The Irish language is a Goidelic language which originated in Ireland. It is officially recognized as a language of the European Union. Historically spoken by Irish people, the language declined as a first spoken language with the increase in power of the English in Ireland. Its decline began in the 17th century when Elizabethan officials regarded its use as a threat to all things English. There was a huge decrease in native Irish speakers following the Great Famine of 1845-1852 where up to 25% of the population was lost.
There are now around 130,000 native speakers within Ireland who use Irish as their first language. There is a larger group of people who use Irish as a second language, most of these are in Ireland but there are groups in USA, Canada and Australia.
Written Irish has been discovered from as early as the fourth century. In pronunciation, Irish most closely resembles Scottish Gaelic. Modern Irish traditionally uses the basic Latin alphabet, but without the letters j,q,w,x,y, and z, along with the addition of an acute accent known as a "long mark". During World War II a whole new set of guidelines were issues on how to standardize Irish grammar and spelling, many words had silent letters removed and spellings were brought more in line with the spoken word.
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