Middle Irish language

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Middle Irish
Pronunciation: IPA: [ˈɡɯːjelɡ]
Spoken in: Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man
Language extinction: Evolved into Modern Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx about the 16th century
Language family: Indo-European
  Insular Celtic
    Middle Irish 
Writing system: Latin
Language codes
ISO 639-1: none
ISO 639-2: mga
ISO/FDIS 639-3: mga 

Middle Irish is the name given by historical philologists to the form of the Irish language from the 10th to 16th centuries; it is therefore a contemporary of Middle English. The modern Goidelic languages Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx are all descendants of Middle Irish.

At its height, Middle Irish was spoken throughout Ireland and Scotland; from Munster to the North Sea island of Inchcolm. Its geographical range made it the most widespread of all Insular languages before the late 12th century, when Middle English began to make inroads into Ireland, and many of the Celtic regions of northern and western Britain.

Few medieval European languages can rival the volume of literature extant in Middle Irish. Much of this survival is due to the tenacity of a few early modern Irish antiquarians, but the sheer volume of sagas, annals, hagiographies (etc) which survive shows how much confidence members of the medieval Gaelic learned orders had in their own vernacular. Almost all survives from Ireland, and little from Scotland or Man. The Lebor Bretnach, the "Irish Nennius", survives only from manuscripts preserved in Ireland; however, Thomas Owen Clancy has recently argued that it was written in Scotland, at the monastery in Abernethy.

A form of Middle Irish, known as "Classical Gaelic", was used as a literary language in Ireland until the 17th century and in Scotland until the 18th century; the Ethnologue gives the name "Hiberno-Scottish Gaelic" (and the ISO/DIS 639-3 code ghc) to this purely written language.

[edit] References

  • Clancy, Thomas Owen, "Scotland, the ‘Nennian’ recension of the Historia Brittonum, and the Lebor Bretnach", in Simon Taylor (ed.) Kings, Clerics and Chronicles in Scotland, 500-1297. (Dublin & Portland, 2000), pp. 87-107 ISBN 1-85182-516-9
  • Müller, Nicole. Agents in Early Welsh and Early Irish. Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-19-823587-9

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Irish linguistics
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Middle Irish language

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