It’s back to school season! I hope everyone’s had a good Summer. Tá an samhradh thart – Summer is over. ‘Samhradh’ is ‘Summer’ (pronounced ‘sow (like cow)-ruh). What are the other seasons you ask?
Tá an fómhar ann anois – now it is Autumn. ‘Fómhar’ is ‘Autumn’ (‘harvest,’ really), and is pronounced almost the same as the English word ‘four,’ but with a longer ‘o.’ Tiocfaidh an geimhreadh – Winter shall come. ‘Geimhreadh’ is ‘Winter,’ and is pronounced ‘gyevruh.’ Beidh an t-earrach ar ais. Spring will be back. ‘Earrach’ is ‘Spring,’ and no, it is not pronounced ‘ear ache,’ but, with an ‘a’ like in ‘Harry,’ and a ‘ch’ like in ‘loch,’ ‘aa-rokh.’
Please note – all of the pronunciations I give have other alternatives. I give the ‘official standard,’ which is not always the same as local dialects. I say this with the hope that some people who read this column speak Irish, and grew up with it. I don’t want anyone to think their way is not just as good (or better) just because I say something here. But the aim of the ‘official standard’ is to kind of find a middle ground for everyone, and a standard that learners can use.
You may have noticed the little word ‘an’ in the sentences above. That is the definite article (English ‘the’). Irish has no indefinite article (English ‘a /an’). Irish words can be masculine or feminine in gender, and all of the seasons are masculine. As you probably know, the beginnings of Irish words often change according to how they are used. This is something that makes the Celtic languages very different from other languages. Endings will also change (which is common to many languages). Singular masculine nouns, not in the genitive case, (like the seasons in my sample sentences above) do not change their beginnings after the article, unless they start with a vowel, in which case a ‘t’ is added (always in lower case, and if the whole word is in lower case, followed by a dash – else no dash). So that is why it is ‘an t-earrach.’ Seasons are not normally capitalized in Irish (else it would be an tEarrach).
OK, are you curious about feminine nouns? Singular feminine nouns, not in the genitive case, when preceded by the article, have something called ‘lenition’ (‘séimhiú’ in Irish) happen to them. This phenomenon softens the sound of the initial consonant, and this is shown by putting an ‘h’ after it (it used to be shown by putting a dot over the letter). There are lots of rules about which letters this effects, but it’s really not as hard as it sounds.
Don’t forget, if anyone wants to write to me, my email address is JamusN@aol.com. All articles in this series are available on the internet as well, at http://www.scoilgaeilge.org/t_na_t. This is part of the web site of the Gerry Tobin Irish Language School, which is celebrating it’s 15th anniversary this year. Our school is supported by the AOH, Saint Patrick’s Division (2) in Babylon, New York, which donates the space we use every Thursday night. It is a completely volunteer organization, and we teach Irish for free. The school is named after a man who taught Irish to our founders, and who when he died (ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam), left a little money to his students for a party. At that party, they decided to continue his work in teaching and promoting the Irish language, and founded the school in his memory. You can read the whole story, in Irish, at http://www.scoilgaeilge.org/Gaeilge/ray_alt.htm. There are other stories and more information about our school on the website as well (www.scoilgaeilge.org).
Cad a rinne tú ar do laethanta saoire i mbliana? Aimsir na long a bhí agamsa, sílim. Ba í an chéad long a chonaic mé ná an Jeanie Johnston, in Port Jefferson, Nua-Eabhrac. Bhí Aifreann Gaeilge ann lena taobh, ach ní raibh a fhios acu go mbeadh an iomarca daoine ann! Chonaic mé, ach níor chuala mé é.
Ansin, chuamar (mise is mo bhean is mo chlann) ar saoire in Massachusetts. Thugamar cuairt ar Battleship Cove in Fall River. Tá sé go hiontach. Tá long catha ann, scriostóir, fomhuireán, báid PT, srl. Chuamar go New Bedford agus an iarsmalann, lena long agus báid mhíol mór ann.
Ina dhiaidh sin, chuamar go Plymouth agus an Mayflower II. Ansin, an U.S.S. Constitution i mBostúin – an long ar seirbhís sa chabhlach Meiriceánach níos faide ná long eile ar bith.
Chonaiceamar na báid iascaireachta in Gloucester chomh maith, agus bhíomar ag taisteal ar bháid farantóireachta idir Inis Fada agus New London, Connecticut.
Rinneamar mórán eile, freisin. Uair amháin, bhíomar ag tiomáint trí Salem, agus chonaic mé halla an AOH ann. Ní raibh deis agam stadadh. Ach tá sé go deas bheith i mo bhall den chumann náisiúnta seo, agus cairde agam áit ar bith ar fud na tíre.