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The Daltaí Boards » Archive: 1999-2004 » 2004 (July-September) » Archive through August 22, 2004 » How come gaelic survived? « Previous Next »

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Michelle (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted From: 212.85.1.1
Posted on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 12:36 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

why irish didn't die out -- unlike cornish,(well, almost) etc...?

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Jonas
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Username: Jonas

Post Number: 402
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 06:41 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Well, for almost all of its history Ireland has been Irish speaking. Of the 2004 years AD less than 200 have seen an English speaking Ireland. Irish was the language of the first literature in Europe north of the Alps, it was the language of the culturally most advanced nation in the dark ages. Untill the beginning of the 17th century it was the language of the nobles in Ireland. Cornish never had anything comparable to this. I think it is much more astonishing that Irish has come so close to death than that it actually survives. Not that many European languages have died out - the only two to do so in the last 120 years (or so) are Dalmatian and Manx.

More importantly, virtually all languages who have died out in Europe have been rather small languages without any written language nor any nobility to support it. Seen to the strength it had, Irish is by far the strongest language to come so close to extinction. 200 years ago languages such as Norwegian, Finnish, Lithuanian, Slovene and many others looked much less secure than Irish. Today they are all very secure national languages with millions of speakers.

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OCG (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted From: 82.69.43.131
Posted on Thursday, August 19, 2004 - 08:31 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Totally correct there, as usual Jonas. It's the first time I've ever seen anyone ask this question.

There was no reason for Irish to die out anywhere in Ireland in the 19C, but people didn't seem to realise you could be bilingual and they didn't place a high value on culture, religion was everything for them, language was relatively unimportant.

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Diarmuid (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted From: 220.253.55.158
Posted on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 06:36 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Just wondering what you would estimate as the percentage of Irish speakers in Ireland. Also i keep hearing of a revival of the language in Ireland, to what scale is this?

Go raibh maith agat

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Jonas
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Username: Jonas

Post Number: 403
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 08:19 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Diarmuid, it depends on how you define Irish speakers. The Irish census measures the ability to speak Irish. In my opinion such a measurement isn't worth much. If countries such as Sweden or Finland were to measure in the same way, English would be spoken by at least two thirds of the population. The percentage of Irish speakers according to the census is 43,5%. Do not trust that percentage, it is a complete fake.

Most reliable research into the number of Irish speakers who actually speak Irish daily arrive at a number around 50.000. Some claim 100.000 put that includes children who only speak it in school, not outside it. I'd say that the number if somewhere between 40.000 and 75.000. Not more, and probably not less.

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Tomás (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted From: 198.22.236.230
Posted on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 08:32 am:   Edit Post Print Post

A Dhiarmuid, -- Language information from the latest census is available from the Irish government website. The reliability of the data, as it is based on the self-description of respondents, is suspect. What it most certainly does reflect is a strong desire to be fluent in Irish. But, as we've all heard, an bóthar go hIfreann is paved with good intentions. Geoffrey Wheatstonecraft, an Englishman who loves Ireland and is a very perceptive observer of it once commented that the Irish "would do anything for the Irish language except use their tongues to speak it." He may have been quoting someone else. Brendan Behan perhaps. Ar aon chaoi, estimates of the "native-speaking" population residing in the Gaeltacht generally hover at around 1% of the population -- about 40,000. Another 1 to 2% of the population are said to be native speakers residing outside of the Gaeltacht. The data on highly fluent speakers is much more suspect. Over a million people, I think, categorized themselves as such in the last census. Personally, my highly subjective and unscientific estimate is that in addition to the native speakers, another 7% to 10% (280,000 to 400,000) are highly fluent.
The language is still very much endangered in my opinion, but there are some hopeful signs. Among them, the recent Language Act, the designation of Irish as a "working language" of the EU, the success of TG4 and other Irish language media, and the much higher visibility of the language in daily life than even 10 or 15 years ago. As always, contrary opinions are welcomed, valued and even encouraged.

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Diarmuid (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted From: 220.253.55.158
Posted on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 09:55 am:   Edit Post Print Post

How much is the language restricted to the Gaeltacht areas? For instance if was to walk up to a Dubliner and start speaking Gaeilge what is the likelyhood of them knowing what i am saying?

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Jonas
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Username: Jonas

Post Number: 405
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 10:59 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Well, in terms of everyday speaker it is pretty much confined to the Gaeltacht - you won't find Irish being the community language outside the Gaeltachts. Having said that, I hasten to add that unfortunately there are (too) many Gaeltacht areas in which almost no Irish is spoken.

If you were to walk up to this average person in Dublin, the chance that he'll understand what you're saying is below 50%. Depending on what you say - if you say go raibh maith agat most would understand... The chance that he would be able to converse in Irish can be no higher than 10% - and then I'm allowing for a lot.

That around 50.000 speak Irish daily is a researched fact. There are, though, those who are more or less fluent in Irish but doesn't speak it daily. The 400.000 that Tomás gives as the upper limit sounds somewhat too optimistic to me - although I'd like to believe it.

Being a Finn, I'm very well used to a typical scenario. When I meet someone from Ireland, one of my first question is whether they speak Irish. About 50% say outright that they don't. The others say they do, not expecting a Finn to be able to speak Irish. When I switch to Irish most try to follow the discussion for a phrase or two but almost immediately admit that "well, I used to able to speak it, really, but it's been such a long time..." Of course, there are also those who really can speak it, but they are by far outnumbered by
1. those who admit they cannot speak and 2. those who first say they can although they can't

It's the second group that cause the great gap between reported Irish speakers and reality.

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Chris Dixon (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted From: 84.66.101.1
Posted on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 06:07 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

A chairde,
Census figures also fail to include the Six Counties, where there has undoubtedly been a strong Irish revival in the last twenty years.
Reasonable figures - based on research by the Ultacht Trust and Foras na Gaeilge - put the figure for fluent speakers in the Six Counties at about 30,000 in 2002.
Slán beo!
Chris

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Michelle (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted From: 195.129.126.100
Posted on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 04:08 am:   Edit Post Print Post

thanks! but can i understand that the language did survive because the nobles wanted to keep it? how come it was possible when the british tried to wipe it all out?

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Jonas
Member
Username: Jonas

Post Number: 408
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 04:38 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Once the language had the support of the Irish nobles - before the Irish noble class was wiped out by the English to be replaced with English nobility. Up to the beginning of the 17th century the nobility had a positive influence on the language, yes. Not after that.

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OCG (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted From: 82.69.43.128
Posted on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 03:36 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

They tried to wipe it out, but it remained in the most remote parts of the country, and although they're no longer trying, they may yet succeed.



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