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The Daltaí Boards » Archive: 1999-2004 » 2001 (January-June) » Is it correct to say the Gaelic Language? « Previous Next »

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David Maxham (spider-wo023.proxy.aol.com - 205.188.200.28)
Posted on Monday, April 30, 2001 - 11:02 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I colleague of mine and I were discussing languages the other day, and when I told him that it would be nice to learn the Gaelic Language, he said that there wasn't a Gaelic language. He pointed out that, for example, the native language of Ireland is Irish?

Is he correct in saying that there is no Gaelic language? He also gave me this website, which I think is great!

Thanks.

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Aonghus (vpn.parthus.com - 62.221.5.1)
Posted on Tuesday, May 01, 2001 - 03:42 am:   Edit Post Print Post

David
slightly controversial, this one. Most Irish people who speak Irish prefer to call the language (Gaeilge) Irish when speaking English.
Gaelic is a label used by Linguists to refer to a group of languages - Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx.
Most Irish people will assume that you mean Scots Gaelic if you say Gaelic.
Also, sometimes calling the language Gaelic is an attempt to downgrade it, to which Irish speakers like myself may react angrily to.

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Seosamh (1cust200.tnt67.nyc3.da.uu.net - 63.57.12.200)
Posted on Tuesday, May 01, 2001 - 12:42 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

One reason that some Americans are so adamant -- and offensive -- about rejecting the term 'Irish' is a belief that it was concocted by modern Irish nationalists in order to make the language serve their anti-British (and therefore nefarious) ends.

The language was actually called 'Irish' in English for centuries. It was only natural: English-speakers called the language they heard the Irish speaking 'Irish' for the same reason that they called the language they heard Spanish people speaking 'Spanish', and so on. As far as I know 'Iryshe' (whatever the spelling) was always the name in English.

I have read that calling the language 'Gaelic' started in the Eighteenth Century. At that time, the English had finally succeeded in routing the native language among the larger part of the Irish. 'Gaelic' was a paternalistic and derogatory term that conveyed the sense that the language was a peasant patois that had no place wherever money, power or education were to be found.

Maybe some others here who have researched the history of the language have other information they could share. I'm especially interesed if 'Gaelic' was commonly used earlier than I am assuming.

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Dennis (c792392-a.sttln1.wa.home.com - 24.19.205.18)
Posted on Tuesday, May 01, 2001 - 04:38 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Many Americans continue to say "Gaelic" because that is what they hear from Irish-speakers! We had an Irish-language Saturday here in Seattle in February. The priest who celebrated the mass that evening, a native speaker from Spiddal, told the congregation that the mass they were about to hear would be in "Gaelic".

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Seán (dial104.sunflower.org - 209.16.214.104)
Posted on Wednesday, May 02, 2001 - 08:06 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Growing up in Kansas, the only words I ever heard to
describe Irish at the time was "Gaelic". Even
to this day, in Irish classes, or among friends,
they almost always refer to it as Gaelic, UNLESS they've
had contact with people from Ireland or have already
spent time learning the language themselves.

I have never met anyone from the US refer to it as
anything other than Gaelic if they had no knowledge
or contact with current speakers.

That's been my experience here in Kansas, and this
tendency goes back a long time. My mother's family
is German from Munich and Irish from Roscommon and
they always referred to it as Gaelic too.

Sean

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Seosamh (1cust143.tnt68.nyc3.da.uu.net - 63.57.15.143)
Posted on Wednesday, May 02, 2001 - 02:54 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

There's no doubt that the term 'Gaelic' is widespread, even in other languages. There was a discussion on this on one of the Gaelic lists ('Gaelic' more properly used there since all three of the Gaelic languages are permitted on the lists). As one person pointed out, the dictionary definitions in reference books in other languages (Spanish and Catalan were at issue, I think) left something to be desired and the terms based on 'Gaelic' were being used out of simple ignorance.

The subject is more complicated and touchy when you bring usage in Ireland into it, although Sean alludes to the fact that 'Irish' is the preferred term by the Irish themselves. Some people do use the term 'Gaelic' toward the language with affection. But many do not and whether people use 'Gaelic' in a negative, neutral or positive way, I have noticed that they have an old-fashioned mindset that accepts the debased status that those who controlled the country forced on the language. So, it's at most a superficially positive attitude.

In any case, 'Irish' is the normal term used by anyone working with the language and virtually the only term used in publishing and legislation (including the Northern Irish and British governments, as far as I can see). I remember an edition of the Encylopedia Britannica that went so far as to include information on all types of Gaelic under 'Irish', reversing the usual misuse of the two terms.

I have seen surprising prejudice directed toward the language here in the U.S., sometimes brought out by use of 'Irish' rather than 'Gaelic'. I wouldn't accept 'Gaelic' for broadly the same reason that I wouldn't normally accept 'colored' if I were African-American.

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Seán (dial87.sunflower.org - 209.16.214.87)
Posted on Friday, May 04, 2001 - 08:43 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I remember the discussion on G-L( member since 1991 dude! I have the platinum G-L card :-) ). Anyway I would argue that
use of the term Gaelic stems from the Gaelic League
and the language movement in the late 19th Century.
That usage was carried across the Atlantic. This
would explain the fact that there are Americans,
many in fact, who when I tell them about Irish,
they respond: "Do you mean Gaelic?"

I never fully understood Vincent's persistent attack
on Michael Everson's desire to allow Irish Gaelic
in the language codes. Also, what matter is it
what other languages choose to name other languages?
I think it is a bunch of hooey and too much arm
chair quarterbacking personally. Life goes on,
you could make an index of languages whose choice
of words for other languages and countries are not
exactly what those other people abroad would choose.

In the Irish language movement you will find there
are too sets of people, those who pass the time
complaining and those who do something. I've learned
to filter out the complainers and focus on things
I like best like language translation and use
of software in minority languages.

It's all what your focus is on.

Sean

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Larry (host213-122-30-97.btinternet.com - 213.122.30.97)
Posted on Friday, May 04, 2001 - 01:31 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

For what it's worth, I'll add my comment that most of the grammar text book titles refer to the language as Irish, rather than Gaelic. In particular, I'm refering to New Irish Grammar by the Christian Brothers and Progress in Irish by Máiréad Ní Ghráda. You'll also find Teach Yourself Irish (Teach Yourself Gaelic refers to Scottish Gaelic) and the Linguaphone course books refer to the Irish Course. There's Ó Siadhail's Learning Irish and, of course, De Bhaldraithe's English-Irish Dictionary.

Larry.

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Seosamh (3cust75.tnt48.nyc3.da.uu.net - 63.46.56.75)
Posted on Saturday, May 05, 2001 - 12:37 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

A handful of book and article titles contain 'Gaelic' although they deal with Irish specifically. They are mostly from the first half of the Twentieth century. The use had virtually disappeared until someone put together a collection of folk songs in Irish ten or so years ago and chose to put 'Gaelic' in the title. I was at the Irish Bookshop (nach maireann) in N.Y. when the author/compiler happened to come in and suffered a very long lecture in Irish for his choice, an fear bocht.

I recall that 'Gaelic' was also chosen by the author of a book about Irish in the North more recently. I think the author may be one of those people who carry pan-Gaelicism to the extent that they consider Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx to be one language; some even want to construct a new standard language to cover all three. An tUr-Ghaeltacht os cionn chách?

An é eagrán 1974 de Linguaphone atá agat, Larry? It's getting dated: In the dialogues electricity has not yet come to at least one part of the Gaeltacht: "Ach tá an gás go maith mar sholas." Now we have the Celtic Tiger. I use lessons from the book sometimes for classes, sometimes even from the older Linguaphone that was recorded on '78s.

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Seosamh (1cust173.tnt70.nyc3.da.uu.net - 63.57.21.173)
Posted on Saturday, May 05, 2001 - 02:37 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

An tUr-Ghaeltacht? My subconscious noticed that I put the 't' with a feminine noun but didn't decide to tell me about it until an hour after I wrote it. An Ur-Ghaeltacht, so.

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Larry (host213-122-171-239.btinternet.com - 213.122.171.239)
Posted on Sunday, May 06, 2001 - 02:13 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Seosamh, a chara

The edition of the Linguaphone that I use is indeed the 1974 version, although it was reprinted 1997. As an Englishman, I'm afraid to admit that the use of some English grammatical terminology seriously confused me until I went to college a couple of years back and did a basic Irish course where the tutor insisted that we call the language Irish and not Gaelic.

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Laighneach (212.2.177.172)
Posted on Tuesday, May 08, 2001 - 08:39 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I remeber reading that english documentation has called it "irish", since the thirteenth or fourteenth century.The spelling then was "Erse".In fact for a time, they even called the Scottish version "Erse".
So if any of the terms are concocted, "gaelic" is, which is just an academic linguistic word, that's phoentically based on the scottish name of the language.

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Seosamh (1cust173.tnt68.nyc3.da.uu.net - 63.57.15.173)
Posted on Tuesday, May 08, 2001 - 01:54 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I can't go back quite that far offhand but I have listed below two sources in English from the 1500's that I like.

Lord Chancellor Gerrarde complaining in 1578 about how Irish the English settlers in Ireland were becoming:

'...all English, and the most part with delight, even in Dublin, speak Irish, and greatly are spotted in manners, habit, and conditions with Irish stains.'

One of the bilingual Englishmen he was grousing about, Christopher Nugent, put together at least one Irish lesson for Queen Elizabeth I. Here are the first three phrases (and the column headings which label the language Irish, as we would expect):

Iryshe, Latten, Englishe,

Cones ta tu, Quomodo habes, How doe you
Taim go maih, Bene sum, I am well
Go ro maih agad, Habeo gratias, I thancke you

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Susan Sullivan Sylvester (webet.dsrnet.com - 208.203.147.25)
Posted on Tuesday, May 15, 2001 - 11:29 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I really appreciate this thread. I'm hoping to begin studying soon (fulfill a lifelong dream to speak my ancestor's tongue) and I incorrectly thought that "gaelic" was the Irish tongue and would have probably bought the wrong books or programs or joined the wrong class. I have nothing against the variety of "gaelic" languages (my husband's ancestry is Scottish), I just know which one I want to learn. Though I haven't finished my genealogy, I know my Sullivan's are from Ireland and I want to learn the language. I just found this site today, but it certainly won't be my last visit.

Blessings,

Susan

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Seosamh (1cust213.tnt67.nyc3.da.uu.net - 63.57.12.213)
Posted on Tuesday, May 15, 2001 - 12:32 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

You wouldn't be the first person to wind up with some copies of Scots Gaelic books that you thought would contain the traditional language of Ireland. I have a copy of 'Gaelic Without Groans' (with a picture of a Scotsman and a bull in a boat on the cover) that I ordered through the mail when I was very young. People who learn Irish well often go on to study Scots Gaelic as well so they should hang on to such books. (The two languages are sort of like Spanish and Italian or Swedish and Danish -- different but similar.)

There are people who get quite militant about calling the language 'Irish' rather than 'Gaelic'. I try to explain the reasons for it without being obnoxious. Irish is only one of the three Gaelic languages and the term 'Gaelic' is normally reserved for Scots Gaelic in book titles and other formal use. 'Irish' describes what our language is most accurately.

The Sullivans are Irish, of course. The Irish form is Ó Súileabháin (O sool-uh-VOYNE in Munster Irish). It's the third most common surname in Ireland and the most common one in Munster, in the south.

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