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Irish is the most deeply researched of all Gaelic languages, with its very long history giving rise to a number of stages in its development process: Insular Irish, Archaic Irish (circa 400-800), Old Irish (circa 800-1000), Middle (circa 1000-1500), Classical and Modern Colloquial Irish.It is possible to have such a long period of growth in that the Ogham inscriptions, found in Ireland, prove it to be the earliest of all Goidelic languages, inscriptions dating back to the 5th century A.D. and containing several words even now heard in the tongue.Rich literature of the Old Irish epoch allows us to study this language thoroughly, and Middle Irish also presents us with a wide field of literature as source material we can learn much from in present-day study.After the whole of Ireland was finally taken over by England --for good and all in the 17th century -- its Gaelic speaking population rapidly began to go into decline, and religious rebellions, uprisings for human rights and independence all caused and brought severe repressions onto the Irish people.Over the years much of the population also died of hunger, frequent on the island, or in time emigrated to America.In the past century the number of Irish-speaking persons has declined from 50 percent of the population of the island to less than 20 percent.In the 19th century one could be sure Irish Gaelic would soon become extinct.

But that didn't happen.This century Ireland finally gained its independence and now the language again is coming back in force in the Republic.It is taught at schools, it is heard on the radio and television and in rural areas there is yet a fair amount of people who use it every day in their homes.Now we can breathe freely -- Irish is no longer endangered.

Originally a highly inflected language, as it was in its earliest stages, Irish now retains essentially two noun cases, nominative and genitive, with the dative surviving in the singular of feminine nouns (though the Classical language still uses dative widely); the language has present, past, simple-future verb tenses in the indicative mood as well as other complex tenses.Celtic initial mutations are present everywhere in Irish in two forms: aspiration, or lenition, and nasalization, or eclipsis.Linguists still argue about the origin of these interesting phenomena which are not met up with in the Continental Celtic languages.

Indo-European Tree