Northern Ireland and the Union “Fleg”: Linguistic Associations in a Disputed Geographical Area

  • Brendan GunnEmail author
Living reference work entry


The geopolitical situation in Northern Ireland is that six of the nine counties of the province of Ulster are contained within the United Kingdom while the other three lie within the Republic of Ireland. Two existential states exist within the geographical area of Northern Ireland: one is avowedly British while the other determinedly Irish. A set of dialect variations operate in this phenomenological contrast to express which identity a speaker adheres to. More recently linguistic factors in the political situation have returned to the fore. They manifest themselves in two ways:
  1. 1.

    A referencing back to Ulster-Scots as a basis for a Protestant British state (to the extent that classes in Ulster-Scots are regularly held in pro-British areas in opposition to the rise in usage of Irish Gaelic and the large numbers of people learning the language which is seen by many as a threat to the British character of Northern Ireland).

  2. 2.

    A denigrating of the dialect of pro-British speakers, e.g., “raising” of “open front vowels,” is seen as part of a social group which is characterized as reactionary and belligerent: the factor is evident in the realization of the word “flag” as “fleg” to the extent that strident pro-British advocates are given a derogatory label of “fleggers” (referring to their constant use of the Union Flag as an emblem of loyalty to the crown and the British state).


This paper will outline these existential linguistic phenomena in terms of the historical background to their constituents and the contemporary context in which they operate.


Language and national identity Language and social standing Politics Northern Ireland 

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dialogue/Dialect Coaching ServicesBelfastUK

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