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Irish language


Irish (Gaeilge), sometimes referred to as Irish Gaelic or just Gaelic is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European languages family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is spoken as a first language by a small minority of Irish people, and as a second language by a rather larger group. Irish enjoys constitutional status as the national and first official language of the Republic of Ireland, and is an officially recognised minority language in Northern Ireland. It is also an official language of the European Union. History Written Irish is first attested in Ogham inscriptions from the fourth century AD; this stage of the language is known as Primitive Irish. These writings have been found throughout Ireland and the west coast of Great Britain. Primitive Irish transitioned into Old Irish through the 5th century. Old Irish, dating from the sixth century, used the Latin alphabet and is attested primarily in marginalia to Latin manuscripts. During this time, the Irish language absorbed many Latin words, including ecclesiastical terms: examples are easpag (bishop) from episcopus, and Domhnach (Sunday, from dominica). By the 10th century, Old Irish had evolved into Middle Irish, which was spoken throughout Ireland and in Scotland and the Isle of Man. Phonology In pronunciation, Irish most closely resembles its nearest relatives, Scottish Gaelic and Manx. One notable feature is that consonants (except /h/) come in pairs, one "broad" (velarised, pronounced with the back of the tongue pulled back towards the soft palate) and one "slender" (palatalised, pronounced with the middle of the tongue pushed up towards the hard palate). While broad–slender pairs are not unique to Irish (being found, for example, in Russian), in Irish they have a grammatical function and can pose a problem for English speakers. Orthography Modern Irish traditionally used the ISO basic Latin alphabet without the letters j, k, q, w, x, y and z, but with the addition of one diacritic sign, the acute accent (á é í ó ú), known in Irish as the síneadh fada "long mark", plural sínte fada. However, some gaelicised words use those letters: for instance, 'Jeep' is written as 'Jíp'. (The letter v has been naturalised into the language, although it is not part of the traditional alphabet, and has the same pronunciation as "bh".) In idiomatic English usage, this diacritic is frequently referred to simply as the fada, where the adjective is used as a noun. The fada serves to lengthen the sound of the vowels and in some cases also changes their quality. For example, in Munster Irish (Kerry), a is /a/ or /ɑ/ and á is /ɑː/ in "father" but in Ulster Irish (Donegal), á tends to be /æː/.