“Irish was never spoken in Dublin,” is an opinion often heard but one blogger is on a mission to set that straight.
The researcher behind the ‘Dublin Gaelic’ blog wishes to remain anonymous but he did speak to me on the record as to why he set up his site.
DG: “There is little to tell. I am interested in Gaelic dialects and languages more generally, and I am particularly interested in the relationships between the dozens of dialects that were until relatively recently the primary forms of speech for the ordinary people of Ireland, Mann and half of Scotland.
“I have been interested in this subject for decades now. Perhaps the most surprising thing about me is that I am not a Dub.
CD: Why did you set up the blog? What do you hope to achieve?
DG: “I set up the blog after being inspired to do so by reading your own blogs (e.g.ources language blogs could be. Rathlin Gaelic, Gaeltacht na Spéiríní), which made me realise how effective res
“I found the blogs, I think, after reading your own ‘Cnuasach Focal as Oirialla’ book, which I still think is one of the best overviews of an Irish dialect area, produced to a very high linguistic standard.
“I realised the blank areas on our map of the Irish language might not be so blank after all, but that it was more a case of making the history of that blank area – and the specialist resources I had accumulated over the years – more widely known, and easily digestible to the widest possible audience.
“I was also encouraged by friends and associates who said that I should share the knowledge I had.
“My aim with the blog is merely to give people access to information. I had originally planned to write an academic journal article on what could be ascertained of Dublin Irish as a case study of a ‘lost’ dialect.
“If the blog gets people more interested in the history of the Irish language in its lical forms, I consider that an achievement too.
CD: Have you got much response?
“Very much so. I have received a lot of encouraging messages via the blog – I didn’t think anyone would read it!
“I have received a great deal of interesting information too.
“There is one correspondent in particular who is a real specialist in this field, and it been a privilege to discuss ‘lost’ dialects with him.
CD: Many people don’t see what Irish has to do with Dublin – what do you say to that?
“There is not much I can say. The evidence for the Irish language in Dublin, both historically and now, speaks for itself.
CD: What would you say to people who say Irish has never been spoken in the capital?
DG: “Again, there is not much I can say to them. If your antipathy toward Irish is such that you wish to falsify history, then all you are out after is a futile argument.
“I have zero interest in arguing about the Irish of Dublin. The historical evidence is clear. Life is too short.
“If you are the sort of person who is genuinely angered by the historical extent of the dialect of a language that is now in dire straits, there is nothing I can do to help you.
CD: How is it possible to tell what kind of Irish was spoken in and around the city?
DG: “Sources, sources, sources. Occasionally we find a line or two of one of the Irish dialects spoken in Co. Dublin, although these are very few.
“Secondly, a significant amount of local Irish remains in the older English of Dublin.
“Thirdly, texts written in Irish in Dublin typically betray a great deal of how Irish was pronounced locally, due to spelling mistakes.
“Fourthly, placenames reveal a certain amount of data. Lastly, by comparing what we find in Dublin with the Irish of surrounding areas we can arrive at a clearer picture of the local Gaelic.
“It is important to emphasise that it is unlikely that there was a single ‘Dublin dialect’.
“The Irish of the north of the county would have been more like the dialects of Meath closest to it, and the Irish of the south of the county would probably have been more like the dialects of Wicklow.
“There would have been other subdialects too, and possibly sociolects – fisherfolk in Fingal, for example, may have spoken differently to people in the Dublin Mountains.
“There may have been an urban dialect and various rural dialects too. And of course there was Fingallian which was not a Celtic language at all.”