English as spoken in Northern Ireland (long)

Jon Hanna jon at spin.ie
Tue Jun 3 14:02:41 CEST 2003

There are four possibilities about the dialect we are referring to here:

1. There is no such dialect, and everybody in the region can be considered to speak a dialect for which the generative system will produce either en-IE, en-GB or they speak a dialect which lacks a tag but which is not restricted to the region being discussed making a tag referring to it a poor choice.
Obviously there would be some differences in the English spoken but that doesn't necessarily meant that the differences between Newry and Carlingford are greater than those between Newry and Warrenpoint. In my home-town "I doubt it will rain" means, bizarrely, "I believe it will rain", but that doesn't exist even a few miles away from there and there is no need to label these distinctions (except perhaps for specialised linguistics software which 3066 could not hope to satisfy).

2. The dialect is also spoken in the rest of Ulster, making en-ulster the most appropriate label.

3. The dialect is not spoken in the rest of Ulster making the most likely candidate en-GB-ulster. I'll come back to that.

4. There are at least 2 dialects spoken in the region, and the segregation in housing, education and other matters, and a practice of consciously engaging in cultural activities which are identified with your particular community has lead to a separation strong enough that the two main religio-political communities can be considered linguistically distinct. A famous argument for this would be the difference between "aitch" and "haitch", though that one example hardly constitutes a Q.E.D. If this were the case it may allow for two registrations, one, or none (depending on whether those 2 dialects were found elsewhere or not).

Documentation supporting whichever of these cases the tag was being asked to label would be necessary.

In the third case the political differences in the use of the word "Ulster" could be seen to argue against its use here. However that the entire 9 counties of Ulster are not currently under British rule is not disputed, hence en-GB-ulster would be appropriate for the six countries of Northern Ireland since the remaining 3 counties of Ulster are not covered by the label "GB".

It would remain to be appropriate if the change in governance that some there wish for were to occur, since the historical fact of partition (and other historical incidents relating to the history of British rule, in particular the plantation) would be the reason, or at least a key reason, for the linguistic differences the label refers to.

The only other alternative without *strong* political connotations would be something based on the term "Northern Ireland" (there are no terms without some political connotations, but "Northern Ireland" is something Nationalists, Loyalists, Unionists, Republicans, Independent Ulster Separatists, and Internationalist Marxists can say with a straight face, albeit with differing quantities of bile in their throat). "NI" would be clearly inappropriate in an international context as people might reasonably assume it referred to Nicaragua (especially since use is already made of ISO 3166).
"North", "Northern", or a variant thereof, would have the same problems as "Ulster", especially given that parts of Donegal are further north than all of Northern Ireland. Using a strong Antrim accent to produce "NornIrn" would make the entire term "Northern Ireland" fit into the 8 characters allowed, but is probably not appropriate.

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