33: Language in Leinster and Louth Irish dialects

Written by Linden Alexander Pentecost and published by Linden Alexander Pentecost on the 1st of July 2024. This was published in the UK like all my publications, but was published a few days before going abroad for a week (comment added on the 5th July 2024, a day before going abroad for a week) . I will not publish anything abroad and only in the UK, nor have I published abroad before, except a few times on archive.org, those few articles of which have now been removed and republished with edits from the UK in ebooks (most of those few articles in question were also written in the UK originally). This article consists of two connected parts, Languages in Leinster and Eastern Ireland” followed by Louth Irish dialects”. The speech is interconnected and so there is need for further sub-titles or headers, but a lot of things are discussed, essentially pertaining to language in Leinster in a historic and general way, followed by the Louth Irish dialects” section where I specifically talk about features of Louth Irish. There is no individual references section, as the reference is provided in the text, but is also given at the end of the article for emphasis. This page/article contains 1986 words.


I frequently have written Scottish Gaelic dialects in adapted forms of spelling, but have not attempted this with any Irish dialects in a long time, nor do I in this article, where I use standard spellings for Louth Irish as well as their pronunciation in the IPA to the best of my ability. This article is not a thorough investigation into these topics and is only my beginning piece of work concerning Louth Irish for example.


Languages in Leinster and Eastern Ireland


The Irish dialects that have survived as spoken, community languages into the present day, are specific varieties of the larger Munster, Connaught and Ulster dialect groupings. The majority of individual dialects within Munster, Leinster and Ulster, are now sadly extinct or are verging on extinction as spoken, community forms of Irish.

The fourth provience of Ireland, Leinster, was at one time Irish-speaking as well. The Irish dialects in Leinster are hard to classify due to them not being so well recorded, but from what I understand, the Irish language across much of Leinster corresponded more to Munster Irish than to the other dialects, the closest living dialect today to these Leinster dialects, being perhaps the Munster dialect of Ring, An Rinn in County Waterford. However it would be incorrect to refer to Leinster Irish as Munster Irish, but, generally speaking, it seems to have been closer to Munster. More central dialects of Leinster Irish corresponded more to Connaught Irish, at least in some ways, whilst dialects on the coast of Leinster and in the North of Leinster, whilst having many features of Leinster Irish, also corresponded to some East Ulster dialects. These dialects are sometimes referred to as Oriel Irish.

There were other languages spoken within Leinster besides Irish too, including at least two Germanic languages, one of which is Yola, another is the Fingallian. The former language, Yola is a Germanic language, which in some ways resembles Flemish or Dutch more than it does English, but it does share many of these traits in common with West Country dialects of English, which Yola is related to. Yola can be thought of as being more Saxon than Anglic when compared to dialects within England.

In contrast, some of the Germanic” language in Leinster was more connected to a variety of Norse, that I sometimes term Hiberno-Norse”. Evidence of this language can mainly be found in coastal names, some of which may have originally been navigational names. This includes some names of sea inlets which end with -ford in Leinster and adjascent parts of Munster and Leinster, e.g. Wexford, Waterford, Carlingford. The -ford element is linked to for example Norwegian fjord, Icelandic fjörður. It is possible that the Hiberno-Norse” language was in some ways more similar to West-Germanic languages, hence the name Waterford, where if the name was of Old Norse origin, we would expect perhaps something more like "Wattenford". This "Hiberno-Norse" language may have been connected to the Norn spoken in Scotland, and Norse and pre-Norse languages there and in England, but I am not sure. Nor am I sure when Norse” appeared in Ireland, but am certain that what we call Norse elements of language were already in Scotland and Ireland long before the Vikings (see my other research on this). I have more comments about Norse in Ireland in the article Further discussions on vowel breaking in Orkney Norn and Proto-Norse/Proto-Germanic and other aspects to Norse in Ireland and Britain, part of page 50 and 51 in my ebook: Prehistoric Dartmoor language, North Sámi and Gaelic, and other topics (only available in PDF format) 27/02/2024, No. 12 (the last for now) in a series of new books published by bookofdunbarra (all the author’s books are published in the UK).

I have not looked into the prehistory of Leinster much at all, but I suspect that the Leinster Irish dialects, and the Germanic languages, all in some way connect to pre-Indo-European, prehistoric languages in this area, which I have not researched yet.


Louth Irish dialects

County Louth is technically in Leinster, but was originally in Ulster. Nevertheless, the Irish of this beautiful county can definately be described as more an Oriel dialect or even as a form of Leinster Irish than as a typical dialect of East Ulster.

Recordings of Louth Irish dialects can be listened to at The Doegan Records Web Project.


These recordings at the aforementioned resource, are also transcribed in the book Linguistic atlas and survey of Irish dialects - Vol. IV: The dialects of Ulster and the Isle of Man, specimens of Scottish Gaelic dialects, phonetic texts of East Ulster Irish, by Heinrich Wagner and Colm Ó Baoill, Ph.D. The examples of Louth Irish given in the paragraphs below are all written according to how they are phonetically written in the aforementioned resource, although I have altered the phonetic spelling used in the aforementioned resource, to make the phonetic spelling in this article more familiar to people who know the IPA but who are not familiar with phonetic notations for Irish dialects. These IPA spellings may not be 100 percent accurate to the precise details in the aforementioned resource, but I am confident that my own renditions will be accurate enough.

All but two of the examples of Louth Irish I have discussed below are from the language of Brian Mac Cuarta, specifically, who was from Ardagh, County Louth. Other speaks of Louth Irish have slight differences in their language from that of this speaker, and the example buachaill láidir is from the Louth Irish dialect of Drumulagh in Louth, spoken by Brighid Ní Chaslaigh. The word foigh is also attested in the language of Brighid Ní Chaslaigh, I then put the attested example foigh into the example I created which is not attested, foigh mé ’bhaile. The pronunciation of ’bhaile is attested in the language of Brian Mac Cuarta.  As these dialects are generally very similar and interconnected, and because I do not yet understand their differences, examples in this article are referred to generally as ”Louth Irish” so as to present the dialects in a more general way.

To begin, one thing that I first noticed about Louth Irish, is its rather unique and beautiful prosody. The dialect does not resemble that of Munster Irish, but in certain instances, the prosody of Ardagh Louth Irish can sound a little-more Munster than an Ulster dialect would. Below I will go on to list some specific phonetic features of Ardagh Louth Irish, except for the example buachaill láidir. As in some dialects of East Munster, there is a tendency to drop the initial vowel on a word, which may also relate to the dialect’s prosody.

Another feature noticeable in Ardagh Louth Irish is that the broad [ch] is very often dropped when not in initial position. This is found to a degree across Ulster but is very noticeable in Ardagh Louth Irish. E.g. bearach – heifer”, is pronounced [bɑrɑː] (note the lack of slender consonants). The form buachaill láidira strong lad” is pronounced [bˠo.hə ˈl̪ˠaːdʲərh] (Drumulagh Louth Irish), also showing the loss of the broad ch. Note how in this example the final -ll in buachaill is dropped due to the influence of the following l in láidir. This is also likely related to the dialects’ prosody. In some instances the broad ch becomes f, for example if I said foigh mé ’bhaile – I went home”, it would be pronounced [fˠɔi mɑ ˈwɛlʲə], Caighdeán Irish: chuaigh mé abhaile, which with a more general West Ulster pronunciation would be [hui mʲə əˈwalʲə]. Another interesting example (attested, unlike the previous one) is: go rachadh sé chun tsléibhe – that he would go towards the mountain” is pronounced [gə rɑːd̥ ʃən tʲlʲeːvə], where and chun become the same word. Another example of word boundaries changing in relation to prosodyand the loss of ch is: ag teacht amach a caitheamh a phíoba – going out to smoke his pipe” is pronounced [ɛ tʲᶴt̪ˠ əmˠɑ kɑ̃ːũ ˈfwiːpə]. Note that the word phíoba from píob shows a broad, labial [p] and not a slender or palatal p. There is also a tendency to pronounce ch in -cht as [h]. Otherwise it can simply be reduced to a kind of pause, or is simply dropped. E.g. slat iascaireachta – fishing rod” is pronounced [sˠl̪ˠɑt̪ˠ iəskərʲət̪ˠə].

Vowels that might normally be emphasised in some dialects are often much more relaxed” in their articulation. In the case of Louth Irish, some vowels are reduced to [ɑ], e.g. mé – I”, and sé – he” are pronounced [mɑ] and [ʃɑ]. A similar process takes place in different parts of Ulster, but in Louth Irish the pronunciation of these unstressed sounds as [ɑ] seems connected to the prosody specific to these dialects. Note also that in certain instances, like the word , the consonant is pretty much the same as the English [m] and is not palatal or slender in nature. Note also that the r” can be quite strongly rolled in Louth Irish. Whilst I have not seen this mentioned, I have heard it when listening to recordings in the dialect.

Furthermore, in terms of the dialect’s pronouns, we have the interesting form muinn for we”. Normally we” in Irish is either muid or sinn depending on context and dialect, but muinn is a special form found in Louth Irish.


I hope that this article was an interesting read, and I’m sorry that my research on this dialects is only in its beginning stages. Because I have lived around Morecambe Bay (on the opposite side of the sea from Louth), I do feel particularly interested in Louth Irish, particularly considering my own region’s (Morecambe Bay’s) connections to Ireland, which I have already researched and written about. I have talked about this in relation to the Setantii, and the name Sédanda, a form of Cú Chulainn’s original name, Cú Chulainn himself being especially associated with County Louth and Dundalk. There is some information about this in an article I kindly had published on Omniglot, titled Ancient language and extra-Indo-European language in Britain. There is also plenty more on these topics on the online pages of this website, www.bookofdunbarra.co.uk, and in the ebooks I have published through this website and elsewhere, and in print-only books by the author.

A reminder: all examples of Louth Irish as transcribed in the IPA in this article are based upon how they are transcribed in Linguistic atlas and survey of Irish dialects - Vol. IV: The dialects of Ulster and the Isle of Man, specimens of Scottish Gaelic dialects, phonetic texts of East Ulster Irish, by Heinrich Wagner and Colm Ó Baoill, Ph.D.