Yola is an extinct form of English that was spoken in the south of County Wexford. The dialect, which became extinct in the mid-1880s, was most-commonly used in the baronies of Forth and Bargy, where geographical isolation allowed it to flourish and evolve.
Yola, which means “old”, evolved from another dialect called “Middle English”, which was brought to Ireland during the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169.
In the video below, you can hear a song, written in Yola, about a hurling match that took place in the 1600s:
In parts of the song, you can hear sentences that were constructed with words and phrases that are similar to the ones that we still use today.
Here are a few examples of English-to-Yola translations:
- “Who?” becomes “fho?”
- “What?” translates into “fade?”
- “When?” becomes “fan?”
- “Why?” is “farthoo?”
- The word “about” translates into “abut”, which is very similar.
- “Among” becomes “amang”
- “Between” translates into “Betweesk”
- The word “all” becomes “aul”
- “Wexford” becomes “Weisforthe”
- The word “go” is “ee-go” in Yola.
As you can see, there are a number of similarities with modern-day English.
Believe it or not, the slang word “quare” is actually one of the few remaining Yola words that are still in use today. “Quare” in Yola translates into “very” or “extremely”. Examples of the word being used in modern times:
- It’s quare hot out!
- That’s quare bad!
- That’s quare good!
- You’re quare lucky!
According to historical records, Yola was spoken slowly and the word “a” was pronounced as “ah” (like it is in the word “father”). The letters “ee” were pronounced like the “e” in the word “me”. Another important aspect of the Yola dialect is that extra emphasis was always placed on the second syllable. For example, the Yola word for “wedding” is “weddeen”, which means that the “deen” would have been given a larger emphasis (wedeen).
Unfortunately, the dialect faced the same challenges as the Irish language, as a change in society, administrative policies and economic pressures saw English becoming increasingly favoured. It is no coincidence that Yola began to peter out during a period of famine and widespread emigration.