The influence of Irish Gaelic on Hiberno-English today

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The influence of Irish Gaelic on Hiberno-English today
Languages were brought about by the need of communication among people. However, these languages are not constant and they vary according to the needs of the users. In addition to the needs of the user's interactions among people play an important role in shaping a language. These changes in a language make one language to dominate the others. Interaction among people therefore leads to interaction between languages and the influence of one language on another language. During the 12th century, Norman invasion of Ireland the English was introduced in Ireland and the Hiberno became the English dialect spoken by the Irish people. Before the introduction of English and the rise of Hiberno-English, the Irish had their own Irish Gaelic that was widely spoken. After the introduction of the foreign language, the two languages interacted and in the process, there were influences of Irish Gaelic on Hiberno-English. The influence however is a continuous process that still goes on up to today.

The influence of Irish Gaelic on Hiberno-English today

According to Görlach (1995), Hiberno-English is a product of two languages and the language has features that are found in both languages. Initially people assumed the influence of Irish Gaelic on Hiberno-English but a cross analysis on the two languages proves that there is a lot of influence on the later. To begin with, grammar is the basis through which a language is build. Grammar determines how a language is written as well as how a language is spoken and any influence on a language will first demonstrate through grammar. An analysis on Hiberno-English grammar proves that some its grammar has a direct influence from the Irish language or they are directly borrowed from the Irish Gaelic language. Todd (1999) explains that the reason why Hiberno-English borrowed heavily from the Irish language grammar is that after learning the English the Irish people applied the grammatical structure of their native language into the new language. This process led to the rise of a new language with unique grammatical structures that are neither similar to the new language nor to the native language of the Irish people. Todd (1999) continues to explain that the influence of Irish Gaelic on the English grammar is evident on all grammatical features of the language. He continues to highlight rhythm, sound patterns, sentence structures and idioms as the main affected areas. He continues to argue that the influence was mainly due to the preference of the Irish people. For example, Gaelic speakers prefer using a sentence with nominal structure than ones with a verbal structure.

The definite article "the" is a commonly used feature in the Hiberno-English and the usage of this article find its roots in the Irish Gaelic language. The use of the definite article in Hiberno can be described to be in the level of overuse and this relates to its use in the former language. Hickey (2007) attempts to explain this phenomenon by stating that the reason for this overuse follows from the fact that Irish Gaelic language has only the definite article. Hickey proceeds to give examples of sentences that are grammatically correct in the Hiberno-English however, the definite article "the" is overused.

• You'd need the willies when crossing them fields. (Hickey, 2007)
• Well, you see, the both of them have to work to do the mortgage like. (Hickey, 2007)
The use of article the as indicated in the above sentences is found in the English language but in rare cases as compared to the Irish Gaelic language and therefore the use of the article was mainly influenced by the Gaelic. The main use or overuse of the article is mainly to express emotions of the speaker such as surprise, fear, joy, addition to the definite article "the" has use of reflexive pronouns that is uncommon or special.

In most language and especially the English, reflexive pronouns are commonly used to represent or assume the place of an object in a sentence. In Hiberno-English, a reflexive pronoun can also stand or assume the position of a subject. Any antecedent does not bind the term 'unbound' as it is commonly used in Hiberno-English, this is a common phenomenon of the Hiberno-English and it explains the influence or preservation of Irish Gaelic grammar on the Irish English (Fillupa, 1999).

Any established language has a way or a method of denoting tense aspect in its language structures and the method is an interesting one. There are five different types of Hiberno-English perfects, who demonstrate direct influence of the Irish Gaelic language (Fillupa, 1999). Fillupa goes on to discuss the role and extent of influence of Irish Gaelic language on Hiberno-English. The indefinite anterior perfect denotes state or events that take place and that determines an utterance and therefore determines the tense in a sentence (Fillupa, 1999). The use of this feature is found in both the Hiberno and the Irish Gaelic language but the use is more rooted in the Irish Gaelic language.

In any language, the pronunciation of words plays an important role in distinguishing one language from another. In addition, pronunciation determines the grammar as well as how the speakers write a language. Hiberno-English therefore has its unique pronunciation that distinguishes it from other languages spoken by the Irish people. Although the pronunciation of most words in Hiberno-English is unique, there are many similarities between the language and the Irish Gaelic language. These similarities characterize the level of influence of Irish Gaelic language on Hiberno-English. Linguistic study on the language shows that theEnglish maintained their original pronunciation when they learned the new language. The unique pronunciation in Hiberno-English comes out in the phonology, which is distinctive and distinguishes the language from the English language spoken in most parts of Western Europe (Kallen, 1997). A good example of the distinctive pronunciation in the Hiberno-English is the pronunciation of the sound't' and 'd' that proves the distinction in the pronunciation of the language. The pronunciation of these sounds makes the words spoken in Hiberno to have unique pronunciation for example the word 'trouble' sounds 'throuble' when pronounced in Hiberno-English. This uniqueness in pronunciation of these sounds is a direct borrowing from the Irish Gaelic language and therefore the language has a great impact in English.


Languages have unique characteristics that distinguish one group of speakers from another. A language develops with time and in the development, stage can be influenced by another language to form or produce a very different language from the mother languages. The Hiberno-English is an example of a language that demonstrates the level to which a language can influence the development of another. Although the influence of Irish Gaelic language on English has been overlooked, linguistic studies have proved that the Irish Gaelic language has a lot of influence on the language. The main areas of the language that demonstrate the influence of Irish Gaelic on Hiberno-English are; the unique grammar, the distinctive and unique use of the definite article 'the', reflexive pronouns and the pronunciation. In all these language features, the English borrows heavily from the Irish Gaelic language and the main reason for this borrowing is that the Irish people carried the features of their mother language into the new language.


Görlach, M.1995, More Englishes - New studies in varieties of English 1988-1994. John Benjamin's: Amsterdam.

Hickey, R. 2007, Irish English: History and present-day forms. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Kallen, J. 1997, Focus on Ireland. John Benjamin's: Amsterdam.

Todd, L. 1999, Green English: Irelands influence on English language. Dublin: O'Brien.