Old Irish

Old Irish
RegionIreland, Isle of Man, western coast of Great Britain
Era6th century–10th century; evolved into Middle Irish about the 10th century
Early form
Language codes
ISO 639-3sga
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For a guide to IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Old Irish (Old Irish: Goídelc; Irish: Sean-Ghaeilge; Scottish Gaelic: Seann Ghàidhlig; Manx: Shenn Yernish; sometimes called Old Gaelic)[2][3] is the name given to the oldest form of the Goidelic languages for which extensive written texts are extant. It was used from c. 600 to c. 900. The primary contemporary texts are dated c. 700–850; by 900 the language had already transitioned into early Middle Irish. Some Old Irish texts date from the 10th century, although these are presumably copies of texts composed at an earlier time period. Old Irish is thus forebear to Modern Irish, Manx, and Scottish Gaelic.[2]

Old Irish is known for having a particularly complex system of morphology and especially of allomorphy (more or less unpredictable variations in stems and suffixes in differing circumstances) as well as a complex sound system involving grammatically significant consonant mutations to the initial consonant of a word. Apparently,[* 1] neither characteristic was present in the preceding Primitive Irish period, though initial mutations likely existed in a non-grammaticalized form in the prehistoric era[4]. Much of the complex allomorphy was subsequently lost, but the sound system has been maintained with little change in the modern languages.

Contemporary Old Irish scholarship is still greatly influenced by the works of a small number of scholars active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries such as Rudolf Thurneysen (1857–1940) and Osborn Bergin (1873–1950).

Notable characteristics

Notable characteristics of Old Irish compared with other old Indo-European languages, are:

  • Initial mutations, including lenition, nasalisation and aspiration/gemination.
  • A complex system of verbal allomorphy[5].
  • A system of conjugated prepositions that is unusual in Indo-European languages (although they are found in many Semitic languages such as Arabic): dím "from me", dít "from you", de "from him", di "from her", diib "from them" (basic preposition di "from"). There is a great deal of allomorphy here, as well.
  • Infixed object prepositions, which are inserted between the verb stem and its prefix(es). If a verb lacks any prefixes, a dummy prefix is normally added.
  • Special verbal conjugations are used to signal the beginning of a relative clause

Old Irish also preserves most aspects of the complicated Proto-Indo-European (PIE) system of morphology. Nouns and adjectives are declined in three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter); three numbers (singular, dual, plural); and five cases (nominative, vocative, accusative, dative and genitive). Most PIE noun stem classes are maintained (o-, yo-, ā-, -, i-, u-, r-, n-, s-, and consonant stems). Most of the complexities of PIE verbal conjugation are also maintained, and there are new complexities introduced by various sound changes (see below).

Other Languages
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Старажытнаірляндзкая мова
Cymraeg: Hen Wyddeleg
français: Vieil irlandais
Gàidhlig: Seann-Ghàidhlig
македонски: Староирски јазик
Nederlands: Oudiers
norsk: Gammelirsk
norsk nynorsk: Gamalirsk
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Staroirski jezik
svenska: Forniriska
Türkçe: Eski İrlandaca