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

Robert J. Gregg


* Originally published in Adams, G. Brendan (ed.), Ulster Dialects: An Introductory Symposium (Holywood, 1964), 164-192.

(1) Entwistle, W. J., Aspects of Language (London, 1953), 34 ff.

(2) Sweet, Henry, History of English Sounds, from the Earliest Period (Oxford, 1888), 52-59 'Origin of Dialects'.

(3) According to the observations of J. J. de Cores (University of Morocco, Rabat-Agdal), who has been investigating Arabic and Berber speech in North Africa, nomadism seems to act as a check on this dialectal differentiation.

(4) Notably Dr. Mary Serjeantson and Miss B. Mackenzie. See Preface to the revised edition of Wyld's A Short History of English (London, 1927).

(5) H. C. Wyld. A History of Modern Colloquial English (London, 1920).

(6) Adams, G. Brendan, 'An Introduction to the Study of Ulster Dialects', Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 52C1 (1948), 69-152.

(7) In Ireland we must recognize at least three quite distinct language-types: (i) Irish Gaelic, (ii) Anglo-Irish (see Henry, P. L., 'A Linguistic Survey of Ireland', in Lochlann — A Review of Celtic Studies, vol. 1, Oslo, 1958, 54-58), (iii) Ulster-Scots.

(8) The writer was born and brought up in Larne. Most of the material quoted is based on his personal recollections of the local speech as used by his contemporaries about thirty years ago. Doubtful points have been checked with his brother Mr. T. Forsythe Gregg, who still lives in Larne.

(9) Jones, Daniel, The Pronunciation of English, 3rd edition (Cambridge, 1950), 4.

(10) Cp. Gregg, Robert J., 'Notes on the Pronunciation of Canadian English as Spoken in Vancouver B.C.', Journal of the Canadian Linguistic Association 3 (1957), 20 ff.; and Gregg, R. J., A Students' Manual of French Pronunciation (Toronto, 1960), 17 ff.

(11) Jones, op. cit., 18 ff.

(12) See Jones, Daniel, The Phoneme (Cambridge, 1950), §§62, 277, 520, 755, 759.

(13) This variant is no longer than the short vowel No. 2. A German exchange student visiting Larne before the war (accustomed to SSB [i:] and his own very similar German long vowel) used to misinterpret sheep as ship.

(14) Note that the vowel in this word is [i] and not [ɪ̈].

(15) Compare this word with freed [fri:d] < free (v.) where -d is an active morpheme indicating past tense, and therefore does not cause shortening of [i:]. The -dom is no longer an active formative element, so there is no feeling of morpheme suture before it: hence the vowel [i:] is shortened. Cp. the examples in the footnotes below, and note that freely is [ˈfri:le].

(16) As in knock-kneed.

(17) See vowel No. 3 below.

(18) See vowel No. 10.

(19) See Gregg, Robert J., 'Neutralization and Fusion of Vocalic Phonemes in Canadian English as Spoken in the Vancouver Area', Journal of the Canadian Linguistic Association 3 (1957), 78-83.

(20) Note calico [ˈkɛ:lɪko:].

(21) Note carry [ˈkɛ:re], carriage [ˈkɛ:rɪdź].

(22) Note can (n.) [kɛ:n].

(23) For Technical School.

(24) The [r] having dropped. For words with graphic -ir- and -ur-, see vowel No. 10 below.

(25) See Adams, op. cit.

(26) Ibid., 16.

(27) The German student referred to in endnote 13 heard Larne four as [fu:r].

(28) McClean, R. J., Teach Yourself Swedish (London, 1947), 8; Sommerfelt, Alf, and Ingvald Marm, Teach Yourself Norwegian (London, 1943), 17-18.

(29) Jones, Pronunciation of English, 40.

(30) Except that important would have [ɔ:] and shorn would have [o:] in Larne.

(31) Also deport, etc., but not important. See footnote 30 above.

(32) This phonemic opposition of an [əi] type diphthong to an [ɑe] type is also found in the Laggan district of Donegal, even in the local version of standard speech, and in the Ards (county Down) at Portaferry, well to the south of the dialectal border between the Ulster-Scots and Anglo-Irish dialects.

(33) See Adams, op. cit., 9-16.

(34) Jones, Pronunciation of English, 25-26, 66 ff.

(35) Similar to Russian [s̹] and [z̹].

(36) Or Slatt, pronounced in any case [slɑ:t] or [slɑ:ʔ], the latter being the local and the non-standard Larne version.

(37) See Gregg, Robert J., 'Notes on the Phonology of a County Antrim Scotch-Irish Dialect', Orbis 7 (1958), 403.

(38) Ibid., 395 ff.

(39) Of a rather archaic variety which probably has not changed much since the 17th century.

(40) For these non-standard Larne forms I am indebted to Mrs. G. Craigie, Recreation Road, Larne.

(41) The form [no:n] also occurs in non-standard Larne, probably an intrusion from Belfast or south Antrim.

(42) Here [x] seems to have arisen from [h] by assimilation, following the velar [ŋ].

(43) Holmer, Nils, On Some Relics of the Irish Dialect Spoken in the Glens of Antrim (Uppsala, 1940); Holmer, Nils, The Irish Language in Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim (Dublin, 1942).

(44) He was fortunate in being able to accompany Mr. Emrys Evans (Head of the Celtic Department, University of Manchester) on many linguistic expeditions to these parts of county Donegal. Mr. Evans has made a special study of the Irish spoken in these districts and will be publishing his findings in the near future.

(45) In a report on his investigations of the surviving remains of Gaelic speech: Wagner, Heinrich, 'A Linguistic Atlas and Survey of Irish Dialects', Lochlann I, supplement, Bind V to Norsk Tidsskrift for Sprogvidenskap (Oslo, 1958), 33.

(46) Ibid., 32.

(47) Cp. the Russian alphabet in which two parallel sets of vowels are used, one to indicate the palatal and the other the non-palatal quality of the preceding consonant.

(48) Holmer, op. cit. (1942), 7; Holmer, op. cit. (1940), 12 ff.

(49) Holmer, op. cit. (1940), 14.

(50) Ibid., 15.

(51) Ibid., 16.

(52) The only exception in Larne and Glenoe being the very marginal opposition of [o] to [o:] before [k]. See vowel No. 8, above and also Gregg, op. cit. (1958), 404.

(53) See the glossaries in Holmer, op. cit. (1940) and Holmer, op. cit. (1942).

(54) It should be noted, however, that these pronunciations are from different speakers.

(55) See vowel No. 9, above.

(56) See Holmer, op. cit. (1940) 22, 34 and 20 respectively.

(57) See under vowel No. 4, above.

(58) Holmer, op. cit. (1940), 22; Holmer, op. cit. (1942), 34, §41.

(59) Jones, Pronunciation of English, v.

(60) Dr. Herbert Pilch (University of Freiburg-im-Breisgau) has been collecting material in towns and cities throughout the British Isles and in N. America with the intention of publishing a book on the various regional modifications in the pronunciation of the standard language. At a purely practical level certain American companies have now marketed in French, German, etc., recordings of the speech of a number of provincial towns and cities, in order to emphasize the widespread divergence from so-called 'standard' pronunciation, and thus to help tourists and other travellers.

(61) A certain number of rural Ulster-Scots words are, of course, known and used by Larne speakers, especially in familiar discourse, e.g., swither 'hesitate', scunner 'sicken', dunt 'nudge', girn 'complain', thole 'suffer' but with characteristic modifications in pronunciation: [ˈswɪ̈ðər] [ˈskʌnər] rather than the rural [ˈswʌðər] and [ˈskʌnər] etc.

(62) Larne and Glenoe share certain general Anglo-Irish syntactical patterns such as I'm just after saying (I've just said); Are you for staying? (Do you intend to stay?)

(63) This may be inferred from the occurrence of the Larne opposition /əi/ versus /ai/ in urban speech over a wide area ranging from East Donegal to south Ards (county Down). The two phonemes seem to have the same distribution in the districts mentioned.

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