Wir Ain Leed — Belfast Dialect

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Wir Ain Leed — Belfast Dialect

Although the Belfast dialect can not be considered Scots it does include a number of features of Ulster Scots origin. Belfast lies between Ulster Scots speaking areas to the north and south. Consequently the speech of Belfast contains numerous vocabulary, grammar and syntactical features of Scots origin brought to the city by 19th and 20th century incomers from Down and Antrim.

Vocabulary items include such words as thon, scallion, weans, mebbe (maybe), jouk, keek, skelf, polis, crack, farl (fardel), oxter, neb, scunner, stour, redd and clart.
Ay and ye for 'yes' and 'you' are almost universal.

Grammatical and syntactical features include:

The use of for til and for to (and the use of on after waiting):

I'm waiting on ye for til wash the car.
I'm waiting for you to wash the car.
He's come over for to see the film.
He's come over in order to watch the film.

Typically Scots use of the auxiliaries will, would, should, could, might and can avoiding, 'shall', 'ought' and 'may'.

Scots use of is and was and the verb inflexion -s:

Yer man and me is...
Him and me has...
Your husband and I are...
Him and I have...
Him and me eats everything.
Him and me was...
Him and I eat everything.
Him and I were...

Others are:

See thon tree, our Jim planted it.
See that dress, my sister's for buying it...
She's away for the shopping.
He's very fond of the swimming.
What for would I go there?
How come I wasn't picked for the team?

Most of the Scots grammatical features and idioms carried over into SSE also occur in Mid Ulster English.

Some Belfast phonology also shows Scots influence - even preserving the system of vowel length more clearly than some Ulster Scots dialects themselves.

The retention of the pronunciation /ʍ/ for <wh> may well be due to Scots influence.

The pronunciations /ɑ/ in words like bad, hand, man, Maud and fraud etc. /æ/ in words like bit, pick and fish etc. and the diphthong /əi/ or /aɪ/ in words like bide, Friday, rise, wife and white etc.


Henry, Alison (1995) Belfast English and Standard English - Dialect Variation and Parameter Setting, University of Ulster.
Harris, J. (1985) Phonological Variation and Change Studies in Hiberno-English, Cambridge University Press.
Milroy, James (1981) Regional Accents of English: Belfast, Belfast: Blackstaff.