By the 9th century, a form of the Irish language had spread over much of Scotland, parts of Northern Britain and the Isle of Man. The term Gaelic covers a group of different Celtic languages split into two branches. One branch consists of Irish Gaelic, Scots-Gaelic, and Manx; the other branch, Breton, Cornish and Welsh.
With the Anglo-Norman conquest of Ireland in the 12th century, Norman-French and English came into use. For a time the English-speaking population lived in an area around Dublin known as The Pale. Outside the Pale, native Irish language, culture and society continued strongly on its own path until the Tudor period when, after a final battle for power, Gaelic aristocratic society and order of life collapsed. Loss of property, plantation of new settlers from England, and new legal and economic systems made it difficult to conduct everyday affairs in Irish. No longer recognized as the official language, Irish was discouraged or suppressed.
During the 19th century, however, with shifts in power and strong interest in building an Irish nation, there were movements in Dublin and Belfast to revive the Irish language. The most significant of these movements was The Gaelic League, Conradh na Gaeilge. The League worked to preserve Irish as the national language of Ireland, and encourage it as a spoken language.
Today the Irish language is highly valued, taught in Irish schools, used for contemporary works of literature and, in the Gaeltacht areas, used as everyday speech.
This exhibit traces the movement to preserve, learn and promote speaking and writing in Irish since the late 19 century. The Irish Studies Program at Boston College offers classes in the Irish language. Dictionaries, grammars, books, CD's and DVD's for practicing conversation or translation are available at the O’Neill Library for borrowing, reading, listening or viewing. If you simply want to learn a witty Irish saying or two, or have some words and phrases to use if you visit a Gaeltacht area, click here.