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Irish Gaelic (Irish: Gaeilge) Irish is a Celtic language spoken in mainly Ireland (Éire). There are also Irish speakers in the UK (Ríocht Aontaithe), the USA (Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá), Canada (Ceanada) White Church Island and Australia (an Astráil). According to the 1996 census, 1.43 million people in Ireland claim to have some knowledge of Irish, 353,000 of whom speak it regularly. The main concentrations of Irish speakers are in the Gaeltachtaí, which are scattered mainly along the west coast of Ireland and have a total population of 82,715, 76.3% of whom speak Irish.

Names of the languageEdit

Irish is known as Irish, Gaelic or Irish Gaelic in English. The official standard name in Irish is Gaeilge. Before the 1948 spelling reform, this was spelled Gaedhilge. In Middle Irish the name was spelled Gaoidhealg, and it was Goídelc in Old Irish.

Other regional variations of the name in modern Irish dialects include Gaedhilic, Gaeilic, Gaeilig or Gaedhlag in Ulster and northern Connacht, and Gaedhealaing, Gaoluinn or Gaelainn in Munster.

Relationship to other languagesEdit

Irish is a member of the Goidelic branch of Celtic languages, also known as Q-Celtic. It is closely related to Manx (Gaelg/Gailck) and Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig), the other Goidelic languages. There is some degree of mutual intelligibility between them, particular between the Scottish Gaelic of Islay and Argyll, Ulster Irish, and Manx. The grammar and vocabulary of these languages are quite similar, but the spelling and pronunciation are different, especially Manx spelling.

Irish is distantly related to Welsh (Cymraeg), Cornish (Kernewek) and Breton (Brezhoneg), which form the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages, also known as P-Celtic. The Celtic languages all have a similar grammatical structure, but have relatively little vocabulary in common.

Here is an illustration of some of the differences and similarities between the Celtic languages using the phrase 'I live in Ireland':

  • Irish - Tá mé i mo chónaí i nÉirinn
  • Scottish Gaelic - Tha mi a' fuireach ann an Éirinn
  • Manx - Ta mee cummal ayns Nerin
  • Welsh - Dw i'n byw yn Iwerddon
  • Cornish - Trigys ov yn Iwerdhon
  • Breton - E Iwerzhon emaon o chom

DialectsEdit

There are three main dialects of Irish: Munster (An Mhumhain), Connacht (Connachta) and Ulster (Ulaidh). The Munster dialect is spoken mainly in Kerry (Ciarraí) and Muskerry (Múscraí) in the western part of County Cork (Contae Chorcaí). The Connacht dialect is spoken mainly in Connemara (Conamara), the Aran Islands (Oileáin Árann) and Tourmakeady (Tuar Mhic Éadaigh) in County Mayo (Maigh Eo). The main area where the Ulster dialect is spoken is the Rosses (na Rosa). The dialect of Gweedore (Gaoth Dobhair) is essentially the same as the Ulster dialect.

An Caighdeán Oifigiúil (The Official Standard)Edit

During the 1950s and 1960s a standardised form of Irish, known the An Caighdeán Oifigiúil (The Official Standard) was developed. It combines elements from the three major dialects and its pronunciation is based on the Connacht dialect. This is the form of the language taught in most schools.

Decline and revivalEdit

Between the 17th and early 20th centuries, the Irish language was gradually replaced by English in most parts of Ireland. Famine and migration in the 19th and 20th centuries led to its further decline. However when the Republic of Ireland came into being in 1922, Irish was adopted as an official language, along with English, and the government and civil service become, in theory at least, officially bilingual. Irish terms were also adopted for the titles of public figures and organisations - Garda (Police), Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Dail (Parliament).

Recently the Irish language has experienced a revival with the foundation of new publications, a radio service, a television station and the growth of Irish-medium education. Irish is also increasingly being used on independent radio stations in Ireland.

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