OP Tipping made a post on Wordorigins.org about the Yola language, “an extinct West Germanic language formerly spoken in Ireland.” As I wrote in the thread there, I was going to say I’d never heard of it either until I saw the footnote citing T. F. O’Rahilly, “The Accent in the English of South-east Wexford,” Irish Dialects Past and Present (Dublin: Browne and Nolan, 1932), pp. 94–98:

As it happens, I bought that book in 1975 in Dublin, where I was studying Irish at the Institute for Advanced Studies, so I pulled my copy off the shelf and found the article, which I’d never read, presumably because it was about English rather than Irish. It’s very interesting indeed; he writes about the Wexford dialect because it shows the same generalized end-stress (e.g., dineare [di-NAIR] ‘dinner,’ shilleen ‘shilling’) that you get in the southern dialects of Irish (e.g., dinneur [di-NAIR] ‘dinner,’ sicín ‘chicken’):

In either case its starting point was a nucleus of end-stressed words of Norman French origin. In Southern Irish it was doubtless in the mouths of bilingual (or trilingual) speakers of Anglo-Norman descent that the stress was first advanced in Irish words of native, or quasi-native, origin. The similar phenomenon which occurred in the English of S. Wexford was later in date, and resulted from “ the daily intercourse of the English and Irish inhabitants ” (to borrow a phrase of Stanyhurst’s), when the progress of Irish as a spoken language brought it more and more into contact with a population group which spoke a somewhat archaic variety of English. Already familiar with end-stressed words from their own dialect, these Wexford English-speakers were so influenced by the Irish spoken in their neighbourhood, and to some extent acquired by themselves, that they greatly extended the use of long stressed endings, especially by imitating Irish –ér (-eur) and –ín.

He has a great quote from Stanyhurst (1577):

In our days they have so acquainted themselves with the Irish as they have made a mingle-mangle or gallamaulfrey of both the languages, and have in such medley or checkerwise so crabbedly jumbled both togyther as commonly the inhabitants of the meaner sort speak neyther good English nor good Irishe.

The Wikipedia article has some long passages in the dialect; “A Yola Song” begins “Fade teil thee zo lournagh, co Joane, zo knaggee?”

Addendum. An RTÉ Radio 1 Documentary on One is called “Yola – Lost for Words“:

The search for a lost language called Yola takes Shane Dunphy from a sunken island in Wexford harbour to the heart of rural Dorset and the ancient pathways of Cornwall.

‘Yola: Lost for Words’ tells the story of Shane, a Wexford native, and his fascination with Yola, a lost dialect which was spoken in the isolated baronies of Forth and Bargy, arriving with the very first Norman landings, and finally disappearing, literally, in a freak storm on the Wexford coast in 1922.

Shane’s journey to discover if any last speakers of this strange tongue still exist takes him from a sunken island in Wexford bay to ancient villages in Dorset. He discusses pagan rituals with witches in Cornwall and witnesses the archaic customs of Mumming in Baldwinstown, deep in the heart of what was once Yola country.

Thanks, Trevor!


  1. In the rather different Ireland of Ill Bethisad, which was colonized mostly by the Romano-Britons rather than the English, Yola is still hanging on, having little or no competition from standard English:
    Gaelic (Gaeilg) is understood by all the population, but is not the only language spoken.
    In Osraighe and An Déise, there are populations that speak an highly archaic dialect of English known as Yola. Under threat up until the 1970s, a movement to preserve the language began to gather momentum in the 1960s. Osraighe also has a small but strong Kerno-speaking community.
    In Laighean, which has a large number of people of Kemrese descent, Brithenig is widely spoken. Indeed, the Kemrese population there is so great that it was one of the factors that lead to the rise of federalism during the latter part of the Civil War. The territory also has numbers of Kerno and Manoeg speakers.
    Uladh an Oirthir has a substantial Breathanach-speaking population.
    Under the articles of Bunreachd na hÉireann, the languages with recognition as official languages are Gaeilg, Breathanach and Brithenig. Yola and Manoeg are recognised as protected languages.

  2. John, I think you intended to link “rather different Ireland of Ill Bethisad” to some other page – it now points only to this comment page.

  3. mollymooly says

    Ireland#Languages at the Ill Bethisad Wiki.

  4. There is mention at that site of “strip colour”, something having to do with sports. After searching around the net, I haven’t been able to find out what exactly this “strip” is, of a Scottish football team for instance. I thought it might be a shawl, but there is an “away strip” and a “home strip”. As far as I know – where is no far, since I am ignorant of sports – in Germany there is no “away shawl” and “home shawl”.

  5. I haven’t been able to find out what exactly this “strip” is
    The “strip” is the whole outfit, considered as distinguishing the team. The “home strip” is the first choice of kit, worn when playing at home; the “away strip” is what is worn when playing away from home if the “home strip” is insufficiently distinctive relative to the team at whose ground you are playing or just for the sake of variety (and revenue generation).

  6. A minor nitpick: Munster Irish doesn’t have generalized final stress. It does have a weight-sensitive stress system, unlike other dialects where stress is initial and (especially in Ulster) long vowels outside initial syllables have been shortened (though, unlike many short vowels, have not reduced to schwa). The Munster Irish stress system is interesting: it is _mostly_ unremarkable (the basic rule is “stress the leftmost heavy syllable within a three-syllable window, otherwise stress the initial syllable”, which is fine typologically), but if a word starts with two heavy syllables, stress falls on the second of them (but not in heavy-heavy sequences that do not start a word).
    Metrical typology is hard: the stress system space is so dominated by a few common patterns that many crucial counterexamples crop up in very few languages (e.g. some time ago ternary rhythm was assumed not to exist, until it was found; initial extrametricality was assumed not to exist until Kashaya was found to have it; quantity-insensitive iambs were assumed not to exist until they were found very recently…). Munster Irish stress is one of those weird patterns too.

  7. Eimear Ní Mhéalóid says

    Yola is also often referred to as the dialect of Forth and Bargy. Diarmaid Ó Muirithe often refers to it in his newspaper columns and he is one of the co-authors of a book on it:

  8. David Marjanović says

    Wikipedia also says Yola didn’t participate in the Great Vowel Shift.

    Metrical typology is hard: the stress system space is so dominated by a few common patterns that many crucial counterexamples crop up in very few languages (e.g. some time ago ternary rhythm was assumed not to exist, until it was found; initial extrametricality was assumed not to exist until Kashaya was found to have it; quantity-insensitive iambs were assumed not to exist until they were found very recently…). Munster Irish stress is one of those weird patterns too.

    Have you got sources or examples available?

  9. Further to Ian Preston’s definition of ‘strip’, in Victoria B. C. in the fifties, in junior high school we wore ‘gym strip’.

  10. Wedding stamps says

    I would love to hear that language spoken. “Fade teil thee zo lournagh, co Joane, zo knaggee?” Almost seem like old middle english or something

  11. Have you got sources or examples available?

    For my metrical examples or for Munster Irish? For Munster Irish, any dialect description will do, they’re similar enough in this respect. The most detailed that I know is Diarmuid Ó Sé’s Gaeilge Chorca Dhuibhne (Dublin, 2000), but you find the same pattern, for instance, in West Muskerry (for which there is Brian Ó Cuív’s study from 1944, The Irish of West Muskerry: a phonetic study). For a concise description, see also Diarmuid Ó Sé’s paper Word stress in Munster Irish (Éigse vol. 36, 2008). For online examples, I’d send you to Antony Green’s dissertation on the prosodic structure of the Goidelic languages, but it’s on ROA, which is down, so I am forced to humbly suggest a handout of mine, where there is a set of examples on p. 2.
    For my metrical examples:
    * For ternary stress, there’s Curt Rice’s thesis, or his chapter in the new Blackwell Companion to Phonology
    * For initial extrametricality in Kashaya, see Gene Buckley’s work, again starting from his thesis (published 1994 as Theoretical aspects of Kashaya morphology and phonology); there’s lots of good stuff on his webpage
    * For QI iambs, see this paper by Daniel Altshuler (a longer and free version is/was on ROA… but see above)

  12. Bathrobe says

    A nice broadcast, but while sitting there counting to ten in Welsh and Irish is a comforting reminder of their common Celticness, it doesn’t have much to do with the Yoles.

  13. caffeind says

    yola.com was founded in Ireland, although the FAQ states it was named after a Hindi word.

  14. David Marjanović says

    For my metrical examples:

    Thanks, I’ll download them ASAP.

  15. Song in Yola at YouTube. The lyrics are provided behind the “show more”, and some of the comments are actually sensible (which is pretty good for YouTube).

  16. January First-of-May says

    Just like the link you posted In the comment from June 30, 2011, this one doesn’t go anywhere but to this very thread.

  17. David Marjanović says

    Thanks, I’ll download them ASAP.

    Oh dear. I don’t think I ever did. And now I don’t even have time to check that.

  18. Song in Yola, second attempt to post.

  19. Interesting — the longer I listened, the more I understood. (N.b.: The song takes turns with a mini-lecture on Yola and its history.)

  20. Trevor sent me the lyrics to JC’s Yola song:

    Yerstey w’had a baree, gist ing oor hoane,
    Aar gentrize ware bibbern, aamzil cou no stoane.
    Yith Muzleare had ba hole, t’was mee Tommeen,
    At by mizluck was ee-pit t’drive in.

    Joud an moud vrem earchee ete was ee Lough.
    Zitch vaperreen, an shimmereen, fan ee-daff ee aar scoth!
    Zitch blakeen, an blayeen, fan ee ball was ee-drowe!
    Chote well aar aim was t’yie ouz n’eer a blowe.

  21. You might be interested to read, recently published by Amazon, Yola and the Yoles, by Aidan Sullivan.
    This book points out that Yola is not as quite dead as has been widely reported.In April 2018,a poem part written in Yola, won a Hennessy Literary Award in Dublin. That poem, titled Yola, was written by Liam O Neill, who now lives in Galway, Ireland. It was published in the Ticket magazine, an insert mag into the Saturday print edition of the Irish Times newspaper.
    O Neill, in his Yola poem, outlines how some Yola was spoken in the Barony of Forth area of Wexford up into the 1970 s. His grandfather an old man in the 1970 s taught him enough Yola to allow him to write the poem.
    Up until now we were led to believe that Yola had died out about 100 years earlier in the 1870 s. Other reports claim that some spoken Yola continued in a remote east coast Forth village, Rosslare Fort, up into the late 1920 s when that village was abandoned and fell into the sea during wild storms.
    The publication of Neills poem seems to indicate some is about

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