- Irish language
or Gaelic languageCeltic language of Ireland, written in the Latin alphabet introduced with Christianity in the 5th century.Irish is conventionally divided into three periods: Old Irish (600–с 950), Middle Irish (с 950–1200), and Modern Irish (from с 1200). Ogham writing predates Old Irish. Old and Middle Irish are the vehicles of a rich literature of prose tales and verse. Classical Modern Irish was the exclusive literary medium in Ireland and Scottish Gaeldom into modern times (see Scottish Gaelic language). Literacy in Irish declined under English rule; by 1800 it was all but an unwritten language. The deaths and emigration resulting from the Irish Potato Famine and a massive shift to English afterward drastically reduced the number of Irish-speakers. Irish was revived as a literary language in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and with Irish independence (1921) it was made official. Though it is a true community language only for a small number of people on Ireland's western coast in what are called Gaeltachts, hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens and people of Irish descent have some competence in Irish.
* * *a member of the Goidelic group of Celtic languages, spoken in Ireland. As one of the national languages of the Republic of Ireland, Irish is taught in the public schools and is required for certain civil-service posts.Grammatically, Irish still has a case system, like Latin or German, with four cases to show differing functions of nouns and pronouns in a sentence. In phonology it exhibits initial sandhi, in which the first consonant of a word is modified according to the prehistoric final sound of the previous word in the phrase (e.g., an tobar “the well,” mo thobar “my well”).Records in the Irish language date back to the ogham (ogham writing) inscriptions, written in sets of strokes or notches, of the 5th century AD; the Latin alphabet began to be used shortly thereafter. Irish literature dates from the 8th century. See also ogham writing; Celtic languages.
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