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Irish Dialect

Who uses this dialect?

This is the speech of Irish of all classes.

Rhythm and Music

This is an incredibly musical dialect. It has both a strong lilt and a fair amount of breathiness to it. Imagine a young lass dancing on her way home from school, knowing that there's a market fair that weekend. The sound is generated higher up in the mouth than Standard American. The lilt is created by having the vowels end at a lower pitch than they begin (see the suond changes, below).

As a side note, in reality there are almost as many variations in irish dialects as in English. Ulstermen speak very differently from Dubliners, for example. The dialect presented here is a sort of Generic Stage Irish, and should not be taken as representative of the speech of all Irish-speakers.

Irish Syntax

  1. The Irish have but little sense of hierarchy, unlike their English neighbors. They are also a very friendly, open people. Therfore, the irish call everyone except the monarch "thou."
  2. Everything is a story to the Irish. Flavor your speech with lots of "Well thens" and "nows," as in "Well then, I was walking along," or "Now, I was aboard ship, when..."
  3. You can insert the word "after" between any passive verb and the gerund which follows. Oh, dear, that's a bit technical, isn't it? Here's a couple of examples:
    I'm going to the privy.becomesI'm after going to the privy.
    He was drinking.becomesHe was after drinking.
  4. The Irish use "lad" and "lass" more often than the Scottish "laddie" or "lassie." Like the Sctos, however, the Irish will use these terms regardless of age.

Sound Changes

Each of the links below is an ".mp3" file demonstrating a sound change. Listen to the example as many times as you need to, repeating it on your own afterwards. Take as much time as you need to with each sound. If you take the examples in order, you will sometimes run into sounds you haven't gotten to yet. Don't worry about it, just do the best you can until you've gone through all the sounds. Then go back and listen to the examples again, and make whatever corrections you need to.

I have included notes where appropriate.

  1. The 'ah' sound in words like "father" is stretched out.
    Father calms himself by talking in the yard.

  2. The shirt 'a' sound in words like "map" and "glass" softens almost into an 'ah' sound.
    Every glass in the castle shattered in the cannon blast.

  3. The 'oi' sound in words like "point" moves toward a long 'i,' as in "find."
    The boy was annoyed at having to toil.

  4. The 'uh' sound in words like "love" and "pub" become a short 'oo,' as in "book."
    My brother loved to have lunch in his pub.

  5. The long 'i' sound in words like "fight" rounds a bit. Be careful not to take it too far into an 'oi' sound!
    The Irish will fight along all five miles of the line.

  6. Similarly, the 'ow' sound in words like "town" is rounded. Again, take care not to drift too far.
    She wore a brown gown when lying about the house.

  7. The long vowels - 'a' in "play," 'o' in "go," "oo" in "spoon," and 'e' in "feed," - are all elongated:
    It does not pay to take away the cake.
    He held open his coat over the old boat.
    The Duke put too much juice on his food.
    Neither could agree to treat the scene seriously.

    Notice that this last change is carried quite far, almost to a long 'a.' The only thing to beware of here, is that you must not change to meaning of the word.

  8. The 'r' sound has a very hard quality to it.
    Her brother had a hard time growing roses in his garden.

  9. The 'l' sound is always very strongly articulated.
    'Twas late in april when he lost his love.

  10. The final 'g' is dropped in words like "ending."
    The ball is ending, and the people are leaving.

Tag Line.

Finally, here's a spoken version of the chorus from Red Is the Rose to practice with. I recommend using this verse to get into dialect before rehearsal or performance.

Red is the rose that in yonder garden grows,
Fair is the lilly of the valley,
Pure is the water that flows from the Boyne,
But my love is fairer than any.

And there you have it, all the changes thou shalt need to speak like a Irishman. I wish you much joy of it!

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