Pinpointing Rates of Nineteenth-Century Language Shift in Ireland

A Return to the Census Data

Nicholas Wolf

New York University

Earliest Censuses Known to Canvas Language Questions

Year Location
1846 Belgium
1851 Ireland
1860 Switzerland
1880 Austria and Finland
1881 India and Scotland
1890 United States
1891 Wales

Age Distributions by Language, County Clare, 1851

(Clare = 37.4% returned overall as Irish speakers)

Age Distributions by Language, County Kerry, 1851

(Kerry = 38.0% returned overall as Irish speakers)

Age Distributions by Language, County Kerry, 1851

(Kerry = 38.0% returned overall as Irish speakers)

Province 1851 1871 1891
Munster .35 (.49) .20 (.46) .15 (.46)
Ulster .34 (.48) .30 (.45) .27 (.43)
Connacht .41 (.51) .30 (.50) .24 (.49)
Leinster .10 (.46) .03 (.41) .05 (.41)

Proportion of Irish-Speaking Population Under 20, 1851-1891

Proportion of Irish Speakers Under 20 (Proportion of Total Population Under 20)

Source: L. A. Clarkson, et al., Database of Irish Historical Statistics: Age, 1821–1911 (Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive, 1997), https://doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-3574-1; L. A. Clarkson, et al., Database of Irish Historical Statistics: Language, 1851–1911 (Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive, 1997), http://doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-3573-1.

Province 1851 1871 1891
Munster .35 (.49) .20 (.46) .15 (.46)
Ulster .34 (.48) .30 (.45) .27 (.43)
Connacht .41 (.51) .30 (.50) .24 (.49)
Leinster .10 (.46) .03 (.41) .05 (.41)
Wales, 1901
*(Under 25)
Cardiganshire .72 (.72)
Glamorgan .72 (.76)
Radnorshire .61 (.73)

Proportion of Irish-Speaking Population Under 20, 1851-1891

Proportion of Irish Speakers Under 20 (Proportion of Total Population Under 20)

Source: Dot Jones, Statistical Evidence Relating to the Welsh Language, 1891-1911 (1998)

Province 1851 1871 1891
Munster .14 .26 .31
Ulster .14 .15 .16
Connacht .10 .20 .25
Leinster .36 .38 .36

Proportion of Irish-Speaking Population Under 20, 1851-1891

Difference between Overall Proportion and Irish-Speaking Proportion

Source: L. A. Clarkson, et al., Database of Irish Historical Statistics: Age, 1821–1911 (Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive, 1997), https://doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-3574-1; L. A. Clarkson, et al., Database of Irish Historical Statistics: Language, 1851–1911 (Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive, 1997), http://doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-3573-1.

Province 1851 1871 1891
Munster .14 .26 .31
Ulster .14 .15 .16
Connacht .10 .20 .25
Leinster .36 .38 .36

Proportion of Irish-Speaking Population Under 20, 1851-1891

Difference between Overall Proportion and Irish-Speaking Proportion

Source: L. A. Clarkson, et al., Database of Irish Historical Statistics: Age, 1821–1911 (Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive, 1997), https://doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-3574-1; L. A. Clarkson, et al., Database of Irish Historical Statistics: Language, 1851–1911 (Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive, 1997), http://doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-3573-1.

To put it in terms of numbers of individuals...

  • Munster was missing 100,000 Irish-speaking youths under age 20 in 1871 it needed to sustain the proportion of young Irish speakers it had in 1851 (on a all-language population under 20 of 640,000; 15.6%)
  • Connacht was missing 60,000 in 1871 to match its 1851 proportion (out of 410,000; 14.6%)
  • Ulster was missing 6,000 (out of 832,000; 0.72%)

 

 

Rate of Change of Irish Speakers' Underrepresentation

in Under-20 Cohorts, 1851 to 1871

Rate of Change of Irish Speakers' Underrepresentation

in Under-20 Cohorts, 1871 to 1891

Male-Female Divergence in Under-Age-20 Cohorts

Difference between Male and Female Underrepresentation, Munster Baronies, 1851, 1871, 1891

Male-Female Divergence in Under-Age-20 Cohorts

Difference between Male and Female Underrepresentation, Munster Baronies, 1851, 1871, 1891

Decade Percent
1830-39 20.9%
1840-49 25.1%
1850-59 27.1%
1860-69 24.7%
1870-79 21.8%
1880-89 21.3%
1890-99 19.6%
1900-10 16.5%

Proportion Claiming Irish as Mother Tongue in U.S. among Irish Born, 1910, by Decade of Immigration

Source: Steven Ruggles, Sarah Flood, Sophia Foster, Ronald Goeken, Jose Pacas, Megan Schouweiler, and Matthew Sobek. IPUMS USA: Version 11.0 [dataset]. Minneapolis, MN: IPUMS, 2021. https://doi.org/10.18128/D010.V11.0

Decade Percent
1830-39 20.9%
1840-49 25.1%
1850-59 27.1%
1860-69 24.7%
1870-79 21.8%
1880-89 21.3%
1890-99 19.6%
1900-10 16.5%

Proportion Claiming Irish as Mother Tongue in U.S. among Irish Born, 1910, by Decade of Immigration

Source: Steven Ruggles, Sarah Flood, Sophia Foster, Ronald Goeken, Jose Pacas, Megan Schouweiler, and Matthew Sobek. IPUMS USA: Version 11.0 [dataset]. Minneapolis, MN: IPUMS, 2021. https://doi.org/10.18128/D010.V11.0

Province 1851 1871 1891
Munster .14 (.44) .26 (.28) .31 (.26)
Ulster .14 (.07) .15 (.05) .16 (.05)
Connacht .10 (.51) .20 (.40) .25 (.41)
Leinster .36 (.04) .38 (.01) .36 (.01)

Proportion of Irish-Speaking Population Under 20, 1851-1891

Difference between Overall Proportion and Irish-Speaking Proportion

Source: L. A. Clarkson, et al., Database of Irish Historical Statistics: Age, 1821–1911 (Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive, 1997), https://doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-3574-1; L. A. Clarkson, et al., Database of Irish Historical Statistics: Language, 1851–1911 (Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive, 1997), http://doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-3573-1.

Outliers in the gender gap in rate of under-age-20 depletion:

 

Females

1891    Tipperary    Ormond Lower

1891    Waterford   Kilculliheen

1891    Cork            Bear

1871    Cork            Kinsale

 

Outliers in the gender gap in rate of under-age-20 depletion:

 

Males

1871    Limerick      Limerick City

1891    Waterford    Glenahiry

1851    Tipperary    Ikerrin

1891    Cork             Kerrycurrihy

1851    Tipperary    Ormond Lower

1871    Waterford    Kilculliheen

1851    Waterford    Waterford City

1851    Limerick       Kilmallock

1871    Tipperary     Ikerrin

 

Pinpointing Rates of Nineteenth-Century Language Shift in Ireland: A Return to the Census Data

By Nicholas Wolf

Pinpointing Rates of Nineteenth-Century Language Shift in Ireland: A Return to the Census Data

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