The Irish in Argentina: Irish English transported

Carolina P. Amador-Moreno

Universidad de Extremadura, Spain


The legacy of Irish English (IrE) in Newfoundland, Australia, the United States and the Caribbean has been dealt with in various studies since the ‘80s (Clarke 1986, 1997, Bailey 1982, Rickford 1986, Montgomery and Kirk 1996, Engel and Ritz 2000, etc). Hickey’s volume (2004) highlights the interest that has arisen in the transportation of different varieties of English and explores the role of British dialects in both the genesis and subsequent history of postcolonial Englishes. However, an important omission in the context of IrE so far has been the Latin-American scene.

During the nineteenth century, 40-45,000 persons born in Ireland emigrated to Argentina. Most of them settled in the Argentine pampas and worked primarily as shepherds and sheep-farmers. They started families and became the largest Irish community in the Spanish-speaking world (Murray 2004). Their descendants’ use of English still displays Irish English features.

My paper will analyse the survival of IrE in oral and written narratives by the Irish-Argentines. It will examine phonological, syntactic and lexical features of IrE in a set of documents produced by Radio Telefís Éireann between 1987 and 1997, as well as in the novels of Irish-Argentine writers such as Kathleen Nevin and William Bulfin. This study will reflect upon the transportation and preservation of dialectal features through generations of Irish English speakers whose contact with Ireland was, in many cases, non existant. The paper will explore the linguistic consequences of emigration and language contact in a Spanish speaking context.


Bailey, Ch.-J. N. (1982) Irish English and Caribbean Black English: Another Joinder.

American Speech, Vol. 57, No. 3 (Autumn, 1982), pp. 237-239

Clarke, S. (1986) Sociolinguistic Patterning in a New World Dialect of Hiberno-English: The Speech of St. John’s Newfoundland. In Harris J., D. Little and D. Singleton (eds) Perspectives on the English Language in Ireland, Dublin: Trinity College Dublin, pp. 67-81.

Engel D. M.; Ritz M-E. A. (2000) The Use of the Present Perfect in Australian English

Australian Journal of Linguistics, Volume 20, Number 2, 1 October 2000 , pp. 119-140.

Hickey, R (2004) Legacies of Colonial English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Montgomery, M. and J. M. Kirk. 1996. The Origin of the Verb be in American Black English: Irish or English or What? Belfast Working Papers in Language and Linguistics 11: 308-33.

Murray, E. (2004) Devenir irlandés: Narrativas íntimas de la emigración irlandesa a la Argentina, 1844-1912. Buenos Aires: Eudeba.

Rickford, J. R. (1986) Social Contact and Linguistic Diffusion: Hiberno-English and New World Black English. Language, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Jun., 1986), pp. 245-289.

Troy, J. (1992). "Der Mary this is fine country is there is in the wourld": Irish English and Irish in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Australia. In T. Dutton, M. Ross and D. Tryon (Eds.), The Language Game. Papers in Memory of Donald C. Laycock (pp. 459-477). Pacific Linguistics C-110.

Session: Paper session
Narratives 3
Friday, April 4, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 13