The Daltaí Boards » Archive: 1999-2004 » 2002 (July-December) » Gaelic and Navajo are related « Previous Next »

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Elliot ( -
Posted on Monday, September 03, 2001 - 12:43 am:   Edit Post Print Post

The word for "people" in Navajo/Apache is "dine" pronounced very similarly to the Irish word for people. But I forgot how to spell the Irish word. Anyway, it sounds very similar. And "people" is such an ancient word stretching back to prehistory, like "man/woman/child/god/rain".

I'm not sure if Cherokee is related, but wasn't it the Cherokee Nation that sponsored a fund raiser for Ireland during the potato famine? It was either the Cherokees or another native American nation.


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Seosamh ( -
Posted on Monday, September 03, 2001 - 03:02 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Interesting about Navajo "dine" and Irish "daoine", but it is a coincidence. It happens: "ni" means "you" in Chinese and Swedish, but Swedish is fairly closely related to English and not at all to Chinese.

Navajo is one of the Na-Dene languages, spoken in the interior Southwest of the U.S. and in the Northwest U.S. and Southwest of Canada. The bolder linguists, like Joseph Greenburg, divide the native languages of the Western hemisphere into three mega-groups: Inuit-Aleut, Na-Dene, and Amerindian (I forget the name he actually gives to them). The Amerindian are the vast majority of Western Hemisphere languages. Conservative linguists resist lumping them together, but they do all share recurring features like their treatment of pronouns (one of the more conservative areas of language). The classification also dovetails with DNA analysis done by Cavalli-Sforza and others.

Greenburg and other "lumpers" think that the Na-Dene languages share a remote common origin with Chinese (and, therefore, Tibetan and Burmese). Earlier linguists of American languages, like Swadesh, had the same feeling but couldn't put forward as strong a case. Not that the "splitters" would accept either linguist's theory.

It was the Choctaw that came to the aid of the Irish during the Famine, a fascinating fact if you think about it. For one thing, the Choctaw were supposed by most whites to be "primitive" and the dire conditions of the Choctaw after the extreme iltreatment they had just suffered make it surprising that they were able to help anybody. They were just getting back on their feet. Maybe helping the Irish was part of that process.

We also hear academics, especially on the left, claim that things like organized charity reflect modern Western values that cannot be applied to others. (Recently the extreme advocates of this view have been arguing that family life based on love is of recent Western origin -- more news to the Choctaw :-) The money collected by the Choctaw for the Irish is a striking challenge to that view (which is hypocritical anyway, given leftist's strong support for organized aid to the Third World and their disdain for Western values.)

People on the right try to excuse the British government for not aiding their Irish subjects on similar grounds. But the Irish in America, the Choctaw, and many people in England itself organized to send aid.

Go raibh maith agat, Elliot. D'ardaigh tú cupla pointe suimiúla. You raised an interesting couple of points on an afternoon when I had time to get up at my lectern.

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Brian Costello ( -
Posted on Friday, October 11, 2002 - 06:47 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

One must always remember that superficial relsemblances between languages in a word or a name don't necessarily indicate relationships. One of the Gaelic words for "bear", beithir or bear (with an accute accent over the e) looks nearly identical to the English but the two words have different entymologies. The English word comes from Proto-Germanic *Barnan meaning "The Brown One" while the Gaelic word comes from Old Celtic *Beatrix meaning an "ogre" or "monster". Likewise the Gaelic word for "people" DAOINE is relanted to Latin Genus, Greek genos "kind";"race", English kin and Sanskrit jana "person" but has no connection to the Navajo DENE. Modern linguistics suggests a distant relationship between Navajo (Athabascan) and Chinese and also between Chinese and Etruscan/Basque (and possibly Pictish, if Pictish was a kissing cousin of Basque) but no relationship to the Indo-European languages to which Celtic (i.e. Gaelic) belongs.

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Sean Kelley (
Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2002 - 12:12 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Monty Python and Irish are related..


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Fintan ( -
Posted on Sunday, October 13, 2002 - 10:01 pm:   Edit Post Print Post


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