The Languages of Ireland
Irish is the national language and the first official language, with English being the second official language. Although approximately 1,750,000 people are able to speak Irish, English dominates the daily life of most Irish people. In Northern Ireland, Irish is an official minority language and is spoken by about 100,000 people. Besides, there are several small Irish-speaking diasporas across the world, in particular in the United States, Canada and Australia.
For the support and protection of the Irish language in Ireland, the Official Languages Act 2003 aims to ensure the improved provision of public services through the Irish language. Also, the Irish government has developed a 20-year-strategy to strengthen the active use of Irish, which has been identified as an endangered language.
Irish (also known as Irish Gaelic) is a Celtic language and closely related to Scottish Gaelic. While there is a standard written form of Irish, there is no standard spoken form. Irish features three main dialects which are associated with the three provinces of Ireland: Munster, Connacht and Ulster. The differences appear in many levels of the language, from pronunciation to lexical divergence.
Features of Irish:
- Irish follows a Verb-Subject-Object word order.
- There are no words for “yes” or “no”. Instead, a response to a question consists of the verb in either the negative or affirmative form.
- Inflection in Irish mainly occurs through suffixation, but initial mutation through lenition and eclipsis is also common. Inflection mainly affects verbs, nouns, adjectives and prepositions.
- Irish has three main grammatical cases: common (nominative & accusative), genitive and vocative.
- The sound system is complex, containing twice as many consonants as English, for example. Irish distinguishes the consonants between palatalised and velarised. However, as the Roman alphabet is not sufficient in representing various sounds, consonant quality relies on adjacent vowels. The complex relationship between sounds and written text presents challenges for speech technology, particularly when providing coverage for three dialects.
More detailed information about English can be found on the NNC page for: United Kingdom.