Recently, I started watching a TV show The Fall, which takes place in Northern Ireland. Their intonations and accents are unique, but their pronunciation sounds a lot like North American English to me.

Here are some similarities I have found:

  1. The 't' gets softened like in Americans English. For example, 'Peter' sounded like [pi:rɚ], not [pi:tɚ].
  2. The 'r' which is not followed by a vowel is pronounced. For example, 'Peter' sounded like [pi:rɚ], not [pi:rə]
  3. The diphthong 'o' sounds like [ou], as in American English, not [əu], as in British English.

Did I hear correctly? If so, why are there such similarities? Did the Northern Ireland pronunciation affect North American pronunciation 2~3 hundreds years ago?

  • 4
    Everybody speaking English pronounced things like (2) and (3) three and four hundred years ago, when America was first settled. The Irish and the Americans simply haven't changed their pronunciation. If you listen closely, you'll find that the actual vowels used before 'r's are quite different in the U.S. than in Ireland. Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 11:51
  • 1
    The question actually should be - the hegemony of American culture affecting the English language and culture of the world, including the British Isles. bbc.com/news/business-30260103. youtube.com/watch?v=ynDF4N054XM !!! It is so funny. Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 12:00
  • I don't necessarily agree with the premise. To me (a GenAmE speaker), all the accents in the U.K. sound crazy different from those in the US. Has there been a qualitative study of the objective distances among the accents? Also I just heard someone NI speaking and they say 'now' considerably different from the US, something like 'knee-ah'
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 17:06
  • To me, a southern English RP speaker, the various Northern Irish accents (there are more than one) sound wildly and, yes, crazily different from any US accents. So they do. Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 17:46
  • 1
    I am an American watching the same show and ended up on this page because I was curious about why the speakers sound so similar to the American accent I and pretty much everyone I know use. So I agree with the question's premise.
    – xenophyle
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 15:43

2 Answers 2


During the Irish potato famine 1845-1852 more than a million Irish emigrated to America.

This influx probably affected pronunciation in the areas of America where immigrants were concentrated.

  • 1
    True. I was born and raised in such a place, and my mother's family is of Irish descent on both sides. There are many points of similarity between our local way of speaking and the English spoken in Ireland: intonation patterns, pronunciation, etc. The influence comes not only from northern Ireland.
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 13:55

You are correct the Northern Irish also know as Scots Irish arrived on the America frontier from lt 1690s through to 1770s. So in a large part the Northern Irish accent is more dominant in American English than Southern Irish accent.

  • 1
    250,000 Scotch Irish/Northern Irish left Northern part of Ireland in 18th century which is an large proportion of the US population at that time.
    – Johnny
    Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 16:21
  • 2
    @Johny The northern Irish are not also known as the Scots-Irish. There are nearly two million northern Irish. Less than half of the population of northern Ireland are Scots-Irish. Commented Jun 15, 2018 at 14:15

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