Irish Language - Part II

Mar 17, 2010 3:45:22 AM / by Mango Languages

210px-Flag_of_Ireland.svgWhy do I love Irish?

The answer to this question is “I don’t know.”

The reason why you like a language is very subjective, so I will just present some facts of Irish that I find fascinating, and which I learned after 4 lessons of Irish, thanks to our developer Colin Parmar and our editor Loig Cheveau.

• Irish employs some phonological processes that change the sounds at word boundaries to show the role of these words in the sentence. So, while Tom is Tomás in Irish, when you want to call him, you say, "A Thomáis " (“a” is like “o” in “O Lord”). Another example: “a” (not the “a” mentioned above) means “his,” “her,” or “their” depending on the change that comes after it.

a chat, a athair = his cat, his father
a cat, a hathair = her cat, her father
a gcat, a n-athair = their cat, their father

You can’t say what “a” means before you hear the following word. The language plays games with our mind.

• There is no verb “to have” in Irish; when you want to say “I have a pen” you literally say, “a pen is at me.” The same holds true for when you want to say that you speak a language: to say “I speak Irish” you say “Irish is at me.”
• The affirmative in Irish begins with the verb. So, to say “Irish is at me” you say “Is Irish at me"; this is not a question in Irish. How do you ask questions? Well ...
• There are two “to be’s.” Similar to Spanish, but a bit different in use. So, you have to know which “to be” to use to say “Is Irish at me.” Moreover, there are different ways to form a question depending on which “to be” you use. So, it’s not a simple matter to say “Is Irish at me.”
• Another source of fascination is the number system: to say “fifteen books” in Irish, you not only separate “five" from “teen” and put “books” in a sandwich, but you do not even say “books” – you say "book" – no plurals! So “fifteen books” is the Irish equivalent of “five book teen.” Does this sound like Arabic? Is there a connection between Irish and Arabic? There is a theory … Ok, so you learned how to say “fifteen books”; can you now say “twelve boys”? You will probably say the Irish equivalent of “two boy teen” right? Wrong! For counting people there is a another whole set of numerals up to twelve.
• There are no words for “yes” or “no” in Irish. If you want to say “yes” you repeat the verb of the question that you were asked.

For example:
Q: “Are you American?”
A: “Am”
And the full answer is: “Am, am American I” – Isn’t it tricky?

This is only a sample of what Irish is about. I’ve never been to Ireland, but with all this plus the insular inscription on road signs, I bet that at every corner in Ireland you’d expect to come face to face with some druid and his golden sickle on his way to cut the mistletoe.

Let’s also learn what is said on St. Patrick’s Day:
Éire go brágh! (transliteration - Eire goh brah, meaning - Ireland for ever!)

Topics: Language Learning and Culture

Mango Languages

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