Forth and Bargy dialect

The Forth and Bargy dialect, also known as Yola, is an extinct variety of English once spoken in the baronies of Forth and Bargy in County Wexford, Ireland. It is thought to have evolved from Middle English, which was brought to Ireland during the Norman invasion, beginning in 1169. As such, it was similar to the Fingallian dialect of the Fingal area. Both became extinct in the 19th century, when they were replaced by modern Hiberno-English. The name "Yola" means "old" in the dialect.[2]

Forth and Bargy dialect
Native toIreland
RegionCounty Wexford
ExtinctMid-19th century
Language codes
ISO 639-3yol
Glottolog(insufficiently attested or not a distinct language)


Forth and Bargy
Forth and Bargy shown within Ireland

The dialect was spoken in County Wexford, particularly in the baronies of Forth and Bargy. This was the first area English-speakers came to in the Norman invasion of Ireland, supporting the theory that the dialect evolved from the Middle English introduced in that period. As such it is thought to have been similar to Fingallian, which was spoken in the Fingal region north of Dublin. Middle English, the mother tongue of the "Old English" community, was widespread throughout southeastern Ireland until the 14th century; as the Old English were increasingly assimilated into Irish culture, their original language was gradually displaced through Gaelicisation. After this point, the Forth and Bargy dialect and Fingallian were the only attested relicts of this original form of English.[3][4]

Modern English was widely introduced by British colonists during and after the 17th century, forming the basis for the modern Hiberno-English of Ireland. The new varieties were notably distinct from the surviving relict dialects.[3][4] As English continued to spread, both the Forth and Bargy dialect and the Fingal dialect died out in the 19th century.

The dialect of Forth and Bargy was the only dialect in Ireland included in Alexander John Ellis's work On Early English Pronunciation Volume V, which was the earliest survey of dialects of English. The phonetics of the dialect were taken from a local reverend.[5]


As in the Dutch language, in southwestern varieties of English and (to a lesser extent) in German, most voiceless fricatives in Forth and Bargy became voiced. The Middle English vowels are well-preserved, having only partially and sporadically undergone the changes associated with the Great Vowel Shift.[6]

One striking characteristic of Forth and Bargy was the fact that stress shifted to the second syllable of words in many instances: morsaale "morsel", hatcheat "hatchet", dineare "dinner", readeare "reader", weddeen "wedding", etc.[7]



Forth and Bargy pronouns were similar to Middle English pronouns.[8]

First PersonSecond PersonThird Person
singularpluralsingularplural used for singular:
polite or formal singular
nom. ichwough, weethouyeyehea, heshoo*itthye; hi
obj. meeousetheeye*yehimheritaam
possessive meeoore, oor, oure, ourtheeyer*yerhisaar
reflexive meezil  
himzil  *herzil   aamzil  


The definite article was at first a or ee, which was later replaced by the.


Forth and Bargy verbs had some conservative characteristics. The second and third person plural endings were sometimes -eth as in Chaucerian English. The past participle retained the Middle English "y" prefix as "ee".[9]


Some nouns retained the -en plural of ME children, such as been 'bees' and tren 'trees'.


The glossary compiled by Jacob Poole provides most of what is known about Forth and Bargy vocabulary. Poole was a farmer and member of the Religious Society of Friends from Growtown in the Parish of Taghmon on the border between the baronies of Bargy and Shelmalier.[10] He collected words and phrases from his tenants and farm labourers between 1800 and his death in 1827.

Although most of its vocabulary is Anglo-Saxon in origin, Forth and Bargy contains many borrowings from Irish and French.

Interrogative words

English Forth and Bargy Scots West Frisian Low German
(Low Saxon)
Dutch German Gothic
who fho wha
fa (Doric Scots)
wa wer/wel/wokeen wie wer ƕas
what fade whit
fit (Doric Scots)
hwat wat wat was ƕat
when fan whan
fan (Doric Scots)
wannear wanneer wanneer wann ƕan
where fidi whaur
faur (Doric Scots)
wêr wo/woneem waar wo ƕar
why farthoo why
fy (Doric Scots)
wêrom worüm waarom warum
which wich whilk hokker welk welk welche ƕileiks
how fowe hou hoe wo/woans hoe wie ƕai


English Forth and Bargy Scots Frisian Low Saxon Dutch German
about abut aboot om/rûn üm/rund om/rond um/rund
above aboo abuin boppe baven boven über
against ayenst agin tsjin gegen tegen gegen
among amang amang ûnder/tusken mang/twüschen onder/tussen unter/zwischen
around arent aroond om üm om/rond um
at/by adh/bee at/by by bi om/bij bei
before avar afore foar vöör voor vor
below/beneath/under aloghe ablo/aneath/unner ûnder (to)neddern/nedder, ünnen/ünner beneden/onder unten/unter
beside/next to besithe/neeshte aside/neist nêst/njonken blangen/neven bezijden/naast/neven neben
between/betwixt/'twixt betweesk/beteesh atween/atweesh tusken twüschen tussen zwischen
for vor for foar för voor für
from vrom/vrem/vreem frae fan van, von, vun van von
in i/ing in yn in in in
out ut/udh oot út ut, uut uit aus
over ower/oer ower oer över over über
through trugh throch troch dörch, dör, döör door durch
upon apan/pa upon/upo' op up, op op auf
with wee wi mei mit met mit

Pronouns and determiners

English Forth and Bargy Scots Frisian Low Saxon Dutch German
all aul aw al all al alle
any aany/aught ony elts enig enig, eender einige
each, every earchee, earch/erich/everich ilk, ilka/ivery eltse elk, jeed/jeedeen elk, ieder jeder
few vew few/a wheen min wenig weining wenig
neither nother naither noch noch noch weder
none, nothing noucht, nodhing nane, nocht nimmen, neat nüms, nix niemand, niets/niks kein(e), nichts
other ooree/oree ither oar anner ander, andere andere
some zim some guon welke sommige einige
this, that dhicke, dhicka this, that dizze, dat disse, dit, düsse, düt; dit, deze, dat dieser, diese, dieses;

Other words

English Forth and Bargy Scots Frisian Low Saxon Dutch German Irish
Wexford Weisforthe Wexford "Wexford" "Wexford" "Wexford"
(lit. "West-voorde")
(lit. "Westfurt")
Loch Garman
sun zin sun sinne Sünn zon Sonne [zɔnə] grian
land loan, lhoan laund lân Land land Land talamh, tír
day dei, die day dei Dag dag Tag
yourself theezil yersel dysels du sülvst/sülven jezelf du selbst [du zɛlpst], du selber tú féin
friend vriene fere freon Fründ vriend Freund cara
the a, ee the de, it de, den, dat de, het der, die, das, des, dem, den an, na
thing dhing hing ting Ding ding Ding rud, ní
go ee-go gae/gang/gan gean gaan gaan gehen dul (go), imeacht (go away), gabháil (go along)
fear vear fear frees Forcht, Bang, Angst vrees, angst Furcht, Angst eagla
old yola, yole auld âld oold, oll- oud alt sean, seanda, aosta

Cardinal numbers

Forth and BargyDorset dialectEnglishGermanDutch
1 oanoneoneeinseen
2 twy, tywe, twee, twine, twynetwotwozweitwee
3 dhreedreethreedreidrie
4 vour, vourevowerfourviervier
5 veevevivefivefünfvijf
6 zeesezixsixsechszes
7 zevenzevensevensiebenzeven
8 ayghtaïghteightachtacht
9 neenninenineneunnegen
10 dhententenzehntien
20 dwantytwentyzwanzigtwintig
30 dhirteethirtydreißigdertig
100 hunderth, hundreth, hindrethhundredhunderthonderd

Modern South Wexford English

Diarmaid Ó Muirithe travelled to South Wexford in 1978 to study the English spoken there.[11] His informants ranged in age between 40 and 90. Among the long list of words still known or in use at that time are the following:

  • Amain: ‘going on amain’ = getting on well
  • Bolsker: an unfriendly person
  • Chy: a little
  • Drazed: threadbare
  • Fash: confusion, in a fash
  • Keek: to peep
  • Saak: to sunbathe, to relax in front of the fire
  • Quare: very, extremely
  • Wor: seaweed

Amain is a Norman word which means 'of easy use'


A Forth and Bargy song

The following is a Forth and Bargy song, with a rough translation into English.

Address to Lord Lieutenant in 1836

Congratulatory address in the dialect of Forth and Bargy, presented to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland the Earl of Mulgrave Constantine Henry Phipps on his visit to Wexford in 1836 taken from the Wexford Independent newspaper of 15 February 1860. The paper's editor Mr Edmund Hore writes:

The most remarkable fact, in reality, in connexion with the address is this. In all probability it was the first time regal or vice-regal ears were required to listen to word of such a dialect; an it is even still more probable that a like event will never happen again; for if the use of this old tongue dies out as fast for the next five-and-twenty years as it has for the same bygone period, it will be utterly extinct and forgotten before the present century shall have closed.

In order for a person not acquainted with the pronunciation of the dialect to form anything like an idea of it, it is first necessary to speak slowly, and remember that the letter a has invariably the same sound, like a in “father”. Double ee sounds like e in “me”, and most words of two syllables the long accent is placed on the last. To follow the English pronunciation completely deprives the dialect of its peculiarities.

To’s Excellencie Constantine Harrie Phipps, y’ Earle Mulgrave, Lord Lieutenant-General and General Governor of Ireland. Ye soumissive Spakeen o’ouz Dwelleres o’ Baronie Forthe, Weisforthe.

MAI’T BE PLEASANT TO TH’ECCELLENCIE, – Wee, Vassalès o’ ‘His Most Gracious majesty’, Wilyame ee Vourthe, an, az wee verilie chote, na coshe and loyale dwellerès na Baronie Forthe, crave na dicke luckie acte t’uck neicher th’ Eccellencie, an na plaine garbe o’ oure yola talke, wi vengem o’ core t’gie ours zense o’ y gradès whilke be ee-dighte wi yer name; and whilke we canna zei, albeit o’ ‘Governere’, ‘Statesman’, an alike. Yn ercha and aul o’ while yt beeth wi gleezom o’ core th’ oure eyen dwytheth apan ye Vigere o’dicke Zouvereine, Wilyame ee Vourthe, unnere fose fatherlie zwae oure diaez be ee-spant, az avare ye trad dicke londe yer name waz ee-kent var ee vriene o’ livertie, an He fo brake ye neckares o’ zlaves. Mang ourzels – var wee dwytheth an Irelonde az ure genreale haim – y’ast, bie ractzom o’honde, ee-delt t’ouz ye laas ee-mate var ercha vassale, ne’er dwythen na dicke waie nar dicka. Wee dwyth ye ane fose dais be gien var ee guidevare o’ye londe ye zwae, – t’avance pace an livertie, an, wi’oute vlynch, ee garde o’ generale reights an poplare vartue. Ye pace – yea, we mai zei, ye vast pace whilke bee ee-stent owr ye londe zince th’ast ee-cam, proo’th, y’at wee alane needeth ye giftes o’generale rights, az be displayth bie ee factes o’thie goveremente. Ye state na dicke daie o’ye londe, na whilke be nar fash nar moile, albeit ‘constitutional agitation’, ye wake o’hopes ee-blighte, stampe na yer zwae be rare an lightzom. Yer name var zetch avancet avare ye, e’en a dicke var hye, arent whilke ye brine o’zea an dye craggès o’noghanes cazed nae balke. Na oure gladès ana whilke we dellt wi’ mattoke, an zing t’oure caulès wi plou, wee hert ee zough o’ye colure o’ pace na name o’ Mulgrave. Wi Irishmen ower generale houpes be ee-boud – az Irishmen, an az dwellerès na cosh an loyale o’ Baronie Forthe, w’oul daie an ercha daie, our meines an oure gurles, praie var long an happie zins, shorne o’lournagh an ee-vilt wi benisons, an yersel and oure gude Zovereine, till ee zin o’oure daies be var aye be ee-go to’glade.

Standard English Translation

To his Excellency, Constantine Henry Phipps, the Earl of Mulgrave, Lord Lieutenant-General, and General Governor of Ireland. The humble Address of the Inhabitants of the Barony of Forth, Wexford.

MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY – We, the subjects of his Most Gracious Majesty, William IV, and, as we verily believe, both faithful and loyal inhabitants of the Barony of Forth, beg leave at this favourable opportunity to approach your Excellency, and in the simple dress of our old dialect to pour forth from the strength (or fulness) of our hearts, our sense (or admiration) of the qualities which characterise your name, and for which we have no words but of ‘Governor’, ‘Statesman’, etc. In each and every condition it is with joy of heart that our eyes rest upon the representative of the Sovereign, William IV, under whose paternal rule our days are spent; for before your foot pressed the soil, your name was known to us as the friend of liberty, and he who broke the fetters of the slave. Unto ourselves – for we look on Ireland to be our common country – you have with impartial hand ministered the laws made for every subject, without regard to this party or that. We behold in you one whose days are devoted to the welfare of the land you govern, to promote peace and liberty – the uncompromising guardian of the common right and public virtue. The peace – yes, we may say the profound peace – which overspreads the land since your arrival, proves that we alone stood in need of the enjoyment of common privileges, as is demonstrated by the results of your government. The condition, this day, of the country, in which is neither tumult nor disorder, but that constitutional agitation, the consequence of disappointed hopes, confirms your rule to be rare and enlightened. Your fame for such came before you even into this retired spot, to which neither the waters of the sea below nor the mountains above caused any impediment. In our valleys, where we were digging with the spade, or as we whistled to our horses in the plough, we heard the distant sound of the wings of the dove of peace, in the word Mulgrave. With Irishmen our common hopes are inseparably bound up – as Irishmen, and as inhabitants, faithful and loyal, of the Barony Forth, we will daily and every day, our wives and our children, implore long and happy days, free from melancholy and full of blessings, for yourself and our good Sovereign, until the sun of our lives be gone down the dark valley (of death).

"The maiden of Rosslare"

This following is a Yola poem containing correct spelling and accents from an original document;

A guide for pronunciation

  • ch is pronounced as tch, example ich (pronounced itch) ([tʃ])
  • gh - a guttural sound the same as the gh in lough ([ɣ])
  • eou (jow/yow)
  • oo (o as in boot) ([uː])
  • ee (e as in bee) ([iː])
  • aa (as in man but longer) ([aː])
  • a is in "cat" ([a]),
  • á as in "father" ([ɑ])
  • e as in "let" ([ɛ]),
  • é as in "may" ([e]),
  • i as in "bit" ([ɪ]),
  • í (ee) as in "bee" ([i]),
  • o as in "spot" ([ɔ]),
  • ó as in "boat" ([o]),
  • u as in "boot", but shorter ([u]),
  • ú as in "boot" ([u]),
  • y as a mix between the i in spin and the ee in bee (possibly [ʏ]),
  • ý an oiy sound not in English ([ɑi]).
  • Speak slowly to find correct pronunciation, e's after words are pronounced, but are only short (examples :ross-laar-e (rosslaaré), moidh-e (mýdhe))

See also


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Yola". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Hickey, Raymond (2005). Dublin English: Evolution and Change. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 238. ISBN 90-272-4895-8.
  3. Hickey, Raymond (2005). Dublin English: Evolution and Change. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 196–198. ISBN 90-272-4895-8.
  4. Hickey, Raymond (2002). A Source Book for Irish English. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 28–29. ISBN 9027237530.
  5. page 67 of On Early English Pronunciation, Part V. The existing phonology of English dialects compared with that of West Saxon speech, A.J. Ellis, Truebner & Co, London, 1889
  6. Hickey, R. (1988). A lost Middle English dialect. Historical Dialectology: Regional and Social, 37, 235.
  7. O'Rahilly, T. F (1932). "The Accent in the English of South-east Wexford". Irish Dialects Past and Present. Dublin: Browne and Nolan. pp. 94–98. Reprinted 1972 by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, ISBN 0-901282-55-3.
  8. William Barnes, Jacob Poole: A Glossary, With some Pieces of Verse, of the Old Dialect of the English Colony in the Baronies of Forth and Bargy, County of Wexford, Ireland. Formerly collected By Jacob Poole: And now edited, with some Introductory Observations, Additions from various sources, and Notes, By William Barnes. London, 1867
    • ich is mentioned on p. 133
    • ich, wough, ouse, hea, shoo, thye, aam; oor, yer (= your, but singular or plural?), aar (= there/their); meezil, theezil, himzil are in the glossary
    • mee (possessive), thee (personal and possessive), ouse, oor & oore & our (possessive), he, shoo, it (objective), hi, aar (possessive), theezil (reflexive), aamzil (reflexive) occur in A Yola Zong (p. 84-92), mee (possessive), wough, ye (pl. nom.), our (possessive), hea, his (possessive), aar (possessive) in The Wedden o Ballymore (p. 93-98), ich, her in The Bride's Portion (p. 102f.), ich, mee (personal and possessive), ye (pl. nom.), hea & he, his (possessive), thye, aar (possessive) in Casteale Cudde's Lamentations (p. 102-105), hea, him, his (possessive), shoo, aam, aar (possessive) in a song recited by Tobias Butler (p. 108f.), wee, oure (possessive), ye (pl. for sg. obj.), yer (possessive, pl. for sg.), ourzels (reflexive), yersel (reflexive, pl. for sg.) in To's Excellencie Constantine Harrie Phipps (p. 114-117)
  9. Poole 1867, p.133.
  10. Jacob Poole of Growtown.
  11. Dolan, T. P.; D. Ó Muirithe (1996). The Dialect of Forth and Bargy Co. Wexford, Ireland. Four Courts Press. ISBN 1-85182-200-3.


  • Dolan, T. P.; D. Ó Muirithe (1996). The Dialect of Forth and Bargy Co. Wexford, Ireland. Four Courts Press. ISBN 1-85182-200-3.
  • Hickey, Raymond (2005). Dublin English: Evolution and Change. John Benjamins Publishing. ISBN 90-272-4895-8.
  • Hickey, Raymond (2002). A Source Book for Irish English (PDF). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 28–29. ISBN 90-272-3753-0. ISBN 1-58811-209-8 (US)
  • Ó Muirithe, Diarmaid (1977). "The Anglo-Norman and their English Dialect of South-East Wexford". The English Language in Ireland. Mercier Press. ISBN 0853424527.
  • O'Rahilly, T. F (1932). "The Accent in the English of South-east Wexford". Irish Dialects Past and Present. Dublin: Browne and Nolan. pp. 94–98.
  • Sullivan, Aidan (2018). Yola and the Yoles: Ireland's Living Old English Dialect. ISBN 978-1983196485.
  • Poole's Glossary (1867) – Ed. Rev. William Barnes (Editorial 'Observations')
  • Poole's Glossary (1979) – Ed. Dr. D. O'Muirithe & T.P. Dolan (Corrected Etymologies)
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