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Gender-related issues

In present-day non-vernacular Dublin English (late 2011) there is a split between the genders with young females participating most vigorously in the phonetic changes by using extreme values of those features which are scalar by nature, e.g. GOAT-diphthongisation and R-retroflexion. In addition short front vowel lowering is virtually exclusively a female feature, though it may spread to males in the years to come.

To document this a quantitative analysis of GOAT-diphthongisation and R-retroflexion was undertaken. This showed that these features are indeed mainly represented by women, the men having slightly less than 50% incidence of moderate values for these features and the women showing values between 80% and 90%. Furthermore, practically only women show extreme values here, though occasionally a male did have these, as with this individual with strong GOAT-diphthongisation.

So great is the representation among women that very advanced pronunciations for the GOAT vowel, such as [gəʊ], may be seen as a specifically female pronunciation. Elicitation tests have shown that many males regard strong diphthongisation of the GOAT vowel as effeminate.

Of the three variables shown in the following chart, [goʊt] correlates with [nɔ:ɽṯ], i.e. GOAT-diphthongisation and R-retroflexion are paired features of the new pronunciation of the 1990s. The values for T-flapping form a special case. Only about a third of women had this feature but over two-thirds of men. In origin, T-flapping is a male vernacular feature and not attested for mainstream Dublin English. It is, however, found with all the local male speakers in the sound files. Its vernacular origin is confirmed by the fact that several speakers with the mainstream realisations [goʊt] and [nɒ:rṯ] had T-flapping as well. Since the original recordings from mid 1990s this feature has spread from males to many females.


Hickey, Raymond 2005. Dublin English. Evolution and Change. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.