Language facts: Irish

Feb 29, 2016

Irish is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family. It originates in Ireland, and was historically spoken by the Irish, but today only a small part of the population speaks the language.

Irish has status as the national and first official language of the Republic of Ireland, it was voted an official language of the European Union in 2005, and it is recognized as a minority language in Northern Ireland. Irish is spoken as a native language only in parts of Ireland, mostly on the west coast. Native speakers are estimated at between 20,000 and 30,000.

An "emigrated" language

Due to various reasons, Irish language experienced a decline in use of such proportions that it almost stopped existing as a live language. The British rule as well as adopting English by the Irish catholic church and a good part of the middle-class was, interestingly, not the eventual catalyst of the Irish language decline – just some of the factors. The final "killer" turned out to be less ideological and in fact purely practical: during massive emigration of Irish folks to United States in the 19th century, speaking English simply ensured a greater variety of job opportunities (aside from farming).

Irish as a symbol

In today's Republic of Ireland, Irish has largely lost out to English in common usage, but it remains a required subject of study in schools, while all official documents issued by the Irish government must be published in both Irish and English or only Irish. Since the 1920s, there has been an incline in use of the language (while it is considered by Irish themselves as having more of a symbolic, than practical value) and there are movements trying to promote Irish and its use not just in official communication.

Alphabet

A Á B C D E É F G H I Í L M N O Ó P R S T U Ú
a á b c d e é f g h i í l m n o ó p r s t u ú

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