South-West Irish English

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Green approximately marks the South-West Irish English dialect region.

South-West Irish English (also known as South-West Hiberno-English) is a class of broad varieties of English spoken in Ireland's South-West Region (the province of Munster). Within Ireland, the varieties are best associated with either the urban working class of the South-West or traditional rural Ireland in general, and they are popularly identified by their specific city or county, such as Cork English, Kerry English, or Limerick English.


Among speakers in the South-West alone (famously Cork, Kerry, or Limerick), the vowel of DRESS raises to [ɪ] when before /n/ or /m/ (a pin–pen merger)[1] and sentences may show a unique intonation pattern. This intonation is a slightly higher pitch followed by a significant drop in pitch on stressed long-vowel syllables (across multiple syllables or even within a single one),[2] which is popularly heard in rapid conversation, by other English speakers, as an undulating "sing-song" quality.[3]

Among older speakers, /s/ and /z/ may respectively be pronounced as /ʃ/ and /ʒ/ before a consonant, so fist sounds like fished, castle like cashle, and arrest like arresht.[4]

Certain South-West features may also exist in Ireland outside that region, but typically only in rural areas. An example is the backing, slight lowering, and perhaps rounding of MOUTH towards [ɐʊ~ʌʊ~ɔʊ], so that, to a Dublin or General American speaker, about nears the sound of a boat. The consonants /θ/ and /ð/ (as in thick and those), which are typically dental in other Irish English varieties, are traditionally alveolar: [t] and [d], respectively (thus, thick and those merge to the sound of tick and doze). GOAT and FACE are preserved as long monophthongs: [oː] and [eː], respectively. These varieties are all rhotic, as most Irish accents are, though the /r/ sound is specifically a velarised alveolar approximant: [ɹˠ].[5] (Among some very traditional South-West speakers, other possible /r/ variants include a "tapped R", the alveolar tap [ɾ] (About this soundlisten), or even a "uvular R", the voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] (About this soundlisten), in rural south-central Ireland.[6])

Features shared with both rural Irish English and working-class Dublin English include the vowels in LOT, CLOTH, NORTH and THOUGHT having a more open starting point and lacking a rounded quality: [ɑ~ä]. Furthermore, for all these varieties, PRICE and CHOICE may also lack a rounded quality, the lexical set START is very fronted ([æːɹ]), the /h/ may be dropped before /j/ (hue pronounced like you), a distinction remains between tern and turn,[7] and <w> and <wh> remain separate sounds.


South-West Irish English allows the use of a do be habitual aspect. Examples include I do be thinking about it or she does be late, whereas more standard English constructions of those sentences are I think about it (often) or she is late (usually).[8]

Non-canonical constituent order is also possible, in which a sentence may be arranged as Thinking to steal a few eggs I was (rather than I was thinking to steal a few eggs), in order to give the first clause salience or emphasis.[9]


  1. ^ Hickey (2007:313)
  2. ^ Hickey (2007:309)
  3. ^ "Learn English in Cork City & County" Archived 15 November 2017 at the Wayback Machine. Language Travel Ireland: Learn English by Living It. Language Travel Ireland, InnovationWorks, National Technology Park, Limerick, Ireland. 2010.
  4. ^ Wells, John C. 1982. Accents of English: Volume 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 425.
  5. ^ Hickey, Raymond (2007). Irish English: History and present-day forms. Cambridge University Press. pp. 14-15, 320.
  6. ^ Hickey, Raymond (1985). "R-Coloured vowels in Irish English". Journal of the International Phonetic Association, Vol. 15, No. 2. p. 45.
  7. ^ Hickey, 1985, p. 54.
  8. ^ Shimada, Tamami (2013). "The do be Form in Southwest Hiberno-English and its Linguistic Enquiries". Tokyo University Linguistic Papers 33: 255-271.
  9. ^ Shimada, Tamami (2010). "What grammatical features are more marked in Hiberno-English?: a survey of speakers’ awareness and its primary details." Bulletin of Graduate School of Social and Cultural Systems at Yamagata University 7: 8-10.
  • Hickey, Raymond (2007). Irish English: History and Present-Day Forms. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-85299-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)