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The Daltaí Boards » Archive: 1999-2004 » 2000 (January-June) » How to use the spelling rules in Litriú na Gaeilige? « Previous Next »

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Thomas Muench
Posted on Tuesday, January 11, 2000 - 08:39 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

How does one use the spelling rules in Litriú na Gaeilige (second part of Gramadach na Gaeilge, 1998, published by Oifig an tSoLáthair, Rialtas na hÉireann)? As just an example, take the first part of rule 11 (rule 1 in the 1947 edition):

11. a i gcónaí in ionaid ina mbíodh ou go minic nó do ghnáth --
I. (a) i siollaí laga neamhaiceanta:
e.g. ..., allas, amas, ...

My translation would be:

11. a always where o or u would be often or as a rule --
I. (a) in non-accented weak syllables:
e.g. ..., allas, amas, ...

If a is always in a certain position, what does it mean to say that o or u would often or as a rule be there? I see no way to carry out this rule or many, many others like it. I must be missing something. Can anyone shed any light on this?

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Antoine Ó Coileáin ( - 195.7.54.78)
Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2000 - 07:39 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Your difficulty is due to your translation of the rule. 'ina mbíodh' refers to how the spelling used to be. Therefore 'a' is to be used instead.

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Thomas Muench
Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2000 - 02:22 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Yes, I agree that the rule means to say a is put in the place where o or u would have been or used to be put. But that doesn't get me out of my dilemma.

Just how can I use this rule, if that's possible. Since I myself don't know any previous spellings (more ancient?) and can't see in correctly spelled words what letter "used to be" there, this appears like many other rules in this volume, totally useless.

Can it really be that in these rules are only meant for those who know some more ancient spelling system? Or is there some way these rules could help those new to the language to spell? But how?

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Seosamh
Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2000 - 11:47 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

This rule was an important part of the modern spelling reform, first proposed by a team of scholars under T.F. O'Rahilly in 1945 and official by 1958 (or earlier). Before, people writing Irish used 'a', 'o' or 'u' to indicate a weak, non-accented vowel.

Some people spelled the word for 'door' as dorus, others as doras. The reform resulted in one consistent form: doras. In other cases an 'o' or a 'u' may have always occurred (as in easpog/easbog?), but they thought it would be better to spell the same sound with the same letter. (So easpag -- bishop -- is the norm today.)

You can't tell where an 'o' or a 'u' once appeared where an 'a' now does. But it was an important guide for people in the forties and fifties who had been educated with the old system.

For you, it means that when you hear an un-accented, indistinct syllable -- the vowel sound in the English word 'the', or the shwa - you know to normally spell it with an 'a'.

Also (since anyone who can read grammatical rules in Irish is no beginner) it should be useful for you, not as a prescriptive rule, but as an explanation for the differences in spelling that you see as you read older (or more conservative) materials.

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Seosamh (1cust63.tnt12.nyc3.da.uu.net - 63.23.136.63)
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2000 - 12:36 am:   Edit Post Print Post

The shwa sound is actually often indicated by an 'e' as in: stáitse, stopaithe, scoile, chuige, eile. All of the examples I can think of involve slender consonants (and the 'e' is in final position). That still leaves us with a useful rule. An bhfuil aon eisceachtaí ann?

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Dennis King (donncha.ndip.eskimo.net - 207.54.13.247)
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2000 - 02:08 am:   Edit Post Print Post

The only major 'eisceacht' that comes to mind is the extremely common word "agus", which should be spelled "agas" according to the modern rules, but was apparently left alone because it was so familiar and pervasive. It's from Old Irish 'ocus', and way back then (1200 or so years ago) the 'u' was fully pronounced (mar atá a fhios agat), not just a schwa.

Stair an Fhocail: tada, dada
http://www.eskimo.com/~donncha/stair3.html

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