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Early and Modern Irish

Please see the page on the Single Honour degree in Early and Modern Irish.

Early and Modern Irish provides students with a training in the critical study of the language, literature and culture of Ireland and Gaelic Scotland from the earliest period from which records are extant down to modern times. A wide range of texts and authors is studied and students are introduced to the basic skills of linguistic and literary analysis as well as to the elements of social history, palaeography, folklore and comparative philology.

The course has two components: the Early Irish component which comprises all aspects of the subject down to the twelfth century, and the Modern Irish component which similarly covers the period from the end of the twelfth century to the present day. The study of Early Irish includes a study of the Celtic and Indo-European relationships of the Irish language and, in the Sophister years, provides a course in Modern and Middle Welsh, subject to availability of staff. An integral part of the Modern Irish course is the study of Scottish Gaelic.

Students have many opportunities to choose their own areas of study within the Early and Modern Irish degree. Senior Freshman students may take a module in Linguistics or from the Broad Curriculum programme. In both the Junior and Senior Sophister years, four Modern Irish modules are chosen from a list of options. These options change from year to year and a wide variety of topics is on offer. Students may also spend a semester studying Early Irish abroad in one of our partner universities.

In their Senior Sophister year students continue their studies in either Early or Modern Irish alone. The specific aim of the Senior Sophister year is to allow the students to focus on their preferred subject. In particular the dissertation (c. 10,000 words), written under the supervision of a member of the departmental staff, provides an opportunity for the student to investigate any aspect of the subject that they choose, and to develop their scholarly skills.


Junior Freshman Year


JF Early Irish

  • Old Irish Grammar
  • Old Irish Prose
  • The Sources of Early Irish Literature
  • Introduction to Early Irish Sagas

JF Modern Irish

  • Modern Literature
  • Modern Irish Language History
  • Classical Irish Prose and Verse
  • Written and Spoken Language

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Senior Freshman Year


SF Early Irish

  • Early Irish Prose
  • Old Irish Glosses and Verse
  • Early Irish Sagas
  • Introduction to Old Irish II
  • Early Irish Poetry

SF Modern Irish

  • Modern Poetry
  • Oral Literature (Folklore)
  • Scottish Gaelic Language
  • Modern Literature
  • Written and Spoken Language

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Junior / Senior Sophister Years


JS/SS Early Irish

  • History of the Language A (Ogam and Primitive Irish)
  • History of the Language B (Comparative phonology and morphology)
  • Middle Irish Language
  • Middle Irish Texts
  • Early Irish Law
  • Early Irish Poetry
  • Ecclesiastical Prose
  • Secular Narrative
  • Palaeography

JS/SS Modern Irish

  • Composition
  • Scottish Gaelic Language
  • Palaeography
  • Old Irish Saga

Optional Modern Irish Modules may include:

  • Oral Literature (Folklore)
  • History of the Irish Language
  • World Literature - in translation
  • 'Lament for Art Ó Laoghaire'
  • 'The Midnight Court'
  • Ossianic Poetry
  • Classical (Bardic) Poetry
  • Máirtín Ó Cadhain
  • Aogáin Ó Rathaille
  • Autobiography in Irish
  • Early Modern Prose
  • Contemporary Poetry
  • Scottish Gaelic Literature

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