I'm working on a character for my third book in my St. Augustine Historical Series and needed to find some information on the Irish brogue. I thought I'd share with all of you some of what I found.
The Irish accent, or brogue, as it is called, is equally obvious with the Scotch, to an English ear; though there are neither so many peculiarities of pronunciation, nor of the use of words in Ireland as in Scotland. Much difference, however, both of accent and pronunciation prevails in the different provinces of Ireland, according as the inhabitants happen to be chiefly of Celtic or Saxon, of English or Scottish origin. In the South and *West, therefore, the language is very different from that in the North and East. I shall first take notice of a peculiarity of pronunciation, which seems to be of Celtic origin, and is chiefly confined to the South, or partially to the Catholic population of other districts; I mean the sounding of "th" like "t," and "t" like "th," wherever an "r' follows or precedes them. It will be most convenient to give these in form of a table.
WORDS VULGAR IRISH CORRECT ENGLISH
AJ SPELLED. SOUND. SOUND.
Trust. Thrust. Trust.
Truth. Thruth. Trooth.
Troth. Throth. Troth.
Try. Thry. Try.
The Celtic Irish also sound " t" at the end of a word like " rf," and " f" like" as wid for "with;" iv for " if;" bud for " but."
The next mistake which I shall mention, is common to the whole country, and in the instance of some words is also a Scots provincialism, particularly in Galloway, where the vicinity of the coasts has closely assimilated the language to Irish. I refer this remark to the mistake of pronouncing many words with the long open sound of " a" in " fare," which should be pronounced as long "e" in "me." The words of this kind mistaken by Scotsmen, are enumerated at page 226. As in the preceding example of " th" and" t" those sounds are also for the most part confounded so, that we hear both "a" for " e," and " e" for "a," as in the following table :—
WORDS VULGAR IRISH CORRECT ENGLISH
AS SPELLED. SOUND. SOUND.
Beast. Bayst. Beest.
Beat. Bayt. Beet.
It will be unnecessary to extend this table, as it may easily be enlarged by such readers, as may be interested in it by collecting all the words, having the long open sounds of "a" and " e." In the sound of " o" short, Irishmen are no less apt to mistake, giving it very commonly the sound of " a" in "far." For example, we may hear crass for "cross," acrass for " across," Lard for "Lord," Gad for "God," &c. The following are a few miscellaneous instances, which are very common errors of pronunciation in Ireland.
The words " mamma" and " papa" are pronounced even by the middle ranks in Ireland, as of the "a" at the end of the words were a short "e," as in the word " then," or something between this and a short "a," as in the word "than," whereas the terminating "a" in "mamma,'' and "papa," ought to sound like "a" in " far." To a stranger this Irish sound of "mamma" and " papa" is very offensive. The same offensive Irish sound is given to "a" in "ah," as " ah! now is it?" In some parts of Scotland, this sound of" ah!'' is as common as in Ireland—in Glasgow for example.
There is a peculiar sound of "u" common in Ireland, particularly in the North, as about Belfast, which I have little doubt has been often remarked. It is not easy to explain it, but it consists in sounding an "e" rather slightly before the "u," as de-oo for "due," te-oo for " two," tre-oo for "true," gre-oo for "grew," ye-oo for "yon." This is very vulgar.
The remark which I made relative to the harsh and jarring pronunciation of the letter "r" in Scotland, is equally applicable to Ireland; but I regret to point out a fault, which it is, I fear, impossible in most cases to correct.
With respect to grammatical accent, the only word which I can recollect at present as very striking, is the word "character," which ought to have the stress of the voice on the syllable "char," whereas an Irishman almost invariably puts it upon the syllable "ac" as if the word were written char-eckter. The same word I have remarked, is often pronounced with an opposite fault, as if it were written chareter the sound of " ac" being left out. This error, I should think it almost impossible for an Irishman to commit.
The most remarkable peculiarity of AngloIrish, I think, is the construction of the sentences, derived I have no doubt from the Celtic, though I am not sufficiently acquainted with it to exemplify or prove the derivation.— The peculiarity which I allude to is that of inverting the order of the English construction, and saying that at first, which an Englishman would say last, as in the example," The boy, is it, you mean?" for "Is it the boy you mean?" This inverted order runs through the whole conversational speech of Ireland, and if I had room I should give a table of corrected examples, but I must be contented with this single remark. I may mention, however, that it is the same principle which gives origin to what may be called the paraphrastic phraseology so common in Ireland. For example, " and it is just he sure who is the man that will do it." instead of " he is the man that will do it." No instances, which I can give, will be of much practical utility for avoiding this vulgarity. The reader must, therefore, depend upon his own observations for its correction.
Another of the Irish vulgarities of Celtic origin is, that instead of answering a plain question simply by " yes" or " no," part of the question is repeated. For example, if you put the question " does it rain to day ?" the answer will be " It does" or "It does not," instead of "yes" or "no." If you ask whether the mail has arrived; the answer will be " It has," or "It has not." The words " yes" and " no," indeed, seem to have no place in the AngloIrish vocabulary. In this respect, the Latin is somewhat similar. It would, perhaps, be wrong to assert that this manner of answering questions is always a breach of the English idiom, but when it is uniformly practised, it must be considered an Irish vulgarity.
In asking questions, an Irishman has a great predilection for the word "which," and employs it very often improperly, at least it frequently sounds very awkward, though this may be partly owing to the broad pronunciation, nearly approaching to whuch. It is most out of place when it is used, as it always is by an Irishman, if he do not hear or understand what you say. For example, if you ask indistinctly, what it is o'clock, the Irish cross question, "which ?" seems very awkward; if you remark in a low voice, that "Ireland is a fine country," you will probably hear this perpetually recurring "which?" as a counter-tenor to your bass. The French in similar cases use "how?' [comment ?] which seems no less awkward. The vulgar Scotch say, "what's your will?' and the more vulgar English, "what did you say?"
In exclamations, oaths, and bye-words, the vulgar Irish is very copious; but I must refer to the chapters on those several subjects for the few which I have thought it requisite to mention, in accordance with the plan of this work. It is not necessary, I conceive, to point out such obvious vulgarities, as by the law;— by dad;—sure and sure; Och, and indeed now; at all, at all; Arrah; Botheration; Musha; Honey; Jewel; &c, as none of those, who may read this little book, can require to be told that such expressions are as vulgar as that of using the word boys for " bachelors," or a sprig of shellalah, for a " bludgeon," en purity for " pretty," or once't and twice'I, for " once and twice."
As another instance of the peculiar use of words, I may mention "entire," "entirely," used for "whole," and "altogether,'' which in this sense are quite Irish and vulgar. Thus an Irishman will say, "I have bought the entire or the altogether of it," instead of" I have bought the whole of it;"—and " It is impossible entirely/' instead of " It is altogether impossible." In consequence of the great number of Irishmen engaged in writing for the daily papers, these expressions are beginning to be used, even in England. The word "invite" for " invitation," is also a vulgar Irish expression; for example " I got an invite to visit her," instead of" I got an invitation to visit her; or "she gave me the invite to come," instead of "she gave me an invitation to come." A vulgar expression very common in Ireland, and extremely offensive to an English ear, is used in inquiring about the character of a person. Thus instead of saying, " what sort of a person is he?" the Irish question is, "what kind is he?" This expression must be carefully avoided, as it is only used by the uneducated.
For a few other Irish vulgarities I may refer to pages 12, 17, 39, 42, 60, 65, 75, 76, 77, 94, 95, 96, 98, 102, 155, 174, &c. See also the observations on the use of " shall" and "will," "should" and "would," at page 233, above.
Source: The vulgarities of speech corrected: ©1829