Irish English
Native toRepublic of Ireland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
RegionIreland (Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland); Great Britain; United States; Australia; Canada (diaspora)
Native speakers
4.3 million in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom (2012 European Commission)[1]
275,000 L2 speakers of English in Ireland (European Commission 2012)
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)
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Hiberno-English (from Latin Hibernia: "Ireland") or Irish English[2] (Ulster Scots: Erse Inglis, Irish: Béarla Éireannach) is the set of English dialects natively written and spoken within the island of Ireland (including both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland).[3]

English was brought to Ireland as a result of the Norman invasion of Ireland of the late 12th century. Initially, it was mainly spoken in an area known as the Pale around Dublin, with mostly Irish spoken throughout the rest of the country. By the Tudor period, Irish culture and language had regained most of the territory lost to the invaders: even in the Pale, "all the common folk… for the most part are of Irish birth, Irish habit, and of Irish language".[4] Some small pockets remained predominantly English-speaking; because of their sheer isolation their dialects developed into later (now extinct) dialects known as Yola in Wexford and Fingallian in Fingal, Dublin. These were no longer mutually intelligible with other English varieties. However, the Tudor conquest and colonisation of Ireland in the 16th century marked a forced decline in the use of the Irish language. By the mid-19th century, English was the majority language spoken in the country.[a] It has retained this status to the present day, with even those whose first language is Irish being fluent in English as well. Today, there is only a little more than one per cent of the population that speaks Irish natively.[6] Of the 40% of the population, who self-identified as speaking some Irish in 2016, 4% speak Irish daily outside the education system.[7] English is one of two official languages, along with Irish, of the Republic of Ireland, and is the country's de facto working language.

Hiberno-English's spelling and pronunciation standards align with British rather than American English. However, Hiberno-English's diverse accents and some of its grammatical structures are unique, with some influence by the Irish language and a tendency to be phonologically conservative, retaining older features no longer common in the accents of England or North America.

Phonologists today often divide Hiberno-English into four or five overarching classes of dialects or accents:[8][9] Ulster accents, West and South-West Irish accents (including, for example, the Cork accent), various Dublin accents, and a supraregional accent expanding since only the last quarter of the twentieth century.

Ulster English

Ulster English (or Northern Irish English) here refers collectively to the varieties of the Ulster province, including Northern Ireland and neighbouring counties outside of Northern Ireland, which has been influenced by Ulster Irish as well as the Scots language, brought over by Scottish settlers during the Plantation of Ulster. Its main subdivisions are Mid-Ulster English, South Ulster English and Ulster Scots, the latter of which is arguably a separate language. All Ulster English has more obvious pronunciation similarities with Scottish English than other Irish English dialects do.

Ulster varieties distinctly pronounce:

Notable lifelong native speakers

  • Christine Bleakley, Jamie Dornan, Rory McIlroy, Liam Neeson – "The Northern Irish accent is the sexiest in the UK, according to a new poll. The dulcet tones of Liam Neeson, Jamie Dornan, Christine Bleakley and Rory McIlroy helped ensure the accent came top of the popularity charts"[11]
  • John Cole – "His distinctive Ulster accent"[12]
  • Nadine Coyle – "I was born and raised in Derry and I can't change the way I talk".[13]
  • Daniel O'Donnell – "the languid Donegal accent made famous by Daniel O'Donnell"[14]
  • Colin Morgan – "Colin Morgan has revealed that fans of the show are often confused by his accent. The 23-year-old... is originally from Northern Ireland"[15]