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New Official Irish Standard

Great news: simplification of some grammatical rules, regarding numbers, initial letter changes. This standard is defining the rules of the artificial "Córas Lárnach", a standardized Irish to make it possible to learn it and agree on official rules without having to be born in the family of the ones making the rules.

Main changes: - Counting will become simpler over 20. - The úru will be allowed after sa and den. (Standard remains the Séimhiú though)

Of course you can still stick with the older official rules, or the regional variations. It simply means that for the exams, students will not be penalized as much for not knowing complex rules that may have lost their appeal.

Article about it: http://www.rte.ie/news/nuacht/2016/0713/802248-eagran-nua-de-chaighdean-oifigiuil-na-gaeilge-seolta/

Download the new version: http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/media/translators/An-Caighde%C3%A1n-Oifigi%C3%BAil_2016.pdf (In Irish, as it should be...)

July 14, 2016



There are a two main problems with the Caighdeán.

First of all it doesn't really standardise the language, but only common morphological issues. There are several syntactical divergences among the dialects on which it provides no standard ruling, for example the scope of the verbal adjective in perfective constructs. These are the sort of thing that a full standard, like that of Spanish in Spain, deal with. This leaves the Caighdeán being more like a guide to nouns and verbs for intermediate learners than a linguistic standard.

Secondly some of its choices, eg the vocative plural, are bizarre and are a form of hypercorrection based off classical Irish.

I know several native speakers who use the Caighdeán in writing, the problem isn't really with it, but rather the more general Anglicised Irish encountered in the school system. I mean the most common and complained about divergence between native and nonnative Irish is pronunciation, on which the Caighdeán says nothing.


(In Irish, as it should be...)

It is a bit ironic that most of the links from the discussions on this site that are not to dictionaries, are to explanations of Irish grammar from an English language translation of a book originally written in German.

I know that when I was a teenager learning Irish in school, the Caighdeán could have been written in Chinese for all I cared, but as a somewhat more mature student of the language now, I would be more inclined to turn to the Caighdeán if I could read it in English. But it's still a bit too challenging at this stage, even though I now know enough that I would actually be able to apply the information that is contained in the Caighdeán, if I could more easily access it.

I'd really like to do an Immersion-style project with the Caighdeán, learning it by translating it with a group of other learners.


They improved the design: examples more clearly highlight the point made.


I was wondering if there would be copyright issues with such a project, since copyright in the Caighdeán is held by the Houses of the Oireachtas, but the Oireachtas Adapted Public Sector Information Licence allows a translation as a licensed re-use as long as the conditions in §4 of the Licence are met — and in my view, those are all reasonable conditions (in the version of the Licence that was last modified at 2016-01-27 16:57:52 UTC, which is the version at the link above on 2016-07-14; note that §9 in this version of the Licence allows the copyright holder to change the Licence without notice).


I have referenced the previous edition occasionally in discussions where I thought the explanation was superior to what was available elsewhere online. There seems to be a fair amount of hostility towards it around the Internet, though, but I don't get the sense this is based on any reading of the text in any of its editions or a clear understanding of its intended function within the State.


I've provided at least one translation from the document in these discussions, but I don't spend much time looking for information in the Caighdeán Oifigiúil, because it's just not that easy to use.

I think the hostility/disdain for the Caighdeán is not so much for the document itself, as for the concept of an "artificial" standard - some people take the position that "it's not "real" Irish if native speakers don't say it that way".


There have been some positive and negative reactions to the publication of the new standard on tuairisc.ie

This extract from the first article, quoting extensively from the foreword to the document, which I recommend reading for clarity, is what most desperately needs to be communicated. If Irish is to remain an official language, then it must have a consistent official form of use. This does not in any way threaten or denigrate caint na ndaoine. Non-standard≠incorrect

Deirtear gur “áis bhunriachtanach” an Caighdeán nua “maidir le cruinneas brí a bhaint amach i ndoiciméid oifigiúla – sa reachtaíocht, i gcáipéisí stáit, i dtéacsleabhair, i bpáipéir scrúdaithe etc – agus comhthuiscint oifigiúil a bhunú ar mhaithe le cumarsáid bheacht idir aonaid oifigiúla stáit agus an pobal”.

“Ní caighdeán oifigiúil le haghaidh na cainte atá i gceist ná ní séanadh ar an saibhreas teanga sna canúintí éagsúla é,” a deirtear.

Ní hionann, a mhaítear, gan foirm nó leagan a bheith sa Chaighdeán Oifigiúil “agus gan ceart na Gaeilge a bheith ag an bhfoirm nó ag an leagan sin”.




I think many of the people who are worried about the possible negative effects of the most recent Caighdeán are perfectly aware of its function within the State.

The Caighdeán, as noted in the extract you quote, is a standard destined to be used in the composition/preparation of official documents - including textbooks -, and a model for Irish as it should be written in state exams. This being so, when it fails to recognise basic elements of a particular dialect it can pose a real threat to caint na ndaoine.

Quite simply, if a dialectal feature is not recognised by the Caighdeán, it will most likely not appear in schoolbooks, nor is it likely to be recognised in the exams for which students spend much of their time being prepared. As such, students are unlikely to encounter non-recognised features in the textbooks they read and teachers are likely to spend time 'correcting' native-speakers of dialects who use in their writing features of their dialect that are not officially recognised. Such absence from, and 'correction' within, the education system can certainly prove to the detriment of such 'non-Caighdeán' dialect features at the present time when language transmission, even within Gaeltacht areas, is heavily reliant upon the education system.

I can thus entirely understand why people are so upset about the fact that, as noted in the second of the articles you quote, the most recent iteration of the Caighdeán now completely ignores fundamental elements of Munster Irish that were previously recognised by the 2012 'Caighdeán Corcra'. (Something that seems all the more unjustified given that the new Caighdeán continues to recognise as officially-accepted variants fundamental elements of Ulster and Connacht Irish that were first recognised by the 'Caighdeán Corcra'.)

A single 'Official Standard' is undoubtedly necessary, but a standard that accepts key traits of two major dialects as 'variants' while ignoring the key traits of the one other major dialect seems like a very questionable 'standard' to say the least.


Native speakers of the language will continue to speak the dialect they grew up speaking with all its forms, and, those who seek to emulate them are free to do so. Caint na ndaoine will remain just that: caint, about which the written standard has nothing to say.

I doubt that the teaching of Munster forms in schools will change significantly, but, in any case, those that wish to learn specific dialectical forms will find a wealth of information available. As the standard itself states clearly, non-standard does not equal incorrect, so there will be no correcting of the native speakers.

Any decline in dialect forms within the Gaeltacht schools is attributable to a greater extent to the general decline in the amount of Irish spoken there rather than what is taught in schools. As a recent study points out, the knowledge of English is greater, even among the youngest pupils from Irish-speaking homes. Teachers from the area passionate about preservation of the local dialect will continue to encourage and educate pupils about its forms, but school is not and has not been sufficient for preservation of the dialects, which are caught rather than taught, primarily.

Historically, within the standard, Munster Irish has fared much better in terms of recognition of its forms than Ulster Irish. Nonetheless, previously unrecognised Ulster variants have been preserved and continue to be taught. I suspect Munster Irish forms will fare similarly. In this regard, the current standard is an improvement.

The standard is much more liberal than it was, but it is not possible for it to be a consistent official form if it accepts all variants. Its primary use is for translators working in Tithe an Oireachtais. Some of the best and brightest of Irish-language scholars have defined it thus for this purpose. They may revisit their decision in the future, as they have done in the past. Ultimately, it affects the rest of us only minimally.

I wrote non-standard forms for most of my life, which became standard only recently. I continue to use non-standard forms, which may never become standard. As long as you're not a government translator, everyone can do the same. The only place I was ever corrected about my non-standard Irish was here on Duolingo, even though it was accepted standard by then.


It's not possible to pursue the thread further, so I'll reply here.

The point about the decline of dialect forms within Gaeltacht areas being attributable to the general decline of Irish spoken in the Gaeltachtaí - something which is obviously true - is essentially what I was getting at in my earlier comment. The passion of local teachers/organisations notwithstanding, the decline of Irish as a spoken language in Gaeltacht areas means that many students are now less likely to be naturally exposed to dialectical features than was previously the case - i.e. they are less likely to catch them. This being so, including them within the Caighdeán - and, correspondingly, within textbooks - becomes more important. (Indeed, for this reason, I suspect the lack of recognition for dialect forms will prove more detrimental now than proved to be the case at a time when dialectical Irish was stronger as a community language.) Naturally, teaching dialectical features will not be enough to assure the persistence of such features in natural speech, but it surely does no harm and may well contribute to their survival by introducing them to students early on. At the very least, once students have been introduced to them, they will be better able - and, perhaps, more inclined - to make use of the wealth of information that is available.

In that respect, actually, I think Duolingo - and resources like it - could have a very positive role to play in, if not promoting, at least making people interested in the Irish language aware of its key dialectic's salient features. Clearly, should one interact with Irish - either by speaking to people or reading Irish-language literature -, one will eventually encounter features such as the use of 'cha', synthetic verb forms and the relative verb endings. I don't know if there are plans for this in Tree 2.0, but it would be wonderful if these could be incorporated into Duolingo, either as separate 'skills' or in the 'Tips and Notes'. As it currently stands, these forms may well be accepted in the exercises but this only allows those who already know about them to use them, it doesn't help to introduce them to language learners.

Returning to the CO, as far as the question of dialectical liberality vs. the need for unification is concerned, the new standard fails in both respects. Compared to the 2012 Caighdeán Athbhreithnithe, the new standard is decidedly less liberal. At the same time, it continues to accept variation in a number of key areas (e.g. analytic verb forms, prepositional mutations). Perhaps the decision to retain various (primarily) Ulster forms as variants while discarding various (primarily) Munster forms was intended to partially remedy the bias against Ulster forms in the original CO. Surely, however, if the standard is designed primarily for those engaged in the preparation of official documents then dialectical variation of any kind is needless? Why should an official translator from Donegal have any more reason for official recognition of 'tá muid' than a translator from Kerry should have for 'táid'? (Neither of those verb forms, of course, was recognised by the original CO.)

Undoubtedly, no CO will ever satisfy everyone but, personally, I believe it should either endeavour to recognise the key features of all major dialects, or ensure that the key features of no individual dialect(s) are unduly ignored in favour of others. In this respect, the new CO is a substantial step backwards from the Caighdeán Athbhreithnithe - itself a document that was prepared by the best and brightest of Irish-language scholars. For this reason, I very much hope those who put the new standard together will revisit their decisions.


I think the remit of the standard is, by necessity, narrow. It will never accept all forms, and, thus, never satisfy every group. As nice as it would be if it served as a vehicle to preserve certain aspects of the dialects, this would begin to undermine its function. A standard that accepts too broad range of forms is not really a standard at all.

"Tar éis an tsaoil, is é gnó an chaighdeáin scríofa leagan éigin a chur i dtreis."

We encountered the same issue with the course. The approach we have tried to take is to accept all correct forms and dialect variants, but try to teach one consistently. With several contributors with different backgrounds, it is a tall order. I worry that people will end up acquiring a mixture of rules not particular to any one form of Irish, but these are the limitations of the course, and as it is only an introductory course, these issues can be addressed if further study in a particular dialect is pursued. Similarly, I expect official documents, which may be the work of several translators, to maintain a consistent style, even if it is in an artificial, and at times, illogical standard.

"Cinnte, ní raibh mé dall ar an randamacht a bhaineann le caighdeáin scríofa i dteanga ar bith..."

I'm not sure how much impact the standard will have on any future textbooks, but I would certainly agree that in the limited number currently in use (and existence) in the primary and secondary system, more dialect-specific features should be included, and ideally, dialect-specific editions. I feel this is a separate but arguably more important issue linked to the wider challenge of teaching a minority language. I don't think examiners in Irish are actively looking to penalise students for dialect usages. On the contrary, I think they would be impressed with such knowledge. Agreeing on what form in which to write questions in national exams is another matter, but is less of an issue as the requirement is for general intelligibility.

I don't have any personal insight into the decisions made by the learned committees (largely the same in their composition, I would conclude) behind both editions , but I am aware that it is not only linguistic matters that are of relevance: the standard must be a functional style manual for professional translators within the Oireachtas. Indeed, the admittance of such a wide range of forms in the previous edition may have opened a Pandora's box that they are now trying to close for the purposes of internal consistency, training and/or other factors. Ultimately, this is only speculative, but I believe the committee took this step consciously for a specific reason, rather than out of ignorance of the forms themselves or of the predicable negative reaction from certain quarters.

I refer you to Antain Mac Lochlainn's analyses of both editions, which I have quoted above. He has written several excellent books on grammar and style in written Irish, and has the right balance of respect and disrespect for the standard.




The intended 'narrowness' of the standard is, of course, precisely the problem I pointed to in my second comment: Given that the standard 'will never accept all forms', the question must be asked why this particular standard - i.e. the 2016 Caighdeán - has permitted such a large amount of variation typical of Connacht and Ulster Irish (e.g. subordinate clasual verb forms, the analytic form of the first-person plural, and post-prepositional lenition) while excluding a number of synthetic verb forms that are fundamental aspects of Munster Irish. (This is, of course, to set aside the fact that the new Caighdeán has also introduced two methods of counting beyond 20 with nouns.)

"Tar éis an tsaoil, is é gnó an chaighdeáin scríofa leagan éigin a chur i dtreis."

Indeed: 'leagan éigin' not 'leaganacha éigin'

Much like yourself, I expect official documents to maintain a consistent style even if this is artificial. If this style is to be consistent, I see no reason to provide official recognition to two ways of conjugating the verb in subordinate clauses, two forms of post-prepositional mutation, two forms of counting beyond twenty with nouns, and, certainly, I see no need for two forms of the first-person plural in all tenses and moods.

My particular problem with the current Caighdeán is not its consistency, but rather the inconsistency of its purported consistency.

To be clear: We now have a situation whereby a simple sentence, such as 'We are seeking to improve the education system', can be rendered in four ways:

  1. Táimid ag iarraidh feabhas a chur ar an gcóras oideachais.
  2. Táimid ag iarraidh feabhas a chur ar an chóras oideachais.
  3. Tá muid ag iarraidh feabhas a chur ar an gcóras oideachais.
  4. Tá muid ag iarraidh feabhas a chur ar an chóras oideachais.

If the standard is to be standard, only one of these versions is necessary. If, on the other hand, acceptance of morphological variation between 'táimid'/'tá muid' is deemed necessary in officialese, there is no reason other instances of analogous morphological variation - e.g. 'táid'/'tá siad'; ‘bheidís’/‘bheadh siad’ - should be deemed unacceptable. Certainly, if a standard is to be unified, it should be unified; if the standard cannot be unified, it should be fair about what it excludes.

The question of why the new Caighdeán saw fit to allow a certain level of dialectally-marked 'roghnachas' is not properly addressed by Antain Mac Lochlainn in his review. That this should be the case is all the more surprising given his initial paragraph states he was perfectly happy with 'feicimid'. Surely, if he was happy with 'feicimid', the new Caighdeán's acceptance of 'feiceann muid' is a needless excess and should have been noted as such in his review?

As it currently stands, then, the new Caighdeán offers a number of choices while excluding a number of others. In certain cases, it has done away with choices that were recently allowed (e.g. 'Mholas', 'Cha raibh mé'); in others, it has continued to allow choices that were only recently allowed (e.g. 'feicimid' / 'feiceann muid') and, in still others, it has introduced choice where none was previously allowed (e.g 'dhá chapall mhóra is daichead' / 'daichead a dó capall mór'). By any measure, this sort of 'clarity' is murky in the extreme and should leave anyone convinced of the value of a unified standard highly dissatisfied.

More broadly, for anyone convinced of both the need for a general, descriptive grammar of Irish (i.e. one fully detailing the grammar, syntax and pronunciation of the various dialects) and the need for a unified standard for official/government texts (i.e. a single, written standard), this Caighdeán can only be deemed an abject failure: Not only does it fail as a unified written standard because it accepts too much variation, it also drags us further away from the prospect of a general, descriptive grammar of Irish by rejecting a number of elements that were accepted by the Caighdeán Athbhreithnithe.

Finally, with regard to the impact of the Caighdeán on the Education System - or, rather, the impact upon this system of a lack of adequate resources such as might be found in an all-embracing descriptive grammar -, I refer you to the article by Dr Noel P. Ó Murchadha that appeared in Tuairisc:



It would mean that the French taught in French school is not 'real French'. Nor is the Irish taught to most Irish learners in the land, most of them not 'raised in Irish'.

Whatever you say you will find a native not saying it the same way, and feeling strongly about what they see as 'right'.

The number of 'native' is dwindling, and what good would be a law written in a non-standardized language? One could argue that the wording, in one's household, means that the thing the law tries to prevent is in fact, in one's household, allowed.

Imagine a pure Irish speaker, who would genuinely have zero English. She would struggle to find a job, find an interesting TV programme, keep up with the news, get access to varied ecomonical/social/political analysis, get access to Cultural content, be judged and prosecuted fairly, have accesd to her political representative.

She could not be at the head of a major political party, become Toiseach or Uachtarán. I don’t think she would like less children to learn Irish because of some grammatical finesse that never benefitted her...


It's different with other languages, however. In other languages, the Standard version is based off a living dialect, generally that of the wealthy elite. In Irish it was completely made up out of the blue, often going against what native speakers would say. And then they proceed to tell the native speakers they're wrong because they don't speak this artificial Irish.

It's not a Standard in the traditional form where one dialect just took precedence; it is completely artificial because it was completely made up. So, really, it's not the same case as Standard French, or Standard English.


The more I try to grasp the situation of Standard Irish vs the regional dialects, the more it reminds me of how French works today.

I have read in some places that standard French is based on Parisian French, in others that it is from Tours, but the spoken version of neutral French is not 100% of those two.

When movies are dubbed in French, voice actors technically use a neutral version devoid of any regionalisms, although one can guess where the dubs where made based on some specific slang or swearing used in the dub. However, if movies are filmed in French, the actors have their own accent and do not use this neutral version.

Yet no native speaker is officially pointed out as being wrong by this standard... Although there are some judgemental, negative feelings, and a form of unofficial embargo from France regarding French Canadian dubs in the movie industry. They usually redo those dubs because they can hear the accent anyways. Open for debate... :)


Believe me, I'm all for the Caighdeán - I only wish it wasn't held back by those who think that they are protecting what they call "real Irish", and that a standard pronunciation was added to the standard grammar.


Not True! Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh (from the band Altan) is a good example of someone who spoke ONLY IRISH until age 16. Then, she learned English, went to university to become a teacher, and co-founded the band, Altan. She is one of the most prominent citizens to come out of any gaelteacht and her success speaks for itself.

  • 1513

Despite the strength of the Gaeltacht in Gaoth Dobhair, you couldn't grow up there in the 1960's without exposure to English, and even in Gaeltacht schools, English would be a core part of the curriculum.

She grew up in an environment where Irish was the daily language of her home and community, but any news of the outside world came from English language newspapers, radio, and television.


How romanticized a view this is :)

So when she met her husband, Frankie Kennedy from Belfast, at age 15, do you think he spoke Irish exclusively to her? Really?


Some people prefer mastering a dead language exclusively, rather than contribute to sharing a live one...


And the living forms of Irish aren't the Caighdeán. They're the dialects as spoken by native speakers in the Gaeltachtaí.


By all accounts, the dialects spoken by native speakers in the Gaeltachtaí are the dying forms of Irish, not the living forms of Irish, where even the adults are as likely to talk to one another in English as Irish, and the younger people aren't being exposed to the full range of dialect forms.

The only areas where the use of Irish is expanding is in urban areas, where young people also aren't being exposed to the full range of dialect forms, but that simply means that the "living Irish" of 2050 won't be the same as the "living Irish" of 1950 or 1850. Some of those changes will involve the adoption of structures that are more like English, and some will involve the elimination of complexities, such as the rules around numbers (a process that is well underway among native speakers).

At some point the nettle will have to be grasped, and urban Irish will have to be acknowledged as a significant dialect, the health of which will be of vital importance to the long term survival of Irish as a "living language". Instead of a rearguard action defending rural Irish dialects from their slow death, efforts should be made to bolster the new urban Irish and strengthen and enrich it as much as possible, retaining as much of the richness of idiom and expression as possible from the language in it's current form, but accepting that, just as Irish speakers who adopted English brought many structures directly from Irish into Hiberno-English, English speakers who adopt Irish will bring English structures into Irish. This Irish will benefit from a strong Caighdeán (because it will be "taught" more than "caught"), and as a spoken language, documented pronunciation (based on the accepted spelling or words, rather than following particular rural dialect norms) would be an important feature.


But what would be declared as "Urban Irish"? I've heard Irish speakers from Dublin with perfect Irish, who'd almost sound as if they were from Conamara only for a hint of a Dublin accent. They'd use the proper idiomatic expressions, and distinguish between broad and slender consonants, as would be expected for Irish speakers. The same can be said for some Belfast people who sound almost identical to Gaoith Dobhair people.

However, I've also heard Dubliners and Belfast people with terrible Irish. Even though they attended Gaelscoileanna, they never learned how to properly distinguish between broad and slender consonants, nor did they learn the proper idioms.

There is no one "Urban Irish" dialect, it varies from person to person. Whereas in the Gaeltachtaí geographical dialects can be determined.



Funny you should use that example. Carr is not borrowed from English! What you are suggesting is similar to suggesting that we should, in English, use the word "automobile", while wearing a top-hat.

In the Foclóir Beag, the Irish-Irish dictionary: "gluaisteán" is defined as : carr a thiomáintear le hinneall (a car powered by an engine).

There are many discussions using the word carr as an example of how English takes over.

i can tell you that native speakers look at me weird when I use "gluaisteán". My husband who is a primary teaching in an Irish-speaking school would hardly ever use "carr". They look at the same way the first time I used "looking glass" instead of mirror when speaking to an English teenager, when I was learning English out of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures...

Let's not be more extremist than the natives and fluent speakers. The zeal of the new converts is mocked by them.

Grammatical structures matters more than vocabulary, in earnest. And the reality of today's Irish speakers is that they are in their vast majority native English speakers, whose English vocab is vastly more diverse than their Irish one...

Instead of telling the natives what should or should not "enter the language", why do not work to make it a living language, for instance by publishing poetry or prose or songs, etc, in Irish?

Otherwise you will suffer the ridicule of French people who try to use "courriel" instead of the borrowed "email" (or even the more integrated "mél", as seems to be the current recommendation according to my sister...). I should know, I have tried using "courriel" since it appeared, but never "made it happen".

Mastering the basics of the genitive and usage of the copula, as well as the impact of gender on initial letters and adjectives, is far more important than arguing on words real people have decided to adopt. And the Caighdeán goes a long way to help simplify and standardize these things just enough that they are usable. Including each and every aspect of dialects would not help, as it defies the purpose of a "standard", which job is to look at grammar and structures, rather than vocab.

It is not there to be a compilation of all historical Irish: otherwise why do you not stick to the old spelling? It is there to help public Irish users to sue something common. That when reading a newspaper or a court judgement, it is clear what happened and what was decided.

If people want the dialects, they should move in an area where it is spoken, and take the time to make a life there...

To say one more thing: if someone decided to raise their child 100% in Irish only, that child would probably end-up as a homeless, jobless adult, and could probably not make a living anywhere else than where he was raised (if even). And if that child managed to get by, but decided to never use English words or English "imports", or what mistakenly looks like it (like "carr"), then he would find it impossible to be understood by most people most of the time, speaking a very archaic Irish, unfit for modern life.


Mostly @FearMhaighEo

Urban irish seems a little clearer here?: http ://www. gaelport. com/default.aspx?treeid=37=3726

(take the spaces out after the http bit and the two full stops - basically its called "Schism fears for Gaeilgeoirí"

but basically those dublin speakers you referenced with 'perfect' conamara irish wouldn't be considered to be speaking urban irish :D


I think the different dialects should be preserved and I certainly don't think more structures and words from English should enter the language. Words borrowed from English have already replaced older Irish words like carr being used when there is a perfectly good word already gluaisteán.


The 2012 Caighdeán already allowed eclipsis after den, don, and sa (§1.3.3, p. 22).

EDIT: The 2016 version mentions a couple of the special situations involving the word euro, e.g. §9.3.1 (i) on page 145, but all of the special situations involving the word euro are not included.


It amounts to making it simpler for everyone, and more likely to survive the next generation.


I really don't see how a few morphological decisions are going to make the language more likely to survive. Increased transmission rate to children is far more important.

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