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   Speakers’ perception of Irish English dialects

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As part of the investigation of Dublin English a survey was undertaken to determine what people knew of the dialect regions of Ireland. The overwhelming number of test persons were from Dublin, with more females than males (a consequence of the readiness of people approached for the survey). For the evaluation the test persons were given a pencil and a blank outline map of Ireland with no text whatever on it save for the title Dialect regions of Ireland in the top left hand corner. The aim was to ascertain what conceptions of dialect areas speakers had for the country. The request was that they simply draw in what they regarded as different accents of English in Ireland and where they were spoken. I did not answer any questions during the test which might have suggested a particular response. Test persons were told that they could be as detailed as they wanted and should preferably offer labels for the divisions they made. The tests were frequently carried out in groups. This was found to be conducive to participation as test persons often compared notes and discussed the matter among themselves. As always, I stood some distance away from the persons during the test, significantly, out of earshot so that they could be free to discuss and enter what they liked without feeling observed.

The aim of the survey was to obtain at least 200 hundred returns, assuming that this number would iron out any spikes in the distribution deriving from eccentric views of individuals. In all 207 returns were used (nearly 300 were filled in). Some returns were rejected because the test persons in question did not fulfil the task, because of obscene remarks, or because of quite unrealistic claims such as that the greatest number of dialect divisions were to be found in Co Clare.

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