Is Dortspeak Disappearing?


Debating identity never goes out of style in Ireland, and it’s not difficult to set the cat among the pigeons.

Last October, lexicographer Terence Dolan sparked a brief debate within the media with his claim that the infamous dort accent would soon fall out of use.

Professor Dolan, head of old and middle English at UCD and probably best-known for his weekly appearance on Sean Moncrieff’s Newstalk radio show, is quoted in the Irish Independent as saying that dort speak is very closely connected to the Celtic Tiger years, and so there is little reason “financially or stylistically” for it to continue to exist. But do accents just die out like that? Is dort speak just a pretence?

NewsFour spoke with Brian Trawick-Smith of, which has extensive entries on Irish English. “There’s no clear line separating legitimate accents from illegitimate ones. It’s a fraught issue, actually, because illegitimacy is frequently used to dismiss dialects which are stigmatized.”

Brian went on to explain that he finds attempts to distinguish between real and fake accents problematic because “all speech is a fascinating mixture of the conscious and the unconscious.”

Professor Raymond Hickey, author of Irish English: History and Present Day Forms explained that social groups rarely adopt pretend accents en masse but that “they are influenced by other accents.” Specifically concerning dort speak, he explained that “the new pronunciation which arose in the 1990s came from the wish of many people who were getting wealthy to have a pronunciation very different from other parts of Dublin.”

Both of our experts were sceptical at the notion that dort speak might be on the way out. “Accents tend to evolve more than die out,” Brian Tarwick-Smith explains. And for his part, Professor Hickey doubts the economic dimension: “austerity does not affect language use, not at all. The old D4 accent is gone; nobody says stort for start anymore. This went as a natural consequence of it seeming stuffy and snobbish.”

Left: Ross O’Carroll Kelly’s play adaptation depicts the usual stereotype.

By Rúairí Conneely