Bernice talks about how she came to terms with the consequences of a serious car accident.
Bernice Rafferty (female, student)
C900/10903 © BBC

Transcript for Lissummon

Bernice: I was a back-seat passenger in a car accident, so I was. And the car just seemed, it, ehm, we were going out this night and it was a bad night, windy night, and the car just went out of control and just tumbled over and unfortunately, ehm, I got trapped in the car and in the process of taking me out, I, b, I broke my neck. So, uhm, it, well, it w, it’s five years now, so, my goodness! Ehm.

Alison: Uh, I suppose it changed your, your life and, uh, I mean the, can you remember much about the, sort of, immediate aftermath and coming to terms with it all?

Bernice: Yes, well, to be honest, for a long time — it would hae been six tae eight weeks — I didn’t really know what was going on. I thought this was all just a big, it was great, because I was getting so much attention and I thought, “My goodness, I’m going to snap out of this in no time!” But, ehm, no, in relation to an accident like this I don’t think you ever as such come to terms with it. You learn to live with it and in relation to change it is so unbelievable. You go from being completely independent to being completely dependent and when you are dependent on other people it’s a very frustrating and extremely hard thing to deal with. But, ehm, in relation to dependency I would depend on someone, eh, to get me out of bed; to take me about from a to b; to get me back into bed; if I drop something on the floor that I can’t pick up. Wee silly things that people take for granted I would need assistance with. So it, something, like, I mean, never in my wildest dreams would I ever have imagined it. And one thing I do know about myself now: where before my accident I never noticed a wheelchair, now you see every wheelchair. You see every step that you never noticed; you see where there’s a disabled toilet, where there’s not a disabled toilet. So not only does it change your life, but it changes the way you look at life and the things that you take for granted, you know, practically and mentally as such, psychologically, you know. But as for coming to terms with it, I couldn’t say probably that I’ve come to terms with it or that I will ever come to terms with it, but that you do learn to live with it, cause there’s no, there’s not really anything else for it, so there is.

Alison: Were you, were you well treated in the hospital? Did they, did they help you, you know, uh, with the, sort of, mental adjustment si, side of things as well as the physical care?

Bernice: Och yes, uh, Musgrave1 was brilliant. I would have been there for about three months or four months. So it was mainly the physical aspect of it: the learning to get in and get out of bed; the, you know, just l, with that and I think with that comes, ehm, the learning to live with it, do you know what I mean? As for counselling, I suppose, to be honest, everybody’s, “Oh you need to see a counsellor, you need to see a psychiatrist,” but from my point of view I was one of these people that, I’m not going to get told from somebody, someone who does, has never been through it, ehm, how to deal with it. So how, from my point of view, I would learn to live with it or learn to deal with it, would be to talk to other people in the same position as myself. And likewise patients within the hospital would help each other, would talk about different experiences; what has helped them; what wheelchair’s good, what wheelchair’s not, you know, so patients sort of help themselves psychologically. And then the hospital, the nurses, oh, they were great. They would’ve, ehm, done, eh, helped out with the physical aspects of it. So no, the hospital’s good.

Alison: Did, did your family help a lot?

Bernice: Oh yeah. To be honest my, I think, it probably brought us all closer together. My family are, I’d say that they have, probably, what got me this far, you know, my mom and dad and my two sisters, they’ve been great. And even the surrounding community. That just sh, because living within a rural community, I think, everybody knows everybody, which people say isn’t a good thing, but in relation from my experience it was a great thing, because they all stood by me and even to this day they’re always looking out for ye, you know what I mean? If I was, say, in the house on my own, there would be somebody about call in, if you ever need anything. So the, my family were unreal and to this day they still are unreal, both on practical aspects and, you know, if I ever need to talk or whatever, they’re there. But no, definitely, the, I think it is your family that gets you through. And what the doctor did say: it was a make-or-break. It either held the family together or it could totally tear a family apart. So I was lucky, in my position, that it g, st, s, got us sticking together.


  1. Musgrave presumably refers to Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast.

Commentary for Lissummon

The dialects of Northern Ireland stand out from other dialects of English due to the area’s unique linguistic history. Scots, Irish Gaelic, seventeenth-century English and Hiberno-English (the English spoken in the Republic of Ireland) have all influenced the development of Northern Irish English and this mixture explains the very distinctive hybrid that has emerged.

Scots influence

A link with Scottish speech is clear in a number of ways. The most obvious is perhaps in shared vocabulary, as illustrated by Bernice’s use of the word wee for ‘small’, for instance. There are also other more subtle clues, such as the typically Scottish/Irish pronunciation of the <th> sound in the word with in the statements it’s a very frustrating and extremely hard thing to deal with; wee silly things that people take for granted I would need assistance with and I think with that comes, ehm, the learning to live with it.

Irish influence

Listen, however, to the way Bernice pronounces the initial consonant in the word three in the statement I would have been there for about three months or four months. She does so with the articulation we associate with speakers from the Republic of Ireland — a sound closer to a <t> sound, but produced with the tongue in contact with the front top teeth rather than with the roof of the mouth.

Other influences

Some features of speech in Northern Ireland reveal links with speech both in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. Listen, for instance, to the ‘guttural’ sound Bernice uses here for the final consonant in the word och — a sound produced in the velar region at the back of the mouth and used, for instance, in the traditional Scottish pronunciation of the word loch. This is a sound we might also associate with modern German. English is of course a Germanic language and at one time this sound was a feature of spoken English throughout the UK, although it has now disappeared from English accents in England. The velar articulation is, however, part of the sound system of Scottish and Irish Gaelic and thus it is not surprising that it has been retained in a number of words in the English spoken in those two areas.

Emphatic tags

Finally, Bernice makes use of a fascinating grammatical construction that is idiosyncratically Northern Irish. Listen to the statements I was a back-seat passenger in a car accident, so I was and there’s not really anything else for it, so there is. She uses so followed by a verb phrase as an emphatic tag — a construction that reinforces the information already provided in the main body of the previous statement. Tags used to convert statements into questions, such as isn’t it and can’t you are common features of all dialects of English including Standard English, but emphatic tags such as this are less widespread.

The use of tags with so in this way is typical of speech in Northern Ireland, while in the north of England one frequently hears constructions with an inverted verb phrase, such as she’s a good dancer, is Katy or simply an emphatic pronoun tagged onto the end of a statement, such as I play football, me.