Seachtain na Gaeilge 2014

Glendalough by The Art Of Graham

A Celtic round tower and monastery in Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland / Instagram

Seachtain na Gaeilge 2014: it’s Irish language week

To spread the word of the Irish language and its history, we’ve dedicated this post to it.

Irish is the official language of Ireland, although only 41% of its population can speak it. From the 1st to the 17th March this year, the people of Ireland are encouraged through festival events and cultural happenings to speak Irish. Seachtain na Gaeilge is a non-governmental organization, first established by Conradh na Gaeilge in 1903. This cultural event has taken place this time of year for more than a hundred years.

Irish is one of the oldest written languages in the world. First records of written Irish date back as far as the 6th century AD. Prior to written Irish, its archaic form was that of stone inscriptions known as Ogham writings: Ogham was carved on small monuments throughout the Irish sea from the 4th to the 7th centuries. As many of you probably know, Irish is a Celtic language. It was widely spoken in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and the west coast of Britain from 500 AD onwards, although it began to slowly decline through the centuries thereafter.

Over time, Irish became influenced by other northern European languages. From 900 to 1200 AD, the Scandinavian languages of the Vikings gave Irish new loanwords such as ‘pingín’ meaning penny and ‘margadh’ meaning ‘market’. When the French-Normans eventually arrived on Irish soil, words like ‘cúirt’ for court and ‘garsún’ for son began to appear. Up until 1500 to 1600 AD, the entire country was speaking Irish again; many Normans whom had chosen to settle in Ireland, as many Vikings had done before, started using Irish as their own tongue. Irish was never an administrative language on the island even though the majority of the populace spoke it. English was necessary for administration and any legal affairs.

Irish suffered many blows during the 16th and 17th centuries with English plantations of Ireland, the Williamite war (Jacobite-Williamite war of Ireland) and the enacting of the ‘Penal laws’.

Many attempts to reinstate Irish as a major language within the country failed despite great numbers of the rural population speaking it natively. Many Irish people began to adopt the English language during and after the Great Famine of Ireland (1845 to 1852) in which hunger, disease and mass emigration affected the country and its language. Not all was lost after the famine of the 19th century: the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language was established in 1876. This gave recognition for the inclusion of Irish in the education system.

In 1893, the Gaelic League was established; known as Conradh na Gaeilge. The league invoked a mass movement of support for spoken Irish and its influence can still be seen today.

How will you celebrate Seachtáin na Gaeilge? Show off your languages skills by posting comments or status feeds this week and next in Irish.

The STAR Team

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