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Public domain irish texts?

First off, I'm poor. Not 'can't afford a house' poor so much as 'thank jesus someone else is paying for my food' poor, so until I get a real job and pay off some student loans I can't afford books that cost money. Sorry.

Now that that's out of the way, I've spent a bit of time on and off searching for public domain texts in irish. Since the language reorganized and the spelling simplified around the time we stopped putting things into public domain this is extra difficult, and what few sources I've found use that super rad old script like here https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=yPYvAAAAMAAJ=frontcover=reader=en=GBS.PA4 or some of the books on archive.org's records https://archive.org/details/texts?and[]=irish[]=subject%3A"Irish literature".

If this were english or french I'd just go check out project gutenberg and read through the hundreds of 19th century novels they have posted, but there's exactly one book there for irish.

So I guess this is a two part question: do you know good resources for getting the hang of the older script/spelling, and do you know any modern irish translations of texts in this slightly older irish that I might be able to at least partially read? Particular recommendations I may have missed on cursory look at the previous sources would also be great. I'm just trying to get a list going.

EDIT: I was hoping to find a quick script guide on lexicity.com to ease myself into the older lettering when I ran across this http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/sengoidelc/iul/ , which has links to several stories I in modern type that I've had trouble amassing. Already reading Pangur Bán. Someone should post a few of these links into the irish portal thread or something.

I also found this lettering guide which should be plenty (if I practice, lol). http://www.omniglot.com/writing/clogaelach.htm

September 9, 2015



From one poor person crushed-by-student-loans-and-subsisting-on-ramen to another, the best source of modern Irish stuff to read for free is quite simply the Irish language newspapers, of which there are several, most of which publish online. You will read a lot of politics, and a lot of gaelic football and hurling articles.... it's absolutely unavoidable when it comes to what is published for free in any real volume in Irish these days. More recently, cultural articles have become much more common than they were in the past, so you'll have those, too.

Fair warning, the politics articles can be a real slog if you're not intimately familiar with how either the Republic of Ireland's government works, and/or the ins and outs of the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland... there's a pile of fairly dense vocabulary that, lacking context, is probably intimidating. (My family is unabashedly full of politics junkies so I could recite the text of the Good Friday Agreement almost verbatim within a week after it was signed - don't be impressed, this is not a useful or admirable skill in the least! - so learning the Irish vocabulary for all that stuff was easy for me, but for most people who don't have ~30 years' worth of studying random complicated political minutiae taking up space in their brains, it's probably best to skip the political articles, at least until you feel ready to venture down the rabbit hole in both Irish and English!)

RTÉ just launched their all-Irish news site, so that's where I'd start if I were you. It's here. A list of most of the Irish newspapers (as well as other Irish-language media) can be found on Wikipedia here. In cases where the papers are bilingual (which is most of them) and there's no one click option for Irish, you can usually turn up the Irish language articles by typing "gaeilge" in the search boxes.

I'm sure there are other free options for public domain texts using the pre-reformation script - I'm almost certain I have a few bookmarked, somewhere - but as I can't put my hand to them now, I'll leave that kettle of fish for someone more knowledgeable on that particular subject.

One final note - you'd be surprised just how cheap books in Irish can be. You're not going to find them at a garage/jumble sale four for a dollar/euro, unless you live in certain parts of Ireland (namely big cities and/or Gaeltacht areas), but there are several different series of novels, designed and written for adult learners of Irish, that are priced at €6 or €7 a piece. That's not free, but it's also not hideously expensive - I've got a giant wishlist of various Irish texts, and I tell everyone who asks me what I'd like for my birthday or christmas that I'd like books off that list - it's the only way I can realistically afford to build my collection at this point, and while that tactic hasn't resulted in my owning scores of books in Irish, I've got half a bookshelf's worth of various things I'm slowly working my way through - plus a few dictionaries and grammar texts.


For Part One of your question, the best resource is perseverance. If there’s a particular public domain text that uses the pre-reform spelling and the cló Gaelach that would be of interest to you, then try beginning with reading one paragraph a few times to get the hang of the type, so that (most importantly) discerning between its long R and its long S becomes second-nature; it’s similar to becoming accustomed to reading older German texts printed in Fraktur type. For the pre-reform spelling, one complication can be the dialect in which a work was written; in the generation before Irish independence, Munster texts were likely most prevalent, so be prepared for the possibility of dialect-specific grammar and vocabulary. One example is that in Dinneen’s dictionary, déan would be found under the headword do-ġním (its modern form déanaim was specifically a dependent form, like fuilim still is for ).

For Part Two of your question, I don’t know of any such works in the public domain, but Wikisource has some texts in the pre-reform spelling and Roman type, e.g. An t-Oileánach and Mo Sgéal Féin, if you’d like to put adjusting to the cló Gaelach on the backburner while becoming accustomed to the older orthography.


Just to say, Mo Sgéal Féin is a far easier read than An tOileánach.


Do you have any recommendations for Connacht texts? Or Donegal ones at that? It seems mostly what I've found is all Munster based.


First thing to mention is that older texts are usually much better to read than modern ones, because they are often in purely idiomatic Irish unaffected by English. It'll be hard, but if you take a classic novel, your Irish will significantly improve.

Secondly, the Cló-Gaelach is really only a font, besides the R and S being similar and the G being bit unusual, you should learn it easy enough. What will be harder is the pre-reform spelling. However even in this case, there is a mapping between the old spelling and the new spelling, over time you'll just read -ighe- as -í-. Reading will get you used to it and any questions just ask here.

The main difficulty though will be the wider range of grammatical features and very rare words in older books, as they were often written by seanchaí's or literate native speakers with extensive vocabularies (larger than almost all native speakers today)


Try searching "Irish Language" here: http://www.digitalbookindex.org/search_keyword

And then try other keywords you can think of :P


Here’s one translation (not public domain, but freely available for purposes of academic research and teaching only) from Old Irish to Modern Irish in Roman script: Aisling Aonghasa.

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