Tomhas na Teanga, Márta 2006
There are some exciting things happening on the internet lately. The Irish language daily newspaper Lá is now available as a pdf (Adobe Acrobat) file every day. Presently there is no charge. Their web site is www.nuacht.com. Also, Cumann Carad na Gaeilge (The Philo-Celtic Society) has started the first video blog (vodcast) in the Irish language. These will be short videos which can be watched on the computer or on an iPod. These are found at www.philo-celtic-feesh.com. Irish language ‘blogging’ (web logging) has really started to take off. A list of everything can be found at http://kinja.com/user/Gaeilge. This is updated automatically. If you have iTunes, search the podcasts for ‘Gaeilge,’ and you will find a few you can subscribe to!
Lá ‘le Pádraig sona daoibh – Happy St. Patrick’s day, y’all. That ‘le is short for féile (feast, pronounced similar to ‘fayluh’), which because it goes with the proper name, and that pair of words is in the genitive (The day of the feast of Patrick happy to youse), it gets lenited to fhéile. In normal quick pronunciation in this phrase, it comes out ‘le. Saints are sometimes privileged people: they don’t get their names lenited. Neither does God: Máthair Dé. Usually after a feminine noun, another noun in the genitive case would be lenited, and any proper name in the genitive, after any noun, is usually lenited: Mac Shéamais, mac Sheáin. Sona is an adjective, and it qualifies the first noun in the series here, lá. Lá is a masculine noun, so sona is not lenited. Nollaig (Christmas) is a feminine noun, so when you say ‘happy Christmas,’ it’s ‘Nollaig shona,’ with the lenition. Breithlá (birthday, pr. ‘breh-law’) is also a masculine noun. ‘Breithlá sona duit’ is ‘happy birthday to you.’ Sona is pronounced ‘sunnuh,’ shona is pronounced ‘hunnuh.’ Remember, h’s (which used to be a dot over the preceding letter) mean something different in Irish, and except at the beginning of a word, are never pronounced like in English!
I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of recording in the Irish language lately, and editing this kind of thing makes you notice any mistakes that are there, more than you might otherwise notice them. Everyone misspeaks sometimes. Learners especially tend to slip up. But I have noticed some patterns. What are the most common mistakes we make? Or in other words, what are the things we should be most careful about?
Some things are just memory lapses, especially lenition and eclipsis, or noun gender. Not much you can do about these, except speak, write, and listen as much as you can. Other things are kind of habitual errors. And the main one of these is forgetting to use the habitual forms of verbs, ironically enough. In the present tense, only one verb has this. ‘Tá’ (is) is the regular form. The habitual forms are bím, bíonn sé/sí/siad/tú/sibh, and bímid. If something is a multiply-occurring thing, these forms should be used. Often other words in the sentence are a good clue – go minic = often, uaireanta = sometimes, i gcónaí = always. I gcónaí can also mean ‘still,’ so these two sentences are very different: Tá mé anseo i gcónaí – I am still here. Bím anseo i gcónaí – I am always here.
Some other examples: Bíonn siad ag gearán (i gcónaí) – They are (always) complaining. An mbíonn tú ag an halla gach seachtain? – Are you (always) at the hall every week? Ní bhíonn an bia go maith anseo – The food isn’t (usually) good here.
In the past tense, all verbs have an habitual form. I’ll let you look those up. Some are in the poem at the end of this column.
The other most common mistake is the failure to use (or misuse of) the genitive case. There are only two cases used for most things in Irish, the genitive and everything else! Some of the grammar for the genitive gets very tricky, and almost no one is perfect all the time. But certain situations can be kept in mind which will prevent most of the mistakes.
The genitive is the ‘of the’ case. It can also take the place of the English possessive. So always use it to show possession, or ‘belongs to.’ Teach Shéamais = James’ house. Glór na nGael = The voice of the Gaels. Glóir na hÉireann = The glory of Ireland.
Another situation is whenever we would use –ing in English, if it refers directly to something: Ag ithe na bprátaí = Eating the potatoes. Ag fáil airgid = Getting money. Ag brú an chnaipe = Pressing the button.
Certain phrases also always take the genitive: Trasna na dtonnta = Across the waves, for example. You can find these all in a good grammar book (like The Christian Brothers), or even on the internet (start with www.scoilgaeilge.org).
Fuair mé inspioráid ó scéal san eagrán roimhe seo den nuachtán seo, agus ón obair a rinne an AOH ar son John Barry. Cheap mé ar dhán a chumadh, agus rinne. Rinne mé beagnach mar a dhéantaí sa tseanaimsir é. Bhíodh nós ann an file a chur faoi ghlas i seomra go dtí an uair go raibh an dán críochnaithe aige. Bhuel, rinne mise an chuid is mó den cheann seo faoi ghlas ar an traein, ar Iarnród Inse Fada!
Ar Aithint John Barry go hOifigiúil
mar Chéad Chomadóir Chabhlach na Stáit Aontaithe
A Chomadóir De Barra,
Nár mhór do ghlóir ar an bhfarraige!
Is onóir chóir é do chomóradh
Agus cinntiú chuntais do staire.
B’fhios duit na mara,
Faoi stiúir thiar agus thoir agat,
Longa armacha is báid rámhaíochta:
Is cuimhin linn d’eachtraí cáiliúla.
A Sheáin Mhóir, a chara,
A mhairnéalaigh, a Athair an Chabhlaigh,
Ar díth chórach a bhíteá,
Ach bhí fáil ar do cháil sa chomhdháil.
Aitheanta faoi dheireadh,
Tá do sheolta líonta le síob ghaoithe;
Níl naimhde ar d’aghaidh ná ar do chúl;
Tá tú ag iompú, gunnaí ag búireach!