Every year around St. Patrick's Day, I am always drawn to thinking about the richness that each English-speaking country brings to the language as a whole. Indeed, American English, Australian English, Canadian English, Indian English, British English, while operating from the same language base, have different pronunciations to familiar words and have words of their own that do not exist in other English-speaking countries.
Focusing on Ireland, many changes to the English language as we all know it were put in place by the Irish. An interesting article in The Irish Times calls attention to the so-called "Great Vowel Shift" that changed the sound of many English words between 1350 and 1600. Before the shift, for example, "meat" was pronounced something like "mate." After it, the "ea" sound became an "ee", although the spelling remained unchanged, one of the countless illogicalities in the language today.
Of course "meat" is still pronounced "mate" in large parts of Ireland. It's only in living memory that most Irish people have stopped saying "dacent" (for decent), "aisy" (for easy), and "tay" (for tea).
Language and culture are forever woven together to produce many lovely variations in the common language of many countries, and even the regions within those countries. It's what makes the English language a fascinating and frustrating challenge for us all. Accent differences between English-speaking countries can be as difficult to understand as accents from a different language.
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