Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 November 2008
This article interrogates the line taken in studies of Northern Ireland English that Catholic/Protestant ethnicity is sociolinguistically irrelevant. Using data from Derry/Londonderry English, gathered with the objective of answering the question of whether ethnicity matters in sociolinguistic terms, it examines the relative importance of a set of social factors for language variation. The strength of these factors (ethnicity, class, sex, and age) varies, but where change is occurring, ethnicity has an effect on the adoption of innovations. In particular, changes originating in the (predominantly Protestant) east of Northern Ireland tend to be adopted primarily by Protestants, whereas Catholics tend to be more conservative. This fits well with a general pattern of diffusion of change suggested by a reading of the sociolinguistic literature from the region.