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The history of Irish
Irish in modern times
Irish today by Antaine O'Donnaile
Did you know that you probably have quite a few words of Irish? Even people who have never been to Ireland or who have never heard of the Irish language often have some words in their vocabulary which come straight from Irish.
For example, many people use the term 'smashing' to describe something great or pleasing. That word comes straight from the Irish phrase 'Is maith sin', pronounced 'smoy shin' and meaning 'that is good'. The word 'buddy' is another word which comes directly from the Irish, as do the words 'smithereens' and 'hooligan'. These are borrowings into English from a language that dates back more than two thousand years and which is still spoken in Ireland.
The Irish language is a Celtic language. It belongs to a family of languages which also includes Gaelic in Scotland, Manx, Welsh, Cornish, Breton and Historical Continental Celtic. At the time of the Roman Invasion of Britain in 50 BC, most of the tribes of Britain spoke a Celtic language very common to Welsh or Cornish.
In the last census 30% of the population in the South claimed ability in the Irish language. More than 10% of the population of Northern Ireland reported ability in Irish. Within Northern Ireland, currently 3,281 children are taught exclusively through the Irish language at primary and secondary level.
Irish has three main dialects known as Ulster, Munster and Connaught Irish, corresponding to the Northern, Southern and Western provinces of the island. There is also a standardised dialect and grammar. In Northern Ireland, Ulster Irish is the main dialect although within that there is some variation and change, mainly between the rich and traditional dialect of rural communities and new urban communities. Irish speaking communities in Belfast, for example, have developed a dynamic and edgy dialect loaded with borrowings and structures from English and with a distinct pronunciation.
The Irish language is very much part of the unique and rich cultural tapestry of Ireland, North and South. With a strong presence on TV, radio and in the print media, with more favourable public and official attitudes and with a booming education sector, it is probably in a stronger position now than at any time in the past 100 years.