Barbara Zajączkowska, 2013-04-05

Język angielski, Artykuły

The Irish language

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3. The Irish language
The Irish language is one of several Celtic languages which was once widely spoken across Western and Northern Europe. In later years the Celtic language died out in most areas. However, it has survived up to the present times in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Irish or Gaelic language is the first official language of the Irish Republic. (Doyle, 1997:16). Most visitors to Ireland will see street sings, singposts, destination of buses written in two languages. They guess that one of them is the Gaelic language. Apart from its use official sings and documents, Irish is spoken as an everyday language in the remote areas on the west coast. (O’Connel, 1999:14). Visiting Irish pubs someone can find in front of a door a greeting “Sl’ainte”. Trying to find the toilet, you can see the writings “Mna” or “Fir” – for men or for women. Gaelic is even found on such monuments as the woman in the middle of a fountain who commemorates Dublin’s millenium and whom the Irish call “the Floozie in the Jacuzzie”. (Keneally, 1999:153).

3.1. Characteristics.
Irish is a member of the Indo – European familly and is a Celtic language. The other Celtic languages, which are still alive, are: Welsh, Scots Gaelic and Breton. The main base for this languages is also called Q – Celtic language – Goidelic. (Davis, 1999:57). The Irish language is significantly different from German or Latin, though it has many words from Latin, Norwegian or English. Altough most of the early Irish manuscripts were written in Latin by monks, there are still some documents in Irish, which are over 1000 years old. One can not find many of them as most of the poetry and stories were conveyed orally and jealously preserved by the bards.
Irish is not an easy language to learn. It has only eighteen letters. The structure of sentences is different from English. The verb generally comes first in Irish; for example:
English: The girl has no heart.
Irish: Nil aon chroi agie acailin sin.
Literal translation: Has no one heart of girl that.
Adjectives generally come after their nouns (but numbers before):
English: I closed the big wooden door yesterday morning.
Irish: Dhuri me an doaras mór adhmaid in inne.
Literal translation: Closed I, the door big and wooden morning yesrerday. (O’Connel, 1999: 4-15).
That is why Irish children have difficulty in learning Irish and only few of them can speak it well. Furthermore, the difficulty in learning of Irish results in that most Irish people have just learnt “cupla focal” (a few words) from their school time. However, the Government of the Republic encourages the Irish to speak Gaelic. For example, it gives special support and money to families and schools that use Irish. Great support is given to the Radio Gaeltachta or other media such as the Gaelic TV or variety of shows on Irish TV. (www.d78st.com/Irish_Gaelic.html.).

3.2. A history of the Irish.
The Gaelic language is rooted in Irish history. It has been spoken in Ireland since it was invaded by the Celts. The language they used was known as Old Irish. Before Christianity the Celts used an alphabet known as Ogham (www.ireland.sege.com.2003) for their graves and marking of property. But existing sages and stories in a great number were not written down until the intoduction of the Roman alphabet and Christianity. With Christianity started the process of spreading monasteries which were the main centres of learning. The monks wrote down many masterpieces both in Latin and Irish Gealic. Although Ireland had no towns or cities, the country became one of the most weathy and the most influential in Europe in the early Middle Ages. (www.d78st.com/Irish_Gealic.html).
The Irish language has adopted many words that come from outher culture. The assimilation of new words went with succesive invasions in Ireland. Thus, the Viking invasions caused that many Scandinavian words to be found in modern Irish. But this invasion was very destructive for Ireland. Monasteries were plundered and sacred writtings were burned. The Vikings were deferated in 1016. (www.ireland.sege.com.2003).
The next settlers – the Normans moved to Ireland in the 12th century. Dublin was established as the centre of Norman rules. They brought in a strong influence in the literature of this period so that some southern dialects of Irish are still affected by Norman French and contain typical French words like “garson” (boy). (www.ireland.sege.com.2003).
In the 16th century king Henry VIII of England started to feel afraid of the Irish. He feared that the Irish could be persuaded to collaborate with his enemies. So he decided that Ireland should conform to England in every way and began a systematic conqest. One of the aims of it was the eradication of the Irish language. (Griffin, 1998:18). Under English rule many chieftains and teachers were forced to emigrate. Irish poets were jailed or hanged. A great number of manuscripts in Irish were destroyed. However, there were still many Irish people who fiercely resisted the English order. The stuggle for survival of the Old Gaelic Order lasted nearly two hundred years. Hoewver, till the late 18th century English dominated and all the affairs of the nation were conducted in English. Irish became the language of the poor and the disspossessed. Those who could not speak English were completely margonal. The Great Famine in 1845 – 47 and mass emigration to Britain and the USA made clear to the peasants that they needed to learn English if they wanted to survive. As a result, they gradually gave up Irish. (Doyle, 1997:16).
In Ireland with gaining its Independence, started a “renaissance” of the Irish language. The Irish government made Irish the first national language and encouraged schools to teach the language to their pupils.
After seventy five years of Indepedence, there is an increasing use of the Irish language all over the country. More and more people speak Irish as they have srarted to feel a strong national idenity. Irish is used as the main language on the Irish radio station – Radio Na Gaeltachta and on the Irish television station called Telifis, which started in 1996. Many magazines with a wide range of topics are now printed in Irish. There are many musical groups, whicg sing songs in Irish. Many people are learning Irish outside of Ireland in their own countries. The Irish hope that their langiage will still be in use the next thousand years. (www.d78st.com/Irish_Gaelic.html).

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