Ulster-Scots Urban Speech in Ulster: A Phonological Study of the Regional Standard English of Larne, County Antrim

Robert J. Gregg

PART ONE: The Ulster-Scots Urban Speech of Larne

1.0 To find in Ulster an urban area where the speech is of a purely Ulster-Scots (US)(7) type it is necessary to go well beyond population centres in the immediate vicinity of Belfast and to an area where the surrounding region has a 'broad' rural US dialect. There are several such centres in Ulster — the towns of the Laggan district in east Donegal, of north-east Down, particularly the Ards peninsula south of Newtownards and Donaghadee, and of county Antrim, except for the southern portion, south of the line joining Antrim town to Whitehead. In the urban centres of all these parts similar circumstances have produced similar linguistic results.

1.1 The town of Larne fulfils the general requirements just outlined and as stated above it is the speech of that centre (8) which is taken as a typical example of the US urban pronunciation in this study. Larne lies on the sea-coast just thirty-five miles from the Scottish port of Stranraer in Wigtonshire and is encircled on the landward side by well-preserved rural US dialects. Belfast is twenty-one miles away by the inland road, on which there are no large towns that might have promoted the diffusion of the South Ulster type of speech current in the capital. It is twenty-five miles to Belfast by the coast road, and this, being the older route northwards, runs through many towns, including Carrickfergus and Whitehead, both of which have become to a large extent linguistically assimilated to the capital. Larne, however, ten miles further north-east than Whitehead, shows so far little trace of Belfast influence on its speech.

1.2 In describing the phonological features of the speech of Larne, we need to use a well-known point of reference, and for this purpose the spoken form of English called by Daniel Jones (9) and others Received Pronunciation (RP) will serve best. In view, however, of the present wide diffusion and acceptance of other forms of spoken English it is proposed here to refer to RP as Standard Southern British (SSB),(10) in which term standard is opposed to dialectal, southern to northern standards, and British to North American in particular. In certain cases where there is an important comparison or contrast, reference will also be made to the regional standard of Belfast and south or mid Ulster (B). Reference will also be made to the cardinal vowels as described by Jones.(11)


1.3 An analysis of the speech of Larne reveals a total of fourteen vocalic phonemes easily recognized as distinctive on the basis of interlocking chains of minimal pairs. Ten of these are simple vowels which occur as the nuclei between the consonants /b/ and /t/ in the following words:

(1) beat[bit]/bit/
(2) bit[bɪ̈t]/bɪt/
(3) bait[be:t]/bet/
(4) bet[bɛ:t]/bɛt/
(5) bat[ba:t]/bat/
(6) bought[bɔ:t]/bɔt/
(7) but (with strong stress)[bʌt]/bʌt/
(8) boat[bo:t]/bot/
(9) boot[bÜt]/but/
(10) but (with weak stress)[bət]/bət/
The remaining four are the diphthongs, which occur initially and which are followed by the consonant /l/ in the following examples:
(11) isle[əil]/əil/
(12) I'll[ael]/ail/
(13) oil[ɔel]/ɔil/
(14) owl[əül]/əul/

1.4 A description follows of the principal members of these fourteen phonemes, along with a brief account of their most important positional variants or allophones:

No. 1 /i/ This phoneme has a principal member [i:] and a short allophone [i]. They are identical in tamber, both being close front vowels a little lower than cardinal and with marked tongue tension even for the short variant. The SSB phoneme lacks the extremely short, clipped variant which is, of course, characteristic not only of Larne but of Ulster and Scottish speech in general.(12) The long main member occurs in final open syllables, before voiced fricatives and in hiatus, e.g.

bee [bi:] key [ki:] lea [li:] sea [si:] tea [ti:] leave [li:v] teethe [ti:ð] seize [si:z] prestige [ˌprɛsˈti:ź] idea [əiˈdi:ə] real [ˈri:əl]

The short variant (13) occurs in all positions other than those just described:

peep [pip] peat [pit] peak [pik] glebe [glib] lead (v.) [lid] league [lig] cream [krim] keen [kin] king [kiŋ](14) leaf [lif] Leith [liθ] lease [lis] leash [liś] teeth [tiθ] cease [sis] sheepish [ˈśipɪś] beacon [ˈbikən] freedom [ˈfridəm](15)

It should be noted, however, that in separate words or fused forms where there is a clear-cut morphological suture the long variant [i:], final in the base, remains before a terminal morpheme consisting of a single consonant even when it is not one of the voiced fricatives, thus:

a greed is [əˈgrid] but agreed is [əˈgri:d], need is [nid] but kneed (16) is [ni:d], heed is [hid] but he'd is [hi:d], weed is [wid] but we'd is [wi:d].

This significant use of the suprasegmental feature of length is, therefore, a juncture phenomenon. It should perhaps be regarded as a morphological rather than a phonological matter and as such belongs to a superior level in the analytical hierarchy.

No. 2 /ɪ/ The usual realization of this phoneme is a short vowel, noticeably centred or retracted as compared with that of SSB /ɪ/, to which it corresponds. It is at the same time somewhat lowered, approaching [ə]. It occurs in the following words, where it is associated with primary stress:

lip [lɪ̈p] lit [lɪ̈t] lick [lɪ̈k] tick [tɪ̈k] rib [rɪ̈b] rid [rɪ̈d] rig [rɪ̈g] limb [lɪ̈m] Lynn [lɪ̈n] ling [lɪ̈ŋ] ring [rɪ̈ŋ] live (v.) [lɪ̈v] lith [lɪ̈θ] list [lɪ̈st] dish [dɪ̈s] rich [fɪ̈tś] ridge [rɪ̈dź] pill [pɪ̈l]

The same main member also occurs with secondary stress in the last syllable of the following words:

arithmetic [əˈrɪ̈θməˌtɪ̈k] candlestick [ˈkɛ:ndl̩ˌstɪ̈k] lunatic [ˈlÜnəˌtɪ̈k] politics [ˈpɔ:ləˌtɪ̈ks] whirligig [ˈʍɛ:rleˌgɪ̈g] wedding-ring [ˈwɛ:dɪŋˌrɪ̈ŋ] megalith [ˈmɛ:gəˌlɪ̈θ]

The chief variant is phonetically also short and much closer in tongue position to SSB [ɪ]. It occurs only before the velars /k/, /g/, /ŋ/ and the palatals /ś/, /tś/, /dź/ in weakly stressed syllables:

garlic [ˈga:rlɪk] frantic [ˈfra:ntɪk] drastic [ˈdra:stɪk] physics [ˈfɪ̈zɪks] gelignite [ˈdźɛ:lɪgˌnəit] anything [ˈɛ:neθɪŋ] boring [ˈbo:riŋ] brandish [ˈbra:ndɪś] sandwich [ˈsa:nwɪtś] garage [ˈga:rɪdź]

Unlike SSB, Larne does not have this vowel in the final syllable of words like very, which is [ˈvɛ:re],(17) or like Austin, foreign, wanted, glasses, which are [ˈɔ:stn̩] or [ˈɔ:stən], [ˈfɔ:rən], [ˈwʌntəd], and [ˈgla:səz| respectively.(18) Note further that the vowel in it, him, etc. when weakly stressed is not [ɪ] as in SSB, but schwa in phrases such as: get it [ˈgɛ:t ət] from him [ˈfrɔ:m əm] give him it [ˈgɪ̈v əm ət].

No. 3 /e/ The main member of this phoneme is a long half-close front vowel, slightly lower than cardinal. It never has the diphthongal [i]-glide characteristic of its SSB counterpart [ei]. It occurs in words such as:

cape [ke:p] Kate [ke:t] cake [ke:k] Abe [e:b] aid [e:d] Haig [he:g] lame [le:m] lane [le:n] page [pe:dź] bathe [be:ð] haste [he:st] gale [ge:l] acre [ˈe:kər] bacon [ˈbe:kən] capable [ˈke:pəbl̩]

The short allophone, which is similar in tamber, occurs only in weakly stressed positions:

baby [ˈbe:be] very [ˈvɛ:re] really [ˈri:əle] Sunday [ˈsʌnde] handy [ˈha:nde] begin [beˈgɪ̈n] report [reˈpo:rt] verify [ˈvɛ:reˌfae]

It generally corresponds to SSB [ɪ] or [ə].

No. 4 /ɛ/ This phoneme has no clearly marked allophones. It is generally realized as a half-open front vowel with tongue position very near to cardinal [ɛ] and hence much opener than the corresponding SSB vowel, which is [ɛ]. It varies unsystematically in length, but tends to be fully long, especially in monosyllables. Examples are: web [wɛ:b] step [stɛ:p] bet [bɛ:t] neck [nɛ:k] head [hɛ:d] leg [lɛ:g] hem [hɛ:m] ten [tɛ:n] length [lɛ:ŋθ] tent [tɛ:nt] deaf [dɛ:f] guess [gɛ:s] breath [brɛ:θ] mesh [mɛ:ś] west [wɛ:st] desk [dɛ:sk] level [ˈlɛ:vəl] measure [ˈmɛ:źər].

This vowel is involved in one of the most striking examples to be found in any of our Ulster dialects of what Troubetzkoy called Aufhebung and his French translator J. Cantineau styled neutralization. This distributional phenomenon most accurately described in English as 'suspension of phonemic opposition' generally affects two or more items in the phoneme inventory (in this case /a/ and /ɛ/) so that in certain circumstances either is replaced by a common 'neutral' substitute or, as here, one of the items only is found to the exclusion of the other or others.(19) The elimination of opposition in Larne here referred to operates in the neighbourhood of the velars, more precisely, (i) after /k/, (ii) before /k/, (iii) before /g/ and (iv) before /ŋ/, thus:

(i) cab [kɛ:b] cabbage [ˈkɛ:bɪdź] cabin [ˈkɛ:bən] cabinet [ˈkɛ:bnət] cackle [ˈkɛ:kl̩] calico [ˈkɛ:lɪko:] camel [ˈkɛ:məl] camp [kɛ:mp] can (n.) [kɛ:n] Canada [kɛ:nədə] candle [ˈkɛ:ndl̩] candy [ˈkɛ:nde] canister [ˈkɛ:nəstər] cannibal [ˈkɛ:nəbl̩] cannon [ˈkɛ:nən] canopy [ˈkɛ:nəpe] canvas [ˈkɛ:nvəs] cap [ˈkɛ:p] capital [ˈkɛ:pətl̩] capsize [ˌkɛ:pˈsaez] captain [ˈkɛ:ptn̩] captive [ˈkɛ:ptəv] capture [ˈkɛ:ptśər] Carrick [ˈkɛ:rɪk] carry [ˈkɛ:re] cash [ˈkɛ:s] cask [kɛ:sk] cast [kɛ:st] castle [ˈkɛ:sl̩] castor [ˈkɛ:stər] cat [kɛ:t] catalogue [ˈkɛ:təlɔ:g] catch [kɛ:tś] catechism [ˈkɛ:teˌkɪ̈zm] caterpillar [ˈkɛ:tərˌpɪ̈lər] catholic [ˈkɛ:θlɪk] cattle [ˈkɛ:tl̩]

(ii) act [ˈɛ:kt] action [ˈɛ:kśən] attack [əˈtɛ:k] axe [ɛ:ks] axle [ˈɛ:ksl̩] back [bɛ:k] black [blɛ:k] bracken [ˈbrɛ:kən] bracket [ˈbrɛ:kət] crack [krɛ:k] fact [fɛ:kt] faction [ˈfɛ:kśən] flax [flɛ:ks] fracture [ˈfrɛ:ktśər] hack [hɛ:k] hackle [ˈhɛ:kl̩] hackney [ˈhɛ:kne] jack, Jack [dźɛ:k] jackdaw [ˈdźɛ:kˌdɔ:] jacket [ˈdźɛ:kət] knack [nɛ:k] lack [lɛ:k] lacquer [ˈlɛ:kər] Mack [mɛ:k] mackerel [ˈmɛ:kərəl] mackintosh [ˈmɛ:kənˌtɔ:ś] maximum [ˈmɛ:ksəməm] pack [pɛ:k] pact [pɛ:kt] plaque [plɛ:k] practical [ˈprɛ:ktɪkl̩] quack [kwɛ:k] rack [rɛ:k] racket [ˈrɛ:kət] saccharine [ˈsɛ:kərin] sack [sɛ:k] sacrilege [ˈsɛ:krəlɪdź] shack [śɛ:k] shellac [śəˈlɛ:k] slack [slɛ:k] smack [smɛ:k] snack [snɛ:k] stack [stɛ:k] tack [tɛ:k] tactics [ˈtɛ:ktɪks] tax [tɛ:ks] track [trɛ:k] wax [wɛ:ks] whack [ʍɛ:k] wrack [rɛ:k] zodiac [ˈzo:deɹɛ:k]

(iii) Agnes [ˈɛ:gnəs] bag [bɛ:g] brag [brɛ:g] crag [krɛ:g] drag [drɛ:g] fag [fɛ:g] flag [flɛ:g] gag [gɛ:g] hag [hɛ:g] jag [dźɛ:g] lag [lɛ:g] magazine [ˈmɛ:gəzin] Maggie [ˈmɛ:ge] maggot [ˈmɛ:gət] magnet [ˈmɛ:gnət] magpie [ˈmɛ:gˌpae] nag [nɛ:g] quagmire [ˈkwɛ:gˌmaeər] rag [rɛ:g] sag [sɛ:g] shag [śɛ:g] slag [slɛ:g] snag [snɛ:g] stag [stɛ:g] stagger [ˈstɛ:gər] wag [wɛ:g] zigzag [ˈzɪ̈gˌzɛg]

(iv) angle [ˈɛ:ŋgəl] angry [ˈɛ:ŋgre] anxious [ˈɛ:ŋśəs] bang [bɛ:ŋ] bangle [ˈbɛ:ŋgəl] Bangor [ˈbɛ:ŋgər] bank [bɛ:ŋk] blank [blɛ:ŋk] canker [ˈkɛ:ŋkər] clang [ˈklɛ:ŋ] clank [klɛ:ŋk] crank [krɛ:ŋk] dang [dɛ:ŋ] dangle [ˈdɛ:ŋgəl] fang [fɛ:ŋ] flank [flɛ:ŋk] frank [frɛ:ŋk] gang [gɛ:ŋ] gangrene [ˈgɛ:ŋgrin] hang [hɛ:ŋ] hank [hɛ:ŋk] harangue [həˈrɛ:ŋ] jangle [dźɛ:ŋgəl] language [ˈlɛ:ŋgwɪdź] lank [lɛ:ŋk] mangle [ˈmɛ:ŋgəl] Manx [mɛ:ŋks] newfangled [ˌnˊÿˈfɛ:ŋgəld] pang [pɛ:ŋ] plank [plɛ:ŋk] prank [prɛ:ŋk] rank [rɛ:ŋk] rankle [ˈrɛ:ŋkəl] sanction [ˈsɛ:ŋśən] shank [śɛ:ŋk] slang [slɛ:ŋ] spank [spɛ:ŋk] strangle [ˈstrɛ:ŋgəl] tang [tɛ:ŋ] tangle [ˈtɛ:ŋgəl] tank [tɛ:ŋk] thank [θɛ:ŋk] twang [twɛ:ŋ] whang [ʍɛ:ŋ] wrangle [ˈrɛ:ŋgəl] yank [jɛ:ŋk]

This Aufhebung is, however, obviously a phonological change which has not yet worked itself out completely, and in spite of the very numerous examples cited above there are many instances where it does not operate and where it might logically be expected, for example, following the velar /g/. Here we have [a:] in all cases, e.g. in the following words:

gabble, gadget, gaff, gaffer, gala, gallant, galleon, gallery, gallivant, gallon, gallop, gallows, gamble, gander, gannet, gantry, gap, garage, garbage, garden, gargle, garlic, garment, garter, gas, gash, gastric, gather, etc.

The only case where [ɛ:] appears is in regatta, which is usually [reˈgɛ:tə], and, of course, instances such as gag [gɛ:g], gang [gɛ:ŋ], etc., where the /g/ or /ŋ/ following is the operative factor, determining the use of [ɛ:] rather than [a:].

A second group of exceptions is words beginning with [ka:l-] or [ka:r-], e.g. calcium, calculate, calendar, calibre, calliper, callous;(20) car, caravan, caraway (usually [ˈkɑ:rve]), card, carpet, carrot,(21) cartridge, etc.

The words calf and calm (in which the l is now silent) have [a:]: [ka:v] and [ka:m].

Note also caddie [ˈka:de] cadge [ka:dź] camera [ˈka:mərə] camphor [ˈka:mfər] can (v.)(22) [ka:n] cancel [ˈka:nsəl] canny [ˈka:ne] canter [ˈka:ntər] Canterbury [ˈka:ntərˌbəre].

A third and final group of exceptions is the past tenses of the following strong verbs:

drink, ring, shrink, sing, sink, spring, stink, which have [a:] in spite of the following /ŋ/:

[dra:ŋk] [ra:ŋ] [śra:ŋk] [sa:ŋ] [sa:ŋk] [spra:ŋ] [sta:ŋk]

This [a:] has undoubtedly been preserved because of the analogy with other strong verbs such as begin and swim, whose past tenses are began [beˈga:n] and swam [swa:m].

It should be noted that as a result of the Aufhebung described above certain words kept distinct in other forms of English will fall together in Larne. For example, the following pairs have the same pronunciation:













Tech (23)




rack (or wrack)











As in many types of Scottish speech, Larne uses this vowel [ɛ:] before [r] where SSB has [ə:],(24) and B has [ər] in a large group of words, the graphic representation of these sounds being generally er but occasionally ear, e.g., berth [bɛ:rθ] early [ˈɛ:rle].

The list includes the following:

Bert(ie), certain [ˈsɛ:rʔn̩] clergy, confer, dearth, dervish [ˈdɛ:rviś] earl, earn, earnest [ˈɛ:rnəst] earth, ermine [ˈɛ:rməin] err, ferment (n.) [ˈfɛ:rˌmɛnt] fern, fertile [ˈfɛ:rˌtəil] fervent [ˈfɛ:rvənt] germ, German [ˈdzɛ:rmən] heard, hearse, herb [ɛ:rb] or [hɛ:rb] herd, hermit, hernia [ˈhɛ:rneə] iceberg [ˈəisˌbɛ:rg] jerk, jerkin, jersey, kerb, kernel, learn, mercantile [ˈmɛ:rkənˌtəil] mercenary [ˈmɛ:rsənəre] mercer, merchant, mercury, mercy, merge, mermaid, nerve, nervous, pearl, perfect [ˈpɛ:rfɪkt] perm(anent), permit (n.) [ˈpɛ:rmət] persecute, persevere, Persian [ˈpɛ:rźən] person, pert, Perth, prefer [prəˈfɛ:r] refer, research, reserve, search, servant, serve, service [ˈsɛ:rves] sherbet [ˈśɛ:rbət] sperm, sterling, stern, swerve, term, terminus, terminate, tern, therm(al), Thermos [ˈθɛ:rməs] transfer [ˈtra:nsˌfɛ:r (noun)] and [trənsˌfɛ:r (verb)] verb, verdant, verdict, verdigris [usually ˈvɛ:rdəˌgrɛ:s] verge, vermin, versatile [ˈvɛ:rsəˌtəil] verse.

A further group of words, this time with a graphic -ir-, has this same vowel [ɛ:] plus [r] where B has [ər] and SSB [ə:]. The list includes:

Birmingham [ˈbɛ:rmɪŋˌha:m] birth, chirp, circle, circuit [ˈsɛ:rkət] circular [ˈsɛ:rkjələr] etc., circumstance etc., circus, firm, girdle, girl, girth, mirth, myrtle, shirk, skirt, squirt, swirl, twirl, virgin [ˈvɛ:rdźən] virtue [ˈvɛ:rtśü:] whirl.

No. 5 /a/ Once again as with No. 4 there are no clearly marked positional variants with this phoneme, which is usually realized as an open front vowel close to cardinal in tongue position and like No. 4 of unsystematically fluctuating length though tending to be fully long. It differs thus from SSB /æ/ and /ɑ/, to both of which it corresponds distributionally, for although these SSB items are phonemically contrasted, e.g., in a minimal pair such as ant [ænt] versus aunt [ɑ:nt], Larne has [a:nt] for both words. Examples of words in which Larne /a/ occurs are:

map [ma:p] mat [ma:t] Mab [ma:b] mad [ma:d] match [ma:tś] Madge [ma:dź] ram [ra:m] ran [ra:n] rang [ra:ŋ] laugh [la:f] lath [la:θ] lass [la:s] lash [la:ś] have [ha:v] has [ha:z] pal [pa:l] par [pa:r] waltz [wa:ls] wander [ˈwa:ndər] warm [wa:rm]

No. 6 /ɔ/ Like No. 4 and No. 5 this phoneme has also no clearly marked allophones. Its usual realization is a half-open, back, rounded vowel about cardinal in quality, which varies unsystematically in length, although it tends to be fully long. Again like No. 5 it corresponds to two SSB phonemes, namely /ɒ/ and /ɔ/, although it differs at the phonetic level from both of these, the first being a fully open vowel with slight lip-rounding and the second between half-open and open in tongue position and decidedly overrounded, [ɔ]. The SSB opposition illustrated by such minimal pairs as cot [kɒt] versus caught /kɔt/, or collar /ˈkɒlər/ versus caller /ˈkɔlər/ does not, therefore, operate in Larne, which has /kɔt/ for both words in the first case and /ˈkɔlər/ for both in the second. Other words containing this Larne vowel are:

top [tɔ:p] tot, taut, taught [tɔ:t] talk [tɔ:k] dock [dɔ:k] daub [dɔ:b] rob [rɔ:b] sod, sawed [sɔ:d] dog [dɔ:g] botch [bɔ:tś] lodge [lɔ:dź] from [frɔ:m] lawn [lɔ:n] long [lɔ:ŋ] of, off [ɔ:f] cloth [klɔ:θ] loss [lɔ:s] lough [lɔ:x] mauve [mɔ:v] bother [ˈbɔ:ðer] gauze [gɔ:z] fall [fɔ:l] for [fɔ:r]


Although long-versus-short quantity differences are not systematically exploited at the allophonic level with these last three half-open and open vowels /ɛ/, /a/ and /ɔ/ as they are with the closer ones, yet with some speakers (perhaps not the most typical from the point of view of local speech) there is an observable tendency to use a short variant before a nasal or lateral plus any unvoiced consonant, thus:

hemp [hɛmp] lamp [lamp] pomp [pɔmp] Kent [kɛnt] cant, can't [kant] haunt [hɔnt] hank [hɛŋk] honk [hɔŋk] help [hɛlp] scalp [skalp] Raholp [rəˈhɔlp] menthol [ˈmɛnθəl] panther [ˈpanθər] censor [ˈsɛnsər] answer [ˈansər] sponsor [ˈspɔnsər]

This shortening is probably due to Belfast and south or mid Ulster.(25)

No. 7 /ʌ/ The phonetic realization of this phoneme is generally a very short, half-open slightly lowered, back, unrounded vowel which is thus different in tongue position from its SSB counterpart, described by Jones as a half-open central vowel. It is also distinct from the corresponding Belfast vowel [o̤], which G. B. Adams classifies as mixed (i.e. central) and slightly rounded.(26) The Larne phoneme has no variants. It occurs in the following words:

pup [pʌp] what [ʍʌt] duck [dʌk] hub [hʌb] bud [bʌd] rug [rʌg] much [mʌtś] nudge [nʌdź] rum [rʌm] run [rʌn] rung [rʌŋ] want [wʌnt] rough [rʌf] fuss [fʌs] rush [rʌś] ugh! [ʌx] shove [śʌv] other [ˈʌðer] buzz [bʌz] dull [dʌl]

No. 8 /o/ Phonetically this vowel is realized as a long, back, over-rounded sound with tongue position between half-close and close. In acoustic quality it approaches [u](27) and it is very similar to the over-rounded o of Norwegian and Swedish.(28) The corresponding SSB phoneme is realized as a diphthong [ou] or nowadays more generally [əu]. With most Larne speakers there are probably no positional variants, but with some there are what appear to be the beginnings of a quantity differentiation before final [k]. Indeed there is actually some evidence of a contrastive use of the suprasegmental feature of length, although it is as yet decidedly marginal. Examples of words with [o:] are:

rope [ro:p] wrote, rote [ro:t] robe [ro:b] road, rode [ro:d] rogue [ro:g] roach [ro:tś] roam [ro:m] roan, rone [ro:n] role, roll [ro:l] roar [ro:r] roast [ro:st]

Examples of words ending with [k] in which length is significant are:

poke (v.) [po:k] versus poke (n.) [pok]

spoke (v.) [spo:k] versus spoke (n.) [spok]

These are the only minimal pairs that have been observed, but other words in which the same quantity difference occurs are:


Also in the dissyllabic compounds with -voke:

convoke [kənˈvo:k]

invoke [ənˈvo:k]

provoke [prəˈvo:k]

revoke [reˈvo:k]

In the case of No. 5 /a/ and No. 6 /ɔ/ it was noted above that Larne had in each instance only one phoneme, which corresponded to two in SSB. On the other hand we find that Larne (in common with Scottish, some American and certain northern and western forms of English speech) has preserved what is apparently an old-established opposition between /o/ and /ɔ/ in front of /r/, which in SSB has been eliminated in favour of /ɔ/. In other words in SSB there is a suspension of the phonemic opposition /ɔ/ versus /o/ in these circumstances, whereas in Larne and the other areas mentioned the traditional contrast is still fully functional. In Larne and elsewhere as indicated minimal pairs may be found, for example:


Jones comments on this Aufhebung in SSB and notes that the older opposition may frequently be tied in with the spelling, e.g. the spellings ore, oar, our, oor are generally associated with /o/, whereas aur, awr, orr point to /ɔ/.(29) This is true for Larne, thus: shore, roar, pour, door, etc. have /o/ but aura, aural, centaur, laureate, laurel, Lawrence, sorry, etc., have /ɔ/.

With a great many words, however, the opposition between the phonemes /o/ and /ɔ/ is not reflected in the orthography, a simple or representing both. In dividing these words into two classes according to the phoneme represented by or, it is interesting to note that the Larne lists correspond almost exactly with the Scottish lists quoted by Jones.(30) The Larne list with /o/ includes the following words in which /r/ is final or followed by a consonant:

corridor [ˈkɔrəˌdo:r] divorce, force, porch, afford, ford, horde, sword, forge, pork, dormouse [ˈdo:rˌməüs] borne, forlorn [fərˈlo:rn] love-lorn, shorn, sworn, torn, worn, corps, export, deport, fort, import,(31) port, portent, porter, portion, portrait, sport, forth.

The Larne list parallel to the above but with /ɔ/ is as follows:

Ecuador, Labrador, meteor, for, abhor, metaphor, nor, or, Thor, tor, absorb, corbel, morbid, orb, sorcery, orchard, orchestra, orchid, scorch, torch, accord etc., border, chord, cord, cordial, cordon, lord, mordant, nordic, order, ordure, record, sordid, forfeit, corgi, George, gorge etc., gorgeous, morgue, organ, orgy, cork, fork, stork, York, whorl, dormant etc., form etc., norm, normal etc., storm, torment, adorn, born, corn, cornet, horn, hornet, morn, morning, scorn, thorn, corporal, corpse, thorp, morphia, orphan, torque, corset, dorsal, Dorset, endorse, gorse, horse, morse, morsel, Norse, remorse, torso, abort, assort, chortle, consort etc., cortex, distort etc., escort, exhort etc., fortify, fortress, forty, fortune, important, importunate, mortal, mortar, post mortem, short, snort, sort, tort, torture, vortex, north, corvette, Norway.

As well as in these cases where the /r/ is final or preconsonantal, we find the same opposition when the /r/ is intervocalic, as in the minimal pair quoted above, viz., choral /ˈkorəl/ versus coral /ˈkɔrəl/.

The words with /o/ in Larne in similar circumstances include the following:

borax, boreal, chlorine etc., choral, chorus, decorum, flora, forum, glory etc., gory, jorum, moron, oral, oriel, orient, pictorial, porous, quorum, sonorous, storey, story, thorax, tory.

The list with /ɔ/ in Larne includes:

Boris, Doric, Doris, floral, Florence, florid, florin, florist, forage, foray, foreign, forest, historic, Horace, horizontal, horoscope, moral etc., moribund, oracle, orange, orator, orifice, origin.

No. 9 /ü/ This phoneme has four distinct allophones.

(i) The main member is a long, close, rounded vowel, articulated at the margin between central and front. It occurs in open syllables, in hiatus, and before voiced fricatives:

coo [kü:] sue [sü:] who [hü:] sewer [ˈsü:ər] prove [prü:v] bruise [brü:z] smooth [smü:ð] rouge [rü:ź]

(ii) An advanced variant [ÿ:] occurs after [j]:

cue [kjÿ:] pew [pjÿ:] fewer [ˈfjÿ:ər]

(iii) A lowered and retracted short allophone occurs in syllables closed by consonants other than the voiced fricatives and /r/.

coop [kÜp] soot, suit [sÜt] hook [hÜk] boob [bÜb] food [fÜd] doom [dÜm] dune [dÜn] proof [prÜf] Bruce [brÜs] tooth [tÜθ] push [pÜś]

The same variant is found in disyllabic words such as:

super [ˈsÜpər] sugar [ˈśÜgər] rumour [ˈrÜmər]

in which a medial consonant (other than /r/ or the voiced fricatives) seems to close the first syllable with its on-glide and open the second with its off-glide.

(iv) A lengthened and (occasionally) lowered version of the last variant, phonetically [Ü:] or [ϕ̈: ], occurs before /r/ as in:

cure [kjϕ̈:r] lure [lϕ̈:r] lurid [ˈlϕ̈:rəd] moor [mϕ̈:r] mural [ˈmjϕ̈:rəl] poor [pϕ̈:r] pure [pjϕ̈:r] sureϕ̈:r]

Occasionally the use of some of these allophones seems to be best explained at the morphological rather than at the phonological level, thus with the third allophone

cute [kjÜt] > cutie [ˈkjÜte]

by the simple addition of a formative element to the base. On the other hand, although Bute is [bjÜt] and jute is [dźÜt], the etymologically unrelated beauty is [ˈbjü:te] with the first allophone, and duty is likewise [ˈdźü:te], with [dź] for earlier [dj]. The use of [ü:] in these latter examples seems to be conditioned by its position between the preceding palatals [bj-], [dź-] and the [-e] in the final syllable (probably < earlier [-i]), coupled with the fact that there is no morphemic suture, whereas the use of [Ü] in cutie is an oristic signal indicating that the base is [kjÜt-] and that the [-e] is a terminal morpheme. The same allophone persists in each case even in trisyllabic forms, e.g.,

beautiful [ˈbjü:tefəl] beautify [ˈbjü:teˌfae] dutiable [ˈdźü:teəbl] dutiful [ˈdźü:tefəl], with which should be compared cuticle [ˈkjÜtɪkəl].

No. 10 /ə/ This phoneme is realized as a short half-close central vowel. It has two variants. The first is strongly stressed and occurs in words such as:

burrow [ˈbəro:] blur [blər] current, currant [ˈkərənt] fir, fur [fər] hurl [hərl] hurry [ˈhəre] murky [ˈmərke] purge [pərdź] stir [stər] shirt [śərt] third [θərd] thorough [ˈθərə] (first syllable) worry [ˈwəre]

The second allophone is found in weakly stressed syllables:

above [əˈbʌv] bitter [ˈbɪ̈tər] contain [kənˈte:n] custard [ˈkʌstərd] dusted [ˈdʌstəd] forget [ˈfərgɛ:t] Ferguson [ˈfɛ:rgəsən] harness [ˈha:rnəs] Jonah [ˈdźo:nə] Lammas [ˈla:məs] mammoth [ˈma:məθ] potato [pəˈte:tə] provide [prəˈvəid] quota [ˈkwo:tə] ringlet [ˈrɪŋlet] sheriff [ˈśɛ:rəf] soda [ˈso:də] zebra [ˈzɛ:brə]

No. 11 /əi/ This phoneme is realized phonetically as a narrow closing diphthong starting from a rather close, central vowel in the region of [ə] (No. 10), which bears the main stress, and gliding forward to a close, front position, about No. 1. There are two allophones. In the first, which occurs in front of unvoiced consonants, both elements are short:

tripe [trəip] height [həit] like [ləik] strife [strəif] rice [rəis]

The second, which is found in open syllables and before voiced consonants, is relatively long:

fly [fləi:] high [həi:] shy [śəi:] why [ʍəi:] tribe [trəi:b] hide [həi:d] oblige [əˈbləi:dź] strive [strəi:v] rise [rəi:z]

No. 12 /ai/ This is realized as a broad closing diphthong in comparison with No. 11. The first — stressed — element is a fairly long vowel identical with No. 5, from which the tongue glides forward and upward, ending about half-close front, the position for No. 3, i.e., phonetically it is [ae]. These two diphthongs, No. 11 and No. 12, both correspond to one diphthongal phoneme in SSB, namely /ai/ and to one in B, namely /æi/.

In Larne, however, No. 11 occurs contrastively with No. 12, as is shown by the following minimal pairs:

lie (fib)/ləi/lie (recline)/lai/
mine (n.)/məin/mine (adj.)/main/

These oppositions clearly establish the phonemic status of each of the two diphthongs.(32)

Yet the relationship between the two Larne diphthongs is more complex than these clear-cut oppositions would lead us to suppose. There are, for example, traces of a complementary distribution. For example, [ae] occurs in hiatus:

bias [ˈbaeəs] client [ˈklaeənt] dial [ˈdaeəl] giant [ˈdźaeənt] liable [ˈlaeəbl̩] myopic [maeˈɔ:pɪk] naiad [ˈnaeˌa:d] pious [ˈpaeəs] riot [ˈraeət] Siam [saeˈa:m] trial [ˈtraeəl]

except after [w], as in quiet [ˈkwəiət].

A schwa normally intervenes between these diphthongs and a following [r], which, of course, creates a hiatus situation:

admire [ədˈmaeər] briar [ˈbraeər] byre [ˈbaeər] dire [ˈdaeər] fire [ˈfaeər] hire [ˈhaeər] ire [ˈaeər] lyre [ˈlaeər] mire [ˈmaeər] pliers [ˈplaeərz] prior [ˈpraeər] pyre [ˈpaeər] shire [ˈśaeər] spire [ˈspaeər] tire, tyre [ˈtaeər]

The only exceptions here are Irish [ˈəi:rɪś] and Ireland [ˈəi:rlənd], where no schwa comes in before the [r]. Further, when [w] precedes, [əi:] occurs to the exclusion of [ae]:

choir, quire [ˈkwəi:ər] enquire [ənˈkwəi:ər] Maguire [məˈgwəi:ər] require [reˈkwəi:ər] wire [ˈwəi:ər]

Finally, when [əi] occurs in the base, the addition of a terminal morpheme -er does not alter the diphthong, so that in the case of some of the minimal pairs already cited, namely:

[ˈhəi:ər]versus [ˈhaeər]
[ˈləi:ər]versus [ˈlaeər]
[ˈśəi:ər]versus [ˈśaeər]

the use of [əi:] rather than [ae] is a junctural phenomenon and points to a suture at the morphemic level.

Before voiced fricatives we find mostly [ae]:

alive [əˈlaev] chives [śaevz] Clive [klaev] connive [kəˈnaev] deprive [deˈpraev] derive [deˈraev] five [faev] hive [haev] jive [dźaev] live (adj.) [laev] rival [raevəl] survive [sərˈvaev] blithe [blaeð] lithe [laeð] scythe [saeð] tithe [taeð] writhe [raeð] disguise [dəsˈgaez] guise [gaez] prize [praez] size [saez] supervise [ˈsÜpərˌvaez] surmise [sərˈmaez] surprise [sərˈpraez]

The influence of singular base forms, however, preserves [əi] in plurals such as:


in spite of the voiced fricative [v], and a more indirect analogical influence undoubtedly accounts for the incidence of [əi:] in the strong verbs drive [drəi:v] rise [rəi:z] strive [strəi:v] thrive [θrəi:v], which belong to the same Ablaut-series as ride/rode/ridden [rəid, etc.]. The last example may also be heard as [θraev], which probably reflects its transfer to the weak class of verbs, for thrived exists alongside throve, thriven. Other weak verbs such as dive (dived), survive (survived) are pronounced with [ae], as already seen above.

The terminal morpheme written -ise or -ize forms an exception which may be explained by the fact that it has only secondary stress:

civilise [ˈsɪ̈vəˌləi:z] idolise [ˈəidl̩ˌəi:z] realise [ˈri:əˌləi:z]

The use of [əi:] in the word wise [wəi:z] is probably to be explained as a partial modification of the local rural dialect form [wəis], with [z] from the standard language and the original [əi] retained, or it may be due to the preceding [w].

In final open syllables the tendency is to pronounce [ae] rather than [əi]:

awry [əˈrae] buy, by [bae] cry [krae] defy [deˈfae] deny [deˈnae] dye [dae] fie [fae] fry [frae] guy [gae] I [ae] lie (recline) [lae] my [mae] pie [pae] ply [plae] pry [prae] reply [reˈplae] rye [rae] satisfy [ˈsa:təsˌfae] sky [skae] supply [səˈplae] tie [tae] try [trae] vie [vae]

There are, however, many exceptions among monosyllables in this group:

die [dəi:] eye [əi:] fly [fləi] hi!, high [həi:] lie (fib) [ləi:] nigh [nəi:] shy [śəi:] sigh [səi:] sly [sləi:] Y [wəi:] why [ʍəi:]

No. 13 /ɔi/ This is realized as a broad, closing diphthong phonetically [ɔe], the first and stressed element being vowel No. 6, from which the tongue moves forward and upward to about half-close front (No. 3). It occurs in:

avoid [əˈvɔed] boy [bɔe] coil [kɔel] destroy [dəˈstrɔe] employ [əmˈplɔe] enjoy [ənˈdźɔe] quoits [kwɔets] royal [ˈrɔeəl] toy [tɔe] voyage [ˈvɔeɪdź]

No. 14 /əu/ This also is a closing diphthong, phonetically [əü], starting (like No. 11) with the tongue in a half-close, central position from which it moves slightly forward and upward with a simultaneous rounding of the lips to the position for the close allophone of vowel No. 9. There are two variants. The first, which occurs in open syllables or before voiced consonants, is relatively long in both elements:

allow [əˈləü:] cloud [ˈkləü:d] cow [kəü:] house (v.) [həü:z] jowl [dźəü:l] loud [ləü:d] mouth (v.) [məü:ð] pound [pəü:nd] powder [ˈpəü:dər] rowdy [ˈrəü:de]

The second allophone is short in both elements and occurs before unvoiced consonants and the clusters [nt], [ns]:

about [əˈbəüt] clout [kləüt] house [həüs] lout [ləüt] mouth [məüθ] pouter [ˈpəütər] fountain [ˈfəüntn̩] mount [məünt] ounce [əüns] pounce [pəüns] trounce [trəüns].


1.5 A complete list of the Larne consonantal phonemes is given below, with the most important allophones shown in brackets:

Unvoiced plosive:p, t [t] [ʔ], k
Voiced plosive:b, d [d], g
Nasal:m, n [n], *ń, ŋ
Unvoiced affricate:
Voiced affricate:
Unvoiced fricative:*ʍ, f, θ, s, ś, *x [xˊ][ç], h
Voiced fricative:w, v, ð, z, ź, j
Lateral:l [l], *lˊ
Point-open frictionless continuant:r [r]

The four consonants marked with an asterisk do not occur in SSB (see paragraph below).

As in SSB, the interdentals [t], [d], [n] and [l] are positional variants of alveolar /t/ /d/ /n/ and /l/ occurring immediately before interdental /θ/ and /ð/, as in

fifth [fɪ̈ftθ] width [wɪ̈dθ] tenth [tɛ:nθ] health [hɛ:lθ]

The glottal stop is the variant of /t/ which occurs before [n̩]:

beaten [ˈbiʔn̩] rotten [ˈrɔ:ʔn̩]

1.6 In the various dialects of English the consonantal system generally does not diverge much from that of the standard spoken language. This is also true for Larne speech, although analysis gives us a tentative total of twenty-eight (33) consonant phonemes for Larne as against twenty-four for SSB.(34) The four extra Larne phonemes are:


The first two could be described phonetically as alveolar palatalised consonants in much the same way as Russian /n̜/ and /l̜/ are dental palatalized, and that they are phonemically distinct from simple alveolar /n/ and /l/ can be shown by citing such minimal pairs as:


The first example in each pair shows that this sound corresponds to the SSB combination [nj]. It should also be noted that [nˊ] occurs only initially and in medial intervocalic position, never finally. Other examples of its occurrence are:

[ˈbʌnˊən] bunion [əˈpɪ̈nˊən] opinion [əˈθinˊən] Athenian [ˈnˊe:rle] nearly [nˊÜt] newt [nˊʌk] 'pinch' 'steal' [ˈʌnˊən] onion [ˈɔ:nˊe] on you [rəˈme:nˊə] Roumania [ˈspa:nˊərd] Spaniard [ˈspa:nˊəl] spaniel

Minimal pairs for /lˊ/ are:

Italian[əˈta:lˊən]versusa talon[əˈta:lən]
lieu[lˊü:]versusLou, Lew[lü:]

The pronunciation [-ən] for graphic -ing belongs, of course, to familiar Larne speech. Other examples are:

failure [ˈfe:lˊər] galore [gəˈlˊo:r] scallion [ˈskalˊən] valiant [ˈvalˊənt]

Note that [lˊ] never occurs in final position and that it corresponds to the SSB cluster [lj].

That [ʍ] is phonemically distinct from its voiced counterpart [w] is shown by the following minimal pairs:


Note that [ʍ] does not occur medially or finally and that the phonemic oppositions illustrated above have been neutralised in favour of [w] in SSB.

The phoneme /x/ has as its main member an unvoiced velar fricative articulated slightly further back than the German ch, as in Dach, and often accompanied by uvular scrape. This variant occurs after back and central vowels at the end of words such as:

agh! [a:x] lough [lɔ:x] sheugh [śʌx] 'ditch' ugh! [ʌx]

A slightly fronted version occurs after front vowels, as in

dreigh [drixˊ] 'tedious' pegh [pɛ:xˊ] 'pant'

and a palatal variant occurs initially in:

hew, hue, Hugh [çü:] hugeÜdź] human [ˈçÜmən]

the latter sound corresponding to the SSB cluster [hj] but being grouped here phonemically with [x] because of their phonetic similarity and their complementary distribution.

The /x/ sounds appear frequently in place-names and family-names:

Doagh [do:x] Doherty [ˈdɔ:xərte] Donaghadee [ˈdʌnəxəˈdi:] Gallaher [ˈga:ləxər] Leahy [lixˊe] Meehan [ˈmixˊən]

Occasionally medial /x/ is replaced by /h/ by a neutralisation process, thus:

Donaghy[ˈdʌnəhe]instead of[ˈdʌnəxe]
Gallaher[ˈga:ləhər]instead of[ˈga:ləxər]
Meehan[ˈmihən]instead of[ˈmixˊən] etc.

The remaining Larne consonantal phonemes correspond to items in the SSB phonemic inventory, the main differences (apart from distribution) being in their phonetic realization.

The unvoiced plosives /p/, /t/, /k/, for example, occurring initially in stressed syllables, are more strongly aspirated in Larne than in SSB:

pin [pʰɪ̈n] tin [tʰɪ̈n] kin [kʰɪ̈n]

The Larne sounds [ś] and [ź] are, phonetically speaking, palatalised versions of alveolar [s] and [z] (35) rather than palato-alveolars like SSB [ʃ] and [ʒ]. Further, these Larne sounds lack the lip-rounding characteristic of the SSB sounds. The same features are to be observed in the Larne affricates [tś] and [dź] over against their SSB counterparts [tʃ] and [dʒ].

The Larne lateral [l] lacks the SSB phoneme's characteristic velarised allophone [ł], which occurs before consonants and in absolute Auslaut. This means that in words such as the following:

[fil]feel [fild] field [fɛ:l] fell [fɔ:l] fall [fÜl] full, etc.,

Larne has a lateral with noticeably 'light' (i.e. front) resonance rather than the 'dark' velar resonance of SSB [ł] in [fi:ł] [fi:łd] [fɛł] [fɔ:ł] [fÜł].

The Larne /r/ is phonetically similar to SSB /r/, for its main member is a point open frictionless continuant. Its most important allophone (also used occasionally by some SSB speakers) is a single flapped lingual [r] which occurs directly after [θ], as in:

three [θri:] throw [θro:] threw, through [θrü]

or after [θ] and [ð] plus schwa when another vowel follows:

botheration [ˈbɔ:ðəˈre:śən] brethren [ˈbrɛ:ðərən] etherized [ˈiθərəizd]

The main difference between Larne and SSB with regard to /r/ is distributional. Unlike SSB, Larne has /r/ wherever r appears in the orthography, even in word-final and pre-consonantal positions. In a couple of exceptional cases /r/ has been lost, perhaps by dissimilation:

cartridge [ˈkɛ:trɪdź] alongside [ˈka:rtrɪdź] paraphernalia [ˌpa:rəfəˈne:lˊə]

An intrusive /r/ appears in a couple of instances: khaki [ˈka:rke] cha 'tea' [tśa:r]

both undoubtedly picked up aurally from English speakers who would have pronounced darky as [ˈdɑ:kɪ] and char as [tʃɑ:], to rhyme with their version of khaki and cha respectively.

Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Conclusion | Notes