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A Survey of Spoken Irish in the Aran Islands, Co. Galway

Tuesday, December 22, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jessica Atkinson
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Created over a period of 25 years, A Survey of Spoken Irish in the Aran Islands, Co. Galway represents the life’s work of Californian linguist Dr. Séamas Ó Direáin, whose grandparents emigrated from Inis Mór, Aran Islands, Co. Galway, to Boston MA well over 1  years ago. Dr. Ó Direáin, who turned 77 in October 2015, first started learning Irish from expats in Kenya in the 1970s where he was researching African languages. Over 40 years later, he is delighted to make his Survey available for free and online from 9 October 2015 onwards via a searchable PDF.

The Survey constitutes a highly detailed, almost microscopic, micro-dialectological study of spoken Irish in the Aran Islands, focusing on geographical and social variation linked to generations (older and younger age-groups), genders (male and female), and level of education.

It provides for the first time ever for any language anywhere in the world an extensive analysis of a wide range of phonological and grammatical variation on a dialectal and sociolinguistic basis. In the case of the largest of the three islands, Inis Mór, the Survey includes detailed information on phonological, grammatical and lexical variation at the level of individual townlands. The geographical layout of these townlands and the strategic position of the archipelago in Galway Bay in relation to the surrounding mainlands in Connemara, East Galway and Clare lend a remarkably potent visibility to the spectrum of linguistic variation displayed in the study. As such, the Survey echoes and also builds on Heinrich Wagner’s 1958-69 work Linguistic Atlas and Survey of Irish Dialects to provide an unrivalled portrait of Irish as it was spoken in Aran in the late twentieth century.

Presenting a novel and ambitious exploration of complex linguistic change embedded in a social context, the Survey represents a milestone contribution to dialectology and sociolinguistics – and, indeed, to the Irish language itself – that is of international significance.

What the experts say:

“As it is so pioneering and as it builds on previous work in this academic field, I would say this study is the most ambitious, most accomplished and most comprehensive in the entire field of dialectology.”

Nollaig Mac Congáil, Emeritus Professor of Irish, NUI Galway

“Séamas Ó Direáin’s linguistic research on the dialects of Irish spoken in the Aran Islands is clearly a major achievement. This is probably the most comprehensive study of any dialect of Irish completed to date, and it is wonderful that scholars and researchers will now have searchable online access to all of the data and analysis.”

Prof. Kevin Scannell, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, St Louis University

“This dialectological work by Séamas Ó Direáin is of national and international importance. It adds greatly to our knowledge of the dialectology of Irish in general and surpasses all over previous studies of the dialects of Aran. Many other research possibilities can emerge from it and I am delighted that it will be housed at the National University of Ireland, Galway from now on.”

Dr. John Walsh, Senior Lecturer in Irish (Sociolinguistics and Dialectology), NUI Galway

International Advisory Board

  • Peter Flynn MA, FICS, HND (BS), Manager, Electronic Publishing & Learning Technologies Units, University College Cork
  • David Kelly, Research Technologist, Moore Institute, NUI Galway
  • Prof. Nollaig Mac Congáil, Emeritus Professor of Irish, former Registrar, former Deputy President, NUI Galway
  • Prof. Joseph Nagy, Professor of English, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Dr. Deirdre Ní Chonghaile, Project Manager, A Survey of Spoken Irish in the Aran Islands, Co. Galway; Project Co-Ordinator, Amhráin Árann – Aran Songs
  • Eoin Ó Droighneáin, Translation and Corpus Planning Unit, NUI Galway
  • Prof. Kevin Scannell, Professor of Mathematics & Computer Science, St Louis University
  • Dr. John Walsh, Lecturer in Irish (Socio-Linguistics), NUI Galway

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