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TUARSCÁIL AR THEANGA: LANGUAGE REPORT A HUNDRED YEARS: IRISH LANGUAGE COURSES IN AMERICAN COLLEGES THOMAS W. IHDE nineteen ninety-six marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the endowment of a Chair of Celtic Languages and Literatures at the Catholic University of America.1 In his 1994 article, JeVery Kallen stated that the establishment of a Chair of Celtic Languages and Literatures at the Catholic University of America in 1896, “ . . . put Irish ‘on the map’ in terms of prestige and recognition.”2 Yet little is left today to aid the researcher in documenting the history of the Irish language in America, and the establishment of this chair is hardly noted. Likewise, such other linguistic artifacts as Irish-speaking neighborhoods, columns appearing in English-language newspapers, a monthly journal, some published writings, personal letters, and cablegrams have all been nearly forgotten. Support for Irish cultural activities, however, were at a high at the turn of the century. Visits of Irish language activists as prominent as Douglas Hyde, for example, pay testimony to the interest in the language on this side of the Atlantic. In 1891 Hyde spent much time in the United States visiting Boston, with a stop at Harvard University in Cambridge, and New York,3 and he returned to New York in 1905.4 However, as McGowan stated, “Gradually . . . interest in the Irish language in the United States began to wane. By 1918, for example, it was clear to administrators at the University of Illinois that their course oVerings in Irish were no longer so popular as those in Greek, Latin, and French.”5 IRISH LANGUAGE COURSES IN AMERICAN COLLEGES 181 1 This article was originally presented as a paper at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting of the American Conference for Irish Studies, Frazer, Pennsylvania, November 12, 1994. 2 JeVrey L. Kallen, “Irish as an American Ethnic Language,” in The Irish Language in the United States: A Historical, Sociolinguistic, and Applied Linguistic Survey, ed. Thomas W. Ihde (Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey, 1994), p. 35. 3 Risteárd Ó Glaisne, Dúbhglas de h-Íde: Ceannródaí Cultúrtha 1860–1910 (Dublin: The Gaelic League, 1991), p. 85. 4 Ó Glaisne, p. 316. 5 Lynn M. McGowan, “The Irish Language in America,” in The Irish Language in the United States (1994), p. 6. Yet, the Irish language continued to appear in course listings throughout the years. More than eighty years ago Harvard University began oVering courses in Celtic Studies through the Department of English. In 1940, the Wrst “professor of Celtic Languages and Literatures” was appointed and a Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures was established. Today, Harvard claims to have one of the strongest Celtic Studies programs in North America oVering Irish among other Celtic languages for credit and degrees including master’s and doctorate degrees in Celtic languages and literatures. However, in spite of this noted past, Irish remains unknown and hardly thought of in many institutions of higher education. In addition, some colleges that do oVer courses are criticized for the frequency in which they oVer them or the non-credit status accorded to most such oVerings. Irish, however , is being oVered at present as a credit-bearing course in a number of colleges . Maureen Murphy’s Guide to Irish Studies in the United States (1987) published by ACIS lists Boston College, George Mason University, Harvard University , John Jay College, Queens College, Sacred Heart University, University of California, University of Cinncinati, University of North Carolina, University of Pittsburgh, University of Rhode Island, and University of Wisconsin as oVering Irish language courses for credit.6 The guide does note that Irish is oVered only occasionally at some of these institutions. The bilingual newsletter of An Teanga Mharthanach, edited by Treasa Ní Laoi, publishes a list of Irish courses. Although many courses were listed in 1992 as being oVered at institutions of higher education, only Wve were noted as oVering college credits. These include the Catholic University of America, La Salle University, State University of New York at Stonybrook , University of California at Berkeley, and University of Pennsylvania.7 Although this list and that of the ACIS volume may sound impressive, it must be remembered that many institutions only oVer...


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