The Irish Language

The Language Of The Gael
The native tongue of the Gael is called Gaelic. The Gaelic of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man are closely connected. Indeed, till the Reformation, and for a century or more thereafter, the Irish and Scottish Gaelic had a common literary language, though the spoken tongues had diverged considerably. In the eighteenth century Scottish Gaelic broke away completely from the Irish and began a literary career of it's own with a literary dialect that could be understood easily all over the Highlands and Islands. Manx is more allied to the Scottish Gaelic than it is to the Irish. It is generally understood to be a remnant of the Gaelic of the Kingdom of the Isles.
Irish Gaelic is the dialect of the greatest number of Gaels, and contains almost all the old literature. It is divided into the following four leading periods:
1. OLD IRISH (O.Ir.), from about 800 to 1000 A.D. Besides some scraps of poetry and prose, we have The Book of Armagh (tenth century), which contains continuous Old Irish narrative.
2. EARLY IRISH (E.Ir.), from 1000 to 12000 A.D. The two great MSS. of "Lebor na h-uidre" - The Book of the Dun Cow a nd The Book of Leinster - mark this period.
3. MIDDLE IRISH (M.Ir.), from 1200 to about 1550 A.D. The chief MSS. are The Yellow Book of Lecan, The Book of Ballimote, and the "Leabar Breac" or Speckled Book, and The Book of Lismore.
4. MODERN or NEW IRISH, here called Irish (Ir.), from 1550 to the present time.
The literary language of Ireland and Scotland remained the same till about 1700. The oldest document of Scottish Gaelic is The Book of Deer, a MS. which contains half a dozen entries in Gaelic of grants of land made to the monastery of Deer.
"The entries," says the late Dr. MacBain, "belong to the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the most important being the first - the Legend of Deer - extending to nineteen lines of continuous prose. These entries form what we call OLD GAELIC, but the language is Early Irish of an advanced or phonetically decayed kind."
The next document is The Book of the Dean of Lismore, an island in Argyllshire, written about 1512 in phonetic Gaelic. We call it MIDDLE GAELIC (M.G.), a term which also includes the MSS., of the MacVurich seanachies.
"The Fearnaig MSS., written about 1688, is also phonetic in it's spelling, and forms," says Dr. MacBain, "a valuable link in the chain of Scottish Gaelic phonetics from The Book of Deer till now." The term GAELIC (G.) means modern Gaelic.
The Gaelic alphabet consists of eighteen letters, viz. a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t and u.
Scottish Gaelic printed literature dates from 1567, when John Carswell issued a translation of Knox's Liturgy.
There is a Chair of Celtic Languages and Literatures at Edinburgh University, and a Lectureship of Celtic Languages and Literature at Glasgow University.