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Scott Hartman ( -
Posted on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 12:38 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I am trying to prove that Irish is an official recognized language - one that stands on its own and not simply a derivative of Celtic. To this point, I've only found that Irish is in the subgroup of Gaelic. However, that is not sufficient enough to win my argument since that does not show that is is far enough removed to be considered a seperate language. Has anyone researched this point and could assist me by providing sources or ammunition to advance my argument? Or, it would be of great assisance to show significant dissimilarities between Irish and Gaelic / Celtic. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Go raith maith agat!

Scott Hartman

p.s. Hello to Liam and Stiovháid whom I met in the An Púcán (Galway) in March 2002. They turned me onto this website and taught me a phrase or two while I was visiting.

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Jonas ( -
Posted on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 12:49 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

WHAT?! I find this rather hard to believe, with whom are you having this argument? Of course Irish is an official recognized language. I've never even heard anyone trying to deny it. Are the same persons persons also denying that English is a separate language or do they consider it simply a derivate of Germanic? That would be equally correct, yet I doubt anyone would argue for it. On the other hand, I never thought anyone would argue that Irish isn't a separate language either... Please do not take this question as a rhetorical one, I'm genuinely interested in the answer. Anyone arguing that Irish isn't separated from Celtic couldn't retain any credibility if they claimed that English IS separated from Germanic.

But sure, I'll do my best to help you. Proving the obvious is just something rather unusual, on the other hand it should be fairly easy... Could you just tell what kind of proofs you need? It would also be interesting to know what on eart those opposed to this claim. Then again, there is a society claiming that the earth is flat...

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Tomás ( -
Posted on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 01:57 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Yeah, Scott. What are you arguing about? Whether or not Irish is different from Gaelic? The basic language grouping breakdown, which you seem to have covered is as follows: Indo-European>Celtic>Gaelic>Irish Gaelic. There is also Scottish Gaelic and Manx Gaelic. Manx is extinct. The last native speaker died in 1974. At one time, 350 years ago or so, they would have been considered one language. However languages evolve. The development of large swaths of English-speaking areas destroyed the geographic bridges that kept these areas linguistically connected. Evolving in isolation from one another, they eventually became different enough from one another that they came to be considered different languages. 350 years ago, if you were a fluent Irish speaker travelling slowly (and 350 years ago there weren't many other options) in a northeasterly direction from Cape Clear (Oileáin Cléire)in the extreme Southwest of the Gaelic-speaking world through Ireland all the way to the northeast coast of Antrim and then across the North Channel to Rathlin Island and on into the Scottish Highlands, you would have noticed the language changing gradually as you travelled from place to place. With a bit of adjustment from place to place, you would be able to understand the local vernacular, and the locals would be able to understand you. To be sure, the Gaelic spoken in the Highlands of Scotland would be very different from that you spoke in Cape Clear, but the two dialects were most likely quite mutually intelligible. Or at least your ear and speech easily would have made adjustments as you slowly travelled on so that by the time you arrived in Inverness, or wherever your final Scottish destination happened to be, you would find the locals easy to understand and they would understand you. Not so today. If you took a native Gaeilgeoir (Irish speaker) from Baile an Fheirtearaigh on the Dingle Peninsula in West Kerry and plopped him down on Barra or Skye in the Hebrides to converse with a native Gaidhligeoir (Scottish-Gaelic speaker), ...well, they quickly would resort to speaking English... Of course, you might have much better luck with a native Irish speaker from Gaoth Dobhair in Donegal, but that's another story...

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Bradford ( -
Posted on Friday, August 29, 2003 - 02:22 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Scott, a chara,

I think Jonas and Tomás stated things very well.

To further summarise:

* Celtic is NOT a language, it is a language group, the same way that Germanic is a language group.

* There are four living languages within the Celtic language group: Irish, Scots Gaelic, Welsh, and Breton. None of these are mutually intelligible.

* I think of "Gaelic" as the ancestral language that eventually gave rise to Irish, Scots Gaelic, and Manx. When people from the US refer to "Gaelic" they generally mean the Irish language.

* Irish is the first official language of the Republic of Ireland.

Hope this helps in whatever sort of argument you're having.

Le meas,


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James ( -
Posted on Saturday, August 30, 2003 - 04:28 am:   Edit Post Print Post


I know this will just reiterate points mentioned above, but I feel compelled to respond.

Celtic is not a language. It is a group of languages. At no point in time did anyone speak "Celtic", at least not in any time that coincides with written history. Similarly, Germanic and Slavic are not and never were languages. These are the names associated with the tribes of ancient Europe and the languages these tribes spoke. Linguistically and ethnically, the native speakers of these languages (not counting for emigration and intermarriage) are linked to these tribes. Those who speak German, Dutch and English are linked to the Germanic tribes. Those who speak Russian, Czech, Serbian ar linked to the Slavic tribes and those who speak Irish, Welsh and Breton are linked, linguistically and ethnically to the Celtic tribes.

To say that Irish is a sub-language of Celtic demonstrates not only a complete lack of understanding of Irish and the Celtic languages but also of the very meaning of linguistics and language evolution. In order to demonstrate that Irish is a language in and of itself, have your adversary in this argument simply look at two written documents, one in Irish and the other in Welsh. Both are Celtic languages but there is absolutely NO chance they would be confused for one another.

On a more academic level, you could compare Irish with Scots Gaelic. Although sharing many common words and grammatical structures they are two distinct and separate languages. The most noteable evidence of this is the presence of the indefinite article in Scots Gaelic and the lack of the indefinite article in Irish. I also seem to vaguely recall that Scots Gaelic uses tenses of verbs that Irish does not, but I may be incorrect on this point.

This may be too simplistic of an analogy but I believe you could say that Irish is to Scots Gaelic as Dutch is to Afrikaans. Dutch and Afrikaans are germanic languages. Irish and Scots Gaelic are Celtic languages. The ancient Irish migrated to Alba (Scotland) and took their language with them. The Dutch (not so ancient) migrated to South Africa and took their language with them. A combination of geographic and political separation ensued resulting in the eventual evolution of two separate and distinct languages that are recognized as such to this day. Couple these factors with the suppression of Irish, Scots Gaelic, and Afrikaans by the ruling english minority and it is no wonder that the gap between these sets of languages widened. What was a split, became a gap, evolved into a chasm and now is an ocean of separation so distinct that a Dutchman cannot communicate with an Afrikaaner any more than an Irishman can communicate with a Scotsman in the respective native tongues. The corruption, or evolution of the parent language has become so complete that in both cases the respective parties would, by necessity, revert to english as the primary means of communication.

Hope this helps. Adh mór ort.

Le meas,


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Larry ( -
Posted on Saturday, August 30, 2003 - 06:39 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Scott, a chara,

The following evidence was briefly mentioned above by Bradford.

Article 8.1 of Bunreacht na nÉireann states:

"The Irish language as the national language is the first official language." (cited in Gill & Macmillan Annotated Constitution of Ireland p32 ISBN 0-7171-2276-X)

I can think of no clearer documentary evidence to support the argument that Irish is an officially recognised language.

Le meas,


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