About the Project

Principal Investigators: Ryan Bennett, Máire Ní Chiosáin, Grant McGuire, Jaye Padgett

Irish Gaelic, a Celtic language, was the language spoken by all of Ireland before English colonization, famine, emigration, and social pressures caused it to become endangered. Today it is still spoken as a community language by perhaps 70,000 to 140,000 people (between 1.5% and 3% of the population of Ireland).

Every consonant of Irish comes in two varieties, one that is palatalized – involving a supplementary tongue gesture of raising and fronting, and one that is velarized – involving a supplementary tongue gesture of raising and backing. This palatalization contrast itself is endangered and waning in the speech of younger speakers, even in Irish speaking communities, because of the heavy influence of English.

Using ultrasound, we are documenting the production of Irish palatalization and velarization — the first time imaging technology is being used for Irish palatalization. One of our goals is to provide language documentation and language learning tools for Irish — which is the purpose of this website. In addition, we hope to shed light on broader linguistic questions such as why languages lose contrasts between sounds depending on things like the identity of the consonant in question (e.g., [p] vs. [t]), its position in a syllable, or the vowels that surround it.