Middle Irish

Middle Irish
Middle Irish
Pronunciation [ˈɡɯːʝeɫɡ]
Spoken in Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man
Era Evolved into Early Modern Irish about the 12th century
Language family
Writing system Latin (Gaelic alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-2 mga
ISO 639-3 mga

Middle Irish is the name given by historical philologists to the Goidelic language spoken in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man from the 10th to 12th centuries; it is therefore a contemporary of late Old English and early Middle English.[1][2] The modern Goidelic languages, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx, are all descendants of Middle Irish.

At its height, Middle Irish was spoken throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man; from Munster to the island of Inchcolm in the Firth of Forth. Its geographical range made it the most widespread of all Insular languages before the late 12th century, when Middle English began to make inroads into Ireland, and many of the Celtic regions of northern and western Britain.

Few mediaeval European languages can rival the volume of literature extant in Middle Irish. Much of this survival is due to the tenacity of a few early modern Irish antiquarians, but the sheer volume of sagas, annals, hagiographies, and so forth, which survive shows how much confidence members of the mediaeval Gaelic learned orders had in their own vernacular. Almost all of it survives in Ireland; very little survives in Scotland or Man. The Lebor Bretnach, the "Irish Nennius", survives only from manuscripts preserved in Ireland; however, Thomas Owen Clancy has recently argued that it was written in Scotland, at the monastery in Abernethy.[3]


  1. ^ Mac Eoin, Gearóid (1993). "Irish". In Martin J. Ball (ed.). The Celtic Languages. London: Routledge. pp. 101–44. ISBN 0-415-01035-7. 
  2. ^ Breatnach, Liam (1994). "An Mheán-Ghaeilge". In K. McCone, D. McManus, C. Ó Háinle, N. Williams, and L. Breatnach (eds.) (in Irish). Stair na Gaeilge in ómós do Pádraig Ó Fiannachta. Maynooth: Department of Old Irish, St. Patrick's College. pp. 221–333. ISBN 0-901519-90-1. 
  3. ^ Clancy, Thomas Owen (2000). "Scotland, the ‘Nennian’ recension of the Historia Brittonum, and the Lebor Bretnach". In Simon Taylor (ed.). Kings, Clerics and Chronicles in Scotland, 500-1297. Dublin & Portland: Four Courts Press. pp. 87–107. ISBN 1-85182-516-9. 

Further reading

  • MacManus, Damian (1983). "A chronology of the Latin loan words in early Irish". Ériu 34: 21–71. 
  • McCone, Kim (1978). "The dative singular of Old Irish consonant stems". Ériu 29: 26–38. 
  • McCone, Kim (1981). "Final /t/ to /d/ after unstressed vowels, and an Old Irish sound law". Ériu 31: 29–44. 
  • McCone, Kim (1996). "Prehistoric, Old and Middle Irish". Progress in medieval Irish studies. pp. 7–53. 
  • McCone, Kim (2005). A First Old Irish Grammar and Reader, Including an Introduction to Middle Irish. Maynooth Medieval Irish Texts 3. Maynooth. 

See also

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