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    Irish, British and American English

When discussing the rise of the new pronunciation of Irish English in the 1990s one might be tempted to see it as something which is due to an increasing influence of either British or American English, or a combination of both, on emerging forms of Irish English among advanced speakers in Dublin. However, this is definitely not the case in any systematic way. Indeed I would doubt that either form of English has had or has any significant influence on Irish English, north or south. There may well be parallels with either American or British English. However, these would appear to be coincidental and for each parallel which may be found, there are internal reasons within the existing varieties of Irish English which can account adequately for their occurrence. The parallels are listed and remarked upon below.

Parallels with American English

1) Use of retroflex /r/ Among major varieties of English, American English is known for its use of a retroflex [ɽ] in its standard form. Locations in Britain which also show this realisation are the south-west of England (traditionally) and large parts of Scotland.

2) Use of intervocalic alveolar flap Among the allophones of /t/ in intervocalic position in the New Pronunciation is a flap as in many forms of American English. This was produced by many young female speakers in the test sentence They’ve a new water supply. In conservative mainstream Irish English the realisation here would be as a fricative, [wɒ:ṱər]. In local Dublin English a glottal stop would be found: [wɒʔər].

3) FOR/FOUR-merger For those speakers with the new pronunciation, either directly from the Dublin Vowel Shift or by dissemination from the capital, the vowels in the words for and four have merged. This is true of many forms of English, not just American English (which is of course rhotic), but for all non-rhotic varieties, as in the Southern Hemisphere as well.

Despite the above parallels, there can be no question of young Irish speakers adopting anything like an American pronunciation of English. There are many obvious differences, such as the lack of unrounding with the vowel in the LOT lexical set or the realisations of alveolar/dental consonants which are so different in Irish English when compared to American English.

Parallels with British English

When one considers British English within the context of Irish English, the first point to note is that the former is not something which is regarded as worthy of emulation by the Irish, and certainly not in the form of Received Pronunciation. Quite the opposite is the case: for any Irish person to imitate an English accent is to make themselves ridiculous in front of his/her Irish compatriots.

1) Velarisation of syllable-final /l/ The velarised [ɫ] which has begun to appear in the new pronunciation has a clear parallel in southern British English though it is not anything like as old. The vocalisation of [ɫ] which is so often found in colloquial forms of English in the south-east of Britain has no counterpart in Irish English.

2) /ai/-retraction The realisation of /ai/ as [ɑɪ] is paralleled by the same pronunciation in many forms of southern British English. However, here the comparison must end. For in advanced Dublin English there was, and for some a minority of speakers still is, a phonetically determined distribution whereby /ai/ is only retracted before voiced consonants, i.e. in the PRIDE but not in the PRICE lexical set.

3) Back vowel raising The raised articulation of low back vowels which has begun recently in Ireland is an established feature of southern British English and is part of a very long-term shift in long vowel values which commenced in late Middle English. However, the raising of back vowels in Irish English is not an historical continuation of an older process but a reaction to existing open vowel values in popular Dublin English.

4) /au/-fronting The /au/-fronting, which is so much a part of the new pronunciation, is not so much a parallel with Received Pronunciation as with vernacular forms of English, especially in London and the Home Counties and beyond. In Ireland this is a feature of Dublin English which advanced speakers did not dissociate themselves from and hence it has become a feature of the new pronunciation.