• Subscribe to our newsletter

    Email address

  • Archives

  • Tags

  • Newswatch Categories

  • « | Main | »

    Emigration, accent and ‘oddness’

    By Noreen Bowden | January 4, 2011

    A sentence in a recent profile of an Irish poet living in New York left me pondering the subtle ways in which notions of Irishness among emigrants can be contested. Eileen Battersby wrote in the Irish Times about Connie Roberts, who grew up in an orphanage in Westmeath and moved to America 28 years ago. Battersby includes this sentence in her profile:

    Roberts is quick, lively company, has a good sense of humour and that odd, hybrid accent Irish people acquire when they settle in New York.

    What makes the New York/Irish blend “odd”? Admittedly, I’m biased: I grew up among people who spoke with that mellifluous accent, so to me it sounds like home. But it’s highly parochial to suggest that American-influenced hybrid accents – which perhaps tens of thousands of Irish-born people possess – are any odder than the peculiar regional vocal patterns of, say, South Dublin. New York is just one of the many regional influences on the speech of the Irish-born in Ireland and around the world. And with so many Irish-born people living in New York, it’s hardly an uncommon one. For a substantial proportion of the Irish Nation, hybridity is the norm.

    But the tendency to use accent as an often exclusive signifier of  Irish identity  is one that has been documented by academics. A few examples:

    Topics: Latest News | Comments Off on Emigration, accent and ‘oddness’

    Comments are closed.