The Irish Language

Irish is a Celtic Language of the Indo-European language group. It is the national and first official language of the Republic of Ireland. According to the 2006 Irish Census figures, 1.6 million Irish people report to have proficiency in the Irish language, while only 64,000 of these are really native speakers. Irish is a compulsory subject at primary and secondary schools in the Republic of Ireland. All official Irish government documents are required to be translated into Irish following the Official Languages Act 2003. As an official EU language, all European Parliament proceedings are also translated into Irish.

Irish is recognised as a minority language in Northern Ireland where it is taught in some schools, although not a required subject.

There are three major dialects in Irish: Ulster, Connacht and Munster. "An Caighdeán Oifigiúil" or the Official Standard was developed in the 1950s to simplify the orthography of the Irish language and provide a standard written form. This is the form of Irish taught in most schools.

As a Celtic language, the word structure of Irish is VSO (Verb Subject Object). It is regarded as a morphologically rich language undergoing inflectional processes such as lenition, initial mutation and inflected prepositions, for example.

To date there has relatively little interest in Irish Natural Language Processing. Some valuable work has been done on text processing, however, by Elaine Uí Dhonnchadha of Trinity College Dublin, who after helping to develop the National Corpus for Irish, developed a morphological analyser, POS-tagger and syntactic chunking parser. Other machine translation related research, proofing tools development and corpus creation has been carried out by Kevin Scannell in Saint Louis University, Missouri. In addition, researchers at TCD have developed an Irish text-to-speech synthesiser:

There is much discussion about the Irish language on mainstream media, often not so positive. Sadly, due to historical factors, the language carries a lot of baggage and negative attitudes have been passed down through generations to the point where many Irish people reject their own language, thus their own culture, in a strive for a monolingual (English-speaking) society. My stance on this issue, is that Irish language use needs to be normalised in our society. There is no reason why we can't comfortably live as a bilingual society - like many other societies across the world. I have found that many Irish people who have travelled extensively or who have lived abroad, acquire this appreciation after having left the blinkered society that surrounds us. I hope that through improving technological support for the language, that we can help normalise Irish language use and make the choice for bilinguals easier.