Textbooks on Irish Language
Hello! Do you know good textbooks on the Irish language? I do not really know how to speak Irish for now, but this language so different from all the languages that I have studied so far that I want to know how it works, linguistically speaking.
I tried to find that type of textbooks in bookshops dedicated to foreign languages in Paris, but I could not find any. I think that I will order a textbook online, but I do not know which one I should buy.
I can understand both French and English, so I can read books in both these languages. Also, I am studying linguistics in university, so I am not afraid of reading books specialised in linguistics.
Thank you in advance for your answers!
Not a textbook, but as a linguist, you'll like Gramadach na Gaeilge (GnaG): http://nualeargais.ie/gnag/gramadac.htm
The German original version has received many updates since the English translation was made, so it contains a lot more information, but since you mention only English and French, I assume this isn't going to help you.
There are so many informations on that website! Even if it is not the latest version, I will definitely enjoy reading it! Thank you so much :D
Hi La Vache Moderne, you should try to contact the Celtic Institute in Dublin, they will be able to advise you. Good luck!
For the moment, I will check the textbooks and websites that the others have recommanded me, but if it is not enough to help me, I will contact the Celtic Institute in Dublin or the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris. Thank you for your advice!
I did not know that this website existed. Thank you for that, and for giving your opinion on the book :)
I buy children's Irish school books so that I can learn from the beginning...well like children do. It is a lot more motivating to go at the a slower pace that children's books and texts books do. Right now I am using Maoin 2.
My goal here is not to read highly complicated books on the Irish language to learn it faster. I love linguistics and I want to know how sentences are generally constructed or how they are pronounced in Irish. This language is so different from French and English that I want to know how it works. It is just pure curiosity ^^
I do agree with you: it is impossible to learn immediately any language, especially when the languages you already know are very different from the language you want to learn. It took me ten years to be able to have my actual level in English, and I still do mistakes (although I have studied it for two years in university). I had to read some English grammar books for children because I was making some basic mistakes not so long ago, and it helped me to improve my English. I will do the same for Irish, so thank you for recommanding "Maoin 2" :)
You could take a look at "Gaeilge Gan Stró" (Irish without stress). It' a series of quite glossy text books (lots of explanation, images, diagrams) designed to explain every day conversation. So for example it has conversations that contain phrases like "Is breá liom é", "Ta mé i mo chónai i …"Tá sé go deas buadaladh leat..." The recordings that come with it also include interviews with people from around the country talking about their lives and speaking in their native dialect. It's published by Gaelchultúr (urraithe ag/sponsored by: Foras na Gaeilge)
You should be able to review them/get them online somewhere... :-)
I took a look at the first chapter of that book because someone else recommanded it, and I think that I will order this one for all the reasons you have mentionned. Plus, there are the answers to all the exercices, which is not the case of all textbooks. Thank you!
Thinking about this again... and the book I use most. It's a dictionary... It gets nicknamed O Dónaill, but it's full title is "Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla" by Niall O Dónaill, and it's published by An Gúm. So it's Irish to English only (no English to Irish)… which I guess is what you are looking for, because the entries are full of examples of the way words are used.
So for example, (I picked this at random) under the entry for "comharthaifh" (a verb) there is this example: "Chomharthaigh sé paiste talún do féin"… he marked out a patch of ground for himself. And "Chomharthaigh Dia do féin an duine bocht" … God designated the poor fellow for himself.
So you'd need to find a behaviour, meaning or intent where you wanted to understand how the Irish language treated that. Then you'd need to find an Irish word (using an English-Irish dictionary) that you thought might be used in that context, then look that up in O Donaill. It's a lengthy process. Or you could just sit with a copy (agus cupán caife) and work your way through some of the longer entries... :-)
The full text of both Ó Dónaill's 1977 Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla (FGB) and de Bhaldraithe's 1959 "English-Irish Dictionary" (EID) are available at www.teanglann.ie, along with the Irish-Irish dictionary, An Foclóir Beag (1991) by Ó Dónaill & Ua Maoileoin.
The dictionaries are fully indexed, with each word a hyperlink. The site also hosts a pronunciation database of recordings of thousands of words in each of the 3 major dialects, and grammar tables based on An Caighdeán.
The dictionaries are also available as apps on both Android and Apple devices.
These two sites are practically indispensable for anyone who wants to study Irish online.
I did not know that... Better late than never! Thank you for telling and providing me all these links :)
I do not think that my Irish is good enough to do that for now, but I intend to do that at some point, because this method did help me to improve my English (and it still does) :)
I too am interested in how the language works, compared to say Romance and related language (European languages based on Latin). If I had the time there are a couple of things I would explore, because they are uniquely Irish, or little used elsewhere...
Word order and word sounds
One big difference is word order and word sounds. Generally speaking in Irish there is only one word order, (well we can change the order of time, place and similar, but the core is always the same), so we specify "nuance" by adding verbal particles (eg "An" when we want to ask a question) or by changing the sound of the word, eg cistin (kitchen) becomes cistine because the sound of the word changes when we say "bord cistine" (rushing... poor example, but you get the idea - or take a look at the way we have different sounds for conjunctive (subject?) and disjunctive (object?) personal pronouns. And this is what urú (eclipsis) and séimhiú (lenition) are all about)
I've said before, I think, that Irish is a language about the relationship of things. Although we have verbs as action words, and although these become more dominant as time passes (influence of English?) the principal character of the language, especially at it's simplest level, is nominal. ie nouns, things, and the relationships between them.
So this means an understanding of prepositional pronouns and their function in the language is a key element to understanding the character of the language. Here is a web page with them all displayed:
Simple use of prepositional pronouns...
So these are going to be used in constructions that express feelings, possession and other things such as: You are tired (Tá tuirse ort), I have a cold (Tá slaghdán orm) We have a dog (Tá madra againn) and the famous "tá failte romhat" (Not to be confused with "nuar ober é")
So with "tá fáilte romhat", for example, nearest literal translation we could give is "being a welcome before you"
And as you progress you could also explore the use of the verb: bí (tá in present tense) and it's dependent forms like "fuil" (go bhfuil mé)… and why it is that the Irish thought it necessary to have different sounds for what in other languages is often the same sound (used in saying the parts of the verb: to be).
Then you also begin to wonder why we have "is" the copula. And why sometimes we use "bí" and sometimes "ís"... oh I know we have nice rules that say when we use one or the other, but they do not explain the origin of the two sounds. Nor why we pronounce "ís" differently to say a word like "sí".
(Personally I blame the monks from the 6th century for a lot of this, and praise the poets of the 10th to 12th centuries for making it all make a bit more sense).
There... I think they are all the big differences 1) unchanging word order, with verb particles and the changing sound of a word 2) prepositional pronouns, and 3) the mysteries of bí and is
If it's the character of the language that interests you, these are the features I would explore.
Tús maith leath na hoibre… (a good start is half the work) :-)
why it is that the Irish thought it necessary to have different sounds for what in other languages if often the same sound (used in saying the parts of the verb: to be).
You mean the same sounds like "am", "are" and "is"?
No, we don't have those do we. In present tense it's always going to be tá, whether it's I (mé) we (imid) and we don't have the equivalent of "that" or "this" to go with your "is".
But we do have (for example) "tá mé" (taim) and "fuil mé" Except you are always going to see it in its eclipsed and lenited form such as "go bhfuil mé" Both are forms that will get translated as "I am". The way we speak means we ask a question with "An bhfuil mé" and not "An tá mé".
Maybe "nach bhfuil mé" would be a better example. Why do we say that and not "nach tá mé" or "nil mé/nílim". Why do we need "nach bhfuil mé" and "nil mé"
That's the kind of difference in sound I'm trying to point towards. Hope that makes sense.
Oh and lets be clear, I'm no expert, nor am I pretending to be. These are just questions I've explored a little myself. I wish I had the time to go deeper, but right now I need to learn to speak French :-)
Why do we need "nach bhfuil mé" and "nil mé"
Because they mean two different things - nach bhfuil mé can mean "that I amn't" or "am I not"?, depending on how it is used, níl mé just means "I'm not".
The thing to bear in mind is that the differentiation between dependent and independent forms of verbs is just a hangover from very early versions of the language - that's why it only crops up in a handful of the most common verbs (because, ironically, the verbs that we use all day, every day, are the verbs that don't get simplified to a "standard" pattern, and are therefore most likely to be irregular). From a learner's point of view, they are exactly equivalent to the irregular "am/are/is", and "go/went" patterns in English - hangovers from a much earlier form of the language that tell you absolutely nothing about the modern language, and the people who speak it.
Sure, they're both interesting and relevant from a historical point of view, if you're in to that kind of thing, but you don't have to know any of that to learn to speak the language, because the only thing that is relevant about them for someone who is learning to speak Irish is that they are part of what makes the irregular verbs irregular, and there's nothing particularly unusual about having to learn irregular verbs when you are learning a new language. For most learners, because there are only a handful of dependent verb forms, and they only occur in the most common verbs anyway, they'll already have learned the different forms of those verbs long before they encounter a grammatical construction that requires them to choose between the dependent and the independent form of the verb (such as the formation of relative clauses).
You're doing the same thing with the copula - the copula in Irish works differently that the copula in English, therefore the copula in Irish must be special. Except it's the copula in English that is "special" - many other European languages differentiate between the copular functions and other functions of the verb "to be".
Thanks to both of you for your comments! I have learnt many things about the Irish language, and this is a proof that Irish is indeed a very interesting language to learn and to study :)
Here are some sources if you are looking for more technical/linguistic descriptions of Irish grammar:
-'Basic Irish' and 'Intermediate Irish' are two reference grammars written by American linguist Nancy Stenson. They are intended mostly as resources for language learners, but have some basic linguistic detail (and are also very clear and well-written in my opinion!)
-'Learning Irish' by Mícheál Ó Siadhail is a textbook with a heavy grammatical focus. Can be a bit confusing in places.
-'Modern Irish: Grammatical Structure and Dialectal Variation' is a linguistic analysis of phonology, morphology, and syntax of modern Irish, with an emphasis on dialectal differences.
-James McCloskey and Nancy Stenson both wrote Ph.D. dissertations on the syntax of modern Irish. Both of these, as well as the book above, are rather dated in terms of linguistic theory, so might be hard to understand for the current generation of linguistics students, but the actual points are still valid.
-There are also lots of more recent research papers published in journals, by McCloskey in particular, as well as Andrew Carnie, and others. I don't actually know of a book that gives a general overview within modern linguistic theory.
Thank you so much for all these references! Since I don't know that much how to speak Irish, I think that I'll check Nancy Stenson's 'Basic Irish' and 'Intermediate Irish' in the first place.
It's very rare to come across books that give a general overview of a language's linguistic theory. In general, they are focused on only one aspect of a language (phonectics, morphology, syntax, semantics, etc.).
if you're an absolute beginner try 'Bun go Barr' or if you have a better understanding try 'Iontas'
this is the one we use in irish secondary schools
Try Teach yourself Irish - there is also a Grammar book which is very helpful. It comes with two CDs for listening and practicing. The books tell you how the language works and is very useful together with Duolingo but you can only dip into them every now and then or they will put you to sleep!