Whether you have a strong interest in Ireland or in languages in general, you can’t go wrong from taking a look at the national language of the Republic of Ireland, known as Irish Gaelic. With its rich history and its strong identification with the Irish people, Irish Gaelic is a beautiful language that is spoken primarily in the west of Ireland though large numbers of speakers are spread throughout the country.
Scholars believe that in about 3000 BCE, speakers of Celtic languages arrived in Ireland. While there is no way to document the spoken language, it is still possible to trace the earliest written forms of the language. The earliest written form of Irish, called Primitive Irish, and was used be around 400 and 500 AD on the southernmost part of the island, linking it linguistically with Wales and Cornwall. The next stage of the language was called Old Irish, which appeared in Latin manuscripts. At this point, around 600 AD, Ireland was largely converted to Christianity and the texts that Old Irish appeared in were religious in nature. Four centuries later, Old Irish gave way to Middle Irish, which had influences from the Norse, that is, from Vikings who traded as well as raided.
Around the eighteenth century, Irish was rapidly loosing ground to the spread of English. At this time in history, when Britain was occupying the island of Ireland, there were restrictions placed on both speaking and teaching the language. The wave of Irish leaving the island as well as the famine that took place in the middle of the nineteenth century took it toll, but at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Gaelic Revival movement started attempts to encourage this languages learning and common usage.
Irish is considered to be in the Goidelic language family, which is also known as the Gaelic languages. Historically, these languages come from the south of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the north of Scotland. This signifies that Irish is most closely related to Scottish Gaelic and Manx. While some people believe that Shelta, the language spoken by Irish Travellers is Gaelic, it actually has more in common with English. These languages were once primarily Irish but around about 400 AD, Irish Celts migrated from Ireland to Scotland, where they eventually absorbed the Pictish population there and spread the Gaelic language further.
At this point, it is important to remember that there were several distinct dialects that were spoken as well, and while they could differ a great deal (it would not be surprising for an Ulsterman to have difficulty understanding a person from Munster, for instance) these all fell under the general heading of the Irish Gaelic language. Today, the three most popular dialects in the Irish language are the ones connected with Connacht, Munster and Ulster, although the Dublin dialect, which is newer than the other three, is increasing in popularity.