The Development of the Irish Language

The Irish language belongs to the family of Celtic languages. By the 5th century C.E., the Celtic tribes occupied much of Europe. The word "Celt" is derived from the Greek name for these tribes, "Keltoi" (meaning "secret people"). The Celtic languages evolved from Indo-European, which is the common ancestor of many of the languages in Europe and southern Asia.

The development of the Celtic languages is illustrated below. Eventually the forms of the Celtic languages spoken on the continent died out, leaving only the insular forms. At some point, the insular Celtic language divided into "q-Celtic" or Goidelic (from Goidel 'Irishman'), which retained the original Indo-European q sound, and "p-Celtic" Brythonic (from Brython 'Briton'), which replaced the q sound with a p sound.

The modern Celtic languages are Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish, and Breton. The term "Gaelic" is only applied to Irish, Scottish Gaelic, or Manx.

                                    Common Celtic
                             |                      |
                        Insular Celtic      Continental Celtic     
               |                            |
           Goidelic              Brythonic (Brittonic)
	  "q-Celtic"                   "p-Celtic"
               |                            |
  ---------------------------      --------------------
  |            |            |      |        |         |   
Irish   Scottish Gaelic   Manx   Welsh   Cornish   Breton

The history of the Irish language may be divided into the following periods:

Resources for Learning Irish
  • Ceantar,, includes a large list of language tools and resources, including a list of classes world-wide.
  • Foras na Gaeilge,, is a cross-border organisation responsible for the promotion of the Irish language throughout the whole island of Ireland.
  • Irish Dictionary Online,, is an online Irish-English and English-Irish dictionary.
  • An Foclóir Beag,, is an online Irish dictionary.
  • Foinse,, is an Irish-language newspaper with a section for "foghlaimeoirí" (learners).
  • Beo,, is an online magazine. The articles include pop-up translations of the more difficult words and phrases.
  • Blas,, is provided by BBC Northern Ireland.
  • Lá,, is a daily Irish-language newspaper
  • TG4,, is an Irish-language TV station.
See also: Written Irish, Commonly confused Irish words, Irish regular verbs, Irish irregular verbs, Irish Language Letter Mutations, Irish prefixes, Fiche ceist, Irish place names, seanfhocal, The Lord's Prayer: Irish (Gaeilge), Irish Dictionary Online