Irish in 100 years

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Yasna
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Irish in 100 years

Postby Yasna » 2013-06-10, 16:07

What's your best guess at what the position of Irish will be in 100 years? I'm interested in things like what percent of the Irish population will be native speakers, what percent will be proficient speakers. What will be the main language of the media and literature in Ireland. etc.
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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby Lur » 2013-06-10, 16:21

My guess is better than now, but even more massively influenced by English.

Maybe they can manage like half the status of Basque in that time.
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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby linguoboy » 2013-06-10, 17:12

I think there will be no more native speakers of Late Traditional Modern Irish (to use Ó Béarra's terminology). Native speakers of Non-Traditional Modern Irish will represent a small minority of the population.
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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby Ciarán12 » 2013-06-10, 19:07

linguoboy wrote:I think there will be no more native speakers of Late Traditional Modern Irish (to use Ó Béarra's terminology). Native speakers of Non-Traditional Modern Irish will represent a small minority of the population.


A smaller minority than the current number of native speakers?

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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby linguoboy » 2013-06-10, 19:26

Ciarán12 wrote:A smaller minority than the current number of native speakers?

What do you consider that number to be?
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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby Ciarán12 » 2013-06-10, 19:53

linguoboy wrote:
Ciarán12 wrote:A smaller minority than the current number of native speakers?

What do you consider that number to be?


I've heard optimistic figures at around 80,000, pessimistic ones at less than 10,000.

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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby mōdgethanc » 2013-06-10, 20:23

I wouldn't be surprised if 100 years from now, Manx, Cornish and Scottish Gaelic were totally dead with Irish only clinging on as a fetish object, not a spoken language - more or less the same as the above are now. I can't see any language revival working when the shift is nearly complete and speakers don't have a real need to speak it besides nationalism.

If Irish is still alive at all, it will be a heavily Anglicized kind that a native speaker from today wouldn't understand very well, much like that monstrosity called "Israeli".

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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby Ciarán12 » 2013-06-10, 20:44

mōdgethanc wrote:I wouldn't be surprised if 100 years from now, Manx, Cornish and Scottish Gaelic were totally dead with Irish only clinging on as a fetish object, not a spoken language


I would. I mean, Manx and Cornish were actually dead, so the tread is going towards them getting stronger, not weaker. You can't just say that because something is in a weak position it must be dying off, you have to take other stuff into consideration and look at its current position relative to its previous one.

I'm not really well enough informed to say this with confidence, but I think Scots Gaelic is the one to be most worried about. But like I said, I don't know what the situation is like in Scotland, so...

Irish will still be around. I imagine the number of speakers who speak a more Anglicised form of Irish will be much greater as I can see the Gaelscoilanna (Irish-Medium schools) taking off in a big way, and the people who go through these schools tend to have more English influenced Irish. It may well be the case that few natives of Late Traditional Irish will still be around, but you have to look at it as a necessary stage of development. You're just not going to turn a country full of Anglophones into perfect Late Traditional Irish speakers in a single generation. You might, however, get a huge number of them to become Non-Traditional or "Anglicised" Irish speakers, and it's much easier to go from that kind of Irish to Late Trad. than from Anglophone to Late Trad. You have to remember that the "Greats" of the Irish literary cannon that will still be being read will be Late Trad. speakers, and there will still be a movement of people trying to get more people speaking it, and I think they'll have a much easier time convince people to improve there already existing decent standard of Irish (fluent even), than trying to get English speakers to do so.

mōdgethanc wrote:If Irish is still alive at all, it will be a heavily Anglicized kind that a native speaker from today wouldn't understand very well, much like that monstrosity called "Israeli".


Would it be better that it die off completely? Do you think Modern Israelis would think so?

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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby linguoboy » 2013-06-10, 20:57

Ciarán12 wrote:It may well be the case that few natives of Late Traditional Irish will still be around, but you have to look at it as a necessary stage of development. You're just not going to turn a country full of Anglophones into perfect Late Traditional Irish speakers in a single generation. You might, however, get a huge number of them to become Non-Traditional or "Anglicised" Irish speakers, and it's much easier to go from that kind of Irish to Late Trad. than from Anglophone to Late Trad.

Sorry, but I just don't see that happening. Can you point me to a precedent for this in any existing linguistic community?

Ciarán12 wrote:You have to remember that the "Greats" of the Irish literary cannon that will still be being read will be Late Trad. speakers, and there will still be a movement of people trying to get more people speaking it, and I think they'll have a much easier time convince people to improve there already existing decent standard of Irish (fluent even), than trying to get English speakers to do so.

I should hope that some new "Greats" will be added to the canon by then, else it will be evidence that Irish really is a zombie language.

If you started a movement in Ireland to get people to speak more like Joyce, O'Faolain, and O'Brien, how successful do you think you'd be?
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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby Ciarán12 » 2013-06-10, 21:05

linguoboy wrote:
Ciarán12 wrote:It may well be the case that few natives of Late Traditional Irish will still be around, but you have to look at it as a necessary stage of development. You're just not going to turn a country full of Anglophones into perfect Late Traditional Irish speakers in a single generation. You might, however, get a huge number of them to become Non-Traditional or "Anglicised" Irish speakers, and it's much easier to go from that kind of Irish to Late Trad. than from Anglophone to Late Trad.

Sorry, but I just don't see that happening. Can you point me to a precedent for this in any existing linguistic community?


I can't, I can only go by what my common sense dictates. I can't see how it wouldn't be much easier to get people who speak a slightly different kind of Irish to speak Late Trad. than people who can barely say two words in it.

linguoboy wrote:
Ciarán12 wrote:You have to remember that the "Greats" of the Irish literary cannon that will still be being read will be Late Trad. speakers, and there will still be a movement of people trying to get more people speaking it, and I think they'll have a much easier time convince people to improve there already existing decent standard of Irish (fluent even), than trying to get English speakers to do so.

I should hope that some new "Greats" will be added to the canon by then, else it will be evidence that Irish really is a zombie language.

If you started a movement in Ireland to get people to speak more like Joyce, O'Faolain, and O'Brien, how successful do you think you'd be?


Don't we still read Shakespeare? Hasn't his works and the King James Bible contributed to our language? I think if Late Trad. Irish is held up as the educated standard, people will strive to master it much as they do with standard educated English.

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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby linguoboy » 2013-06-10, 21:23

Ciarán12 wrote:I can't, I can only go by what my common sense dictates. I can't see how it wouldn't be much easier to get people who speak a slightly different kind of Irish to speak Late Trad. than people who can barely say two words in it.

It wouldn't. If you wanted people to be Late Trad speakers, you'd have to fundamentally change how the language is being taught so that it constitutes more people's notion of what educated Irish should be from the very start. Switching from one variety to another is harder than it sounds. I don't know many foreigner learners of English who have thoroughly learned one dialect of English and then successfully switched to gaining active competence in another.

Ciarán12 wrote:Don't we still read Shakespeare? Hasn't his works and the King James Bible contributed to our language? I think if Late Trad. Irish is held up as the educated standard, people will strive to master it much as they do with standard educated English.

Does anyone use Shakespearean grammar and usage except to take the piss? We may incorporate some quotes from the Bard into our conversations, but that's about as far as it goes.
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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby mōdgethanc » 2013-06-11, 0:30

Ciarán12 wrote:I would. I mean, Manx and Cornish were actually dead, so the tread is going towards them getting stronger, not weaker. You can't just say that because something is in a weak position it must be dying off, you have to take other stuff into consideration and look at its current position relative to its previous one.

I'm not really well enough informed to say this with confidence, but I think Scots Gaelic is the one to be most worried about. But like I said, I don't know what the situation is like in Scotland, so...
Well, the trend for the last two hundred years has been the number of Gaelic speakers falling quickly. At best the shift has been halted instead of turned around, and it's still a language on life support. Manx and Cornish might have a small number of speakers but they're also undead at best, and Cornish at least seems more like a conlang than the real thing. Neither is a widely spoken language. If their speakers don't pass them on to their children, who then most likely won't care that much about keeping them alive, they could be dead within a generation.
Irish will still be around. I imagine the number of speakers who speak a more Anglicised form of Irish will be much greater as I can see the Gaelscoilanna (Irish-Medium schools) taking off in a big way, and the people who go through these schools tend to have more English influenced Irish. It may well be the case that few natives of Late Traditional Irish will still be around, but you have to look at it as a necessary stage of development. You're just not going to turn a country full of Anglophones into perfect Late Traditional Irish speakers in a single generation. You might, however, get a huge number of them to become Non-Traditional or "Anglicised" Irish speakers, and it's much easier to go from that kind of Irish to Late Trad. than from Anglophone to Late Trad. You have to remember that the "Greats" of the Irish literary cannon that will still be being read will be Late Trad. speakers, and there will still be a movement of people trying to get more people speaking it, and I think they'll have a much easier time convince people to improve there already existing decent standard of Irish (fluent even), than trying to get English speakers to do so.
As with Shakespeare, being able to read it doesn't mean we still speak that way.
Would it be better that it die off completely? Do you think Modern Israelis would think so?
No, but the Irish your great-grandchildren speak (if they speak it at all) won't be anything like the Irish you do. Are you happy with that?

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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby Yasna » 2013-06-11, 1:34

It's by no means a perfect analogy, but one historical example which might lend some support to Ciaran's idea of Late Traditional Irish supplanting Anglicized Irish is the spread of Arabic. It caught on in areas where the Arab conquerors encountered people speaking a Semitic language (e.g. Coptic in Egypt and Aramaic in the Fertile Crescent), but failed to catch on where the Arabs encountered people speaking non-Semitic languages (Persian, Turkish). So history suggests that languages are more easily replaced by closely related languages.
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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby linguoboy » 2013-06-11, 2:00

Yasna wrote:It's by no means a perfect analogy, but one historical example which might lend some support to Ciaran's idea of Late Traditional Irish supplanting Anglicized Irish is the spread of Arabic. It caught on in areas where the Arab conquerors encountered people speaking a Semitic language (e.g. Coptic in Egypt and Aramaic in the Fertile Crescent), but failed to catch on where the Arabs encountered people speaking non-Semitic languages (Persian, Turkish). So history suggests that languages are more easily replaced by closely related languages.

In the same way that Turkish caught on in places where people spoke other Indo-European languages such as Greek and Sogdian but not...hang on a minute. (Yeah, I read Empires of the word as well; I'm afraid I didn't find that particular argument of Ostler's very convincing.)

The Arab world does give us a model of diglossia between modern vernaculars and a prestige standard (MSA) based on an earlier form of the language (Classical Arabic). But given that this has been driven by (a) a respect for Classical Arabic as the literal word of God Himself and (b) a need for a lingua franca between mutually unintelligible varieties, I'm not sure how relevant it is for the future development of Irish.
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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby morlader » 2013-06-11, 10:46

mōdgethanc wrote:
Ciarán12 wrote:I would. I mean, Manx and Cornish were actually dead, so the tread is going towards them getting stronger, not weaker. You can't just say that because something is in a weak position it must be dying off, you have to take other stuff into consideration and look at its current position relative to its previous one.

I'm not really well enough informed to say this with confidence, but I think Scots Gaelic is the one to be most worried about. But like I said, I don't know what the situation is like in Scotland, so...
Well, the trend for the last two hundred years has been the number of Gaelic speakers falling quickly. At best the shift has been halted instead of turned around, and it's still a language on life support. Manx and Cornish might have a small number of speakers but they're also undead at best, and Cornish at least seems more like a conlang than the real thing. Neither is a widely spoken language. If their speakers don't pass them on to their children, who then most likely won't care that much about keeping them alive, they could be dead within a generation.


Cornish may have very few native speakers but you're assuming that people won't keep learning. In 1850 the number of speakers was 0. Now it's at the very least in the hundreds. You're also discounting the change in attitude towards the language over the past century, and also the increasing confidence in "Cornishness" and a distinctive Cornish identity of the past two decades, that only seems to be growing. Yes it's nationalism but so what? It's also anti-globalisation. And now that we have the internet and mass communication, it's easier than ever to learn, which shows in the upswing of new learners. Future technology will make it even easier. It's all that which will keep the revival going. Pronouncements about the future of a language are all well and good but unless you actually go to the language community to find out everything that's happening, and get a complete picture of the circumstances, it'll always just be half-baked opinion. So many linguists I've run into just don't get how much politics, identity and culture can determine what happens in their field.

And re conlang, have you studied the revived language at all? Or just read what other people have written about it?
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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby ceid donn » 2013-06-11, 14:34

morlader wrote:Future technology will make it even easier. It's all that which will keep the revival going. Pronouncements about the future of a language are all well and good but unless you actually go to the language community to find out everything that's happening, and get a complete picture of the circumstances, it'll always just be half-baked opinion.


You're being far too polite, Morlader. Such cynicsm has the benefit of letting the indivudal sit back and do nothing to validate their opinion, relying on the sheer obnoxiousness of it to give it a pretense of insight. This is why cynicism is not only worthless but lazy. Insight is only derived from experience, and unless you actually go out and get that experience, you don't have any claim to any insight. You're just talking out your ass, to but it bluntly.

One thing is very clear--worldwide there is a renewed understanding of the value of minority and indigenous languages and how they relate to the social wellbeing of communities and individuals. And it's gaining momentum. As I've pointed out on other forums, the parallels between the social-economic problems of Native Americans and the Scottish people, for example, are eerily similar: gross economic inequality between them and the dominant culture around them, critical loss of traditional crafts, methods, religious practices or other things distinct to their culture that leaves them reliant on the dominant culture, disproportionate rate of mental illness, substance abuse and suicide (especially among young men) when compared to the dominant culture, and language loss, among other things. Recently there was a study done (sadly I cannot find the link at this moment) of the impact of just learning one's ancestral langauge on suicide rates in one Native American tribe where suicide had been decimating their youth, and it showed that the suicide rate among youth who were learning their native tongue dropped to zero. Zero, despite that other factors, like poverty, unemployment, lack of health care access, discrimination, and so on, had not be addressed. And the conclusion seems obvious: language plays a core role in an individual's sense of worth and belonging. Langauge is the medium through whichwe think about ourselves and our communities, and if we can only think in someone else's language, we can feel like we perpetually don't belong in that society an that the communities we live in are "lesser". Older generations may have resigned to the dominate langauge--we see this to often among older Gaelic speakers, unfortunately--but younger people are not always so willing to follow that same path, especially when they are shown the harm language loss can do.

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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby Lur » 2013-06-11, 17:51

I like that post of yours. And your signature.
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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby mōdgethanc » 2013-06-11, 18:02

You would.
morlader wrote:Cornish may have very few native speakers but you're assuming that people won't keep learning. In 1850 the number of speakers was 0. Now it's at the very least in the hundreds. You're also discounting the change in attitude towards the language over the past century, and also the increasing confidence in "Cornishness" and a distinctive Cornish identity of the past two decades, that only seems to be growing.
I'm not assuming anything. I said that they could stop learning it, not that they won't. Over the next hundred years it also may happen than the rest of the world comes to reject English and it ends up like French.
Yes it's nationalism but so what? It's also anti-globalisation. And now that we have the internet and mass communication, it's easier than ever to learn, which shows in the upswing of new learners. Future technology will make it even easier. It's all that which will keep the revival going.
That stuff is globalization. Don't confuse globalism with cultural imperialism or whatever the leftist trend of the day is. I don't believe it has to be a bad thing, bringing people together and allowing the sharing of knowledge.
Pronouncements about the future of a language are all well and good but unless you actually go to the language community to find out everything that's happening, and get a complete picture of the circumstances, it'll always just be half-baked opinion. So many linguists I've run into just don't get how much politics, identity and culture can determine what happens in their field.
I can't just go to Cornwall on a whim, so I'm limited by whatever I can find about it - which means on the Internet.
And re conlang, have you studied the revived language at all? Or just read what other people have written about it?
No, I haven't. I haven't studied Modern Hebrew either; do you disagree with my take on it?
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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby Yasna » 2013-06-11, 18:03

linguoboy wrote:In the same way that Turkish caught on in places where people spoke other Indo-European languages such as Greek and Sogdian but not...hang on a minute. (Yeah, I read Empires of the word as well; I'm afraid I didn't find that particular argument of Ostler's very convincing.)

If Ostler didn't convince you I won't be able to but I'm curious, do you happen to know if there is a consensus in the linguistics community on that hypothesis?
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Re: Irish in 100 years

Postby linguoboy » 2013-06-11, 18:18

Yasna wrote:
linguoboy wrote:In the same way that Turkish caught on in places where people spoke other Indo-European languages such as Greek and Sogdian but not...hang on a minute. (Yeah, I read Empires of the word as well; I'm afraid I didn't find that particular argument of Ostler's very convincing.)

If Ostler didn't convince you I won't be able to but I'm curious, do you happen to know if there is a consensus in the linguistics community on that hypothesis?

I don't know that it's gotten any serious discussion. It doesn't actually seem to explain anything that can't be explained by other means, nor does it have any real predictive power. Ostler himself admits that Persia is a glaring exception. (Yes, it resisted both Arabic and Turkish, but it resisted Greek as well.) It also fails to account for Malta (Ostler feebly reminds us that this was once a Punic colony, but it had been Roman/Byzantine for a millennium before the arrival of the Arabs) and al-Andalus (again, Ostler details the measures the Spanish government took to stamp out Arabic after the Reconquista, and not just in formerly Punic areas).
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