I have a bit of Irish.

I have said earlier that Irish was the first weird language I ever tried to learn. Let me now illustrate its weirdness in a couple of sentences.

Its syntax is verb-initial, which is quite unusual for an Indo-European language:

Deir Seán nach bhfuil siad sásta leis an gcoláiste.
say-Sean-that.not-be-they-satisfied-with-the-college

“Sean says that they’re not happy with the college”

Níl mo chuid Gaeilge go maith.
Isn’t-my-portion-Irish-(dummy)-good

“My Irish is not good”

There are many languages which lack the verb “to have”. It’s not that uncommon that the meaning “I have a X” is expressed by “an X is at/by/on me”. It’s like that in Irish too…

Tá cat agam
Is-cat-at.me

“I have a cat”

… but it goes further with it:

Tá Gaeilge agam
Is-Irish-at.me

“I know Irish”

Níl caint aige
Is-talking/talk-at.him

“He can’t talk”

An bhfuil a fhios agad é?
?-be-his-knowledge-at.you-he

“Do you know it?”

Weird, huh? And we didn’t even touch the mutations yet… In brief – in Irish a word can change its initial sound in some contexts. In the examples above gcoláiste [pron. goolashte] is from coláiste [koolashte], chuid [khid] is from cuid [kid] and fhios [ees] is from fios [fees]. Fascinating… add to that the extravagant orthography (‘oíche’ is pronounced [i]), the rich imagery and all the romanticism of being spoken by a small minority only…

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Comments

  • ciaran12  On March 8, 2011 at 5:53 am

    It’s really cool to see non-Irish people taking an interest in our language! Makes us feel appreciated, I’m honoured. I’m actually learning the language myself as well. I was taught it for 14 years in our education system and I still can speak a word really. I’m under no illusion that this is not my fault, but hey…at least I’m trying now, right? I use ANKI for my Japanese, and I really love it, so I just started an Irish deck today. I read a post you made about using ANKI and you said you had an Irish deck, any chance you might upload it for others to download? I personally would love to get my hands on it, it’ll give me a good place to start. I read your Irish posts as well, an-mhaith! Sílim go bhfuil Gaeilge maith agat, a chara. I wish mine was as good…

    • peterlin  On March 10, 2011 at 11:09 pm

      My Irish deck should be accessible from ankiweb.net at this key: 8377ad2d41f28c0e. I’ll try later to upload it from the client so that it would be browsable, but it seems I’d have to update my ANKI client – my present version has problems with export/share.

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