Celtic Ages: Ten Interesting Things About the Irish Language

28 Feb

Dia Daoibh, readers. I decided that it would be rather nice to take a short break from Tolkien for a change - but don't worry - I'll still write more on him later. Today's subject is the Irish Language. ;) 

     Now you should know that I have been studying the Irish language in recent months; the Irish call the language "Gaeilge", but I call it "The Blessed Language" (on account of it being my favorite language - second only to English). Gaeilge is of course, very different from English. For example, while Irish is a Goidelic Celtic language, English is an Anglo-Saxon language (the Anglo-Saxons were two Germanic tribes who conquered the Brittonic Celts in Britain in the early Anno Domini years, after the British Celts had converted to Christianity from paganism) which has experienced the influence of both Latin and French (and who knows what else!).
     This is a bit off-subject, but I want to include this here: it is interesting for you to note that the Celtic languages of the British Isles have two different etymological heritages: Brittonic and Goidelic. The Brittonic Language group consists of Welsh, Briton, Cornish, and several others too petty to mention here. The Goidelic language group, on the other hand, is made up almost entirely by Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge). Both forms of Gaelic are quite similar, and I believe it possible for a Scottish-Gaelic-speaking-person to communicate to an Irish-Gaelic-speaking-person quite easily. Anyhow; I just thought that bit of information would be interesting...


Now, for the Ten Interesting Things About The Irish Language: 

           In Irish...

  1. Is” and “are” are the same.
    This is true for the Irish Language. I think it's a rather smart way to simplify a language. After all, who needs an “are” and “is”? Both words mean the same thing...

  2. There is no “a.”

    The Irish do not have an equivalent to our English word “a” - which, by the way – is probably the shortest and most unneeded word in English. I mean, if you think about it, putting an “a” and “an” before (there it is again) word is rather unnecessary. If you tried not using “a” for a week, everyone would probably understand you fine!

  3. The Irish Equivalent for “Hi”, “Hello”, and “Howdy”, is God To You!
    I believe this is one of the most interesting (and wonderful) things about the Irish language – the closest thing they have to any of the three former words listed above is Dia Duit –which literally means, God to You. It is the only phrase with which an Irishman (or woman) can greet another in his/her native tongue. 

  4. A Sentence is formulated in Verb-Subject order.
    So, if you wish to say “He eats” in Irish, you will have to have the words occur in this sequence: “Eats he” (or Itheann sé). Reportedly, only 9% of the world's languages use this sentence order. Irish is unique. ;)

  5. There is no “yes” or “no.”
    To cope with this, the Irish, when responding to a yes-or-no question such as “Did you eat?” will say either “I did” or “I did not” (in their Irish form, of course). 

  6. There is no word for “have.”

    This is true. Instead of have, the Irish use “at __.” For example, “I have a thing” (Ta rud agam). In other words, “Ta__agam” equals “I have” for the Irish. Ta means “is” (added to the beginning of the sentence whenever used, and put at the beginning of the sentence in this case to further reinforce the fact that the “thing” (rud) is “mine”), and agam literally means “at me.” Therefore, Ta rud agam, if read literally, means: “A thing is at me.” Also, if one wishes to say that he speaks a certain language, he will have to say that he/she “has” that certain language. Try Gaeilge for example: Ta Gaeilge agam.= “I have Irish” or “I speak Irish.”

  7. The word for “The” changes as the object pluralizes.
    The Irish word for “the” (an) becomes na when the word that follows “the” becomes a plural. For example: An buachaill (“the boy”) changes to Na buachaillí (“the boys”)simply because the word which follows “the” pluralizes. :)

  8. Certain Words undergo “Eclipsis.”
    Eclipsis is the process through which a certain word gets a certain letter added to its beginning. Eclipsis occurs only to certain words – i.e., words that start with the letters b, c, d, f, g, p, and t. It happens whenever a word comes after a possessive adjective. It is rather complex, so I'll spare you most of the details. ;)

  9. Certain Words also undergo "Lenition."
    Lenition is the process through which a certain word gets an extra letter inserted between the first and second letters in the word. A word can be lenited only when a word starts with any of the following letters: b, c, d, f, g, m, p, s, and t. Like Eclipsis, Lenition only happens at certain times; feminine nouns that occur after "an" in the nominative case are lenited, as are words that come after a possessive adjective or any of the numbers 1-6. There are of course, a few more situations where a word is lenited. But again, I will spare you the details. :)
    Both Eclipsis and Lenition do not affect the meaning of the word that are lenited or eclipsed. They are word-mutation rules that are distinctly Celtic in nature and no language that I know of (except Scottish Gaelic; Gadhlig) uses either.

  10. The Latin Alphabet is used, but not all of the letters.
    The Irish use all of the letters in our English alphabet except for j, k, q, v, w, x, y and z. I guess they saw no need to use all of them. ;)

I think Gaeilge is a wonderful language, albeit uneasy to learn. I learn Irish via Duolingo.com, which, thanks to some wonderful contributors, has a great Irish course that you can take for free! 

Don't get me wrong here - I'm not advertising! I just thought that a free Irish course is a great deal. The Irish language must live on! 


P.S. In case you were wondering, Sláinte means "Health" - I use it often to close a letter or blog post. ☺

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