Move back one step  Move forward one step  List of themes 

    Grammars of Irish

The present section contains some information on grammars of Irish. The current module should be consulted together with that on Learning Irish for those who wish to find suitable material for learning the language. The emphasis here is more on reference works rather than textbooks (which is dealt with in the other module).

Irish grammars go back at least to the early 18th century with the famous work by Hugh MacCurtin which appeared in Louvain in 1728 (left image below). The most important Irish grammar of the 19th century, which introduced the modern era of grammar writing in Ireland, is that by John O’Donovan which was published in 1845 (right image below).


At present there are a number of grammars available for modern Irish. If any were to be singled out then probably the comprehensive grammar (in Irish) and known as the ‘Christian Brothers’ Grammar’ (Graiméar Gaeilge na mBráithre Críostaí, 432 pages). A widely distributed version stems from 1960 and there were reprints until 1999. A new version has been promised for 2007 but has not appeared yet (September 2007).

A condensed, English-language version (152 pages) of the larger, Irish-language grammar was published as New Irish Grammar (third edition 1977) and is useful as a concise summary of morphology and some syntax.

A school version in Irish has also been produced (with excersises and vocabulary notes), Nuachúrsa Gaeilge na mBráithre Críostaí ‘A New Course in Irish by the Christian Brothers’:

Grammars of Irish fudge the issue of pronunciation though textbooks often implicitly or explicitly favour one dialect or another by supplying audio material in which a certain dialect pronunciation is to be heard (e.g. a western pronunciation in Ó Siadhail’s Learning Irish and a southern one in Ó Sé and Sheils’ Teach Yourself Irish). Grammatical variation across the dialects is less critical for language learners than is pronounciation. But it does exist and is not normally touched upon in grammars.

The official reference work for the Irish language is still the Caighdeán Oifigiúil ‘Official Standard’, first published in 1958 and available in an unchanged version still (latest printing 2004). This is printed by the Irish government and contains guidelines for the standard orthography and morphology of Irish. It has nothing on pronunciation and very little on syntax. The full title of the book is Gramadach na Gaeilge agus Litriú na Gaeilge. Caighdeán Oifigiúil ‘The Grammar of Irish and The Spelling of Irish. The Official Standard’. It has about 90 pages on grammar (morphology) and about 30 on orthography.

Apart from the works just mentioned there are a number of other books on Irish grammar. Some are intended for use in schools and some for third-level students and/or interested adults. Examples of schoolbooks on Irish grammar are the following (by the educational publishers Folens):


Third-level education is usually targeted by textbooks of a general nature, see the books in the Learning Irish module. Among these there is also a reference work for Irish grammar (a companion to the general introducton on right):


Not yet available, but to be published shortly (London: Routledge, 2008) are the two volumes of graded material in the following books by Nancy Stenson.


More for an Irish university market are the following two volumes by Nollaig MacCongáil (an Irish version of the book on the left is also available).


A well-structured course on Irish with much grammatical (morphological) information has been produced by the Ulster linguist Dónall Ó Baoill (the title means ‘New Course in Irish’):

Much grammatical information is contained in an accessible and well-structured form in the monograph by Micheál Ó Siadhail (although the linguistics of the book is not always reliable). The textbook by the same author also has grammatical notes embedded in the lessons around which the book is constructed.