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The Northern Subject Rule in Ulster: How Scots, how English?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 November 2003

Kevin McCafferty
Affiliation:
University of Tromsø

Abstract

In diffusionist accounts of the Northern Subject Rule (NSR), this subject–verb concord system spread from Scotland via Ulster to North America and elsewhere. Thus, the NSR in Mid-Ulster English dialects of districts originally settled from England is attributed to diffusion from Ulster-Scots. But the NSR was also a feature of dialects of the North and North Midlands, the regions that contributed most of the English settlers to the Ulster Plantation. Since English and Scottish settlement patterns established in the seventeenth century have been reflected in Ulster dialect boundaries since then, the founder principle provides an alternative account of the persistence of the NSR in Northern Irish English. Usage in nineteenth-century emigrant letters indicates that the NSR was as strong in English-influenced dialects of Mid-Ulster as in Ulster-Scots and suggests that the NSR in Ulster may be a direct import from England as well as Scotland.The author thanks Anniken Telnes Iversen, Toril Swan, and Hilde Sollid for reading and commenting on various drafts of this article; Herbert Schendl, Graham Shorrocks, and Dieter Stein for providing references, questions, and answers; and Laura Wright and Lukas Pietsch for offering both kinds of help as well as furnishing copies of forthcoming work that proved interesting and useful. Thanks also to Jack Chambers for copies of his papers. I am also grateful to the anonymous referees for LVC. Their comments, objections, and suggestions have been accommodated as far as possible and the responses to them have, I hope, improved the result. In the usual way, responsibility for any remaining errors lies with me.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2003 Cambridge University Press

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