How the Research Began

During a visit to Ireland in 1988, Tomás de Bhaldraithe – author of the seminal works The Irish of Cois Fhairrge, Co. Galway: A Phonetic Study (1966), Gaeilge Chois Fhairrge: An Deilbhíocht (1953) and Seanchas Thomáis Laighléis (1981) – directed Dr. Séamas Ó Direáin to speak with Máirtín Ó Murchú of the School of Celtic Studies at the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies. Dr. Ó Murchú suggested that Dr. Ó Direáin conduct linguistic research specifically on Inis Mór. The Linguistic Atlas and Survey of Irish Dialects (LASID) created by Myles Dillon and Heinrich Wagner in the 1950s included valuable dialect information on Inis Meáin and on Inis Oírr but neglected Inis Mór. Indeed, there had been no dialect research conducted there since the late nineteenth-century work of Holger Pedersen and Franz Nikolaus Finck.

Fieldwork 1990-1994

Dr. Ó Direáin conducted his field research during the summers between 1990 and 1994. He spent the summer of 1990 in Inis Mór, 1991 in Inis Meáin, and 1992 in Inis Oírr. He spent the summer of 1994 completing his survey throughout the archipelago. Following the initial suggestion of Dr. Ó Murchú, Dr. Ó Direáin administered the LASID questionnaire in the townland of Corrúch in Inis Mór so that information from Inis Mór would be available for comparison with the data gathered for LASID two generations earlier on the two eastern islands. For the work on the current linguistic variation between the islands, however, he designed his own questionnaire to elicit grammatical, phonological and lexical information that would reveal the main patterns of differentiation. The aim of this customized questionnaire was to show the surprising dialectal diversity evident not only across the three close-knit islands but even in the Irish of Inis Mór. The wealth of data gathered from the customized questionnaire justified the effort beyond all expectations.

Structure of the Survey

This study contains three volumes:

  • Volume One – Description of linguistic variation in the Aran Islands
  • Volume Two – Tables of the key linguistic variables that form the basis for the discussion of linguistic variation
  • Volume Three – Results of the LASID questionnaire administered to two informants in Corrúch at the outset of the research on Inis Mór. Their responses, which fill 125 pages, provided a wealth of detail on the dialect that is not available elsewhere in the Survey. This detail formed much of the basis for the rest of the investigation.

The conclusions of the Survey, which are presented in Volume One, focus on the data and so represent only some of the research findings. Additional findings find more room for discussion in a series of unpublished papers presented in Appendix A at the end of Volume One. These include:

  • discussions of theoretical and methodological questions
  • descriptions of complexities encountered during fieldwork
  • suggestions for how further fieldwork might be carried out, even by relatively untrained fieldworkers.

Emphasis is given also to the value of examining the patterns of distribution exhibited by items featured individually on the 300 maps found in Volume One of LASID. Such patterns can reveal the socio-economic landscape of the past few centuries, including trading connections between relatively distant communities connected chiefly by sea routes.

Producing the Linguistic Data Tables using LaTeX

Given that this Survey had a 25-year gestation period, it was inevitable that it would encounter changes in publishing technologies. In 2000, when the time had come to begin producing a publication based on the research, the School of Celtic Studies at the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies suggested Dr. Ó Direáin prepare a book manuscript using the document preparation system LaTeX. LaTeX would produce a manuscript copy of publishable quality from an ordinary computer printer and so eliminate the need for ordinary typesetting and printing. While LaTeX produced fine results on paper, it proved to be an exceptionally difficult medium in which to work, especially in the preparation of the tables of linguistic variables in Volume II. Without the patient assistance given over a period of fifteen years by Peter Flynn, Manager of the Electronic Publishing and Learning Technologies Units at University College Cork, this publication could not have been completed. Opportunities to extract the linguistic data from LaTeX may present themselves in time. For now, it has been decided to make the study freely available to the public on this website via a PDF (3.1MB) that is word-searchable and contains a table of contents with hyperlinks to sections of the study.


We are making the following three extracts from the Survey available so that scholars interested in exploring spoken Irish might have ready access to the tools that would enable them to gather similar data and to learn from it. These three tools can be used to carry out similar investigations in other areas or with other informants. The stimulus sentences are given in English so that the informants can translate the sentences into their equivalents in their normal spoken Irish. The sociolinguistic questionnaire can be used to find out about the social background of the informants. Finally, when the responses of the informants are recorded and transcribed, the index to sentence contexts can be used to locate each occurrence of a linguistic variable in the two lists of sentences.

International Advisory Board

  • Peter Flynn MA, FICS, HND (BS), Manager, Electronic Publishing & Learning Technologies Units, University College Cork
  • David Kelly, Research Technologist, Moore Institute, NUI Galway
  • Prof. Nollaig Mac Congáil, Emeritus Professor of Irish, former Registrar, former Deputy President, NUI Galway
  • Prof. Joseph Nagy, Professor of English, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Dr. Deirdre Ní Chonghaile, Project Manager, A Survey of Spoken Irish in the Aran Islands, Co. Galway; Project Co-Ordinator, Amhráin Árann – Aran Songs
  • Eoin Ó Droighneáin, Translation and Corpus Planning Unit, NUI Galway
  • Prof. Kevin Scannell, Professor of Mathematics & Computer Science, St Louis University
  • Dr. John Walsh, Lecturer in Irish (Socio-Linguistics), NUI Galway

"As it is so pioneering and as it builds on previous work in this academic field, I would say this study is the most ambitious, most accomplished and most comprehensive in the entire field of dialectology."

Nollaig Mac Congáil,
Emeritus Professor of Irish, former Registrar, former Deputy President, NUI Galway

"Séamas Ó Direáin’s linguistic research on the dialects of Irish spoken in the Aran Islands is clearly a major achievement. This is probably the most comprehensive study of any dialect of Irish completed to date, and it is wonderful that scholars and researchers will now have searchable online access to all of the data and analysis."

Prof. Kevin Scannell, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, St Louis University

"This dialectological work by Séamas Ó Direáin is of national and international importance. It adds greatly to our knowledge of the dialectology of Irish in general and surpasses all other previous studies of the dialects of Aran. Many other research possibilities can emerge from it and I am delighted that it will be housed at the National University of Ireland, Galway from now on."

Dr. John Walsh, Senior Lecturer in Irish (Sociolinguistics and Dialectology)