Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh
Quinnipiac University Press 2015
The Great Famine and the Language Shift in Nineteenth-Century Ireland
The catastrophe of Great Irish Famine of 1845-51 is a major watershed in Irish history, with a decisive impact on many aspects of Irish demographic, economic, social and political history. It played a crucial role in shaping the memory and identity of the Irish diaspora, notably in north America and Britain. It is also credited with effecting enduring changes in Irish cultural life.
Perhaps the most profound cultural change in modern Irish history has been the replacement of Irish by English as the main vernacular of the general population in the centuries since the conquest of Ireland in the sixteenth century. It is a complex story, but the massive impact of the Famine (mortality and emigration) on the later phase of this language change demands precise analysis. Based on the author's own work and taking account of recent studies of the language change, this Folio examines closely explanations and interpretations of this change of vernacular – over the long term and in its nineteenth-century setting – with a firm focus on the role of the Great Famine in this episode of fundamental cultural transformation.