Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 January 2010
English was established in the north of Ireland by the British colonisation of Ulster from the late sixteenth century onwards. This ‘Plantation’ brought large numbers of settlers from Great Britain – especially central and southern Scotland and the north, north-west Midlands and south-west of England – but never achieved its goal of replacing the Irish with a British population. This left Ulster with three major vernacular language varieties, Irish Gaelic, Scots and English, with Scottish Gaelic in some areas. Northern Irish English is the outcome of contact between these. Most of its phonology, syntax, morphology and lexicon are shared with other varieties of English, particularly Southern Irish English, but like Southern Irish English, Northern Irish English retains Early Modern English features now defunct or marginal in Great Britain. There is a broad distinction between the more English-influenced dialects of Mid and South Ulster and the more Scottish varieties of eastern and northern coastal areas, but the predominance of Scottish settlers in the Plantation era is seen in Scots influence beyond the core Ulster Scots dialect areas. And the effects of the Gaelic substrate can still be traced, especially where Irish remains an everyday vernacular or has gone out of use relatively recently.
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