Proposed Profile - Irish

Discuss the HTLAL forum's past and its future
galaxyrocker
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Proposed Profile - Irish

Postby galaxyrocker » Fri Nov 18, 2016 3:08 am

Language Profile -- Irish
General Information

Irish (Gaeilge) is a Celtic language indigenous to the island of Ireland. At one point, it was spoken over most of the island, but today is spoken natively in only a few small pockets. The number of native speakers has various estimates, ranging from as low as 10,000 true natives to approximately 70,000. A common consensus seems to be that there are between 30,000 and 40,000 native speakers. Of these native speakers, the vast majority of them live in the Gaeltachts, or the Irish speaking areas. It's closest linguistic relatives are Scottish Gaelic and Manx (extinct with the death of the last native speaker in 1974, but since revived). Further away it is related to Welsh, Breton, and Cornish (extinct in the 18th century, undergoing a revival). Despite not being the first official language of the Republic of Ireland, the Irish language isn't the most spoken language in the country. In fact, it isn't even second. It is classified as an endangered language, and the true border of the Gaeltacht is smaller than the official maps that are often shown.

According to the latest census, there are over 1,000,000 Irish speakers in the Republic of Ireland, though that number is contested on the vagueness of the question and the fact that people are forced to take the language for fourteen years in school, which makes them feel like they should answer yes, even if they can't string together but the cúpla focal ("a few words"). Because of this, however, you can find places to speak with non-natives and natives alike in the big cities, and even in most towns in Ireland. However, if you truly wish to get immersed in natively spoken Irish, you must go to the Gaeltachts.

Varieties/Dialects

There are three broad types of natively spoken Irish: Munster Irish, which is many ways is the most conservative, conserving synthetic verb forms and the like; Connacht Irish, which has the most native speakers and is focused mainly in County Galway, with some speakers still in County Mayo; and Donegal Irish, the sole remainder of Ulster Irish, which is spoken in pockets in Donegal. On top of these, there is the Caighdeán, which, in many ways, bears absolutely no resemblance to the Irish of native speakers. It was created by authorities in Dublin, and is the form that is taught at all schools, including those in the Gaelacht, where students are/were often told they were wrong for speaking their dialect.

Learning with a background in other languages

Unless you have experience with one of the other Celtic languages, Irish will pose some difficulty for the monolingual English speaker. Some of the greatest difficulties I encountered learning it were:

* Use of a "verbal noun" to express the English progressive and infinitive
* Syntax
* Declension for the genitive case
* Vocabulary*
* Words of direction
* Initial mutations
* Sounds/contrasts not found in English

* There are a lot of borrowings from English, but the most common words are generally very foreign still.

Brief overview of Irish grammar

Unlike English, Irish is a VSO (Verb-Subject-Object) language, which means the verb comes fist. To give an example, an English sentence like "I am tired" would come across as "Am I tired".

Irish does have a case system, though it has mostly collapsed, leaving only three commonly used forms: the nominative, the vocative, and the genitive. Of these, the nomative and the genitive are by far the most common.

Irish can distinguish between two numbers: plural and singular, and also distinguishes three persons - first, second, and third. Irish has 7 pronouns (mé, tú, sí, sé, muid/sinn, sibh, siad), and no T-V distinction. Irish also has something known as contrastive or emphatic pronouns. These are pronouns that are used when someone wishes to emphasize the person, or contrast that person to another. An example of this would be: Cén chaoi a bhfuil tú? Tá mé go maith. Cén chaoi a bhfuil tusa?. (How are you? I'm fine. How are -you-) where tusa is the contrastive form of . Likewise, Irish doesn't use word stress for emphasis like English, instead using contrastive suffixes.

Irish has two genders: masculine and feminine. The difference with theses comes with how they change after the definite article and how adjectives following them change.

This leads to the next unique feature about Irish grammar: the initial mutations. In Irish, words can undergo several types of initial mutation, in which the beginning of the word changes. These changes are important, as they convey grammatical information. There are several types of mutations:

1) Lenition

This means that a consonant is spoken without a stop of the flow of air i.e. with breath or aspirated. It is because of this that lenition is sometimes referred to as aspiration. Essentially, what is happening, is that a plosive is replaced by its corresponding fricative. This is recognized in writing by an <h> being placed after the consonant. In older writings, it was represented by the ponc séimhithe, or a dot written above the consonant. In Old Irish, it wasn't always marked. Lenition originally occurred when a consonant was between two vowels -- within a word as well as over word "limits" (it was a sandhi effect). Most of these vowels have disappeared, but the process still remains, and is often of grammatical importance.

Some grammatical things that use lenition:

* Marking the past tense:

Chaith mé -- I threw

* After the word "a" meaning "his"

a mhala -- his bag

2) Eclipse

The second type of mutation in Irish is the eclipse. What happens here is that unvoiced consonants are replaced with their voiced counterparts, while voiced stops are replaced with their nasal counterparts. This is often called 'nasalization' because of this.

In writing, it is represented by adding the new letter in from of the old one. So you will see examples like ar an ngeata (on the gate) where <ng> is /ŋ/. Or ag an mbord (at the table) where <mb> is pronounced /m/

Often grouped along with eclipse is the addition of n- before a vowel. This often (but not always!) occurs when an eclipse would occur on a consonant, and arises from the same feature.

a n-úll (their apple), for instance.

These two groups arose under the same conditions. it was for assimilation after a word that ended in a nasal consonant. These consonants are often missing, but the effects of them remain.

3) Other prefixes

There are two other prefixes in Irish, the t- prefix, which is all that remains of the <d> in the reconstructed masculine article *sindos and the "h" prefix, which generally occurs when two vowels come together (e.g. le hÁine (with Áine)). Often this can be expressed as just a way to help pronunciation between vowels, but it originated from a lenited <s> in older forms of the language. The <s> has sense disappeared, but the h- prefix remains.

According to one website, the Irish verb has six different tenses, four moods, 2 voices, and several miscellaneous categories. Something unique about most of these is that the Irish verb has what is called an 'autonomous form', which is used when the speaker wishes the action to remain subjectless. This can often correspond to the English passive, or the English use of "one/they" in a general sense. As in "They use the Euro there"(Úsáidtear an Euro ansin)

Mutual intelligibility with other languages

Spoken Irish is not really mutually intelligible with any languages currently, though at one point there existed a dialect continuum in the language, ranging from Munster, through Ulster, and into Scotland and the Isle of Man. Some dialects of Donegal Irish still resemble Scottish Gaelic more than standard Irish in some aspects (such as their use of cha as the negative marker). Up until the 18th century (I believe) the two languages used the same orthography, and it is possible to read in both if you know Classical Irish. Even today, there is still some mutual intelligibility between the written forms, though it quickly disappears in speech. A native speaker once commented to me how they needed subtitles to understand it!

Literature / Media / Film / Music

Irish has a long literary history. Outside of the Classics, Greek and Latin, it has the oldest vernacular literature in all of Europe, and it still continues today. A lot of the earliest work is in documenting the folktales of the island, as well as poems, biographies, and some work on the history of the language. One can argue that modern Irish literature started around the early 20th century, with the publication of two novels -- Deoraíocht by Pádraic Ó Conaire, and Séadna by the Father Peadar Ua Laoghaire. Since then, Irish has had a strong tradition of novels, biographies, poetry, and shortstories.

Irish film hasn't been as strong, however, though with the creation of TG4, the Irish-language TV station, in 1996, it has certainly increased. Today TG4 has a long-running soap-opera solely in Irish, as well as many documentaries, kids shows, teen shows, and even a few award-winning "Celtic noir" films/mini-series.

Learning material

i) Books

1) Learning Irish (Micheal O'Siadhail) ($30, Amazon)

- Comes with audio files including native speakers.
- Focuses on one dialect of Irish, that of Cois Fharraige in County Galway. This is one of the most spoken dialects, and this book is a good place for beginners.
- This book is dry, and it certainly helps to have to have a teacher to go through it. It also often uses a non-standard orthography to better reflect the spoken Irish of the area it is teaching.
- I highly recommend this course; it teaches practical Irish as it's actually spoken by native speakers. It's dry, but do the exercises and you're well on your way.

2) Teach Yourself Irish (Myles Dillon, Donncha Ó Cróinín) (Available legally here)

- This is the original Teach Yourself book, and, because of that, it truly shines.
- Focuses on the West Cork dialect of Muskerry. So once again, you're getting a very good look into how Irish is actually spoken by native speakers.
- The book is dry, focusing on the grammar-translation style of teaching. But it can really get you on your way to sounding like a native.

ii) Useful online material/sites

- The Irish Language Forum is a group of people, including highly fluent and native speakers, who are dedicated to answering questions about Irish. They love natively spoken Irish, and all dialects are represented there. It is a great place to turn if you have any questions about anything in Irish; someone will be able to answer it for you. I can't recommend this place enough.

- Gramadach na Gaeilge is the most comprehensive Irish grammar that's available free online! And it's actually pretty comprehensive. I've yet to find something that hasn't been mentioned in it. That said, the German version is apparently even better, so if you read German, I suggest checking it out (and part of me is tempted to learn to read German simply so I can use it).

- Duolingo is obviously a well-known site. While I am not a fan of it for many reasons, it does need to be mentioned. However, see this blog post for a listing of reasons to avoid Duolingo and some other resources to use instead.

- Litríocht is an online Irish book-seller. It advertises itself as the one-stop place to buy every Irish book in print. It does have a vast selection, and I've yet to find an in-print book that wasn't for sell there. That said, you may also want to check out the publisher's own website as well.

- TG4 is the Irish-language television station. A lot of stuff can be found on its website, including a new section for learners. Almost all of their shows can be viewed online within a day of airing. Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016.

- Raidio na Gaeltachta is the radio station that serves the Gaeltacht areas. It's highly recommended to listen to it to get a feel for native speech.


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So I know my book and link section at the end are far from exhaustive. I'd appreciate anyone who would like to add more. I've tried to limit it to just the stuff I use, as I don't want to offer reviews or endorse something I personally haven't tried. However, I will gladly put the thoughts of other people in.

I am also torn about adding a "current issues facing Irish" section where I would discuss the growing divide between native Irish and that of learner's, as well as the overall decline in speakers despite 40 years of Gaelscoils, and how all of that is an issue facing the language. However, I knew I wouldn't be unbiased, so I decided to leave it out. If y'all think I should add it, I'll try to do it with as little bias as possible.
Last edited by galaxyrocker on Fri Nov 18, 2016 3:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Serpent
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Re: Proposed Profile - Irish

Postby Serpent » Fri Nov 18, 2016 3:15 am

Yay thank you!

galaxyrocker wrote:Irish has 7 pronounced, and no T-V distinction
This stood out to me :)
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galaxyrocker
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Posts: 515
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 12:44 am
Languages: English (N), Irish (Teastas Eorpach na Gaeilge B2)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=757
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Re: Proposed Profile - Irish

Postby galaxyrocker » Fri Nov 18, 2016 3:19 am

Serpent wrote:Yay thank you!

galaxyrocker wrote:Irish has 7 pronounced, and no T-V distinction
This stood out to me :)



Thank you! Fixed it, and even listed them.
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Serpent
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fluent or close: Finnish+ (certified C1), English; Portuguese, Spanish, German+, Italian+
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Re: Proposed Profile - Irish

Postby Serpent » Fri Nov 18, 2016 3:45 am

wow, it's fascinating how they're so Indo-European :D
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