-local speech of all young people growing up from the 1990s onwards. Note that the velarised [ɫ] of Irish English is preceded by a low offglide [ɐ] rather than the back offglide [ʊ] found before [ɫ] in British English, e.g. field [fi:ɐɫd]. The difference can be recognised in the spectrogram below where the offglide to the [ɫ] in the second word shows a formant structure typical of [ʊ].

  Velarised [ɫ] preceded by (i) a low offglide [ɐ], (ii) a back offglide [ʊ]

  Alveolar L (conservative Dublin speaker)
  L-velarisation with non-local speaker (moderate, 1)
  L-velarisation with non-local speaker (moderate, 2)
  L-velarisation with non-local speaker (extreme)


Malapropism A feature which characterises the incomplete mastery of a standard variety of a language, or indeed of a language at all, and which results in approximations to words which are nonetheless not quite accurate, e.g. a common Malapropism in Irish English is the use of the word ‘ulster’ for ‘ulcer’.

Markers In the Labovian tradition of sociolinguistics markers are features which are sociolinguistically relevant and distinguish different socially-determined subgroups with a society; these features tend to disappear in more formal styles of language, e.g. when reading word lists. Alveolar realisations of the initial segments in THIN and THIS, i.e. [tɪn] and [dɪs] respectively, are clearly markers and are only found in local rural varieties, especially in the east and south of Ireland, and in vernacular Dublin English. See indicators as well.

MERRY-MARY merger A merger in local Dublin English whereby the vowels in these two words show no length distinction. This means in effect that the DRESS and FACE lexical sets merge in pre-rhotic position.

  MERRY-MARY merger with young female speaker from Dublin

  MERRY-MARY with slight distinction for young female speaker from Dublin

MOUTH-fronting A feature of non-vernacular Dublin English which has its origin in local Dublin English and which despite the operation of dissociation was adopted into the new pronunciation of the 1990s. It is a scalar feature, that is shows different degrees, the stronger forms correlating with other features of non-vernacular Dublin English such as R-retroflexion or GOAT-diphthongisation.

  MOUTH-fronting, five stages from [aʊ] to [eʉ]
  MOUTH-fronting, two extremes (low front to high front onset)
  Extreme MOUTH-fronting


Nasal-raising An observed tendency for some advanced speakers to raise back vowels slightly in the environment of nasals. For instance, in the wordlist pronunciation of MORNING and MOURNING some speakers had [mʊ:˕ɽnɪŋ]. Another case was the pronunciation of the affluent southern suburb of Monkstown which was pronounced [mʊŋkstɛʊn] by some. The high back vowel is not as rounded as it would be in local Dublin English and because the realisation is conditioned by the following nasal it does not seem to be salient for speakers in stark contrast to the unconditional [ʊ] for CUT which is typical of vernacular speech in Dublin.

  MORNING with raised vowel in nasal environment
  MONKSTOWN with raised vowel in nasal environment

Newfoundland Irish English The oldest anglophone emigration is that to Newfoundland in eastern Canada which goes back to seasonal migration for fishing with later settlement in the 18th and early 19th centuries (given the relatively short transatlantic trip). The Irish who emigrated there nearly all came from within a thirty-mile radius of the city of Waterford in the south-east and were speakers of an east coast dialect of Irish English, hence a particularly old variety of English in Ireland. Newfoundland Irish English hence confirms the historic roots of a number of conservative features of east coast dialects of present-day Ireland.

Northern Ireland Since 1921 a state within the United Kingdom. It consists of six of the nine counties of the province of Ulster and was created as an option for the Protestant majority in the north-east of Ireland, descended from original Scottish and English settlers, to remain within the British union.

Non-local A label used in this website, and in various publications by the author, to refer to accents, here in Dublin, which are distinct from the local vernacular. In other contexts, e.g. when discussing creole continua, the similar term ‘acrolectal’ can be found.

NORTH-raising The vowel in this lexical set was raised as part of the original Dublin Vowel Shift of the 1990s and has remained raised since then. The raising is in direct contrast with the open vowel of local forms of Dublin English and varieties of English outside Dublin, on the east coast of Ireland.

  NORTH — very open pronunciation (Kilkenny city, east coast, older speaker)
  NORTH — mid pronunciation (Co. Kerry, local speaker)
  NORTH — raised pronunciation (non-local Dublin speaker)

The above spectrogram shows three realisations of NORTH, one from each of the sound files just listed, i.e. a very open one, a mid one and a raised one typical of a young non-local Dublin speaker. The red dots show F1 in each of the pronunciations of NORTH. The continuous red line drawn horizontally through the spectrogram shows a falling tendency for F1 from left to right indicating an increasingly raised value for the vowel in NORTH.

The raising of the NORTH vowel means that it is now homophonous with the vowel in the lexical set FORCE. This is an innovation in Dublin English of the 1990s which has been continued since then and which spread to young, non-local speech throughout the rest of the Republic of Ireland in the last decade or so. Older conservative Dublin speakers and others from outside the capital still maintain the distinction between the vowels of NORTH and FORCE as can be heard in the following sound file. See also the remarks under the FOR-FOUR merger above.

  NORTH — FORCE distinction (conservative Dublin speaker)

In vernacular varieties both within and outside Dublin, the NORTH-vowel is very open. The openness of the vowel does not, however, affect the realisation of the FORCE-vowel as can be seen from the following sound file where an older Kilkenny speaker has a very open realisation for NORTH but and [o:] for the FORCE-vowel.

  NORTH and FORCE (local speaker from Kilkenny city)

North Side The half of Dublin which lies north of the river Liffey which cuts horizontally through the city. It is generally the less affluent half and is characterised by more local accents than in the south. The North Side proper is away from the northern side of Dublin Bay. The latter area contains some suburbs, such as Clontarf, Sutton and above all Howth, which are quite affluent and do not generally show the local accents found further inland on the North Side, e.g. in Coolock, Santry or Ballymun.

NURSE-TERM distinction Local Dublin English has retained a distinction between a back and a front vowel before historical /r/ within a stressed syllable. The /r/ was lost at some stage (a chronology cannot unfortunately be established for this) but the distinction was retained so that in present-day vernacular Dublin English the contrast is between a back [ʊ:]-vowel and a front [ɛ:]-vowel.

The words ‘nurse’ and ‘term’ read by a local Dubliner showing distinct formant contours.

  NURSE-TERM distinction (local Dublin speaker)


Pale A term for the area of Dublin, its immediate hinterland and a stretch of the east coast down to the south-east corner which was fairly successful in resisting increasing Gaelicisation up to the 16th century. The varieties of English in this area still show features which stem from late medieval Irish English whereas those further west in the country show greater evidence of influence from Irish, the native language before the switch-over to English.

PEN-PIN merger A merger in the south-west of Ireland which occurs due to the raising of the mid vowel in PEN to the high vowel in PIN, i.e. pen and pin are both [pɪn]. The merger only occurs before nasals. It is geographically confined to the region shown in the following map and is not present in forms of Dublin English, vernacular or otherwise.

Pre-rhotic A-tensing A tendency in colloquial forms of southern Irish English in general, including local Dublin English, to raise the TRAP somewhat when it occurs before a tautosyllabic /r/, e.g. in car [kær] or even [kɛr]. This tensing is found in Dublin English, though for many speakers the /r/ following the vowel is very weak if pronounced at all. This would suggest that pre-rhotic A-tensing is a very old phenomenon in Irish English and arose before the non-prevocalic /r/ was lost, or at least greatly weakened, in Dublin English.

  Pre-rhotic A-tensing with young male speaker from Dublin

  Pre-rhotic A-tensing with young female speaker from Dublin

  Pre-rhotic A-tensing with young female speaker from Dublin (wordlist style)

Pragmatics The pragmatics of Dublin English, and Irish English in general, includes for non-vernacular speakers the option of changing temporarily into the vernacular mode. This is a kind of code-switching in which a speaker of a non-local form of English switches into a vernacular mode in which he, much less frequently she, would use lexical, grammatical and pronunciation features typical of the vernacular of the region the speaker is from or currently located. This is common in colloquial contexts, e.g. when having a drink in a pub with friends, often when recounting some incident or event to others. If those in the company do not know you it is important they grasp that the vernacular mode is not your only way of speaking, otherwise this mode carries stigma. See vernacularisation.

PUT-CUT split, absence of the In local Dublin English the lowering of Early Modern English [ʊ], which occurred in 17th century southern British English, did not take place. For that reason words like cut, run, done, love are all pronounced with an [ʊ] as are words like put, push, pull (as in standard English). In the lexical sets devised by J. C. Wells and laid out in his three volume work on Accents of English (Cambridge University Press, 1982) the keyword illustrating Early Modern English [ʊ] is STRUT. This is not a common word and was not used when collecting speech samples in Dublin. Instead the sound was tested for using the short phrase He cut the piece of twine. The phrase He put his foot in it was use to test for the words which in standard English still show Early Modern English [ʊ]. The recordings then provided pronunciation which showed whether speakers had the CUT-PUT split or not.
    See also the entry under the FOOT-STRUT split for further background information.

  Local Dublin speaker without PUT-CUT distinction

  Conservative Dublin speaker with PUT-CUT distinction

In the second spectrogram above the distinction between the vowels of CUT and PUT can be recognised by the fact that with CUT [kʌṱ] the peak of F1 is around 750 Hz whereas with PUT [pʊṱ] the F1 peak is lower, around 450 Hz. In the first spectrogram (from the speaker who had [ʊ] in both CUT and PUT) the F1 peak is in both cases low, around 450 Hz (similar to the PUT vowel for the second speaker).


Republic of Ireland Since 1949 the official name for the south of Ireland (excluding Northern Ireland). With the declaration of a republic Ireland left the Commonwealth and achieved formally a greater degree of independence from the United Kingdom.

Rhoticity, low A prominent feature of local Dublin English is the reduction or complete absence of non-prevocalic /r/. In conservative mainstream pronunciation a slightly velarised /r/ is found. However, in the New Pronunciation of young people which arose in the 1990s a retroflex /r/ began to appear, most likely as a reaction to the low rhoticity of local Dublin English (maximisation of phonetic distinctiveness).

  Local speaker with very low rhoticity

R-retroflexion The pronunciation of post-vocalic /r/ as a retroflex approximant [ɽ]. This is an innovation which appeared in the early 1990s in Dublin English. It is similar, but unrelated, to the retroflex [ɽ] found in supraregional varieties of American English. There is also a retroflex [ɽ] in rural forms of Ulster Scots in the extreme north of the island of Ireland, but again, this can hardly be posited as an influence on the new pronunciation of Dublin English of the 1990s as the contact between advanced speakers in the Irish metropolis and the rural varieties of Scots-derived English in Northern Ireland can be considered non-existent.
    There is a far more cogent explanation of the rise of R-retroflexion in advanced Dublin English. Consider that local varieties of Dublin English show little if no rhoticity. Given that dissociation was one of the chief motivations for the rise of the new pronunciation, then the appearance of R-retroflexion increased the phonetic distance between emerging rhotic varieties and local non-rhotic forms of speech in Dublin. Support for this interpretation is offered by the fact that R-retroflexion, like other features such as GOAT-diphthongisation, is a scalar feature. Those speakers who had moved furthest along the various trajectories of the new pronunication showed greatest degrees of R-retroflexion, that is, strong retroflexion correlated with strong GOAT-diphthongisation, strong MOUTH-fronting and CHOICE-, NORTH- and THOUGHT-raising.

  Different degrees of R-retroflexion with different speakers

Three degrees of R-retroflexion with different speakers (R-sounds enclosed in rectangles in spectrograms)


Scalar features Those features of a variety which show a range of values on a scale, i.e. which are not binary. An example of the latter would be T-frication: either a /t/ is realised as [ṱ] or it is not. However, vowel realisations can show a range of values. Consider MOUTH-fronting: the onset of the diphthong can range along a scale which reaches from central [a] to mid-front [e], i.e. [au], [æu], [ɛu], [eu]. But even these four transcriptions do not do justice to the series of phonetic values which occur among non-vernacular speakers for the onset of the MOUTH vowel. Speakers can furthermore manipulate these values and deliberately, albeit unconsciously, select a higher onset to project an identification with advanced non-vernacular Dublin English. Other examples of scalar features in non-vernacular Dublin English would be GOAT-diphthongisation and R-retroflexion.

Second period The time span from about 1600 to the present-day. A vigorous policy of Anglicisation was pursued by the British in the 17th century which led to English establishing its dominance over Irish. In the course of the following centuries English came to be the language of the majority of native people through shift from the heritage language Irish. See First period.

shibboleth A linguistic item which serves the function of identifying a speaker as belonging to one community and not another. The term stems from a story in the Old Testament about the Ephraimites, who did not have [š] in their speech, and the Gileadites who did. Members of either community could thus be identified according to whether they pronounced the initial sound in the word shibboleth as [s] or [š]. In Dublin the pronunciation of short <u>, as in the name of the city, is just such a shibboleth.

  ‘Dublin’ with [ʌ] and [ʊ] (conservative Dublin speaker providing two pronunciations)

Some speakers, especially those who have remnants of the original 1990s vowel shift, show a slightly fronted variant of the STRUT vowel (the lexical set originally proposed by J. C. Wells in his Accents of English, Cambridge University Press, 3 vols, 1982). This is regarded as slightly ‘posh’ and is not ‘trendy’ or ‘cool’ among advanced non-local speakers in Dublin. A fronted variant can be read in the following sound file.

  BUT – BUG (fronted realisation by non-local speaker from Foxrock, an affluent suburb in the south of Dublin).

Short front vowel lowering A recent development in advanced Dublin English in which the vowel in the DRESS and the TRAP lexical sets is considerable lowered. At present (late 2011) the vowel in KIT is not affected to the same extent though after /l/ and /r/ lowering is perceptible, e.g. lid [led], rid [red]. The TRAP vowel is not just lowered but also retracted somewhat and before velar stops the latter are slightly uvularised, e.g. back [bɑq].

  DRESS vowel with young female speaker from Dublin
  TRAP vowel with young female speaker from Dublin

‘slit’ t A reference to the pronunciation of /t/ as an apico-alveolar fricative in weak positions (intervocalically or word-finally after a vowel and before a pause). This articulation shares all features with the stop /t/ but is a continuant. The symbol introduced by the present author (Hickey 1984) for the sound is [ṱ] where the subscript caret iconically indicates the lack of closure by the tongue apex. This realisation of /t/ is ubiquitous in the south of Ireland and common in the north as well. It is also found, as a transferred feature, in the speech of the Irish-derived community in Newfoundland.

  Apico-alveolar fricative for post-vocalic, pre-pausal /t/
  T-frication with young female speaker from Dublin

Slit-t can be transcribed phonetically by placing a caret under a t. The point of the caret suggests the tip of the tongue which does not make contact with the alveolar ridge.

SOFT lengthening A feature of Dublin English whereby the LOT vowel occurs long before a voiceless fricative as in the word soft [sɑ:ft] (local pronunciation) or [sɔ:ft] (non-local pronunciation). This would appear to a retention of nineteenth-century southern British English which also had this lengthening but which was later reversed in English, i.e. in Dublin English it is an instance of colonial lag.

  SOFT lengthening with young non-local female speaker from Dublin

South Side The half of Dublin which lies north of the river Liffey which cuts horizontally through the city. It is generally the less affluent half and is characterised by more local accents than in the south.

SQUARE-rounding A feature of some advanced speakers of Dublin English whereby the vowel in SPARE is rounded slightly. In conservative mainstream Dublin English the vowel here is [e:], i.e. SQUARE = [skwe:ɹ]. However, in local Dublin English a very open, unrounded and somewhat lengthened [ɛ:] is found here and also in the TERM lexical set (= [tɛ:m] in local Dublin English, but [tɚ:m] in non-local varieties). In local Dublin English the nucleus vowel has absorbed the /r/ of the coda in each case and has been correspondingly lengthened.
   As part of the dissociation which was prominent in the Sound Shifts of the 1990s some advanced speakers rounded the vowel to maximise the distance between their pronunciation and local ones. This rounding is still found with some speakers but is not widespread in advanced Dublin English now (2011).

  SQUARE pronounced with slight vowel rounding, [ɶ:] rather than [e:]
  SPARE and PARENTS pronounced with slight vowel rounding, [ɶ:] rather than [e:]
  TERM with low-mid front vowel [ɛ:].

Standard Irish English There has been no explicit codification of the English language in Ireland, in contradistinction to the United States, for instance. The written standard of Irish English is for all intents and purposes the same as that in Britain. There are no differences in spelling and the Irish use dictionaries published in Britain as references works for written English. On the grammatical level, some specifically Irish features may creep into written usage. For example, the use of the word order Object + Past Participle is used, not for a causative as in other forms of English, but as a resultative perfective as in He had the essay written in time ‘He was finished writing the essay in time’. The after perfective, as in She’s after selling the house is frequently found in print when the context permits it. In phonetic terms Standard Irish English was essentially mainstream, educated Dublin English which acted as a yardstick throughout the country. However, in the 1990s with the spread of the New Pronunciation beyond Dublin this has increasingly become – in a moderate form – a reference accent for young people today. With the passing of time the older mainstream pronunciation – without CHIOICE-, NORTH- and THOUGHT-raising, without MOUTH-fronting and without R-retroflexion – will be less and less represented in Irish society. Whether it will entirely disappear or not is uncertain given that many vernaculars varieties around Ireland have the features just listed, if not in the precise combination found in the older mainstream. For more information on Standard Irish English and on standards of English in general see Raymond Hickey (ed) 2012. Standards of English. Codified Varieties Around the World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Switch-over accent The accent of an individual who has moved from a local to a non-local accent. Such an accent often retains features of the original local accent which are anomalous in the context of an entirely non-local accent. For instance, the switch-over accent analysed in the section on Implicational scales showed GOAT-diphthongisation, R-retroflexion, but glottalisation/deletion of final T.


Television The Republic of Ireland has a single television (and radio) network, Raidió Teilifís Éireann, abbreviated to RTE, which dominated Irish television broadcasts during the last four decades of the twentieth century and has continued to do so into the twentieth first. There is now a further commercial television channel, TV3, along with many local radio channels and, of course, a host of further channels from outside Ireland available available through cable networks or via a dish. The female presenters, and also some of the male presenters, on RTE television and radio have always been speakers of advanced Dublin English and were instrumental in the exposure of people outside Dublin to these accents throughout the 1990s and the 2000s. These presenters were among the first to introduce the vowel shift of the 1990s to a general Irish public and have done the same for the short front vowel lowering which is currently (late 2011) on the increase in non-vernacular Dublin English, though not yet outside the capital to any noticeable extent. The presenters include newscasters and correspondents, weather forecast presenters and continuity announcers. It cannot be proven that RTE was responsible for the spread of advanced Dublin English in the 1990s. However, the appearance of advanced features in parts of the country far removed from the capital among individuals who did not have direct contact with Dubliners is difficult to explain otherwise.

  RTE presenter with lack of MOUTH-fronting and very moderate NORTH-raising (conservative Dublin English)
  RTE presenter with NORTH-raising in ‘performances’ (advanced Dublin English, 1)
  RTE presenter with vowel lowering in ‘television’ (advanced Dublin English, 1)
  RTE presenter with vowel lowering in ‘twelve’ (advanced Dublin English, 2)
  RTE presenter with vowel retraction in ‘factory’ (advanced Dublin English, 2)
  RTE presenter with vowel lowering in ‘west’ and ‘wet’ (advanced Dublin English, 3)

  RTE, four pronunciations with increasing vowel height and rhoticity

T-frication A feature of all forms of Irish English except local Dublin English and the other urban vernaculars of the east coast dialect area. The feature involves the realisation of /t/ in positions of high sonority – (i) intervocalically and (ii) post-vocalically/pre-pausally – as an apico-alveolar fricative. T-glottalisation (see next entry) is the next stage on a lenition cline, but is only found in east coast urban vernaculars. See also ‘slit-t’ above.

  Fricative [ṱ] for /t/ (non-local Dublin speaker)

‘wet’ with fricative [ṱ]

T-glottalisation A feature of local Dublin English whereby /t/ outside of syllable-initial position is preferentially realised as [ʔ] or indeed deleted. Intervocalically it can be realised as [r]. T-glottalisation is found in other urban varieties on the east coast, down to Waterford which suggests that it is a very old feature of Irish English in this part of the country, probably stemming from the First Period, i.e. before 1600.

  T-Glottalisation (local Dublin speaker)

‘wet’ with glottal stop

T-tapping The use of a very short stop as a realisation of /t/ in intervocalic position. This is known from varieties of American English and in the Irish context it is a local Dublin feature which is also found in advanced Dublin English. Although local features such as T-glottalisation are frowned upon by non-vernacular speakers, T-tapping has greater acceptance, perhaps because it is known to occur in American English and so has prestige due to its occurrence outside Ireland. T-tapping is also found with non-local speakers outside Dublin in new supraregional varieties of young people around the country.

  Tap [ſ] for intervocalic /t/ (non-local Dublin speaker) – 1
  Tap [ſ] for intervocalic /t/ (non-local Dublin speaker) – 2

Note. The term ‘tap’ is used here for the sound [ſ] which is often called a ‘flap’ in other works on phonetics.

T-to-R An occasional feature of local Dublin English whereby and intervocalic /t/ can be shifted to [r] as part of lenition. Normally, local speakers have T-glottalisation, T-tapping or T-deletion intervocalically. However, after a stressed vowel and before a further closed syllable [r] can be found as in get up! [gɛrʊp].


Ulster A province of Ireland in the north of the country. It consists of nine counties, six of which now form the state of Northern Ireland. Co Donegal in the extreme north-west is part of the Republic of Ireland but has more linguistic features in common with speech in Northern Ireland, both with Ulster Scots and Mid-Ulster English.

  Sample of Ulster Scots (without distinctive vowel length)


vernacularisation A common process in Dublin English whereby non-vernacular speakers use some salient vernacular features for local effect in colloquial contexts. For instance, the second person plural pronoun in local Dublin English is youse [ju:z] or yeez [ji:z] (with a short vowel when unstressed) and can be used to add local flavour to one’s speech. There are many other instances such as unraised Middle English /ɛ:, e:/ which is often used in words like easy, leave, tea, creature [kre:tɚ] or the historical reflex of velarised [ɫ] before [d] which led the diphthong [au] as in the words old [aul] and bold [baul] with post-sonorant stop deletion. The meanings are somewhat different from the pronunciations /o:ld/ and /bo:ld/ as the forms with [au] have gained additional connotations: [aul] ‘old + affectionate attachment’, e.g. His [aul] car has finally given up the ghost, [baul] ‘daring + sneaking admiration’, e.g. The [baul] Charlie is back on top again.


West Brit A somewhat derogatory term for those Irish people who have strong English leanings and tend to regard the native Irish as rustic and naive.

WHICH-WITCH merger The voicing of [ʍ] has led in recent Irish English to the merger of the WHICH lexical set with the WITCH set. This has also become characteristic of new supraregional speech in Ireland. As of the present (late 2011) only speakers of 40 years and over can be expected to distinguish pairs like whet and wet or whale and wail all of which now have initial [w] for younger speakers.

  Identical realisations of WHICH and WITCH
  Different realisations of WHICH and WITCH (conservative Dublin speaker, reading style)