Are Vikings Irish or Scottish

About the Irish language


Irish is usually noticed by visitors to Ireland through apparently indecipherable words on signs and maps.
Below or next to the word Dublin stands about Baile Átha Cliath (spoken blah kliie or bailjah kliie). The former Kingston there are only more than Dún Laoghaire (spoken duhn liire), limerick is called in Irish Luimneach (pronounced limräch). The whole country is called Éire (pronounced eere) or in the long form Poblacht na hÉireann (spoken poblecht ne heeren)
Getting to the city center is often much easier in Dublin, too, if you know that it is in Irish to Lár called.
There can be stupid misunderstandings on public toilet doors: An "M" means mná = women (spoken mrah or menah), an "F" means fir = men!
From this it is already clear that Irish is not an English dialect, but something completely different.

The relationships

Irish is only distantly related to German or English.
All 3 belong to the Indo-European languages. However, this is a very large family that stretches from Iceland to Ceylon. These include the Germanic, Celtic, Slavic, Baltic, Romance, North Indian, Iranian, Greek, Armenian, Albanian and many other languages all European languages except Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian, Basque and Turkish)
Unsurprisingly, German and English are now part of the Germanic Branch, while Irish one celtic Language is.

The Celtic languages are roughly divided into 2 main groups, the Island Celtic and the Mainland Celtic. The latter became extinct in Roman times. This is where the language of the Gauls belonged.
The Island Celtic lived on due to a lack of far-reaching Roman influence.
It is again divided into 2 groups: That Goidelic ("q-Celtic", today's Gaelic) and that British ("p-Celtic" or Brythonian) [1].
Today's Welsh is part of British [Cymraeg] in Wales, the Breton [Brezhoneg] in Brittany and the unfortunately extinct Cornish [Kernewek] in Cornwall (which is being revived with amazing success).
Breton is also an "island Celtic" language in this sense, because its inhabitants moved from Britain to the mainland in the early Middle Ages.

Languages ​​in Ireland

The majority of Irish do not speak in everyday life Irish rather English. Irish English (Hiberno-English) differs through the Irish accent and other minor influences of Irish Gaelic. There is probably no Irish person who does not speak English, but there are many who do not speak Irish.
Besides these two main languages, there is also that Shelta (Traveler Cant, Sheldru), the language of the Irish traveler. Its vocabulary is based on Irish, so it is also a Celtic language and is used by approx. 6000 people in Ireland (outside Ireland by 80,000 emigrants).
In Ulster (Northern Ireland and Donegal), thanks to the Scottish settlers of the 17th century, also Scots (Lallans) spoken, its Irish variant Ullans (Ulster Lallans) is called.
Scottish Gaelic however, is not spoken in Ireland. Some Ulster Irish dialects were very close to Scottish Gaelic due to Scottish immigrants (e.g. in Antrim). After a new settlement, only Scottish Gael lived on the island of Rathlin, so that their dialect was Scottish Gaelic, but this has been extinct since the end of the 19th century.

The Gaelic

The Gaelic (Goidelische) was originally only at home in Ireland. It then expanded to the Isle of Man and Scotland, where the Picts previously lived (a partly pre-Celtic, partly Celtic people, but not much is known about their language (s)).
Therefore there are 3 Gaelic languages ​​today: Irish Gaelic [Gaeilge], Scottish Gaelic [Gàidhlig] and the Manx Gaelic [Gaelg]. These 3 only shared in the Middle Ages and have remained very similar, but without it being possible to communicate (perhaps the similarity between German and Dutch is comparable).
The Gaelic languages ​​also shared the same fate, namely the gradual displacement by English, because the greater England achieved dominance on the British Isles and exercised this into the 20th century. Gaelic had no place there and was banned from public life, schools, the courts, etc. Since the early 17th century, the flight of the last Gaelic princes from Ulster, there was no longer an Irish-speaking upper class. The following upper class were mostly landowners who had immigrated from England. In schools that were introduced everywhere after 1830, it was downright forbidden to speak Gaelic, but it was definitely frowned upon. The famine of 1845-48 in Ireland and the subsequent waves of emigration, which of course mainly affected the poor, Gaelic-speaking rural population, led to almost the extinction of the language in the 19th century, although large parts of Ireland were still Irish-speaking at the beginning of the 19th century. Those who wanted to emigrate had to be able to speak English and whoever stayed there, so that Irish-speaking parents heeded the saying "Keep Irish from the children". Not to be neglected is the role of the Catholic Church, which was more interested in English-speaking members (and therefore better suited to proselytizing). On the other hand, the Irish nation was defined less by its ethnic origin than by its Catholic denomination; it did not necessarily need the Gaelic language to distinguish itself from the English. Only late at the end of the 19th century The interest in Celtic culture and language awoke again, by then the majority of the population was already English-speaking.
As a result, linguistic islands were only left in remote areas, in which "the Empire" was not very interested. These are far apart and are now called "Gaeltacht".
So one cannot blame the Irish for giving up their language too voluntarily; it is rather astonishing that Irish survived at all.


Today there are 3 main dialects (canúintí) of Irish [2], namely that of Munster [Gaolainn / Gaeilge na Mumhan], Connacht [Gaeilge Connacht] and Ulster [Gaeilig / Gaeilge Uladh], which in turn divide into several dialects. However, the differences are far smaller than, for example, between Low German and Bavarian. Ulster Gaelic (only spoken in Donegal, Dún na nGall or Tír Chonnail) is in some ways close to Scottish Gaelic.
In Leinster (Cúige Laighean) there is no longer a separate dialect due to a lack of native speakers. Most of the speakers for the Lárchanúint ("Central Dialect"), an artificially created dialect, found particularly in Dublin (Baile Átha Cliath). The pronunciation of the Lárchanúint is largely based on today's spelling and standard grammar. In some places in County Meath (Contae na Mí) there are native speakers who have immigrated from Connacht with the appropriate dialect. Due to the dialectal differences, a so-called official standard of grammar [to Caighdeán Oifigiúil], especially for official use. In some cases, however, attempts are being made to enforce this against the dialects.
There is no major difference between oral Irish and the written language (such as Welsh) in terms of grammar and vocabulary.

History of Irish

The Celts migrated around 500 B.C.E. and interfered with the local (pre-Indo-European) population. Not too much can be said about the language of those early Celts, the Goidelic, due to the lack of written monuments. From around 500-700 C.E. there are a few inscriptions in Ogham script, however, these are not very numerous and mostly contain names. The linguistic form occupied by this is called Archaic Irish (to Ghaeilge Ársa) designated.
Written evidence (in Latin script) is only available with Christianization. This form of language, the Old Irish (an tSean-Ghaeilge) was approx. 700-900 C.E. used. This was the "golden age" of Ireland, the time of monasteries and high culture, while outside of Ireland it was more of a culturally dark epoch after the Great Migration. Irish was one of the first European languages ​​to develop not only Latin and Greek, but also notable literature.
This cultural bloom ended with the invasion of the Vikings, the Irish language was also affected by the decline, which not least led to a simplification of the (previously very complicated) inflection. Only a few Scandinavian words were adopted (e.g .: fuinneog = "wind eye" = window) The epoch will Middle Irish (to Mheán-Ghaeilge) called and lasted from about 900-1200.
After the Norman invasion, Gaelic culture flourished again from 1200-1600, so that the immigrating Normans assimilated themselves completely and also spoke Irish (as they said at the time: "Hiberniores Hibernicis ipsis = more Irish than the Irish themselves"). Many words of the norman. French have been adopted (e.g .: garsún = boy). That used at that time Early Neo-Irish or Classical Irish (to Ghaeilge Chlasaiceach) was the unified literary norm across Ireland and Scotland.
From Modern Irish or New Irish (to Nua-Ghaeilge) spoken since 1600 when Classical Irish fell out of use. It finally separated from Scottish Gaelic and began the retreat described above as ultimately a mere peasant language.
With the victories of Cromwell and the subsequent settlements of Protestants and the disempowerment of the last Gaelic princes in the 17th century. the unity of classical Irish was lost, dialect forms that had already developed before increasingly predominated in the language, and the literary tradition initially fell into disrepair. It was not until the 19th century that interest in the language awoke and new literature emerged. Against traditionalists who wanted to revive Classical Irish, advocates of what is currently spoken Irish prevailed. Nevertheless, old and obsolete forms of spelling and grammar persisted, and it was not until 1945 that a spelling reform succeeded.

The Gaeltachts (na Gaeltachtaí)

These are the areas of Ireland where Irish is still spoken (more or less) on a daily basis.

Cúige Connacht (Connacht)
Contae na Gaillimhe (County Galway)
1. Cois Fharraige in the east Conamara (Connemara) with Bearna, Na Forbacha (Furbo), An Spidéal (Spiddal), Indreabhán (Inverin),
2. Ceantar na nOileáin (Islands District) in western Conamara with Carna, Glinsce (Glinsk), Cill Chiaráin (Kilkieran), Camas (Camus), Rós Muc (Rosmuck), Leitir Mór (Lettermore), Tír an Fhia (Teeranea) , Leitir Mealláin (Lettermullin), An Cheathrú Rua (Carraroe), Rós an Mhíl (Rossaveel)
3. Dúiche Sheoigheach (Joyce Country) in northern Conamara with Sraith Salach (Recess), An Teach Dóite (Maam Cross), An Mám (Maam), Corr na Móna (Cornamona), An Fhairche (Clonbur)
4. Oileáin Árann (Aran Islands) with the islands of Inis Mór (Inishmore), Inis Meáin (Inishmaan), Inis Oírr (Inisheer)
5. Eastern Galway with Eanach Dhúín (Annaghdown), Mionlach (Menlo), Baile an Chláir (Claregalway)
Contae Mhaigh Eo (County Mayo)
1. Tuar Mhic Éadaigh (Tourmakeady) north of Conamara then with An tSráth (Srah), Mám Trasna (Maamtrasna), Fionnaithe (Finny)
2. Oileán Acla (Achill Island) with Domha Éige (Dooega), Gob an Choire (Achill Sound) and the adjacent mainland, Leithinis an Chorráin (the Corraun Peninsula) with An Corrán, An Mhála Raithní (Mulrany)
3. West. Iorras (Erris) with Leithinis at Mhuirthid (the Mullet Peninsula) with Eachléim (Aughleam), An Fod Dubh (Blacksod), Béal an Mhuirthead (Belmullet) and the adjacent mainland with Gaoth Sáile (Geesala), Dumha Thuama (Doohoma), Dún Chaocháin, Ceathrú Thaidhg (Carrowteige), Barr na Trá (Barnatra), Gleann na Muigh (Glenamoy), Béal Derrig (Beldeirg)
Cúige Uladh (Ulster)
Contae Dhún na nGall, Tír Chonnaill (County Donegal)
1. South Donegal with Gleann Cholm Cille (Glencolumbkille), Téilinn (Teelin), Cill Charthaigh (Kilcar)
2nd average Donegal with An Dúchoraidh (Doochary), Baile na Finne Fintown), An Clochán Liath (Dunglow), Anagaire (Annagary) and the island of Árainn Mhór (Aranmore),
further north with Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore), Gort na Choirce (Gortnahork), An Fál Carrach (Falcarragh) and Toraigh (Tory Island)
3. North Donegal with Ros Goill (Rosguill), Fánaid (Fanad)
Cúige Mumhan (Munster)
Contae Chiarrai, County Kerry
1. Corca Dhuibhne (Dingle Peninsula) with An Daingean (Dingle), Dún Chaoin (Dunquin), Ceann Trá (Ventry), Baile an Fheirtéaraigh (Ballyferriter), Abhainn an Scáil (Annascaul), Lios Póil (Lispole), Baile na nGall (Ballydavid), An Fheothanach (Feohanagh), An Clochán (Cloghane), Cé Bréanainn (Brandon).
2. Uibh Ráthach (Iveragh) with Cillín Liath, Máistir Gaoithe, Baile an Sceilig, Gleann Mór / An Lóthar, An Dromod, An Gleann
Contae Chorcaí (County Cork)
1. Muscraí (Muskerry) with Carraig an Droichid, Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh (Ballyingeary), Gugán Barra, Baile Bhuirne (Ballyvourney), Baile Mhic Íre (Ballymakeera), Baile Uí Bhuaigh, Cill na Martra, west of. Cúil by Maigh Chromtha (Macroom)
2. Oileán Chléire (Cape Clear Island)
Contae Phort Láirge (County Waterford)
1. At Rinn (Ring) south of Dún Garbhán (Dungarvan) with Rinn Ó gCuarach (Ring), An Sean-Phobal (Old Parish)
Cúige Laighean (Leinster)
Contae na Mí (County Meath)
1. Rath Cairn (Rathcarran)
2. Baile Ghib (Gibstown)

The number of speakers

Irish Gaelic is spoken today as a mother tongue by tens of thousands of people in the Gaeltachten, and let's say a few hundred thousand who are fluent in it. According to the census, as many as 1.4 million Irish (40%) describe themselves as Irish-speaking in the republic, and 143,000 (10%) in Northern Ireland (Tuaisceart Éireann).
It is the 1st official language in the Republic of Ireland (Poblacht na hÉireann) and thus also the official language of the European Union (An Comhphobal Eorpach), which a glance at your passport (Pas) and driver's license (Ceadúnas Tiomána) can convince.
Scottish Gaelic Not quite 70,000 speak, especially on the offshore islands to the west (Hebrides) and in the Highlands. Of course there are also people in Glaschu (Glasgow) and Dùn Eideann (Edinburgh) and other cities in Scotland (Alba) who cultivate the language of their forefathers (and mothers). Not to be confused with Gaelic is Scots (or Lallans), a Germanic language of the Scottish Lowlands related to English.
Nova Scotia (Nova Scotia, Alba Nua) in Canada is not called that for nothing, there are also some who speak Gaelic (on Cape Breton Island).
Manx Gaelic Has no native speakers among the 80,000 inhabitants of the Isle of Man (Ellan Vannin) since the death of 93 year old Ned Madrell in 1974. But it is increasingly being looked after by several hundred people, or rather, revived. According to the 1991 census, there were 634 Manx-speakers, in the last census in 2001 it was 1689 (2.2% of the population).

To the writing

Irish is written with Latin letters. Or so it looks like. Older fonts and decorative inscriptions also use an old font (Cló Gaelach) that has hardly changed in the last 1000 years, here the alphabet:

Here is a sample text (The Lord's Prayer)
Before the introduction of the Latin script, Ogham script was used (these are lines notched on stone edges).
However, the orthography also has some special features in modern script.
The letters j, k, q, v, w, x, y, z are completely missing (except in foreign words). All other consonants, on the other hand, practically exist twice, because you distinguish one in each case "broad" and "slender" consonants. These are also available as sounds in German, but it makes no difference in the meaning which one takes (whether one pronounces "I" correctly or with a "ch" as in "Bach" does not matter, everyone knows what I mean It means little. And the "ch" is the only sound where a difference is perceived at all in German).
In Irish, however, the differences are far more significant. Whether a book or several are meant depends only on the last consonant, a slimmer makes "books" (leabhair) a wider one makes "a book" (leabhar).
Unfortunately, the Latin alphabet only delivers a "b", "c", "d", "f", etc.
In order to make the difference between "wide" and "slim" still clear in the typeface, the vowels are used.
You write in front of and behind slim Consonants one bright Vowel (e, i), next to width Consonants, however dark Vowels (a, o, u). This means that some of the vowels should not be spoken at all, such as the "i" in "leabhair".
If a dark vowel is to be framed by 2 slim coherences, you have to write 3 vowels, willy-nilly, namely 2 light vowels in front of and behind the dark vowel, which is ultimately the only one spoken (which explains the abundance of vowels in Irish words to some extent) .

Become difference between one, say, wide B and one slim B wants to get to know, who first shape the lips into a B and at the same time intend to say "bo" (Irish for "cow"), then do the same with the intention of saying "bi" (bí = Irish "be!"), then just compare the lip position.
As you can see, in German we automatically take a slim b before e, i and a wide b before a, o, u.
In Irish you can now speak a slim consonant in front of a dark vowel and vice versa!
To do this, form the lips back to "bi" but then say "bo" without changing the position of the lips. The result is the Irish word "beo" = "alive". If you do it the other way around (tip your lips to a "bo" and then say "bi"), you get the word "buí" = "yellow". This creates small gliding sounds, something like a "j" for beo, something like a "u" for buí. However, these are usually never real, clear j and u, so be careful not to say "bjo" or "buj"!
The words "bo" and "beo" as well as "bí" and "buí" differ only in the "width" of the consonant B, the "e" in beo and the "u" in buí are actually mute, they serve only to mark the B as "wide" or "slim".

In principle, it is impossible for a consonant to be preceded by an "i" and then followed by an "a". For example "icha", this would lead to confusion (is the "ch" wide as in oh or slim as in me?)
In this respect the Irish script is clear: it can only ichea, or iacha written (whatever that means).

Another difficulty is that Lenition (seimhiú): There is an h behind some consonants, which changes the pronunciation of these consonants considerably. For many this is obvious: c to ch, p to ph, b to bh ("w"). Others are a bit strange: m to mh (again like "w"), g to gh (broad gh: like g in Berlin "say", slim gh: like j), d to dh (like gh), s to sh ("h"), t to th (also "h"), an fh even disappears completely in the pronunciation.
In old scripts, instead of the h, there is a point above the preceding consonant (it looks much clearer then).

Often you will find combinations like gc, bp, nd, dt, bhf at the beginning of a word, but don't worry, you should only speak the first consonant here, i.e. g, b, n, d, bh (a lenited b). The second is left out ("eclipsed" as the Latins say, and that's where the name of this thing comes from: Eclipse (urú).
It is better not to wish to simply not write the second consonant, it contributes significantly to the recognition of the word in the typeface. With bhfear the matter is clear, and you can look up "fear" in the dictionary and find "man", with bear, however, you would find "béar = bear" or "beár = bar / counter")
Just for the sake of completeness: an eclipsed g is ng, but this is also pronounced "ng".

Lenition and eclipse are grammatical rules, the words depending on the case, number, mine or our, with or without article, etc. changed, at the beginning of the word! Irish changes words both in front and behind. This is a bit frightening, after all, you can recognize a word in the spoken language by its root. Changes to this make this very difficult for the learner. Anyone who complains about this should be reminded of German. Something like that doesn't happen to us (or only in dialect), but we like to change the vowels or make umlauts out of them, which is sure to swell the temporal arteries of German learners with anger. (good example: swell, swell, swell, swell, the gush :-))

As with "béar / beár" there is an accent mark above many vowels, Síneadh fada or short Fada. This is not for emphasis, but for the length of the vowel. Without such an accent, the vowels are usually spoken short. This is of course just as significant. "fear" differs from "féar" only in this tick, but one is spoken [fär] the other [fe: r], the first is "man" and the second is "grass". By the way, whether you have seen a bear (béar) or a bar (beár) is sometimes not unimportant (even if the first suggests the second, at least in an area poor in bears but rich in bars like Ireland :-)

As you can see, the clumps of letters when the Irish words first appear have their meaning. However, it cannot be said that Irish is "written as spoken"! As a consolation, I would like to say to everyone: before the spelling reform in the 1950s, spelling was considerably more complicated and distant from the spoken language. English or French orthography is not exactly easy either.

Anyone who wants to learn Irish despite these adversities and the not exactly large number of possible interlocutors should be given a "Go n-éirí an bóthar leat" along the way.

Slán go fóill, Lars


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[1 ]
The main difference is the change from q-sounds to p-sounds in the p-Celtic languages.
In Gaelic, the q (later c or g) was retained. (see "five" Irish cúig with welsh pump or "children" Irish clann, Welsh plans).
This q is the Indo-European qw, which in German became a w (e.g. German was, Irish cad) or an f (German five, Irish cúig). In Latin, qw was retained (cf. quod = was, quinque = five).

Interestingly, the old Irish were aware of this, and so they exchanged the p for a c in foreign words from Wales. But they also did this with words of Latin origin, where the p was never q.
This is how the Latin came for example planta (Plant) via the Welsh plans (crowd of children) as clann into Irish.
Or also (Hebrew) Latin pasha too irish cáisc (= Easter)

[2 ]
Originally there were 2 dialects, a Northern Irish (in Ulster, Connacht and Meath, the northern Leinster) and a southern Irish (Munster and southern, eigtl. Leinster), corresponding to the ancient division of the island into Conn's Half (Leath Chuinn) and Mogh's Half (Leath Mhogha). This results in the similarities between Ulster and Connacht Irish and the Munster dialect, which can still be noticed