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Anglo-Irish, Irish English or Hiberno-English?

Regarding the terminology used in relation with the English language spoken in Ireland, all three above mentioned terms can be found in the works of linguists. There is much dispute over the terms. This chapter shows various attitudes towards their usage. Some authors use just one of the terms to denote English in Ireland and the others use all of them to indicate different influences made on English. For example, Henry (1977:20) sees three major strands and calls them Anglo-Irish, which is “a characteristically rural variety compounded of Irish and English or English and Scots”; Hiberno-English, which is defined by him as

a more urban, regional and standard variety tending towards international or so-called Standard English. This derives ultimately from British settlers in Ireland and its germinal period was the seventeenth century.

Finally Ulster Scots being from the same period as Hiberno-English. On the other hand, Todd (1999) distinguishes two main traditions, namely Planter English and Hiberno-English and further she divides Planter English into two varieties – Anglo-Irish and Ulster Scots. Her division generally corresponds with Henry’s one.

Traditions of English in Ireland according to Todd:

Planter English Hiberno-English

Anglo-Irish Ulster Scots

However, concerning the usage of the terms, she defines them almost the other way round. Anglo-Irish is defined by Todd (1999: 57) as,

a variety of English that is spoken over most of Ireland. It is descended from the English brought to Ireland by planters from England, modified by contacts with Irish, Ulster Scots and Hiberno-English.

Hiberno-English, Todd (1999:71) explains,

is a range of English spoken by people whose ancestral mother tongue was Irish. It is strongest in the vicinity of the Gaeltachts, in rural areas and in parts of the country such as Sperrin Mountains in Tyrone, where pockets of Gaelic speakers survived until the 1960s.

The third group - Ulster Scots – is defined as, “a variety of Scottish English spoken mainly in parts of Antrim, Donegal and Down. Its influence can be found as far as south Tyrone, Armagh and Fermanagh.” (Todd, 1999: 59) In addition, throughout her work she uses the term ‘Irish English’ to refer to

English spoken in Ireland in general. This approach, however, is completely denied in an interview with Dolan:

The term Irish English is misnomer, because it works on the principle that ‘Irish English’ is similar to Australian English, American English or Canadian English, which it isn’t. English was transported to these countries, but didn’t mix with the native languages. In Ireland, Hiberno-English means that you have two languages in kind of unruly shotgun marriage together, fighting all the time over the centuries, for syntax, pronunciation, vocabulary, idiom. (Amador-Moreno, 2007)

For Dolan there is the only one correct term and thus Hiberno-English. On the contrary, there are studies by Raymond Hickey in which he uses the term Irish English to refer to English in Ireland and offers his own explanations for the terms mentioned above. Hickey (2005) identifies three terms, namely Anglo-Irish, Hiberno-English and Irish English and for him it is Hiberno-English that should not be used:

Hiberno-English is a learned term which is derived from the Latin term Hibernia ‘Ireland’. The term enjoyed a certain currency in the 1970s and 1980s, but in the 1990s, many authors ceased to employ it, as it contributes nothing in semantic terms and is unnecessarily obscure, often requiring explanation to a non-Irish audience or readership. (20)

But he admits that some authors, “such as Dolan and Filppula, continue to employ the term” (20). He claims Anglo-Irish is:

… an established term in literature to refer to works written in English by authors born in Ireland. It is also found in politics to refer to relations between England and Ireland. The difficulty with the term is its occurrence in these spheres and the fact that, strictly speaking, it implies an English variety of Irish and not vice versa. It should be mentioned that within the context of other varieties – Canadian English, for instance – the term is still used to refer to English in Ireland (Kirwin 1993). (20)

Filppula (1999) also refuses the term Anglo-Irish with a similar argument to Hickey’s one stating that this term is especially connected with “English literature written by Irish people” (34) and claims that, “In recent linguistic and dialectological studies … the term ‘Anglo-Irish’ is not so common…” (34). Hickey (2005) advocates the use of ‘Irish English’ as, “the simplest and most convenient term. It has the advantage that it is parallel to the designations for other varieties, e.g., American, Australian, Welsh English, and can be further differentiated where necessary” (20). Filppula (1999: 34) explains that the term Irish English “has been gaining ground in the most recent research… An alleged advantage of this term over Anglo-Irish and Hiberno-English is its neutrality.”

From the discussion above it is obvious that it is difficult to draw a conclusion which would offer a right term referring to English in Ireland. To

sum up, the term Anglo-Irish is now seen as obsolete and thus one can choose between two expressions – Irish English or Hiberno-English.