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Daniel Cueto ( -
Posted on Monday, August 28, 2000 - 10:45 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Hi, everybody.

I'm a future Irish student, but I don't know what dialect to aim at.

So if any of you could post some information on the dialects, each one's advantages and disadvantages, number of speakers, sonority, difficulty, beauty or whatever, I'd appreciate it a lot.



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Seosamh ( -
Posted on Tuesday, August 29, 2000 - 12:41 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

See 'Learning Irish in Peru', 19 Aug. in this forum. I wrote some basic info. on the dialects there. Besides starting with a text based on a specific dialect, you can use something that is Standard Irish and adjust your Irish as you go on. I've heard that's the standard approach to learning Welsh. They teach you a standard form of the language and you are expected to then go out and assimilate to some dialect or other. All three of the dialects are 'sonorous' etc. and worth learning. Some people prefer to learn one dialect or even a subdialect as minutely as possible. Others aim to be able to express their thoughts as accurately as possible within the rules of Irish, without too heavy an emphasis on a specific dialect -- although every one gravitates to one or other.

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Jonas ( -
Posted on Tuesday, August 29, 2000 - 12:49 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Hi Daniel!

That’s an easy question, you should learn the West Kerry dialect.
1. It is the most beautiful Irish dialect.
2. It is spoken in the most beautiful part of Ireland
3. Its speakers are extremly nice
4. The best irish books are written in this dialect.

Quite easy, don’t you think ;-)

Seriously, it is a very hard question to answer, and no short simple answers exits. Which dialect you should learn dependens solely on your own preferences, but I’ll try to give a briefe introduction.

You may know that there are three main dialects of Irish: Ulster in Co. Donegal; Connacht in Co. Galway and Co. Mayo; Munster in Co. Kerry, Co. Cork and Co. Waterford.
All these three main dialects (with a number of subdialects) are spoken as the first, and sometimes the only, language in communities along the western seabord.

1. Ulster. This dialect is the main language northwestern Ireland, the most important villages include Gaoth Dobhair, Bun Beag, Gort a’ Choirce, and Rinn na Féiste as well as Tory Island.
It is also spoken somewhat further south in places like Gleann Cholm Cille, Teileann and Baile na Finne, but English is the first language is these villages.
The Ulster dialect is quite different from other Irish dialects, some even claim that it is closer to Scottish Gaelic. (Then there are those who claim that Scottish Gaelic is a dialect of Irish...) Admittingly, the dialect shares many features in grammar, vocabulary and pronounciation with Scottish Gaelic, which makes it a bit hard for speakers of other dialects to understand the speakers of this dialect. The differences aren’t, however, be insurmountable, but it takes some practising before a speaker (or learner) of other dialects can converse with the speakers.

2. Connacht. This is the largest dialect, and is the main language along the northern coast of Galway Bay in an area stretching from An Spidéal to Carna. Villages in this entirely Irish-speaking area include Indreabhán, An Cheathrú Rua, Tír an Fhia (where I’ve lived), Ros Muc and Cill Chiaráin; it is also the first language of the Aran Islands. A subdialect is spoken in some villages in Co. Mayo, i.e. Tuar Mhic Eadaigh and Ceathrú Thaidhg, but English has almost replaced the Irish of Mayo.
The Connacht dialect is in many aspects halfway between Ulster and Munster. This is, without doubt, the least archaic dialect: it is strikingly modern and simplified.

3. Munster. This dialect is the first language of the western part of the Dingle Peninsula (the westermost part of Europe), including villages such as Dún Chaoin, Baile an Fheirtéaraigh (where I’ve also lived and learned my Irish), Baile na nGall, Muiríoch and An Feothanach. It is also the first language of Cuil Aodha in the Cork Mountains.
The dialect is also spoken in the easten part of Dingle peninsula, in the Uíbh Ráthach peninsula, on Cléire Island and along the river Lee (Laoi) in villages such as Béal Átha an Gaorthaidh, but English dominates in these areas. A subdialect is spoken in An Rinn in Co. Waterford, and is quite strong.
The Munster is in many ways the most archaic dialect (the oldest living Celtic speech, if you want). Because of this its conjugations are a little bit more complicated than the other, but at the same time it adds a certain charm.

Now, which dialect is easiest to learn?
1. Ulster. The pronounciation may present some problems when learing this dialect, but apart from that it sould be quite easy to learn, and once learned it should be easy to converse with other speakers of the same dialect. (as well as speakers of other dialects with a little effort)

2. Connacht. This dialect has one huge advantage for learners, the best book for beginners is written in it: Learning Irish by Mícheál Ó Siadhail. On the whole, it is quite easy to learn this dialect with it’s simplified grammar BUT unlike the other dialects, you might have problems conversing with its speakers even once you’ve learned it. The reason is that in normal speech most endings are reduced to a simpel schwa-sound (like e in english the, french le). In addtion, many other sounds are frequently dropped. This gives the dialect a sound like where it spoken deep down in the throat. Actually, it IS spoken deep down the throat. Because of this, native speakers of this dialect can be tricky to understand for beginners. When I first came to Connemara I spoke Irish, but I still had trouble the first weeks.

3. Munster. As said, the conjugations make this dialects slightly harder, but they can easily be mastered in a day or two (they are perfectly regular). The advantage with this dialect is that its speakers normally are well-articulated and don’t speak as fast as in some other dialects. This contributes to making the speakers of this dialect the easiest to converse with for a learner.

Then about the beauty. I can, of course, only speak for myself here.
1. Ulster. When asked the question “which dialect is the most beautiful” many native speakers will answer Ulster, regardless of which dialect they speak themselves. Part of the reason is that is sounds somewhat exotic to other Irish speakers, but I guess that most English speakers think that all dialects sound exotic.

2. Connacht. To the mentioned question “which dialect is the most beautiful” hardly any speakers will answer Connacht. The deep-throat sounds combined with reductions do have their charm, but they are not commonly appreciated. Another reason may be that Ulster and Munster speakers reject the simplification of the grammar.

3. Munster. Once again, many Irish speakers, regardless of their own dialect, think this is the most beautiful. The archaic forms and stress-pattern do have a certain appeal, it certainly gives it a more musical sound.

Well, there's some information of the dialects from my personal point of view.

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Máire Ní Ógáin (
Posted on Wednesday, August 30, 2000 - 08:25 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I saw this question yesterday and avoided answering it, as I anticipated something of a dialect war. I have to say, though, that what Jonas says above is about the best description I've ever come across of the merits and drawbacks of each. Well done! And this from a committed Ulster speaker!

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Seosamh ( -
Posted on Wednesday, August 30, 2000 - 01:16 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Aontaím le Máire. Maith thú, a Jonas!

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