** Why Cork Irish?

I am often asked why I am studying Cork Irish. Isn’t it obvious that when you learn a language you learn the standard form of it? And then, if you’re still interested, you can delve into dialectal literature. So why am I not learning Standard Irish?

My key objection to Standard Irish–which I would prefer to refer to as Standardized Irish–is that this form of the Irish language, if it is a legitimate form at all, was devised by a government committee and is a mish-mash of elements found in the various real dialects of traditional Irish. Imagine if the various countries speaking English decided to standardize English by combining Cockney with Geordie and Scouse, a dash of Lowland Scots, and some of the Queen’s English on the way: that would not be a “standard” form of the English language. A real standard is based on the historically correct grammatical forms and exemplified in the writings of the best writers. So, with English, the elements of standard grammar are mostly clear, and they are exemplified by the writing of Dickens, Hardy, Austen and others.

In the case of Irish, the dialects have developed differently for centuries, but the form of Irish closest to the historically correct grammatical forms is Cork Irish, and the form furthest from them is Galway Irish. If we compare the situation with English, Cork Irish is analogous to Oxford English and Galway Irish to Cockney. The reasons for this probably include the cultural histories of those regions: in Cork a literary history was maintained all the way through, whereas most of the poets of Connacht were illiterate. The synthetic verb forms used in Cork Irish were once used throughout the whole of Ireland, or are derived from synthetic forms used throughout the whole of Ireland. That is not to say that Cork Irish is conservative in every respect. It would be unusual if it were, and in fact features such as the dropping of the relative form of the verb, the use of provincial forms such as deinim (derived from the original pre-standard do-ghním) and the supplanting of many historical nominatives by what were originally dative forms are among some of the innovations in Cork Irish. But the incidence of such things is much lower in Cork than elsewhere. Relatively speaking, it is the most conservative dialect.

In terms of literature, the Irish literary canon is much narrower than its English equivalent. There was almost nothing in print in Irish when the Gaelic Revival began, save the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, a couple of dictionaries and Bishop Séamus Ó Gallchobhair’s sermons. The Revival was a work of collecting and printing manuscripts as well as of producing new original works of Irish. A fairly substantial body of works was printed by the Irish Texts Society and hundreds of works of Irish published between the beginning of the Irish Revival and the introduction of the artificial Caighdeán Oifigeamhail in the middle of the 20th century. It would be idle to claim that all those works were in Cork Irish–Séamus Ó Grianna, writing from the Donegal Gaedhealtacht was one of the most prodigious authors of the period, and he certainly did not write in Cork Irish–but the Irish priest and author, Peadar Ua Laoghaire, was probably the most prolific author of the Gaelic Revival, and taken together with the output of Kerry authors the Munster contribution to the Revival was significant. In fact, all the Gaedhealtacht areas participated in the Revival, with no clear predominance, but Munster Irish was particularly influential in the Galltacht, where learners attempted to imitate the perceived “correct” Irish of Canon Ua Laoghaire.

The Caighdeán Oifigeamhail would not have been introduced had one form of Irish become accepted as the Standard for the island of Ireland, but an Irish Pronouncing Dictionary was produced, using Munster pronunciation, and the Christian Brothers’ Grammar largely disseminated a Munster form of the Irish language. One is struck by the passage in the early editions of that grammar book counselling learners of Irish not to imitate the use of muid as a personal pronoun. Whereas in Cork, the first person plural pronoun was sinn, but the conjugated forms of the verb itself (eg, glanaimíd) required no pronoun to be appended, in the West and North of Ireland, where the verbal conjugations had broken down, the verbal form was reanalysed as containing a pronoun: glanann muid, and the use of muid instead of sinn as a pronoun spread therefrom. This is an error of similar proportions to the use of “could of” instead of “could have” by many native speakers of English–while such usage is undoubtedly native English, it is scarcely educated usage, and the old grammar book advised learners of Irish not to copy similarly corrupt usages in Irish.

It is not a valid objection to state that each phase of a language’s history consists of a corruption of what went before, and therefore that all corruptions must be accepted. The key point is that in a linguistic culture, the educated often hold out against corruptions–“could of” would not be accepted among the educated–and only once the educated have finally yielded themselves has the pass been truly surrendered and the standard language changed. There are cases where two rival versions maintain themselves for a time–we can think of the use or non-use of “whom” in English–and no-one would dream of claiming that the use of “whom” could be decreed by the government to be a mistake from now on; for as long as significant numbers of educated people continue to use traditional forms, they cannot be wrong, even if, as with “whom”, it no longer feels right to insist on their usage.

In the case of Irish, a broad standard, allowing the use of traditional and progressive forms together could have been accepted, but the range of language that implied would have been much larger than would be the case in English. To allow everything from Cork Irish at one end of the spectrum to Galway Irish at the other (lower) end would have been a very broad standard indeed. The bullet was bitten: the government decided to create a standard language. The more artificial such standards, the less they are likely to be accepted–and, while the Irish government has been able to abuse its control of the Irish education system to ensure the use of its standard in the schools and media, thus ensuring that most Irish written today appears in the Caighdeán Oifigeamhail, the fact that four rival sets of textbooks teaching variously Munster Irish, Connacht Irish, Ulster Irish and Standard Irish, and sometimes more particularly Cork Irish, Kerry Irish, Cois Fhairrge Irish, etc, shows that there is a mismatch between the Standard and the language of the Gaedhealtachtaí, and that to that extent the Standard has not been fully accepted, especially by learners who want to learn to speak like Irish native speakers.

Whereas the first Republic of Ireland census showed that in 1926 Munster had the greatest number of speakers, the percentage of native speakers was highest in Connacht, and within Munster itself, Cork Irish had dwindled in relation to Kerry Irish. The prestige of Cork Irish therefore depended on its perceived “correctness”, and the authority of writers such as Peadar Ua Laoghaire. Within decades, Galway Irish had emerged as the majority dialect of Irish, and it was felt politically impossible to tell Galway native speakers that the Irish they spoke was incorrect. This was a question of egalitarianism: people in the East End of London do not claim to be offended when told their English is incorrect, neither do they insist that “ain’t” is correct in their districts where “am not” or “have not” stand elsewhere. Standard English is valid for every district, including those where Cockney is spoken, but the politics of the Irish language movement meant that it was difficult to explain to native speakers in some areas that their dialects had diverged from the written Irish of 1600-1950 owing to the fact that their ancestors were mainly illiterate–I wouldn’t recommend emphasising this point to the speakers of Cockney English either, but the facts in both cases are what they are. A further problem was the vociferous, almost spiteful, response of writers in the Donegal Gaedhealtacht to Cork Irish, which required a change in the standard to accommodate them; it is a delicious irony that the Standard chosen was not so close to Donegal Irish anyway. I am sure some people will try to tell me there was a literary tradition in Donegal in the 17th century–but those people did not write in the “Donegal Irish” of today, writing in fact in a form of Irish closer to Cork Irish. It is undoubtedly the case too that the dialects are of long standing: Uilliam Bedell’s Bible of 1684 (incorporating Uilliam Dómhnaill’s New Testament of 1602) shows evidence of more than one hand, including forms such as duaidh sé and d’ith sé in various parts of the New Testament. Yet the synthetic forms are also undoubtedly dominant in Bedell’s Bible, compiled in Connacht as it was by a committee of native speakers from various parts of Ireland (I believe Uilliam Ó Dómhnaill was from Kilkenny, whereas Muircheartach Ó Cionga, who worked on the Old Testament, was from Offaly).

Clearly there is enough here for arguments to continue until the end of time. But the outcome was that a rough Munster standard had been established in the pre-war period, with vituperative carping against it, particularly from Donegal. The logical thing to do would have been to make Galway Irish the Standard, considering its central location, and its numerical predominance in terms of numbers of speakers–but to require native speakers to study eighteenth-, nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature not in Galway Irish (including the works of Peadar Ua Laoghaire) as part of their literary heritage in schools, just as children in the East End of London study Dickens and Shakespeare. One could have pointed to an area–“go to Cois Fhairrge! there you will hear the standard spoken!”–and one could have pointed to Gaedhealtacht writers from that county whose writing exemplified the new Standard. But the logical approach was eschewed. All native speakers had to be disobliged by the Standard, albeit not equally. Neither was a historical approach adopted: to accept historical forms as correct would have meant accepting Cork Irish in most cases, and the very purpose of the Standard was to move away from that. It was claimed that the most frequent dialectal forms were chosen, ie those of two of three dialects–but this claim was untrue, as there are frequent examples where this approach was not adopted. The use of the relative form of the verb is historically correct, used by two of the three dialects, and by the majority of native speakers, but was rejected–possibly in order to simplify the language? The use of some of the absolute/dependent forms of the verb (eg chím vs. feicim) is historically correct, used by two of three dialects, but was rejected in some cases (eg feicim) in favour of sole use of the dependent for this verb, as in Galway. Case distinctions such as vocatives and genitives were preserved, despite being patchily used in native speech, whereas the dative case was rejected, despite the fact that many of the datives are used in preference to the nominative in large parts of the Gaedhealtacht. In short, the claim that the most frequent forms were adopted can be shown to be false.

Neither was input from the public on the Standard allowed while it was being devised. James Dillon, leader of Fine Gael and brother of the Irish-language expert, Myles Dillon, tackled the Taoiseach on this, but was rebuffed. It was claimed that the Standard was only for the Dáil’s translation department, but then imposed so ruthlessly that some works of Donegal Irish were allowed to go out of print for years when the author refused to allow them to be re-edited into the Standard. Worst of all, it is now claimed that historically correct forms still found in the Gaedhealtacht, such as chím (used by 2 of 3 Gaedhealtachtaí), had become “incorrect” overnight, and were now discouraged in the education system. Historically correct forms still used widely in Ireland were now “provincialisms”–all because the government said so, and for no other reason. Forms that are scarce or hardly found in the Gaedhealtacht became the prescribed forms. For example, bhíomar was chosen over bhí muid (owing to the problem with muid), and there is some evidence this form was used in Clare Irish before it died out, but the forms bhíomair (not bhíomar) and bhí muid predominate in the Gaedhealtacht. Similarly táimid was chosen over táimíd and tá muid–I have heard that native speakers in Donegal occasionally pronounce the m slender and so táimid may be found, but it is not a dominant form anywhere in the Gaedhealtacht. In general, simplification and splitting the difference were the main approaches used in drawing up the Standard: it was not a codification of the Irish used in literature up to that point, and so could not be genuinely described as a Standard when it came out, but rather an attempted artificial Standardization.

Nowadays most Irish is written by non-native speakers, who are in most cases happy to use the government’s Standard, and the weaker Gaedhealtachtaí in particular have become more influenced by the Standard, at least to the extent that anyone working in the Irish-language sector has to be able to write the Standardized Irish. In the end, however, it is the native speakers in the Gaedhealtacht who speak the best Irish, and the Standard has not resolved the question of how to learn to speak like them. While the canon of literature in Gaedhealtacht Irish is small, there is much less great literature available in “Standard Irish”. A browse through the works in print (eg at http://www.litriocht.com) shows that books for children and trashy modern fiction (featuring drug abuse, lesbianism and other reputedly exciting themes thought likely to attract the young) account for the majority of current output. Standard Irish is the language in which European Union legislation is being translated into Irish, but is not a gateway to great literature.

I do not agree that learners should learn the artificial standard. They should, rather, choose a real dialect from the start. Textbooks such as Teach Yourself Irish by Myles Dillon and Donncha Ó Cróinín focus on Cork Irish and would prepare the learner for the works of Peadar Ua Laoghaire, works that are part of Ireland’s literary heritage, but most of which are not in print and hard to get hold of because they do not employ the “Standard”. I aim to transcribe some of those works on this site and thus make them available to all.

No-one should deride learners for learning a dialect–they are not trying to “set themselves up as dialectal experts before they are ready”–they are merely trying to learn right the first time. It is a recipe for confusion to say that they should first learn Standard Irish, and then learn the grammar all over again when they start reading dialectal literature. Don’t forget, none of your Irish ancestors used the Caighdeán Oifigeamhail–it is simply not part of your ancestral culture! Don’t do it!

45 Responses to ** Why Cork Irish?

  1. Dorothee says:

    A Dháithí
    gabhaim buíochas leat as an saothar iontach atá idir lámhaibh agat anso agus treaslaím an dul chun cinn agus an t-eolas fairsing atá curtha agat ar an dteanga ó bhís anso leat. Go mbuanaí Dia thú. N’fheadar arbh eol duit go raibh Coláiste Gaodhlainne do mhúinteoirí i mBéal Átha an Ghaorthaigh tráth, (tá coláiste samhraidh ann sa lá atá inniubh ann go bhfios dom). Dob ansan a d’fhoghlaim mórán de mhúinteoirí bunscoile na hÉireann a gcuid Gaodhlainne agus ba rud é seo, gan dabht, a chuir le treise na canúna sara ndearnathas an caighdeán oifigiúil. Is léir treise agus tionchar Gaodhlainn Chorcaí roimh theacht an chaigdeáin, leis, in achtanna rialtais agus inar breacadh síos de dhíospóireachtaí an Oireachtais, go háirithe roimis na 50í. (féach http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/)

  2. Dave Smith says:

    To get Dillon, and the recordings,here is what you need to do:
    1/ Download from Box.net the following zip files:
    In a clean directory/folder, expand Teach_Yourself_Irish.zip.
    This will produce a pair of nested folders.
    The outer folder, Teach_Yourself_Irish, contains the pdf file, Irish.pdf, and the inner folder, Mp3, contains some mp3 files.
    2/ In the same clean directory/folder, expand bMp3.zip.
    This will produce a folder, bMp3, which contains some mp3 files.
    Move All of these files into the inner folder, Mp3, and delete the empty folder.
    3/ Likewise, cMp3.
    4/ Likewise, dMp3.

    You may now choose to save the outer folder to CDROM. If you use Toast, by dropping the folder named Teach_Yourself_Irish into the Toast window for data discs, pc&mac, a disc will be prepared named as the folder.

    5/ Now open the pdf file, and Bingo!
    If you click on the text of a vocabulary, or exercise, the appropriate audio file will load and play.

    Le meas,

  3. Dave Smith says:

    Erratum: The pdf file is actually named TeachYourselfIrish.pdf.

  4. Seamás O'Conaill says:

    Aontaim leat i maidir leis an dtrácth seo:
    “No-one should deride learners for learning a dialect–they are not trying to “set themselves up as dialectal experts before they are ready”–they are merely trying to learn right the first time. It is a recipe for confusion to say that they should first learn Standard Irish, and then learn the grammar all over again when they start reading dialectal literature. Don’t forget, none of your Irish ancestors used the Caighdeán Oifigeamhail–it is simply not part of your ancestral culture! Don’t do it!”
    Táim ag foghlaim gaeilge (nó gaelinn) fé láthair go hairithe mo chaniúint duchasach, caniúint Mumhan.

  5. admin says:

    Go raibh maith agat, a Shéamais! Tá súil agam go bhféadfaidh an suíomh so tairbhe a dhéanamh duit! Cá bhfuileann tú in Éirinn?

  6. séamas o'conaill says:

    Táim as leic Snámha, i gContae Chiarraí mé féin. An feadar leatsa a cabhair liom leis an caniúint mumhan, i maidir leis an caniúint as Chiarraí go háirithe?

  7. séamas o'conaill says:

    I think it is fair to say that the Caighdean is the final atrocity against the Irish language, in order to make it a polished substitute for the aristocrats of this country. Mó náire orthu.

  8. admin says:

    Séamas, The Caighdeán is just not proper Irish; that’s all there is to it. A whole generation of people have been deliberately taught wrong. I do not know all the features of the Kerry dialect, but I would urge you to get Gaeilge Chorca Dhuibhne by Diarmuid Ó Sé (see http://www.litriocht.com/shop/product_info.php?products_id=5556) – it is a very detailed description of Kerry Irish. Why Diarmuid Ó Sé thinks the Irish language is called “Gaeilge” I am not sure – that form is clearly derived from the old spelling Gaedhilge, which is the genitive. The base form should be Gaedhilg (Gaoluinn). Anyway, the book is great, but as you are in Kerry, are you making regular visits to the Gaedhealtacht?

  9. Séamas O'Conaill says:

    Go raibh maith agat don mhol sin. A chur freagair ar do chéist, ni dtéannaim go Corca Dhuibhne go minic.

  10. Séamas O'Conaill says:

    Bron orm, i meant ‘ní téim go …’.

  11. admin says:

    Hi, I know from raw experience how easy it is to make mistakes in Irish, but you need to have said “ní théim”. If you are in Kerry, the answer to your question, how to learn Kerry Irish, is simple – go to the Gaeltacht.

  12. Nóirín says:

    A Shéamuis,

    Mar eolas duit, bionn Ciorcal Comhrá ar siúl ag Craobh Thrá Lí de Chonradh na Gaeilge in Óstán Meadowlands, Trá Lí i rith an Gheimhridh. Bheadh seans agat do chuid Gaeilge a chleachtadh ann ar feadh uair a’ chloig. Beidh sé ag tosnú arís an mhí seo chugainn – de ghnáth bionn sé ar siúl ar an Déardaoin, 8.30 – 9.30.


  13. corcaighist says:

    Ba mhaith liom a rá go bhfuil an suíomh seo iontach ar fad! Náire orm nach bhfuil ach Gaeilge bhocht bhriste agam ina háit Gaoluinne blasta. Táim ag déanamh mo sheacht ndícheall chun í a fhoghlaim!

  14. Daithi says:

    Bhi athas orm teacht ar an siomh seo! Duirt an Craoibhin Aoibhinn gurb e Padraig O Briain o Bheal Atha an Da Chab “an fear ba bhinne (Gheailge) dar chuala me riamh” Ta saibhreas i nGaeluinn Chorcai nach bhfuil ins na canuinti eile.

  15. Samuel says:

    Go raibh maith agat, Dave.

    I found your blog from the Daltaí forums, I am from English but of Irish ancestry. My family (grandfather) were all from Co. Kerry and grandmother from Belfast/Carrickfergus. My mother was born in Belfast and then moved to England. I am a great lover of Ireland and the language in particular and over the past year I have been learning it…though lacking time at the moment being a student. The resources I have used to learn Irish so far have been from various internet sources of all the dialects so I have a bizarre mish-mash. A friend I met in Ireland said I sounded like a Texan-Scottish-English Aristocrat-Farmer equivilant of Irish, which is not what I want!

    This essay has convinced me completely not to learn Standard Irish but to focus on dialectal Irish from the start, hoping to really learn Kerry Irish but from what I have heard it is strange even to native Irish speakers of other dialects. I guess I had previous thought about learning Standard Irish and then learning a dialect, I now see that this isn’t the most sensible way!

    Just reading through some of the comments on here, even though I do not understand much of what they say I can easily notice differences in the spellings of words and the grammar from the “standard”. Really fascinating to see how stupid the standard is. I can understand why there should perhaps be a form used primarily for government/official use but why didn’t they just adopt an already-established dialect?!

    Many thanks again for all your good work!


  16. A chairde, Dia daoibh!
    I have at last received a form of permission-to-publish from Hodder, WRT Teach Yourself Irish, by Dillon & Ó Crónín. This work has been completely re-typeset, and blatant errors and bad formatting fixed. The primary scan data is from the 1961 impression, and those covers have been kept, but the 1987 impression was used to sort out some errors in the 1961 impression. The file is in PDF format, but to incorporate the audio files, Acrobat 6 format was used. A recent reader will be needed.
    I have cleaned up the Gael-linn records to the best of my ability, and used Amadeus II, an excellent audio editor to clean up any scratches found, and edited out any extraneous noises, primarily clacking teeth, which seem to be a problem in Irish. There were some text errors in the recording, which I have fixed, as I have fixed some omissions.
    In view of responses I have already had, and the recent eMail from Hodder, a copy of which is fixed in the back pages of the book, it is now safe to publish it openly. You can find a reference to it on-line, giving a brief outline on how to use it at:
    Also, I have made more detailed searches of Archive.Org, and found some old, but interesting books, by Shán Ó Cuiv, and Peter Ó Leary in particular, but not exclusively, and have, having cleaned up the scans, and page numbering, given them more descriptive file names, and put them in a public folder in Box.Net, which you can find at:
    Also in this folder, you can find more work I have re-typeset, Including the Educational Pronouncing Dictionary, mentioned in the text, and some other books, (out of copyright), which I have scanned myself.

    Some of these books merit being re-typeset, and some merit the generation of sound files to be attached, or incorporated. I can do the re-typesetting, and sound incorporation, if someone can the sound files generated.
    There is still sufficient material extant to generate a valuable orpus of Kosher Irish to stand against the Erseperanto, to which, the Galltacht are welcome.

    Is mise,
    le meas,

    • John Duffy says:

      Hi David,
      I’m assisting the Bible Societies in Ireland and Britain to digitise Irish Bible texts and make them freely available online through apps like http://www.bible.com . We have An Bíobla Naofa and others already available there under the language Gaeilge. I see that you have done some work on the Ó Leary Gospels and Acts. Great work. We’ve got the archive.org files but were wondering if you might be willing to help by making your cleaned up files that you have worked on made available to a wider audience through the Bible Societies apps online? It’d be great to chat about the work they are doing, including putting together a standalone Irish Bible App which already has five Bibles or portions ready to go. It would be great to be able to add O’Leary’s published works too. If you would like to chat about these projects over the phone, you can see my contact details at http://www.cgcf.ie .

      Best regards,
      John Duffy

  17. pat flynn says:

    Tá súil agam ná fuil tú imithe uainn. Taoi ana-chiúin le tamall anuas. Molaim duit leanúint ar aghaidh leis an obair atá ar bun agat sa suíomh seo agat. Táim-se féin ag rá le daoine ar m-aithne go bhfuil suim acu sa Ghaoluinn,gur fiú dóibh aird a thabhairt ar “Cork Irish”. Go mbuanaí Dia thú.

  18. Jody says:

    Is iontach é duine a fheisicint atá ag diultú don gCaighdeán is ag dul i muinín a chanúna féin. Do thug an aiste so spreagadh dom chun rialacha an caighdeáin a thréigint agus dul i mbun taighde ar Ghaolainn Chorcaí. Ba phraiseach é an caighdeán níos mó ná aon rud, agus is trua é go bhfuil sé á úsaid go forleathan indiu is go bhfuil na canúintí nádúrtha ag titim i léig i measc foghlaimeoirí.

  19. Maitiú Séamas Ó Conaill says:

    Good morning everyone, as an English speaker living in England i find it immensely confusing, the vast amount of material available… different! not least through dialect but also standard / cork etc..

    i am incredibly passionate about getting back to my roots and learning Gaeilge fluently (and correctly)… but I don’t know where to start!

    I am currently working through Buntús Cainte, but I think this is ‘standard’..

    Should I persevere with Buntús Cainte, or switch to something else (Teach_Yourself_Irish?)

    Any thoughts welcomed.


    • admin says:

      Well, you have to make your own decision. Teach Yourself Irish, if you mean the edition by Myles Dillon, is Cork Irish. A later edition by Diarmuid Ó Sé is Standardised Irish.

  20. Tash Ó Treasaigh says:

    Since the blog post was in English I will comment in English rather than struggle through in bad Irish.

    I found the article very interesting and informative. I began re-learning Irish about 6 years ago (not that I learned much in school in the first place) and as I now live in Co. Cork I have tried to focus on Munster Irish, but have found it difficult to access reliable resources for the dialect. Now that I have stumbled across your site hopefully that will change.

    One of the greatest difficulties I see in learning a dialect instead of the standardised language is the sheer diversity of “correct” forms. Just look at the various forms of chífidh for example. It is possible to say almost anything and it could be right and wrong at the same time. It also causes no end of confusion whether speaking to either other learners (never heard of that local variant) or native speakers (not the exact variant used where they grew up).

    One thing that has become obvious to me in recent years is how the caighdeán is almost universally despised by native speakers and knowledgeable/dedicated non-native speakers. It is clearly flawed and in many ways unhelpful. Our government has vowed to overhaul the education of the language, it is long overdue, but is it too late to re-assess the caighdeán?
    The Irish and English languages share one thing in common; both have more people speaking the language as a second or subsequent language than native speakers. Altering the standard at this stage could cause universal turmoil.
    Also, if as you suggest Cois Farraige Irish is adopted as the standard every student would want to go there to study to the detriment of the other gaelteachtaí. The vested interests would hardly stand for that.
    Looking again at the standard might really open a can of worms, but then again the worms are already all over the place.

    One thing in the article that I do question is how dismissive you are of books in Irish with “modern” gritty themes like drug abuse etc. In my opinion the body of literature available to readers must include subject matter relevant to their lives and environment. Otherwise the language and the literature is no more than a historical artefact, like reading fascinating Latin texts about the daily machinations of the Roman Forum. Fine for a dead language but not a living one.

    Anyway, good luck with your project, I hope to revisit the site regularly and hopefully improve my Cork blás a bit.


  21. Michelín says:

    I agree with the principle of learning Irish as it is spoken in the Gaeltacht areas and that Munster Irish is very beautiful dialect, however I disagree on the assumption that because Connaught Irish developed mainly through an oral rather than a written tradition that this makes it analagous to Cockney. To have a literature passed on through an oral tradition required incredible mnemonic ability and great technical skill in terms of creating rhyming patterns etc to facilitate recall. Thus that such poets were “illiterate” should not be taken as evidence of lower social class or education as you are implying. You seem to be imposing the template of an English class system onto a culture to which such a construct is not applicable. As far as I am aware there is no reason to consider Connaught Irish to be of lesser quality/standing than Munster Irish and your argument that it should be so considered seems to be an ethnocentric one.

    • admin says:

      Michelín, I see your point, other than your last sentence, which is a lame attempt to appeal to political correctness, the last refuge of someone without an argument. If I ignore your final sentence, your argument has some merit.

  22. Pat Flynn says:

    Sláinte chugat is cabhair,
    Is dealbh go deo ná rabhair,
    Go bhfása clúmh ar do ghabhal
    chomh fada le meigeal gabhair.
    Ina dhiaidh sin is uile, ceist agam ort!
    Cad a cheapfá faoin bhfrása seo “duine amháin díobh” i gcomórtas le seo “duine amháin acu” mar aistriúchán ar “one of them”. Táim ag cur na ceiste seo ar dhaoine thart timpeall na h-áite seo, féachaint cé’n freagra a thabharfadh siad dom.
    Go maire tú.

  23. admin says:

    Hi, I know for sure that there is no difference between “duine amháin díóbh” and “duine amháin acu” – as PUL stated that in the notes to one of his works, where he added some grammatical notes in – but it would take me a while to look through all his books that I have here at home to work out which book it was. They are definitely equivalents.

  24. Brendan says:

    There are less than 1,000 habitual speakers of Irish in the Cork Gaeltacht. (look at the small area population statistics for the 2006 and 2011 censuses)

    I would never suggest someone learn spoken Cork Irish because it may very well be extinct in a generation. I’m studying the Irish of south Conamara because it is the most widely spoken form of Irish and arguably the one most heard on TG4 and RnaG.

    If the goal is ease of communication, Galway Irish is the way to go, in my view.

  25. admin says:

    Brendan, it is very likely that many of those 1000 habitual speakers of Irish are people who speak Irish influenced by the CO education system. The number of speakers of the actual Cork dialect would be a tiny fraction of that number. Your argument that your goal is ease of communication appears confused. If you are seeking ease of communication, that can be achieved through English. You must have some other goal that you haven’t mentioned (eg keeping Irish as the spoken language of some Irish communities), and not ease of communication. My goal is to read the type of Irish that would have been seen as good Irish by the last generation of very strong speakers in the pre-war period and particularly in the 19th century. Almost nothing written today would have been regarded as good Irish by the majority of 19th century speakers.

  26. Brendan says:

    Clearly I was referring to ease of communication through the medium of *Irish*. The subject of the blog is why you’re learning a particular dialect of the Irish language.

  27. I would love to learn Irish and I fully agree that Cork Irish is the way to go.. but I think I’m just too thick, no matter what I try, I just can’t keep it in my head!! 😦

  28. Spéisiúl le léamh, áfach, sílim go bfhuil an iomarcaidh Gaeilge na Mhumhan dhá scaipeadh ag ionsaí ‘achuile áit i láthair na huaire. Ní hionann Gaeilge Chonnamara agus Gaelige Chonnachta, mar shampla, an ainmfhocal ‘sinn’ a luaigh tú, tá sé an-bhríomhar mar uchtach dhon fhorm tháite s’againní i dTuaisceart Mhaigh Eo. Mar shampla ‘chuirfeadh sinn’ in áit ‘chuirfeadh muid’. Is peacadh amach is amach gur thoisíof caighdeán amháin agus gur glacadh leis mar an t-aon caoi amháin go dtiocfadh leis an teangaidh a bheith múintí. Mhoithigh mé scéal amháin ó mnaoi as Cill a’Ghallagáin, áit go raibh agus go bfhuil an nGaeilge dhá labhairt le na mhílte bhliadhan, fuaigh a n-iníon isteach chuig an meánscoil istigh i mBéal a’Mhuirthead (áit atá fíor-gallda faraor) agus dúradh léithe go raibh Gaeilge mí-cheart aici mar is go nach ndéarfadh sí ‘conas’ nó ‘cad’, gnéithe ní a bhaineanns linn ar chorr ar bith. Rud éicint gur scríobh tú faoin ganntan litríocht formálta i gConnacht i gcomparáid le Cúigeadh Mhumhan-ní thig liom seasamh le sin. Sin seafóid. Sin calúmas. Tá stair na bhaird agus stair ceoil agus stair fhilíochta chomh domhan sin i bfhód s’againní, ní thig leat a ráit gur ionann Cork Irish agus an OED agus Connacht Irish agus cockney; sin an tseort uas-aicmeacht ba cheart dho bfhaighfaí réidh leis chomh aibéil agus is feidir. An ndearcfá ar saothar John Steinbeck agus a rá ‘ní sin ach scáth caol, tanaí, lag den teangaidh ceart’ in aineoinn an tsaibhreas a mhaireanns ann. Ba pheacadh agus ba bhotún é gur glacadh l’fhoghraíocht na Mhumhan mar caighdeán múinteoreachta na Ghaeilge; i ngeall ar sin, rinneadh neamháird ar Gaeilge duchasach s’againní i dtuaisceart Chonnachta agus leagadh amach dhófa nach raibh aon teangaidh ann ach Gaeilge na Mhumhan. Ligeadh an teangaidh ansin, rinneadh í níos iargúlta dhófa, rud éicint dho lucht léann agus cótaí fada.

  29. Tricia Donovan says:

    My Dad was from Cork City and that side of the family were from County Cork as far back as I know. My great-grandfather was an Irish speaker and I want to learn the Irish he spoke. I’m not in great health and housebound in England so online courses and books are my only option; sadly none of these offers the West Munster dialect. I was thrilled to find this blog. Thank you so much.

    • djwebb2010 says:

      The old version of the Teach Yourself Irish book by Myles Dillon teaches proper West Munster Irish. Avoid the edition by Diarmuid Ó Sé, which teaches a made up form of Irish.

  30. Aontaim go hiomlán le Darren. Ní dheánann sé aon ciall Gaeilge na Mumhan a chuir ar altóir mar sin. Is iontach an tradisiún liteartha atá agaibh ach tá seodaí le fáil i ngach canniúnt.

  31. Might I also offer the following for consideration:

    “.., the erroneous belief was widespread that Munster Irish was closer to the classical Irish of Keating than the speech of other regions” (p228)

    “In fact, all dialects contain archaisms and innovations, and there is absolutely no linguistic justification for claiming that Munster Irish is older than the dialects of Connaught or Ulster” (p229)

    This (p228-229) from the recently published “A History of the Irish Language: From the Norman Invasion to Independence” (Oxford University Press 2015) by Aidan Doyle, lecturer in the Department of Irish, University College… Cork.

    Regardless of one’s personal opinion on the above quote, this is a very interesting book which examines the history of the last thousand years of the language with great clarity. It has a particularly good section on the revival which I think would be of interest to those who want to understand how certain structures and influences crept into the revived language.

  32. djwebb2010 says:

    Aidan Doyle is the author of a good book in Polish on Kerry Irish. But he is required to teach fake Irish as part of his job, so that influences his views. Of course, in all languages – Duh! – all present-day dialects of are equal modernity, and there are conservatisms in all dialects. To pretend, however, that much of the morphology hasn’t been simplified in Connaught Irish is simply silly.

  33. Well that’s a conversation you should have with Mr Doyle who is more qualified to elaborate on what “influences his views”.

  34. djwebb2010 says:

    Yes, Doyle is more qualified to elaborate on that – but might have his own reasons for being reticent on the subject. There are not many Irish academics who will come out and say Standardised Irish is a fraud.

  35. Michael says:

    Hello! Very happy to have found this site as I am still learning Irish. I especially appreciate the examples of intonation. Would love to chat more.

  36. Ryan Bossler says:

    Hello there! I’m on a path to learning Irish as well and I’m very happy to have found this site. A lot of the online programs and programs I’ve purchased in the past have all used and are using the Connacht dialect. Obviously you take a strong stand on learning the Cork dialect but what is your take on using these materials to learn the Connacht dialect? Surely one another will still be able to understand each other between the two dialects.

    *Just checked duolingo which I’ve just started on and discovered that they use the Official Standard of Irish and I have decided to not follow along. I want to learn to speak Irish the true way it is meant to be spoken. Irish ancestors fought to keep the language alive and I feel as if it would be an insult to follow along with the government’s altered version of the language when it was them in the first place that tried to take the language away from the Irish.

    On the program I used called “Byki Irish”, they started me with learning the Connacth dialect and after that I followed suit in only wanting to learn that dialect. But if what you say is true and Cork is the most accurate/best dialect of the Irish that our ancestors have spoken then that is the one I will learn and teach the future generation. Your essay was quite long so I will do one of my own and summarize what you say for my future students and family, for when I become a teacher (with your permission to use it that is, and of course you will be credited).

    Just curious, is pretty much everything I need on this website to start learning from the beginning? And/or can you recommend any books/software programs using the Cork dialect to learn? And if I missed it in your essay, I’d still like to know your opinion on learning the Connacht dialect.
    Thanks in advance for your answer!

  37. Ryan Bossler says:

    After a few weeks of studying (although I haven’t had a whole lot of time so I’m not too far), I’ve had a lot of “Aha!” moments whilst learning; when everything starts coming together and making sense. It absolutely amazes me which leads me to want to learn more! I’ve been using websites along with my Colloquial Irish book, as well as wiki, and have been focusing on pronunciation. I figure if I start my learning with completely understanding pronunciation, the rest of the learning to follow will be a little bit easier. Now, as I’m using teanglann to compare all three dialects I’m going back and forth with myself. And your post also came to mind as well remembering how you said the Munster (more specifically Cork) dialect is the best to learn and how it’s historically the closest to being grammatically correct.

    I got to thinking that as far as pronunciation goes, if you learn Connacht then you can pretty much comprehend Munster and even speak in a Munster dialect if you wish. I’ve noticed that Munster pronunciation is pretty much Connacht just without the “dental” sounds after the “t” and “d”, the “y” sounds after some consonants, and rarely ever rolling your tongue or doing the one-tap roll on “r”s. My question to you is..if I choose to learn and teach with the Connacht dialect, will the grammar be the same if not very nearly the same as a Munster dialect? Can one who pronounces with a Connacht dialect simply change the pronunciation to a Munster dialect? Would the grammar be the same?

    I’ve been debating whether to change up the dialect before I get ahead of myself. I only have one page of information on pronunciation. The pronunciation seems easier for students to learn in Munster too. No focus at all on the “ny” and “ly” and “gy” sounds for slender consonants. Or I can teach the Connacht dialect and explain it in the way that I kind of did, how it’s nearly the same just without all of the extra sounds. I need some guidance!

    *By the way, sorry for the friggin essay I just wrote out. This has been going through my mind for the last few times I’ve been studying.

  38. Darren Regan says:

    Munster Irish sounds like a dog throwing up his dinner. Connaught and Ulster are the only ones worth learning.

  39. cian says:

    Munster Irish is indeed the nearest to the Classical standard of Irish shared throughout Ireland (and Scotland) from the 13th to 17th centuries. Which is why old texts written in Ulster for example, are more close to modern Munster Irish than the modern Donegal dialect.

    So the written form of Munster Irish, is one could say, the most archaic, classical form, the language our ancestors deemed to be of highest quality.

    However, I also want to say something in defence of the other dialects. The great linguist Cathal Ó Dochartaigh, who was himself a Donegal native I believe, carried out comprehensive phonetic studies of the dialects and compared them to the phonetic structures of Old/Early Irish.

    He found that phonetically the closest to older Irish was the Irish of Western Connaught and of Ulster/Donegal (though he did mention that there were changes occurring in Donegal Irish, influences from Scottish etc).

    This makes a lot of sense really, as pre-famine Connaught was completely Gaelic and Irish speaking, with the poorest people, poorest land, and majority of landlords absentee.

    Munster Irish on the other hand would have been far more likely to have been influenced phonetically by the Norman French from the 13th century (possibly, maybe not) until they became Gaelicised, and even more so influenced (very likely) by the powerful Anglo ruling class after the Cromwellian plantations.

    I wonder if greater education and less poverty among the Munster natives allowed them to retain more of the old classical written forms than anywhere else. Who know’s.

    So if you’re a real purist, I would say learn Munster Irish but speak it like a Connaught man! Hehe.

    ps: There’s a book called ‘The Celtic Languages’ by Donald Macauley which contains O’Dochartaigh’s studies of Gaelic phonemes in a fair amount of depth.

    I think he used O’Cuiv’s phonetic studies of Cork Irish as well as his own listening for his studies on the phonetics of the Munster dialect, so whether the conclusions that can be drawn from these studies would also have applied to somewhere like the far southwest of Munster in the Blasket Islands etc, I don’t know.

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