The Phonology of an East Antrim Dialect

Robert J. Gregg

5 Conclusion

To arrive at definite conclusions regarding the position of the Glenoe dialect among other dialects of English would involve the consideration of many extraneous factors (historical, grammatical, lexical, semantic etc.) beyond the scope of this thesis. On the basis, however, of the phonetic and phonological material analysed above, some tentative suggestions may be put forward.

Phonetically, in its organic basis, or basis of articulation, Glenoe overlaps to a great extent with other dialects of English in general. Among the consonants, however, the interdentals, the palatalised sounds, the 'light' l and point-open r may reflect,(83) even if only in their stabilisation, the influence of Gaelic, closely related forms of which are the immediate linguistic substratum on both sides of the North Channel.(84) The maintenance of /h/, /hw/ and /x/,(85) which have disappeared in most English dialects, is clearly traceable to Lowland Scots influence, from which so much has been derived, in particular from the Western Mid-Lowland and Southern Mid-Lowland areas.(86) In connexion with Gaelic influence it should be borne in mind that, at the time of the Scottish settlements in county Antrim in the 17th century, the South-West of Scotland was still partly Gaelic-speaking (cf. 2.2 above) and Glenoe features which seem to point to Gaelic origins may have been brought over with the planters. The survival of /x/ may also have been assured by its frequent occurrence in both Irish and Scottish Gaelic. The Glenoe vowel system has again interesting parallels with both forms of Gaelic: they have in common the characteristic wide centred /ä/-sound for short i, the raised, over-rounded /o:/ approaching /u:/ acoustically, the absence of a true close, back /u:/, the extremely fronted central /ü:/ and /ü̥/, the unrounded form of the latter /ï̥/ and its variant /ë/.(87) Southwest Lowland Scots vowels of course also show traces of similar influence.

Apart from individual phonetic parallels, however, we find that some phonemic groupings and distributions seem to point towards English influences. Thus, the interdentals may be linked phonetically with similar Gaelic sounds, but phonemically they are used only in more or less close contact with r (see 3.4.3 above), which calls for comparison with the treatment of d, t, n in the same circumstances in the North of England, especially Westmorland, in parts of the North-West Midlands and in the Isle of Man.(88) The development of advanced d, t, n, generally transcribed as /dd/, /tθ/, /nd/,(89) suggests something very like our Glenoe (and general Ulster) /d/, /t/, /n/. Interdental /l/ of course only arises by assimilation with /d/ and /t/.

In the same way, the phonemic variation of the vowel /a/, which becomes /e̥/ in contact with the velars /g/, /k/, /n̥/ in Larne and hence sometimes with certain Glenoe speakers, occurs in West and South-West Yorkshire, as well as East-Mid and South-West Lancashire.(90) The problems involved in the study of this fronting process are complicated and would involve a close study of the palatalisation of the velars at various times and in various places.(91)

When we consider the field of phonology proper, however, the overwhelming impression is that we are dealing in Glenoe with a dialect, derived ultimately of course from Old Northumbrian and showing many features parallel to the Modern Northern English dialects, but in a great mass of detailed comparisons showing the closest possible identity with the particular developments of Lowland Scots, especially the Western and Southern Mid-Lowland variety (see this section above, and EDG).(92)

Almost all the features mentioned as characteristically Scots in W. Grant's Introduction to SDD (A. Warrack) and in the Introduction to SND are to be found in Glenoe, and a detailed comparison with the many examples quoted by J. Wilson in The Dialect of Robert Burns (as Spoken in Central Ayrshire) supplies further evidence of identity or close similarity in development.(93)

Some of the outstanding parallels between Glenoe and Central Scots are as follows:


OE á gives /e:/, OE áw gives /o̥:/, OE gives /wo̥:/.

OE í gives two diphthongs /ae/ and /e̍i/.

OE ó gives Glenoe /ï̥/, which in West Central Scots falls together with /i̥/.

OE ú gives /ü:/ and /ü̥/.

OE a often gives /e̥/, OE ar often gives /e̥r/.

OE al often gives /o̹:/, though here Glenoe preserves the archaic diphthong /e̍ü/ in words like old /e̍ül/, now only found marginally in Scotland (see 4.1.8 (A) above).

OE we gives /wa/.

OE wi gives /wv/.

ME iht gives /äxt/, OE ind gives /än/.

OE o + labial gives /a/.

OE ol often gives /e̍ü/.

OE ul often gives /ü:/, OE und gives /vn/.

OE u often gives /ä/.


OE -mb(-) gives /m/.

OE -nd(-), -ld gives /n/, /l/.

OE -ng- gives /n̥/.

OE final f and v often disappear.

OE h, hw, /x/ are preserved.

OE -l is often lost after a, o, u.

We may thus conclude that the Glenoe dialect is from a phonological point of view fundamentally an off-shoot from Central Scots, although a phonetic analysis reveals many similarities with both Irish and Scots Gaelic, while a few phonemic parallels can be drawn with Northern and Northwest Midland English dialects.

Foreword | Introduction | Phonetics | Vowels | Long Vowels | Consonants | Conclusion | Notes