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Irish Language

Introduction to the Irish Language

The Irish language dates back to pre-Christian times, over 2,500 years according to many scholars and is thought to have originated from Common Celtic, which originally came from the Indo-European language.[1] The changing geographical and historical landscape of Ireland over the years, from the arrival of Christianity to the invasion of the Vikings and Norman settlers and mass emigration due to the Great Famine or An Gorta Mór, has coloured the Irish language, resulting in a variety of spellings, pronunciations and other quirks of language quirks from a range of cultures. Irish is the first official language of the Irish state[2], with approximately 1.77 million people (41% of the population) defining themselves being able to speak Irish according to the 2011 census.[3] Irish is also spoken as the primary language in certain areas of the country, known as Gaeltacht areas, which are located in counties Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Kerry, Cork, Waterford and Meath.[4]

Traditional Irish Baby Names

The Irish language, more commonly known to some as “Gaelic” or “Gaeilge” (gayal-ge), boasts a vast array of beautiful names, full of rich sounds and with meanings enveloped in mysticism, history and folklore.

Ireland101 has amassed a comprehensive list of Irish baby names from A-Z, along with their associated meanings.

Before we delve into these names however, let us give you a quick tour of the landscape of the history and structure of the Irish language.

Dialect and Alphabet

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There are three main dialects across the country of Ireland; Munster Irish, Connacht Irish and Ulster Irish. These three dialects vary in terms of pronunciations, grammar and vocabulary. Another point to note is that the Irish language uses an abbreviated alphabet - omitting the following letters (except in the case of loanwords e.g. café in English)

j, k, q, v, w, x, y, and z

Pronunciation

The síneadh fada (she-nah fah-da), known as the fada for short, is an accent that can change the meaning and pronunciations of words. Phonetically it broadens vowel sounds, for example the word for man is fear, pronounced far, while the Irish word for grass féar is pronounced fair. There are some other common hints and tips about the idiosyncrasies of the Irish language outlined below to help you pronounce and find your perfect baby name!

The pronunciation of the consonants of some words can be softened through the addition of a h in the Irish language, for example

Initial consonantModified consonantPronunciation
P PH F
T TH HEH
C CH KH
B BH W or V, depending on the spelling of the rest of the word.
D DH GH
F FH Silent
G GH DH
M MH W or V, depending on the spelling of the rest of the word.
S SH HE

In fact, the addition of some letters to consonants can make their sound disappear altogether!

Initial consonantModified consonantPronunciation
P BP B
T DT D
C GC G
B MB M
D ND N
G NG N
F BHF W or V, depending on the spelling of the rest of the word.

Here are some examples of such names, along with their phonetic description to help you get started.

ExamplePronunciation
Brónagh Bro-nah
Réaltín Rayal-teen
Saoirse Seer-sha
Úna Oon-a
Máire Maw-rah
Gráinne Grawn-nea
Aodhán Aid-awn
Seán Sheawn
Míchéal Me-hawl
Aonghus Ain-gus
Daithí Da-he
Diarmuid Dear-mwid
Eoghan Oh-in

Bibliography

  1. http://www.irishgaelictranslator.com/wombat/download/wombat_irish_grammar.pdf

References

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  1. http://www.gaeilge.ie/The_Irish_Language/History.asp
  2. http://www.coimisineir.ie/index.php?page=cearta_bunreachtula&tid=10&lang=english
  3. http://www.cso.ie/en/media/csoie/census/documents/census2011profile9/Profile,9,What,we,know,full,doc,for,web.pdf
  4. http://www.coimisineir.ie/index.php?page=faoin_teanga&tid=23&lang=english

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