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HIBERNO-ENGLISH. A VARIETY of English in Ireland, used mainly by less educated speakers whose ancestral tongue was IRISH GAELIC. It is strongest in and around the Gaeltachts (Irish-speaking regions) and in rural areas. It preserves certain Gaelic features in pronunciation, syntax, and vocabulary while at the same time many of its speakers approximate to the ANGLO-IRISH or ULSTER SCOTS norms of the area in which they live.


(1) Such words as cat and garden sound like ‘kyat’ and ‘gyarden’: initial /k/ and /g/ with a following semivowel /j/. (2) Such names as Hugh and Hughes sound as if they began with a ‘ky’. (3) Such words as true, drew sound like ‘threw’ and ‘dhrew’: dental rather than alveolar realizations of /t, d/. (4) In such words as pine, time, come, the opening consonant is aspirated, the /t/ in time sounding like a cross between t and the th in three: aspiration of syllable-initial /p, t, k/. (5) Some GAELIC rhythms include the use of an unstressed initial word in questions: An' do you like it?; An' was it nice? The unstressed word is usually and, but well and sure also occur. In Gaelic, questions normally begin with an unstressed element, which in the present tense is an: An maith leat é? Do you like it?


Gaelic influence may be found in: (1) A preference for nominal structures: Give her the full of it Fill it; He has a long finger on him He steals. (2) Constructions with preposition and pronoun together: His back's at him He has a backache; She stole my book on me She stole my book; I let a squeal out of me I squealed. (3) Using it to foreground words and phrases: It's a lovely girl she is now; It wasn't to make trouble I went. (4) Foregrounding emphatic pronouns: It's meself was the brave runner; It was himself I wanted. (5) Differentiating singular and plural you: You're dead bate, child; Yiz is dead bate, childer You are dead beat (child/children). (6) Using forms of be to distinguish aspect: She's a great wee help about the place; She biz a brave help when she comes; She doesn't be working all the time. (7) Using after and -ing to indicate a recently performed action: I'm after doing it this very minute. (8) Using a- and -ing as a passive: Where were you? You were a-looking (being looked for) this last hour and more. (9) Using and, noun phrase, and -ing to show that two actions happen at the same time: I went in and me trembling; In he walks and him whistling. (10) Using traditional idioms: She's as light on her foot as a cat at milking; There's a truth in the last drop in the bottle. (11) Referring to God and religion: In the name of God, did I rare an eejit? (did I rear an idiot?). (12) Tending not to use yes and no in answering questions. Irish has no words for yes/no and many Irish people therefore tend to answer, for example, Will you go?—I will; Is it yours?—It is not. (13) Favouring emphatic forms such as at all at all, often rhythmic equivalents of Gaelic forms, such as I'm not tired at all at all (from Nil mé tuirseach ar chor ar bith). The emphatic at all at all also occurs in Highland English and the Canadian Atlantic provinces.


Nouns retained from Irish often relate to food (boxty a potato dish, from bacstaidh mashed potato) and the supernatural (banshee a fairy woman, from bean sídhe a woman fairy). Others are: kitter a left-handed or clumsy person (from citeóg), mass respect (from meas), as in I’ve no mass in them things now, smig chin (from smeig), as in It was a blow to the smig that felled him. Gaelic influence on meanings can be seen in words such as destroy and drenched. These have the semantic ranges of their Gaelic equivalents mill to injure, spoil (He has the child destroyed with presents) and báite drenched, drowned, very wet (You're drowned child. Get all off you. There's not a dry inch to your clothes). See HIGHLAND ENGLISH, IRISH ENGLISH, NEWFOUNDLAND ENGLISH.