Republic to propose intensive care for Gaeltacht Irish…

Like Mark Twain, the rumours of the death of the Irish language have been regularly exaggerated. In fact what’s most remarkable is its healthy resistance to government and official indifference. But no one who loves the language can deny that in its designated heartland, na Gaeltachtaí, it is getting harder and harder to find it being used as linga franca of the day. Indeed there seems to be a cut off point in the age groups that still unconsciously use it in public place. An age that I suspect varies from district to district. According to an as yet unpublished report by the Republic’s Department of Community and Gaeltacht Affairs, spoken Irish may only have about 20 to live in such official designated areas. It proposes a seven year intensive care programme.

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  • T.Ruth

    This would indeed be a situation where we could have a unified approach on a Northern Ireland /Republic of Ireland basis with a project to protect Ulster Gaelic in Donegal and other parts of Ulster and Ulster Scots in the areas where it persists in the folk memory. Perhaps in this unified approach we could avoid an expensive and pointless war of words and struggle for parity of funding if not esteem between Irish language groups and those on the Unionist side who also seek to create and preserve a politically alternative artificially constructed language. Ulster Scots and Ulster Gaelic are spoken by very few people but as indigenous tongues are worthy of preservation.We need to do all in our power to promote Ulster Gaelic and Ulster Scots culture, music and literature, in the hope we can create the conditions in which people will develop an interest in learning the old languages.Many people are already committed in this activity. They need well planned support.
    However the continuing use of Irish as a means of exclusion will result in the death of the native tongue of those for whom Gaelic is a preferred or alternative means of verbal communication.
    T.Ruth

  • Declan Church

    Surely if people have a grá for the Irish language, it will survive. There’s no-one out there actively destroying it, is there?

    The Irish language lobby is hardly a lobby, it’s more like a gigantic, un-spoken status quo. Enda Kenny suggested doing away with compulsory Irish at Leaving Cert level and was greeted with a massive crowd at part headquarters – and I’d wager not one of them was not involved in an Irish language organisation.

    You’ll never get people born into an English-speaking part of Ireland speaking Irish all day – but this survey shows that despite it being more possible than ever to live your life through Irish, people in the Gaeltacht don’t use the language on their own, which is after all the one place we’ve always thought would be 100% Gaeilge.

    Perhaps if even the native Irish-speakers are turning their back on Irish, we should look at not throwing quite so much money at pointless translations and trying to pretend we need Irish spoken in the EU. Preserving Irish is one thing, but if the Irish don’t want to speak it, what’s the point in pretending it’s a living language?

  • Ulster McNulty

    T Ruth

    “However the continuing use of Irish as a means of exclusion will result in the death of the native tongue of those for whom Gaelic is a preferred or alternative means of verbal communication.”

    No, it’s the continuing preference for Anglo-American linguistic forms which will achieve that result, dude.

    How can Irish be a “means of exclusion” anyway? Give an example.

  • Cormac

    T.Ruth – parity for both Ulster-Scots and Irish in terms of a unified approach, er ok…

    …but you don’t really mean to say that Ulster-Scots should also be considered a language???

    For the last time it is NOT a language. It’s a variant of the English language and continuously saying it’s a language does a disservice to the definition of ‘language’. Nobody – NOBODY – who knows anything about languages calls it one.

    Where’s Flann O’Brien when you need him? The man would surely have a field day with ‘the Boord a Ulster Scotch’.

  • jp

    Perhaps a service could be done for Irish language by its promotion in the industrial areas of the north, rather than this concentration on specific traditional Gaelic areas ?

    why not composes an Irish Language version of Rule Britannia or God Save the Queen?

    we could encourage the production of Irish language art forms and display our culture to our beloved Monarch by our supplication to Her Grace in song.

  • Dublin voter

    I’m a bit of a Gaeilgeoir myself and it breaks my heart to see it dying as a spoken language in the Gaeltacht. It appears to be worst in West Kerry where I spent the happiest of times learning Gaelainn. But that’s the reality. It will survive in some form with people like me, non-native speakers, speaking it to each other as often as we can. But that’s not the same as a living community language as we have had in the Gaeltacht up to now. Much of the richness, the beauty will inevitably be lost.
    Agree with Declan too about the campaign to translate official documents into Irish and to add the language to the list of official EU languages. I was and am against both.

    Beatha teanga í a labhairt. Bás teanga “teanga oifigiúil” a dhéanamh di?
    (The life of a language is in speaking it. The death of a language is in making it an “official language”?)

  • Ulster McNulty

    Cormac

    “For the last time it is NOT a language. It’s a variant of the English language and continuously saying it’s a language does a disservice to the definition of ‘language’.”

    Strictly speaking it is a language. Any particular form of human verbal communication is properly and correctly defined as a language.

    It is misleading to describe it as a variant of English (it could perhaps be more accurately described as a variant of Scots).

    But more accurately English and Scots (or Inglis to give it’s older name) are dialects of the same language.

  • Cormac

    Ulster McNulty,

    I appreciate you standing up for Ulster Scots (someone has to 🙂 but I’m not sure I see your point:

    “English and Scots (or Inglis to give it’s older name) are dialects of the same language”

    and

    “[Ulster Scots could] perhaps be more accurately described as a variant of Scots”

    So it’s a variant of a variant? Not sure if that qualifies as being a separate language (with a strongly distinct and extensive vocabulary and an adequate number of tenses that that would imply).

    Would you also classify slang as a language (strictly speaking)?

    I remain to be convinced…

  • Dewi

    Surely if people have a grá for the Irish language, it will survive. There’s no-one out there actively destroying it, is there?

    That’s the trouble – “market forces” can so easily destroy the linguistic nature of communities.

    Statistically 70% appears to a threshold. Below this level a random meeting between two people in a village will be conducted in the langauge of the monoglot more often than not (51% of the time. 3 or 4 members of the Rugby team will be monoglot so the language on the bus to games and in coaching sessions becomes English. Similarly bowls clubs, WI etc.

    Impossible to resist these pressures without significant state support in addition to goodwill.

  • páid

    Cormac,

    what’s the problem with Ulster Scots as a language? It is a language, and good luck to all to speak it and nourish it. You cannot say NOBODY thinks it’s a language – you cannot even say NOBODY on this blog thinks it’s a language.

    OK, so I suspect some anti-Irish folk want to use it to do down Irish, that’s their sad problem.

    The Ulster Scots language and it’s genuine speakers and supporters have my good wishes.

  • Cormac

    Fair enough páid, but I have to say the only time I have ever heard of Ulster-Scots has been Lord Laird frothing at the mouth over the amount of money being earmarked for Irish in NI, or complaining about the Irish government overlooking Ulster-Scots…

    I love the English spoken in Glasgow, the Bronx, Jamaica etc. And good luck to all those who speak those variants and nourish them too. I just can’t see how they (and Ulster Scots) can be considered languages or lumped in with Irish, Welsh, English as languages.

    (I’ll say all that in Ulster Scots – let me just get the dictionary… oh hang on, there isn’t one).

  • Jocky

    Is that the nasty Brits got it in for Irish language? or sorry it’s the West Brits this time.

    Why bother?

    You have language A which 100’s millions of people speak throughout europe.

    or language B which tens of thousands speak, occassionaly, in a few areas of Ireland.

  • Stonewall

    Cormac,

    Ulster-Scots or Ullans is legally recognised as one of europes 40 minority languages the same as Irish.

    Please look to the Bureau of Lesser Used Languages. In Northern Ireland both Ullans and Irish representatives sit on its committee.

    This arguement is now dead Ullans is a language thousands of people say so and so does the law!

    Sorry to burst your “nobody calls it a language” bubble Cormac.

    All the best to the Irish linguists in preserving their language! Puistie!

  • Cormac

    Fair enough Stonewall, Páid, Ulster McNulty (and you don’t hear this often on Slugger) I concede defeat.

    It still seems a tad makey-uppy to me, but there you go.

    Back to work…

  • Ziznivy

    Klingon.

  • Stonewall

    It takes a big man to admit he can be wrong cormac. Respect to you.

  • Fraggle

    Having the same status as ulster-scots frankly denigrates an Gaeilge and any other minority language and that is exactly the desired effect the US campaign. Ullans is indeed an officially recognised language. the idea is that anything on a par with US must be just as worthless. I feel sorry for those who have to pretend to speak it like that fella on the ulster-scots comedy show on radio ulster.

  • Ulster McNulty

    Cormac

    Cheers! btw Chinese doesn’t have any tenses at all.

    Fraggle

    Here is a linguistic rule with no exceptions:

    “All dialect is language, all language is dialect”.

    It’s impossible from a linguistic point of view to attach a any different status to Irish or Ulster Scots.

  • RG Cuan

    Ulster Scots is defined in legislation (The North/South Co-operation – Implementation Bodies) as “the variety of the Scots language which has traditionally been used in parts of Northern Ireland and in Donegal in Ireland”.

    In the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages the Hamely Tongue is protected and recognised only under Part II.

    This may be the politically-correct legal status of Lallans/Ullans but the linguistic argument is certainly alive and kicking.

    Regarding the future of the Gaeltacht, while it is important that all is done to secure Irish in its traditional heartlands, the fact remains that thousands more Gaelic speakers live outside the Gaeltacht regions than in them.

    Irish is flourishing in the urban centers of Béal Feirste, Gaillimh and Baile Átha Cliath/Dublin and it is in these city areas where the language’s future lies.

    On this note, an innovative organisation named BAILE has recently been established to set up new Gaeltacht areas throughout the East of the country.

    Their website – http://www.bailegaelach.com – has extensive information on the interesting plans.

  • RG Cuan

    ULSTER MCNULTY

    It’s impossible from a linguistic point of view to attach a any different status to Irish or Ulster Scots.

    That’s totally incorrect, and frankly any linguist will tell you so.

    Irish Gaelic has a distinct grammar and synax which differentiates it from other languages. It also has official linguistic rules with a corpus of written material stretching back 2000 years.

    Ulster Scots has none of this. Its grammar is basically English and the tongue itself is intelligible by any English speaker, native or not. As a form of Lowland Scots, its main defining factor is its varied vocabulary and the distinctive accent of its speakers.

  • Cruimh

    RG – doesn’t some ambiguity exist in the meaning of the word “gaeltacht” itself in this regard?

  • Cruimh

    “a corpus of written material stretching back 2000 years.”

    That’s incorrect.

    Earliest manuscript is circa 12th century – Book of the Dun Cow – and the Ogham runes on stones are what, 1500 years old ?

  • RG Cuan

    Cruimh, i should have said almost 2000 years.

    Old Irish has been written since the 500s AD, much of it in Latin manuscipts.

    Ogham script was certainly existent from 400 AD at least.

  • Cruimh

    RG – I think it was a Freudian slip on your behalf ! Your sub-conscious betrayed you into revealing that you Irish language enthusiasts equate this with Christianity 😉

  • RG Cuan

    Maith thú Cruimh!

    The word ‘enthusiast’ makes me think of stamp collectors…

  • Mick Fealty

    Can I point out this quotation from T.Ruth, just so we can move on to the real question in hand:

    Perhaps in this unified approach we could avoid an expensive and pointless war of words and struggle for parity of funding if not esteem between Irish language groups and those on the Unionist side who also seek to create and preserve a politically alternative artificially constructed language.

  • D

    T Ruth

    I think it would be of benefit if you could persuade Scottish Nationalists that Scots is not a language first before persuading NI Unionists. Certainly over here there are moves to make it equal with Gallic. This draws a lot of support from Nationalists. It would seem political opinion and the classification of language are inseparable.

    On this Island nationalists regard it as a distinct language, on your island, nationalists regard it as a dialect.

  • Donnacha

    “Irish language groups and those on the Unionist side who also seek to create and preserve a politically alternative artificially constructed language.”

    Gaeilge is an “artificially constructed language? How so, Truth?

  • McKelvey

    I think that people should recognize the fact that the differences between that which is considered a language and that which is considered a dialect is very arbitrary and when a distinction is made, there is usually a political motivation. For example 20 years ago Haitian was called a “creole” and now its a “language”, what happened in the interim? It became Haiti’s official language – nothing changed besides its political status. Irish and Scottish Gaelic are not so much separate languages as they are a spectrum of closely related dialects – much the same could be said of Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian – the reason they are considered separate languages comes down to politics.

  • RG Cuan

    T. RUTH

    You are wrong to suggest that Irish is used as a means of exclusion. 99.9% of Irish speakers will tell you that it’s a language for all.

    I agree however that since some Unionists seem intent on promoting Ulster Scots that support – appropriate and proportional to the ‘language community’ – should be provided in areas of Antrim, east Down, Derry etc. This could take the form of Hamely Tongue vocabulary classes or bilingual/trilingual signage.

    With its more significant language community, Irish Gaelic support would be more significant (ACHT etc.) though only in pro-Gaelic areas.

    Each culture adds to the flavour of the north and each has a place in our society. They should however be judged on their own merits.

  • Ulster McNulty

    RG Cuan

    It’s impossible from a linguistic point of view to attach a any different status to Irish or Ulster Scots.
    That’s totally incorrect, and frankly any linguist will tell you so.”

    You misunderstood what I was saying, which was that Irish and Ulster Scots have the same status – they are both languages. It doesn’t matter how much or how little they have in common with any other language whether English, Scottish Gaelic, Korean, Khoisian they are still language in their own right – any linguist will tell you

  • Donnacha

    Hewitt anyone?

    So I, because of all the buried men
    In Ulster clay, because of rock and glen
    And mist and cloud and quality of air
    As native in my thought as any here,
    Who now would seek a native mode to tell
    Our stubborn wisdom individual,
    Yet lacking skill in either scale of song,
    The graver English, lyric Irish tongue,
    Must let this rich earth so enhance the blood
    With steady pulse where now is plunging mood
    Till thought and image may, identified,
    Find easy voice to utter each aright.

    Not much mention of Ulster-Scots there mind you.

  • RG Cuan

    ULSTER MCNULTY

    They are still language in their own right.

    You have now clarified your position. Yes they are both language as in the broad sense that they are a means of communication.

    The issue here however is the distinction between dialects and languages. In this sense, there is a significant difference between Irish Gaelic and Ulster Scots.

  • je T’aime

    So Ulster Scots was not used in Cavan and Monaghan?

  • Reader

    RG Cuan: In this sense, there is a significant difference between Irish Gaelic and Ulster Scots.
    Isn’t Irish Gaelic a dialect (several dialects?) of Scots Gaelic? Whereas Ulster Scots is part of a different language family entirely…
    You can’t have a dialect without a language.

  • Stonewall

    Yes Ullans was and still is used in Cavan Monaghan and Donegal.

  • Tony Dee

    Ulster Scots is a joke . Is there a moose in the hoose? Please! I laugh when I hear rednecks strangling the English language. I walk down Royal Avenue every day of the week and never hear it spoken. Where are all the speakers of this so-called “language” – standing at home in front of the mirror with spuds in their mouths?