The Forth And Bargy Dialect - Yola

A lost dialect of Wexford


Forth and Bargy Dialect is an extinct dialect that was once spoken in the two southern baronies of County Wexford, namely Forth and Bargy. It is a dialect of Middle English that was brought over from Britain to Ireland in May 1169 by Anglo-Norman mercenaries who landed in Ireland at the request of Diarmaid mac Murchada (Dermot MacMurragh), the deposed King of Leinster, who sought their help in regaining his kingship.

One must not consider Yola as being some strange or exotic dialect: indeed, during the late Medieval period, anyone living in Ireland who spoke English, spoke some form of what we would recognise as Yola. The dialect that survived for so long (i.e. Yola) was the remnants of that Middle English that was spoken in Ireland during the Middle Ages. Yola acquired a substantial number of Irish words into its lexicon. Thus, the lexicon was made up of words of Middle English, Norman French, and Irish origin. However, the precise characteristic of Yola is difficult to determine due to lack of written literature.

As Middle English elsewhere in Ireland developed into Modern English, Yola does not seem to have evolved much. It was traditionally believed that the dialect did not undergo the so-called Great Vowel Shift that English did, however there is evidence that it did affect Yola.

Yola was spoken by the poorer, lower classes of Forth and Bargy. It is likely that Yola began to die out sometime in the 18th century. With the younger generations making the switch to Modern English, the fate of Yola was sealed. It was sometime in the 19th century that Yola died out as a spoken dialect, however you could still hear words and phrases of it being spoken well into 20th century. Indeed, even today one might hear members of the older generation use a word of Yola, although on a much rarer occasion.

It was in the early 19th century that Jacob Poole, a quaker, collected the largest list of Yola words, phrases, and songs/poems. Others had done the same before him, but Poole’s was the most substantial.

Examples of words which could still be heard in the 20th century (still today) include vanged, sprained; haachin, refusing; keekin, peeping; a chay, a little, to name but a few.