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Thread: Yola: an Extinct West Germanic Language Formerly Spoken in Ireland

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    Yola: an Extinct West Germanic Language Formerly Spoken in Ireland

    Yola is an extinct West Germanic language formerly spoken in Ireland.A branch of Middle English, it evolved separately among the English (known as the Old English) who followed the Norman barons Strongbow and Robert Fitzstephen to eastern Ireland in 1169.

    The dialect, which in the period before its extinction was known as "Yola", meaning "old", evolved separately from the mainstream of English. Perhaps as a result of the geographic isolation and predominately rural character of the communities where it was spoken, Yola seems to have changed little down the centuries from when it first arrived in Ireland, apart from assimilating many Irish words. By the early 19th century, it was distinctly different from English spoken elsewhere.

    The language continued to be spoken in south County Wexford until the early to mid-19th century when it was gradually replaced with modern Hiberno-English. By the mid 19th century, the language was only spoken in remote parts of Forth, County Wexford. It was succumbing to the same set of social, political and economic processes and policies which were extinguishing the Irish language and by the end of that century little remained of its unique linguistic heritage.


    Yola was a descendant of Middle English closely related to the dialects of South West England (Devon and Somerset) and South Pembrokeshire.
    The urban settlements of Wexford and Dublin were both founded by the Vikings. It is possible that the English which flourished there was influenced by the Norse speech of the Vikings, although no evidence exists to support this theory.

    There is also little evidence to support the theory of a link to Dutch or Flemish.

    The now-extinct language of north County Dublin,Fingalian, has its origins around the same time and is believed to have been very similar.

    -Modern South Wexford English

    Diarmaid Ó Muirithe travelled to South Wexford in 1978 to study the English spoken there (Ó Muirithe 1997). His informants ranged in age between 40 and 90. Among the long list of words still known or in use at that time are the following:
    Amain: ‘Going on amain’ = getting on well
    Bolsker: an unfriendly person
    Chy: a little
    Drazed: threadbare
    Fash: confusion, in a fash
    Keek: to peep
    Saak: to sunbathe, to relax in front of the fire


    A Yola Song

    Fade teil thee zo lournagh, co Joane, zo knaggee?
    Th' weithest all curcagh, wafur, an cornee.
    Lidge w'ouse an a milagh, tis gaay an louthee:
    Huck nigher; y'art scuddeen; fartoo zo hachee?
    Well, gosp, c'hull be zeid; mot thee fartoo, an fade;
    Ha deight ouse var gabble, tell ee zin go t'glade.
    Ch'am a stouk, an a donel; wou'll leigh out ee dey.
    Th' valler w'speen here, th' lass ee chourch-hey.
    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-daf 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.
    Mot w'all aar boust, hi soon was ee-teight
    At aar errone was var ameing 'ar 'ngish ee-height.
    Zitch vezzeen, tarvizzeen, 'tell than w'ne'er zey.
    Nore zichel ne'er well, nowe, nore ne'er mey.
    (There are nine more verses).

    Rough translation into Modern English

    An Old Song

    What ails you so melancholy, quoth John, so cross?
    You seem all snappish, uneasy, and fretful.
    Lie with us on the clover, 'tis fair and sheltered:
    Come nearer; you're rubbing your back; why so ill tempered?
    Well, gossip, it shall be told; you ask me what ails me, and for what;
    You have put us in talk, till the sun goes to set.
    I am a fool and a dunce; we'll idle out the day.
    The more we spend here, the less in the churchyard.
    Yesterday we had a goal just in our hand.
    Their gentry were quaking, themselves could not stand.
    If Good-for-little had been buried, it had been my Tommy,
    Who by misluck was placed to drive in.
    Throngs and crowds from each quarter were at the Lough;
    Such vapouring and glittering when stript in their shirts!
    Such bawling and shouting, when the ball was thrown!
    I saw their intent was to give us ne'er a stroke.
    But with all their bravado they were soon taught
    That their errand was aiming to bring anguish upon them
    Such driving, and struggling, 'till then we ne'er saw
    Nor such never will, no, nor never may.

    -Cardinal numbers in Yola


    -Address to Lord Lieutenant in 1836

    Congratulatory address in the dialect of Forth and Bargy, presented to Earl Musgrave,Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on his visit to Wexford in 1836 taken from the Wexford Independent newspaper of 15 February 1860. The paper’s editor Mr Edmund Hore writes:

    -The most remarkable fact, in reality, in connexion with the address is this. In all probability it was the first time regal or vice-regal ears were required to listen to word of such a dialect; an it is even still more probable that a like event will never happen again; for if the use of this old tongue dies out as fast for the next five-and-twenty years as it has for the same bygone period, it will be utterly extinct and forgotten before the present century shall have closed.

    In order for a person not acquainted with the pronunciation of the dialect to form anything like an idea of it, it is first necessary to speak slowly, and remember that the letter a has invariably the same sound, like a in “father”. Double ee sounds like e in “me”, and most words of two syllables the long accent is placed on the last. To follow the English pronunciation completely deprives the dialect of its peculiarities

    To’s Excellencie Constantine Harrie Phipps, y’ Earle Mulgrave, Lord Lieutenant-General and General Governor of Ireland. Ye soumissive Spakeen o’ouz Dwelleres o’ Baronie Forthe, Weisforthe.

    MAI’T BE PLESANT TO TH’ECCELLENCIE, - Wee, Vassalès o’ ‘His Most Gracious majesty’, Wilyame ee Vourthe, an, az wee verilie chote, na coshe and loyale dwellerès na Baronie Forthe, crave na dicke luckie acte t’uck neicher th’ Eccellencie, an na plaine grabe o’ oure yola talke, wi vengem o’ core t’gie ours zense o’ y gradès whilke be ee-dighte wi yer name; and whilke we canna zei, albeit o’ ‘Governere’, ‘Statesman’, an alike. Yn ercha and aul o’ while yt beeth wi gleezom o’ core th’ oure eyen dwytheth apan ye Vigere o’dicke Zouvereine, Wilyame ee Vourthe, unnere fose fatherlie zwae oure diaez be ee-spant, az avare ye trad dicke londe yer name waz ee-kent var ee vriene o’ livertie, an He fo brake ye neckares o’ zlaves. Mang ourzels – var wee dwytheth an Irelonde az ure genreale haim – y’ast, bie ractzom o’honde, ee-delt t’ouz ye laas ee-mate var ercha vassale, ne’er dwythen na dicke waie nar dicka. Wee dwyth ye ane fose dais be gien var ee guidevare o’ye londe ye zwae, - t’avance pace an livertie, an, wi’oute vlynch, ee garde o’ generale reights an poplare vartue. Ye pace – yea, we mai zei, ye vast pace whilke bee ee-stent owr ye londe zince th’ast ee-cam, proo’th, y’at wee alane needeth ye giftes o’generale rights, az be displayth bie ee factes o’thie goveremente. Ye state na dicke daie o’ye londe, na whilke be nar fash nar moile, albeit ‘constitutional agitation’, ye wake o’hopes ee-blighte, stampe na yer zwae be rare an lightzom. Yer name var zetch avancet avare ye, e’en a dicke var hye, arent whilke ye brine o’zea an dye craggès o’noghanes cazed nae balke. Na oure gladès ana whilke we dellt wi’ mattoke, an zing t’oure caulès wi plou, wee hert ee zough o’ye colure o’ pace na name o’ Mulgrave. Wi Irishmen ower generale houpes be ee-boud – az Irishmen, an az dwellerès na cosh an loyale o’ Baronie Forthe, w’oul daie an ercha daie, our meines an oure gurles, praie var long an happie zins, shorne o’lournagh an ee-vilt wi benisons, an yersel and oure gude Zovereine, till ee zin o’oure daies be var aye be ee-go to’glade.

    Standard English Translation

    To his Excellency, Constantine Henry Phipps, Earl Mulgrave, Lord Lieutenant-General, and General Governor of Ireland. The humble Address of the Inhabitants of the Barony of Forth, Wexford.

    MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY – We, the subjects of his Most Gracious Majesty, William IV, and, as we truly believe, both faithful and loyal inhabitants of the Barony of Forth, beg leave at this favourable opportunity to approach your Excellency, and in the simple dress of our old dialect to pour forth from the strength (or fullness) of our hearts, our sense (or admiration) of the qualities which characterise your name, and for which we have no words but of ‘Governor’, ‘Statesman’, etc. In each and every condition it is with joy of heart that our eyes rest upon the representative of the Sovereign, William IV, under whose paternal rule our days are spent; for before your foot pressed the soil, your name was known to us as the friend of liberty, and he who broke the fetters of the slave. Unto ourselves – for we look on Ireland to be our common country – you have with impartial hand ministered the laws made for every subject, without regard to this party or that. We behold in you one whose days are devoted to the welfare of the land you govern, to promote peace and liberty – the uncompromising guardian of the common right and public virtue. The peace – yes, we may say the profound peace – which overspreads the land since your arrival, proves that we alone stood in need of the enjoyment of common privileges, as is demonstrated by the results of your government. The condition, this day, of the country, in which is neither tumult nor disorder, but that constitutional agitation, the consequence of disappointed hopes, confirms your rule to be rare and enlightened. Your fame for such came before you even into this retired spot, to which neither the waters of the sea below nor the mountains above caused any impediment. In our valleys, where we were digging with the spade, or as we whistled to our horses in the plough, we heard the distant sound of the wings of the dove of peace, in the word Mulgrave. With Irishmen our common hopes are inseparably bound up – as Irishmen, and as inhabitants, faithful and loyal, of the Barony Forth, we will daily and every day, our wives and our children, implore long and happy days, free from melancholy and full of blessings, for yourself and our good Sovereign, until the sun of our lives be gone down the dark valley (of death).

    -Yola only preserved the dregs of ancient Chaucerian English ... Yola speakers have so acquainted themselves with the Irish, that they have made a 'gallimaufrere' (or 'mingle- mangle'), of both languages, so that the natives of Forth and Bargy speak neither good English , nor good Irish'.
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    Really?! That's interesting. Is it well documented so that it can be revived, or is there no chance of that? It's always nice to bring back an old language.

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