herald

Saturday 18 August 2018

Scientists study Irish tongue movements

The secret to preserving the Irish language is all in the tongue.

US linguistic experts are documenting the tongue movement of Gaelgeoirs using ultrasound to ensure the language is spoken correctly by future generations.

The academics in California have received a €200,000 grant from the US government-funded National Science Foundation to research 15 Irish native speakers.

Using a portable ultrasound machine attached to a helmet, the team formed images of the speakers' tongues.

Software analysis then traces the tongue, showing what movements it made to form different sounds.

Minority

Professor Jaye Padgett, one of the team leaders, said the project marked the first use of ultrasound to study Irish and would help in preserving the minority language in the future.

"What's happening to Irish is happening to many languages all over the world," he said.

"Linguists estimate that about half of the world's languages are going to be gone within 100 years."

Professor Grant McGuire said Irish has an unusual feature only found in a handful of languages in that every consonant has two sounds.

"Sounds are made either with the tongue pushed forward, making a slender sound, or pulled back, [making] a broad sound," he said.

hnews@herald.ie

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