Ireland is sometimes said to be the land of a million accents. Certainly, if you take a walk through the streets of Dublin you'll find that a large percentage of people do seem to have their own unique way of speaking.
In this article, we'll take a very brief look at the history of the Irish language and how it came to evolve in such a way that the Emerald Isle is now home to so many different dialects.

History of the Irish Language

Primitive Old Irish or Archaic Irish (4th Century)
The history of what is now the Irish language starts in around the 4th century. This is the time where it's traditionally understood that Saint Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, or more generally that the Christianisation of Ireland began in earnest.
Since these beginnings - what is officially known as "Primitive Old Irish" - the language has gone through a huge series of refinements, advancements and either taken on board or weathered influences from a wide variety of sources, much like most modern languages.

Old Irish (6th-11th Century)
During this period the use and development of the Irish language can be seen in Ogham (the early medieval alphabet used in Britain and Ireland) inscriptions on standing stones, and then in religious works, such as the famous Glosses, and legal texts.

Middle Irish (12th Century-15th Century)
In the 12th-15th centuries onwards, Irish began to fragment into different dialects spoken in different regions - in particular, Manx and Scottish Gaelic - and departed in many ways from the forms of Old Irish. Some of the most important manuscripts written in Middle Irish are the Book of Dun Cow and the Book of Leinster.

Modern Irish (15th Century-Present)
Use of Irish waxes strongly at the beginning of this period, and then begins to wane from the early 19th century onwards, exacerbated by the Irish Potato Famine and subsequent mass emigration.

Dialects by Group

There are three main divisions of Gaelic:
Irish proper, Gaeilge or Irish Gaelic - spoken in Ireland.
Scottish Gaelic - spoken in Scotland, is very similar to Irish but has no ancient literature of its own. It does, however, have a vibrant modern literature.
Manx - spoken on the Isle of Man, this is often thought of as Irish written phonetically with some variations brought in by long separation into a different dialect.

Dialects by Territory

Within the borders of Ireland, Irish Gaelic has long been considered - at least in spirit - the main language, even as English gradually became the predominant method of communication in most areas.
There are a huge number of different Irish dialects and accents, but the three most popular ones are:

1) East Coast Irish English
If you've ever seen a film with Colin Farrell in or an interview with members of the band U2, you've heard an East Coast Irish accent. The suburban Dublin dialect and accent are probably the ones in this group which are most-heard globally.

2) South Western Irish Accents
The most well-known person with this accent on the world stage is probably Cillian Murphy of Peaky Blinders, Batman Begins and 28 Days Later fame. Even if the speaker doesn't know any Irish Gaelic, this accent is heavily influenced by the sound of that language.

3) Northern Irish Accents
As well as in Northern Ireland, accents that have a strong Northern Irish or even Scottish sound can be found near the border with the Republic of Ireland and in County Donegal. Try listening to an interview with Van Morrison or Liam Neeson and you'll know the accent.

How Many People Speak Irish?

The ability to speak the country's native language is currently experiencing something of a revival in modern Irish culture.

Native speakers of the language had up until recently generally been primarily found in the Gaeltacht, a Gaelic word which the Irish government uses to acknowledge those regions where Irish is still the predominant language. These tend to be slightly more rural areas, such as portions of:

• Galway - 47% (of the Gaeltacht population)
• Donegal - 25%
• Mayo - 11%
• Kerry - 9%
• Cork - 4%
• Waterford - 2%
• Meath - 1%

Now people in more urban areas and cities such as Belfast and Dublin are gradually coming back to the language as it becomes recognised as an important part of the country's heritage and culture.

Author's Bio: 

Asian Absolute provides high-quality translation, interpreting, localization and marketing services for all languages. From European languages to complex ones such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Arabic the company offers premium quality for all industry sectors by using specialist translators.