North Dakota vs. NorthERN Ireland

Discussion in 'English Only' started by IsmaBCN, Jul 29, 2013.

  1. IsmaBCN New Member

    Barcelona- NYC
    Español y catalán
    Hi guys,

    Which is the difference between North and Northern if exists? I was talking today with a guy from (now I know) Northern Ireland (and not North Ireland) and at some point he corrected me -in a very polite way BTW- when I said "North Ireland".

    Is it just a cultural/ political/ legal issue (meaning is just the Official Name) or it has a grammatical reason? Thanks guys!
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2013
  2. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    As far as I know, there is no reason. North Dakota, West Virginia, Southern California, Northern Ireland - there's no real rhyme or reason. I think it's possible that North, South, East and West (without the -ern) are more common in place names, but basically, you just have to memorize which is considered correct.
  3. IsmaBCN New Member

    Barcelona- NYC
    Español y catalán
    Thanks Kate!
  4. exgerman Senior Member

    English but my first language was German
    Have you tried putting "northern' as a search word in the search box above? you'll find a lot of discussion of this question.

    Northern Ireland is the northern part of Ireland. There is no Dakota of which for North Dakota is a part..
  5. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Yes, but Northern Ireland is separate from the rest of Ireland - the Republic of Ireland, which is an independent nation. West Virginia was originally part of Virginia, too, but when it became a state, it was called West Virginia, not Western Virginia.
  6. IsmaBCN New Member

    Barcelona- NYC
    Español y catalán
    Yes I've read that. What I don't get and that's the reason why I'm asking is the difference between North and Northern in this context.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2013
  7. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    There really isn't a difference. I wish I could tell you that there is, but I honestly think that most of the time it comes down to custom. As Exgerman pointed out, oftentimes the -ern suffix implies that the entity is part of a whole, just as Southern California is part of California, but not always.
  8. exgerman Senior Member

    English but my first language was German
    That's not a counter-example, Kate. West Virginia is not a part of Virginia. When it was a part of Virginia, it was called western Virginia, not West Virginia.

    Currently, western Virginia refers to the rea around Charlottesville and the Blue Rodge, which is indeed a part of Virginia.
  9. Miss Julie

    Miss Julie Senior Member

    Chicago metro area
    There's the northern part of Ireland, and then there's Northern Ireland. Two different places, two different countries.
  10. Tegs

    Tegs Mód ar líne

    English (Ireland), Welsh, Irish
    Northern Ireland and the north of Ireland both exist, but they mean different things.

    1. Northern Ireland is a political entity.

    2. The "north of Ireland" is the northern-most part of the entire island of Ireland. It contains both the political entity "Northern Ireland", and also northern parts of what is politically the Republic of Ireland. The confusing thing is, some parts of the Republic of Ireland (also called the South) are as northern or actually further north than what is called the North.
  11. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    The bottom line is that when official names are applied to geographic entities, somebody makes the decision what it will be. Sometimes the deciding party liked "North" and sometimes, "Northern."

    Sometimes it is based upon tradition and sometimes it's just arbitrary. Sometimes it's even logical.

    When it comes to unofficial names, it's a matter of common usage and, occasionally, the dictates of whatever style guide you choose or have imposed upon you.

    Most of the time, something with north or northern in the name is north of something, but not necessarily. There's a "North Judson, Indiana" in the southern part of the state, but there's no South, East or West Judson anywhere. There's a plain old unincorporated and unadorned Judson in the north-central part of the state, well to the north of North Judson.

    That's just how it is.
  12. bennymix

    bennymix Senior Member

    Ontario, Canada. I grew up in US.
    English (American).
    Wiki has a nice map of "Dakota," ca 1886, before it was split into two states.
    Perhaps the key to the Ireland case is that the "Northerners" do not really accept the division. It was Brit imposed, was it not?

    Analogy: Chinese living in Taiwan, officially "Republic of China," say "This is China" and "There is one China."
  13. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    To confirm the inconsistency, let me just throw in some British examples too:

    North London and South London are areas within London.
    North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire are in the historic country of Yorkshire.
    West Lothian, East Lothian and Midlothian (where Edinburgh is) are in the Lothian region of Scotland.

    You might be forgiven for assuming that it would be North Ireland! :D
  14. mojolicious Member

    English English
    The British government partitioned Ireland into Northern and Southern Ireland in 1921. Southern Ireland was very short-lived, becoming the Irish Free State before any meaningful British political/administrative structures had been put into place.

    My (probably incorrect) hunch is that that the use of 'Northern' and 'Southern' reflected the fact that the border wasn't expected to be set in stone: a boundary commission was set up to establish a border between the two British autonomous regions, but this was rather overtaken by events. Furthermore Northern and Southern Ireland were not intended to be two nations, but rather two constituent states of a single nation of Ireland with a single superior legislature (the Council of Ireland). So the division wasn't intended to be hugely significant, but rather an administrative division within a single entity.

    Anyway... as others have said, 'Northern Ireland' is a region/province of the United Kingdom, whereas 'North Ireland' suggests the north of the Republic of Ireland. My personal recommendation would be to *never* use the phrase 'North Ireland' in the presence of *any* Irishman. It's a semantic minefield.
  15. bennymix

    bennymix Senior Member

    Ontario, Canada. I grew up in US.
    English (American).
    Mojo, you said,
    M: //My (probably incorrect) hunch is that that the use of 'Northern' and 'Southern' reflected the fact that the border wasn't expected to be set in stone://

    That is my hunch also, though as other posters have mentioned for other cases, often there is no clear rationale for "North" vs. "Northern."
  16. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    English - England
    There is no underlying rationale: for example, just among the constituent states and territories of Australia there is one Northern, one Western and two Souths.

    On the other hand, it looks like traditions have developed: for example among the names of English villages and towns the simple forms North, South, East and West predominate; and it looks like the same goes for the constituent states of the US.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2013

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