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https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

Death knell tolling for Irish as community language – expert

A report in today's Irish Times highlights the continuing decline of the language in the East Galway Gaeltacht communities.

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/death-knell-tolling-for-irish-as-community-language-expert-1.2456472

"One of the last fluent native speakers in the Galway city Gaeltacht of Mionlach believes that Irish has just 10 years left as a community language.

Landscape gardener Pádraig Ó Fathaigh (57) is already the subject of linguistic research, as the youngest speaker retaining complete fluency in his home village of Mionlach or Menlo."

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2 years ago

17 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/scilling
scilling
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The “New Deal” article that Professor Ó Giollagáin had written back in June can be found here — I don’t know why The Irish Times didn’t provide a link to it in this article.

I hate to type it, but the first thing that popped into my head upon reading about the proposal to establish an “urban gaeltacht” was “ghetto for Irish speakers”. If Ó Fathaigh is the youngest fluent speaker in his village at 57, then this urban gaeltacht will need some sort of economic foundation that would allow younger Irish-speaking people to become full-fledged members of it, which would allow that fluency to survive beyond people who were born in the late 1950s. If people have to “work in English” in a city to be able to “live in Irish” there, would that really solve the fluency problem? It seems to me that the ability to “work in Irish” — to be able to use one’s language throughout all parts of an ordinary day — would be a necessary component of ensuring the survival of a fluent community.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

Actually, that's an interesting idea. Establishing an area in the major cities to attract Irish speakers. Specifically trying to target native ones. That way, they have a place where they can keep using their language, while still having access to the economic benefits and living in a city.

I wonder if it would work, and how do you set the level for fluency to attain these permits? I would suggest the TEG, but since it relies on the standard, I feel natives would be at a disadvantage when taking it. Perhaps C1 on the TEG for non-natives, then for natives who were raised in the Gaeltacht, you just need to do some sort of oral exam or something.

But, basically, a consolidated place to use the language in the cities is much needed.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

You have to get over this hangup you have about "native" speakers. Your definition of "native" speakers are already effectively gone from the point of view of building new communities - this article is about the last native (by your definition) speaker in Menlo - and he's 57! The kids in all of the other, stronger Gaeltachts further west are already exposed to far more communication (in both Irish and English) that is not from their local community and dialect than was ever the case before. You can't force Gaeltacht families to raise their kids the way they were raised 60 years ago, where an evenings entertainment might consist of some music on on the radio, and maybe neighbours coming over for a hand of cards and some chat that the kids would inadvertently absorb.

Kids in the Gaeltacht watch TV - at least some of that might now come from TG4, but if it is, it won't be in their own dialect most of the time. They watch movies (in English), "do stuff on the Internet" (mostly in English). Most of their more advanced language acquisition, both vocabulary and grammar, will happen in school, just as it does for children and teenagers all over the world, and very few Gaeltachts are in a position to supply their own teachers, so, by your definition, they're not really learning their "native" language.

Developing a new urban Gaeltacht raises all sorts of issues. You can look to Belfast, and see what was achieved there, but that was on the basis of a political imperative that you won't find anywhere in the Republic. On the other hand, you can look to the development of the Brazilian community in Gort, just 25 miles away from Menlo. Is there any point in pursuing a project like this unless it's focused on families with children, in which case a Gaelscoil is going to be at the heart of it, even though some people seem to think that Gaelscoileanna are part of the problem. Do you restrict non-Irish speakers from living in the area entirely, and if so, at what point does it become a ghetto? (The existing rural Gaeltachts might be considered ghettos, until they are diluted to such a point that they stop being Gaeltachts at all). What if a resident meets and forms a relationship with a non-Irish speaker - do you kick them out? What about local services, such as shops and doctors and Gardaí, services provided by private companies like the cable company, the bin company, etc? How do you incentivize them to provides services in Irish?

We can gain some insight into some of these issues by looking at the experience of other minority communities, both in Ireland and abroad. But an unescapable aspect of any such project is that it is anathema to dialect purists - the Irish spoken in any such community will not match any existing "native" dialect. The question of whether any new dialect that develops should be a "designed dialect", such as the Caighdeán and Lárchanúint, or something that is a bit more organic needs to be addressed.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

your definition of "native" speakers

First off, my definition of "native speakers" is the one used by linguists - speakers who were raised speaking a language from birth. It's the only definition I know of; just because someone was born in Ireland doesn't make Irish their 'native' language -- no moreso than someone born in Mexico must be a native speaker of Mayan/Uto-Aztecan language, or me, as an American, must be a native speaker of Cherokee.

If you want to provide another one, besides the one the scientists who study language go with, then at least make it clear.

You have to get over this hangup you have about "native" speakers.

I disagree. It's the language of the people of the Gaeltacht, and without them it's doomed. Also, why should I get over my hangup about the people who actually use the language, and whose families have used it for millennia? They're the ones who have a great command of it, not the people who learn 'Irish' in the Gaelscoileanna.

You can't force Gaeltacht families to raise their kids the way they were raised 60 years ago, where an evenings entertainment might consist of some music on on the radio, and maybe neighbours coming over for a hand of cards and some chat that the kids would inadvertently absorb.

Where am I saying that they have to raise their kids the same way it was done in the past? All I'm saying is there needs to be influence from other Gaeltacht speakers - and there will be, precisely because they're their neighbors and schoolmates. I'm not saying they should abandon all English-language media.

Kids in the Gaeltacht watch TV - at least some of that might now come from TG4, but if it is, it won't be in their own dialect most of the time. They watch movies (in English), "do stuff on the Internet" (mostly in English). Most of their more advanced language acquisition, both vocabulary and grammar, will happen in school, just as it does for children and teenagers all over the world, and very few Gaeltachts are in a position to supply their own teachers, so, by your definition, they're not really learning their "native" language.

Actually, it doesn't. Kids learn their native language just fine, without a single day spent in school. Or did nobody have a native language before education was invented? Also, kids are a lot more likely to pick up the language from their peers and parents than they are lessons. It's why dialects still exist, after all. Otherwise, everyone would speak standard English, even! Or there'd be only one French dialect - and people would always follow what the French Academy says (which we know isn't true, by consistent use of le week-end and other phrases).

In which case a Gaelscoil is going to be at the heart of it, even though some people seem to think that Gaelscoileanna are part of the problem.

I don't think that the Gaelscoileanna are inherently part of the problem. I think the way they're currently ran and the reason kids currently attend them (because let's face it, most parents just want kids to take the LC through Irish to get the extra points; it's rarely out of love for the language) are.

Do you restrict non-Irish speakers from living in the area entirely, and if so, at what point does it become a ghetto?

Personally, I think you must, otherwise they'll just speak English. After all, it would be pretty rude not to. That's an issue in the current Gaeltacht now. As to when 'does it become a ghetto', that's something that's going to have to be addressed. Mainly, the economic opportunities need to be there. But, if it's in a city, it (sadly) already has a vast advantage over the traditional Gaeltachts.

What if a resident meets and forms a relationship with a non-Irish speaker - do you kick them out? What about local services, such as shops and doctors and Gardaí, services provided by private companies like the cable company, the bin company, etc? How do you incentivize them to provides services in Irish?

Of course you don't kick them out - but you don't let them live there unless they improve their Irish or marry in. They can still visit. Though, hopefully, with the area being Irish-speaking, there's an incentive for them to learn it.

As for the services - well, that's the issue with the current Gaeltachts as well! The government can't (or refuses) provide for them through Irish, so they have to use English.\

But an unescapable aspect of any such project is that it is anathema to dialect purists - the Irish spoken in any such community will not match any existing "native" dialect.

But, if there are native speakers involved, it will be a 'native' dialect. But if it's only learners who learned poor Irish, then no, it won't be 'native'.

The question of whether any new dialect that develops should be a "designed dialect", such as the Caighdeán and Lárchanúint, or something that is a bit more organic needs to be addressed.

So some bloke in Dublin who can't speak a lick of Irish should be allowed to create the 'designed dialect'? It's a dialect that needs to be organic - or you'll end up with the exact same problem we have now: No native speakers using it, and it only being used by learners and thus sounding highly artificial.

1
Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

First off, my definition of "native speakers" is the one used by linguists - speakers who were raised speaking a language from birth.

You're responding to a point that I didn't intend to make, because I was a bit inelegant in way I tried to make my point.

You distinguish between "native" speakers and other speakers of the language, discounting the effort and experience of "non-native" speakers. By some estimates, the numbers of children of school age for whom Irish is their dominant langauge is now in the hundreds, rather than the thousands. If you are relying on them to create a living population of Irish speakers going forward, the game is over.

I disagree. It's the language of the people of the Gaeltacht, and without them it's doomed.

No, it is doomed because of this fetish with insisting that it's not really Irish if it's not being spoken by people in the Gaeltacht, where the language is still in decline. A language that is defined as the language of a declining population group is a dying language.

The reflexive dismissal of the value of "learned Irish" (the value, not just the quality) is part of the reason why Irish is in such a parlous state. The notion that the Caighdeán and the Lárchanúint were developed by "some bloke in Dublin who can't speak a lick of Irish" is, frankly, hardly worth responding to.

Or did nobody have a native language before education was invented? Also, kids are a lot more likely to pick up the language from their peers and parents than they are lessons. It's why dialects still exist, after all.

Visit any National School in Ireland. In 20 minutes you'll realize that regional accents are disappearing at an incredible pace (particularly among girls). The accents that still exist are much more neutral than they were a generation ago (never mind two generations). This is because language formation today relies far more heavily on mass media than it did 30 years ago - kid are far more exposed to speech from outside their immediate home locality. The dialects of Irish are undergoing a similar process, though these processes magnify the impact of English even more than they "dilute" the Irish dialects.

3
Reply12 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/galaxyrocker

No, it is doomed because of this fetish with insisting that it's not really Irish if it's not being spoken by people in the Gaeltacht, where the language is still in decline. A language that is defined as the language of a declining population group is a dying language.

I'm not saying that it has to be spoken in the Gaeltacht. I'm saying that it can't be spoken with English syntax/idioms and/or sounds, which is what's happening. I know several non-native speakers who speak amazing Irish, and don't rely on English idioms and syntax. Sadly, not many of the Gaelscoil students are of this type. Though I don't necessarily blame them, because their teachers aren't, either. It really all goes back to the flawed education system.

Visit any National School in Ireland. In 20 minutes you'll realize that regional accents are disappearing at an incredible pace (particularly among girls). The accents that still exist are much more neutral than they were a generation ago (never mind two generations). This is because language formation today relies far more heavily on mass media than it did 30 years ago - kid are far more exposed to speech from outside their immediate home locality. The dialects of Irish are undergoing a similar process, though these processes magnify the impact of English even more than they "dilute" the Irish dialects.

Actually, some research shows that dialects are separating even faster now. And there's no research I know of that's showing it decreasing because of media. Schools are impacting it, but it's not really that major; dialects do and will always exist, regardless of education.

As to 'diluting' the dialects... As I've said multiple times, if it's native Irish speakers doing stuff form other dialects, or forming a more neutral one, it's a natural change. It's not a natural change when native English speakers use English syntax and idioms but call it a new 'dialect'.

2
Reply12 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sibhreach

Go raibh maith agat!

This makes me sad. I had attempted to learn Gaeilge years and years ago but didn't have the means (certainly didn't have DL) or ability to keep at it.

I suppose I really should be doubling my efforts, now! :)

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

Now you've no excuse - lets see another tricolour next to your name here :-)

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sibhreach

LOL Tá! (oh dear...and my brain was already getting soft and squishy with French!!!)

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ngarrang
ngarrang
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Give it a try. The only thing you have to lose is time.

Science has shown that people conversant in multiple languages can stave off mental disease longer than monolinguals; something about being able to speak/think in more than one language keeps one's brain more youthful and active.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Guitardude2000
Guitardude2000
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“I heard a man once say that ‘if we are too polite to speak Irish, we will polite it to death’, and I am inclined to agree,” he said.

So true.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mac266

As an American of Ulster-Scot and Irish descent, I can suggest one avenue to prevent such decline/extinction of all the Gaelic dialects: Stop looking down upon descendants of the diaspora. Stop using terms like "plastic paddy." START encouraging a reconnection to our cultural heritage, including our ethnic languages. EDUCATE diaspora descendants about our cultural heritage.

The simple fact is, we vastly outnumber you, by a factor of 100 at least. If there is to be any hope of the languages' survival, it is in leveraging those numbers by instilling interest in diaspora descendants, not by shunning us.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ngarrang
ngarrang
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A very interesting topic.

In the biggest cities, you have a Chinatown, little Italy, etc. A little Ireland would not be out of place. Given that I am a tech geek, I believe the Internet can be a great resource in helping to preserve languages that are danger.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

There are Irish communities in cities all over the world too, but they are, for the most part, English speaking, just like most communities in Ireland. The glue that tends to bind them, and expatriate communities in general, though, is that they provide a place to get things from home that aren't generally available. That alone isn't enough to form a Gaeltacht community in Dublin or Cork or Limerick or Kilkenny, though.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aindriu80
aindriu80
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The idea of an urban Gaeltacht is a excellent one in my opinion. Most people want to live conveniently and basing Irish around that concept can only help it. Learning a language that isn't immediate in your daily life is a death sentence. Still real action should be taken to use it every day.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Knocksedan

I don't think anyone is arguing against the concept of an urban Gaeltacht - it's more a question of how to create one successfully, and more to the point, keep it going. How do you measure success? What happens in 5 years, or 10 years or 30 years or 50 years? What will be it's driving force - unlike the Neo-Gaeltachts in Northern Ireland, there isn't a strong political impulse behind such a move in the Republic, and it certainly won't get unequivocal support from Irish language activists (see the comments about Gaelscoileanna).

Here's an interesting article about the position of the Irish language in Belfast, from the Economist a couple of years ago:
http://www.economist.com/news/christmas-specials/21591737-northern-irelands-devolved-government-driving-revival-irish-language-not

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ClionaJoyce

Pádraig Ó Fathaigh, what an ainm iontach!

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Reply2 years ago