The Gaelic dialect of Urris, Inishowen, Co. Donegal

  • Emrys Evans

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


While I was engaged in fieldwork in Fanad during the summer of I960, Professor Robert J. Gregg of the University of British Columbia, who was at that time in the area collecting material for his survey of the Scotch-Irish dialects of Ulster, invited me to accompany him on a working-trip to Inishowen. His itinerary took us as far as the district of Urris in the extreme northwest comer of the peninsula. The isolated nature of the area suggested the possible existence of a small Irish-speaking community and, recalling Professor Heinrich Wagner's observations in his dialect atlas (p.XIV, Pt 68), we set out to locate any remining speakers.

Initial advances proved disappointing, but after numerous false leads a systematic search finally brought us to six persons of advanced years who admitted, albeit somewhat reluctantly, to having some knowledge of Irish. The extent of this knowledge varied considerably, ranging from a few words, phrases, and the numerals to an ability to hold a conversation and to tell a few short stories.

During this brief visit I was able to record a certain amount of material with the aid of a portable tape-recorder which Professor Gregg very kindly permitted me to use. But in view of the paucity of our linguistic information on the area, an extremely interesting transition zone between Donegal Irish and East Ulster Irish (see Wagner, loc. cit.), I determined to return to the district for a short period to carry out a systematic examination of these last-remaining speakers of Inishowen Irish. Later that summer I returned to Urris and spent between two to three weeks collecting as much material as it was possible to obtain.

Because of the informants' lack of confidence in their knowledge of the language and because of their obvious confusion when confronted with difficult questions it was considered inadvisable to use normal questionnaire techniques. Rather, their interest in some familiar aspect of their daily lives was engaged - reminiscing was a particularly profitable angle - and then they were given their heads to talk until their interest waned. This method has placed its obvious limitations on the extent and nature of the material obtained.

The following study aims to give a synchronic phonetic description of the dialect of Urris as it is represented in this material in the belief that it will supply yet another detail to the slowly emerging picture of the Ulster dialects.
Date of Award1965
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorHeinrich Wagner (Supervisor)

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