The Irish Language

The Irish Language

The Irish language is also called Gaelice. Irish is the "first" language of Ireland's inhabitants. Almost 55.000 people speak Irish as their first language.

These people live in the Irish-speaking region of Western Ireland and are known as "Native Speakers". Western Ireland is also known as the Gaeltacht. The counties of Gaeltacht are Kerry, Clare, Galway, the Three Aran Islands, Mayo, Sligo and Donegal.

Galway has a flourishing Irish speaking community. In Connemara, which belongs to Galway, the inhabitants only speak Irish. On the Aran Islands time seems to stand still. The inhabitants live in primitive houses and are all native Irish speakers.

Irish is a member of the Goidelic group of the Celtic subfamily of the Indo European family of languages. The history of Irish as a literary language falls into three periods: Old Irish      (7th-9th cent. A.D.), Middle Irish (10th-16th cent.), and Modern Irish (since the 16th cent.). In the medieval period a great Irish literature flourished. Grammatically, there are still four cases for the noun (nominative, genitive, vocative, and, in some dialects, dative). In pronunciation the stress is on the first syllable. An acute accent is placed over a vowel to denote length, and a dot is placed over a consonant to indicate aspiration. The alphabet employed today for Irish can be called a variant or a derivative of the Roman alphabet that took shape about the 8thcent. A.D. It has 18 letters: 13 consonants and 5 vowels. The oldest existing Irish texts are inscriptions written in the ogham script. These texts date back to the 5th cent. A.D. or perhaps earlier and differ as much from the early literary Irish that follows them as Latin does from Old French. Native speakers of Irish are now concentrated in the western counties of Ireland. The government of Ireland is trying, so unsuccessfully, to revive Irish as the primary language of the country; it is an official language, and the study of Irish is required in preparatory schools.

Although many people say that the Irish language will become extinct sooner or later, the Irish want to keep their language because it is very important in the Irish history and works as a definer of identity.

When I asked people on the street about the use of the Irish language I found out that there is always a member in the family, which speaks Irish fluently. All the people learned Irish at school and thought that Irish is important for Ireland's identity. They didn't think that it is important to speak Irish fluently in Dublin. I couldn't find out if Irish is a difficult language or not because a few people said yes and the other bit said no. They told me that if you want to study at university you must have learned Irish at school.

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