In today’s post, we’ll discuss the various Irish dialects of Connacht that exists at the turn of the 20th century. This post is a follow-up to both AnLoingseach‘s amazing video about proper Irish pronunciation and dazpatreg’s follow-up to that video (AnLoingseach has an amazing knowledge of Irish and linguistics, in particular Munster; dazpatreg has learned Mayo Irish to an amazing degree). These dialects are documented by Tomás Ó Máille in his wonderful text on the phonology/phonetics of Irish, Urlabhraidheacht (1927). It is sad to note that even then several of the dialects of the area were already lost, and he, unfortunately, doesn’t have much to say about them. But let’s see what we can gleam from what he does have to say, and compare it some with what we know from Stair na Gaeilge.

We will start by looking at what Ó Máille has to say about the dialects of Connacht. I’m uploading the relevant pages as a PDF below.


Or, if you want a more visual representation, we can look at the map designed by @duilinn:

Map of the dialects of Connacht

So, overall, we can see that Ó Máille divides the area into six different dialectal groups, with an unknown grouping around Galway City.

The main differences, according to Ó Máille, revolve around the vowels in use in the dialect. For example, the vowels are not lengthened before <nn>,<ll>,<rr> or <m> in Lár Chonnachta, but they are either lengthened or dipthongized before those in South Connemara/Cois Fhairrge. Thus we get suím instead of suim (but the short vowel stays with the genitive suime).

Going further around the county, down towards Clare we start to see more Munster features, as to be expected. The biggest one that Ó Máille mentions is athá instead of atá, with is a common Munster (and East Ulster/Scottish Gaelic) usage of the word.

Achill, it’s worth noting, follows mostly souther Donegal patterns due to the influx of people from Tír Chonaill (to the best of my knowledge, at least), whereas the rest of Mayo doesn’t necessarily follow those patterns. North Connacht tends to have some vowel differences and a merging of de/do (something done in all dialects in Connemara, at least nowadays), as well as a difference in the liquids (particularly the L’ instead of l’). According to Ó Máille, there’s not much difference between this and the dialect of North Mayo.

Finally, Ó Máille admits that there are some other sub-dialectal differences, in particular mentioning a difference between Gaeilge Chois Fhairrge and Gaeilge Ros Muc (Ros Muc hadn’t lost intervocalic /h/, whereas Cois Fhairrge had), and there are plenty of other subdialectal differences that are obscured by his groupings, and many we don’t know about due to the weakness of Irish in the area. Likewise, with the loss of native speakers from many of the areas that would’ve had speakers in Ó Máille’s time, the dialects stand in more sharp contrast than they used to.

Now, we will see what Stair na Gaeilge has to say about the Irish of Connacht. There is a full chapter dedicated to it, going quite in-depth over several of the main changes and even into some of the subdialects and even discussing the grammar of the area.

Like Ó Máille, Ó hUiginn lists seven dialectal regions of the area: Cois Fharraige/Oileáin Árainn, Oirthear na Gaillimhe, Iarthar Chonamara, Tuiasceart Chonamara, Deisceart Mhaigh Eo, Acaill and Íochtar Chonnacht.

Starting with Cois Fharraige, Ó hUiginn groups it and the three Aran Islands (with Inis Mór being called Árainn, as is common in the area) together. He also says that you could group the dialect of north Clare in with these. Some of the key dialectal changes he mentions are the loss of intervocalic /h/ and /x’/, and that bh and mh are usually pronounced the same. Like mentioned earlier, vowels are lengthened before ll, nn,m. Word-final -a(i)dh/-a(i)gh/-a(i)bh/-a(i)mh are all reduced to a schwa in unstressed syllables except in odd cases (thus chua instead of chuaidh). Likewise, he does mention there are differences between the Irish on the islands (and even differences between the islands) and that of Cois Fharraige, and that there’s even minute differences within Cois Fharraige itself.

Ó hUiginn next turns to Oirthear na Gaillimhe, the Eachréidh. This region is north and east of Galway city, encompassing, Mionlach and Eanach Dhúin. Here vowels don’t lengthen before the sounds mentioned above, but they are often lengthened in unaccented open final syllables. Some other sound changes resemble that of Mayo, such as intrusive /x’/ in the third person feminine forms of inflected pronouns — léichi, duiche for leí and ; /f/ in the third person plural — leofa, fúfu; and the word-initial ch of verbs going to fchuaigh > fuaigh, as has happened in parts of Mayo.

For Gaeilge Iarthar Chonammara, which is west and north from Ros a’ Mhíl, including An Cheathrú Rua, Ros Muc and Carna. The Irish of this area is extremely similar to that of Cois Fharraige, except that intervocalic /h/ and /x’/ aren’t lost as often. Likewise, bh and mh still maintain some difference in pronunciation and l,m,n,r are often devoiced, especially in Iorras Aithneach. You can see some of the dialectal differences in Connemara, at least in terms of word usage, in this post on subdialectal differences.

The area of Tuaisceart Chonamara encompases the area bordering Mayo — Sraith Salach, an Mám, Corr na Móna. The forms here are very much an intermediary between the dialects of southern Connemara and those of Mayo. Unaccented vowels are lengthened as in the dialects above, but the -adh becomes /u:/ and idh becomes /i:/ as it does further north.

Desiceart Mhaigh Eo is soley Tuar Mhic Éadaigh nowadays. The vowels mentioned above are not lengtheend here, though it has the same sound changes mentioned for -adh/-idh in Tuaisceart Chonamara.

Acaill is similar to Íochtar Chonnacht in many ways, though /t’/ and /d’/ have both become affricates. Word usage is heavily influenced by Ulster Irish.

Finally, we come to Íochtar Chonnacht, which includes Iorras, Ceathrú Thaidhg, Ros Dumhach. It’s very similar to Acaill Irish and the other dialects of Mayo, though one difference is that long vowels are sometimes shortened in certain cases — cheannaigh would end with /i:/ but cheannaigh sé would have a schwa. Furthermore, accidence of the verb is different in the area.

Overall, that’s a broad overview of the dialects of the area from two of the strongest sources I know relating to them. Both sources contain much more information, with Ó hUiginn’s chapter in Stair na Gaeilge being a wealth of information on all aspects of the Irish spoken in the area, as well as giving more direct studies in the bibliography. It even discusses the dialects of some of the other areas where Irish is no longer spoken (LASID, for instance, actually has information from Sligo) Likewise, there’s specific dialect heavy books, of which The Irish of Iorras Aithneach might be the best. And, if you can find them, older works are often written more dialectally, as are some of the works in the main manuscript collection (that’s why I transcribe them). All in all, there’s a wealth of information out there for anyone wanting to learn Connacht Irish, and I hope someone can avail of it and learn the good, natural Irish of the Gaeltacht.


Elle · 01/05/2022 at 2:46 am

I’m enjoying reading your blog, I’m new to Irish, so much is over my head. I was wondering if you knew where I could find an International Phonetic Alphabet chart (IPA) for the Cois Fharraige dialect? It would be very useful. They provide guidance, including how to position mouth, tongue, etc. to pronounce it correctly. An example is:, but it isn’t specific to Cois Fharraige and with dialects, as with many things, the devil is in the details or in this case, the specific pronunciation.

    davissandefur · 02/05/2022 at 10:58 am

    While it isn’t *entirely* Connemara based, you can use the Wikipedia page on Connacht Irish, which uses the IPA from Tourmakeady, in the Mayo part of North Connemara:

    There’s also Fuaimeanna, which focuses on Carraroe in Connemara (not Cois Fharraige, specifically, but very similar): There’s a companion book with it as well that might be super useful to you too, though it’s entirely in Irish

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