chapter  Chapter 1
5 Pages

Dialects of Irish

ByNancy Stenson

3For a language spoken in such a small territory and by so few speakers, Irish displays an impressive variation in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. These differences constitute the dialect variation that will be mentioned throughout this grammar. In countries like England or France, similar variation is found (as in virtually all languages), but as English and French are spoken throughout their respective countries, one usage or pronunciation fades into the next and the boundaries of individual differences of speech are not the same for every vocabulary item or grammatical usage, so that the differences may not be immediately noticeable except at the geographic extremes. In Ireland, however, communities of native speakers have been isolated from each other for several centuries by intervening English-speaking populations. Before the advent of mass communication and widespread car ownership, these communities had little contact with one another and the language in each developed in its own way with minimal input from the others or from any kind of standardization. Thus the differences in the modern varieties, or dialects, can be quite noticeable, although with effort and good will they are mutually intelligible.