Recommendation needed please
Can anyone recommend a book on the history of the irish language please?
I would also be grateful for recommendations for good novels written in irish or translated into Irish. I had a somewhat disconcerting experience in a big bookshop in a large town in Ireland (do not want to name it for shame :-)) a couple of years ago, when i asked the assistant to recommend a book by a new irish writer and was speechless when she fetched and handed me a book by Margaret Atwood.
The best book on the history of the Irish language is probably Stair na Gaeilge - it provides in-depth scholarly articles on every stage of the language from Old Irish to the development of the first Caighdeán Oifigiúil. The downside, of course, is that the book is in (academic) Irish, hard-to-come-by and very expensive. A more approachable, and affordable, English-language history of the language might be the recently-published A History of the Irish Language. Something else that might be of interest if you would like to find out about the history of the Irish language is Scéal na Gaeilge - a light-hearted, but informative, two-part series on the history of the Irish language presented by Alan Titley. Sadly, only the first half currently appears to be available via TG4.
As far as novels are concerned, there's certainly a large number of them available but, obviously, whether or not they're 'good' would depend upon your own personal tastes and how comfortable you are with reading Irish. Some excellent novels have been written by Pádraig Ua Maoileoin (Munster dialect), Séamus Ó Grianna (Ulster dialect) and Mártín Ó Cadhain (Connacht dialect). In terms of translations, RL Stevenson's Treasure Island and Kidnapped were recently translated into Irish by Darach Ó Scolaí and both were well received.
There are, of course, far more novels and translations to choose from but I'll leave it to other people to suggest them.
I’d only add that A History of the Irish Language, though it is written by a linguist, is not a linguistic book. It gives short examples of Irish used by several notable people in the language’s history, but it mainly focuses on social and economical factors and how they affected the language, the area it’s been used in, borrowings finding their way into the language, etc.
You won’t find there detailed descriptions of phonetic changes, semantic shifts, morphological changes to syntax… but you will find that in a given century English rule on that-and-that area caused borrowing of some English syntax into Irish, and that macaronic poems in Irish and English were written, what means that educated people of the area were proficient in both of the languages.
Thank you for the useful review, i will start with this book and the take it from there.