Vol. 19:1 (1998) ► pp.7–32
Barriers to Change
Ethnic Division and Phonological Innovation in Northern Hiberno-English
Work on Northern Hiberno-English (NHE) generally accepts a consensus view that plays down or overlooks interactions between ethnic division and language variation. A study of Derry/Londonderry English (DLE) indicates that, for a feature involved in ongoing change, ethnicity is a salient social factor. The (e) variable in the FACE-class is subject to change in which a distinction between "Standard" NHE [e] and vernacular [I] is giving way to a three-way distinction which for some speakers adds ingliding [is] diphthongs. The change originates in the east of Northern Ireland, especially Belfast, and may have been in progress for some time. It is entering DLE through the Protestant middle class, and diphthongs are now the predominant vernacular form among Protestant teenagers of both sexes and all class backgrounds. While it has made little progress among Catholics, it is currently found mainly among the Catholic middle class. The ethnic boundary is not an impermeable barrier, but it has a considerable delaying effect on the spread of this innovation.
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