https://www.duolingo.com/profile/davidcwalls

Christian Brothers Irish Grammar available online

The Christian Brothers Graiméar na Gaedhilge (Irish Grammar) has been mentioned many times in this forum, and I found that it is freely available online (it was published in 1906, so the copyright has expired).

Images of the original book are at:
https://archive.org/details/graimearnagaedil00chriiala/page/n5

And a transcription is at:
https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Graim%C3%A9ar_na_Gaedhilge

The text of the book is in English with examples in Irish, but be aware that it was written before the spelling reform (for example, note the spelling of the title).

June 27, 2019

26 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SatharnPHL
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Note that the considerably more up to date 1999 edition of Graiméar Gaeilge na mBráithre Críostaí is also available from scriobh.ie. This version is in Irish, though, not English.

June 28, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/galaxyrocker

It's worth mentioning that there is a book, A Grammar of Modern Irish: An Annotated Guide to Graiméar Gaeilge na mBráithre Críostaí that is essentially an English-language translation of the modern Christian Brother's grammar. It's not free, but could be quite useful if one struggles to read the Irish.

July 6, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Maureen461377

One more post on this subject, as a serious language learner/ linguist, I think that is most important to get the most up to date learning materials, no matter the format or media. The methods of teaching language have vastly improved since the blessed Christian brother published their grammar and physically beat their students. The study of linguistics, human physiology of speech and the psychology of human communication has vastly improved the way foreign languages are taught. Using archaic grammars are wonderful for historical language research. They are a product of their pedagogical eras. If you a a modern language learner, stick with current grammar texts, it will save you time in the long run and increase your grammatical accuracy/proficiency.

July 7, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/galaxyrocker

I disagree,but I don't want to get into that debate here. However, this is a translation of the modern Christian Brothers grammar, the one linked in the OP that was published in 1999, which is still one of the best grammars available for the language.

July 7, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/davidcwalls

I agree with you in respect to what I'd call tutorial books, i.e. one that walks you through topics as you learn (I think there is another word for this kind of book, but I can't bring it to mind). Those are best that are well-written and use modern pedagogy.

I'm not sure being modern is so important with respect to a grammar reference book, i.e. one used when you already have a general knowledge of the topic and need to look up the details of a rule. As long as the underlying material has not changed, the most important features are, in my mind: clarity, comprehensiveness, and use of appropriate examples. What makes for the best clarity may be debatable and may change with time inasmuch as the mindset and experience of the audience changes. So there are almost certainly trade-offs between older and newer books.

I suspect that CB's grammar was at one time used for tutorial purposes as well as reference, but we now know that the two activities are best served by different types of presentation.

July 8, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/davidcwalls

Have you worked with this book? There is strangely little information about it (or its author) online. The only source I could find for it is An Siopa Leabhar in Dublin.

July 7, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/galaxyrocker

I actually have a copy of it and have used it, yes. I was hoping it'd give further examples and elaborate on some of the points of the latest CB grammar, but it is more accurately described as a translation of it. Essentially, buy this if you struggle reading the Irish one.

July 7, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MacBeatha

I'm posting my reply to SatharnPHL's most recent post as a new top level to avoid cluttering the discussion below further.

I see people claiming all the time that the saorbhriathar is agentless, but that’s too strong of a claim. The saorbhriathar has an unspecified agent but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely agentless. It often occurs that it’s totally clear from context who the agent of the saorbhriathar is, it’s just left implicit. For an example of this see new-GGBC section 15.32. In older forms of formal Irish it was even possible to explicitly mention the agent with the saorbhriathar with le, ag or ó, though this isn’t commonly done today.

This distinction between having an unspecified agent and having no agent is subtle and oftentimes makes no difference, but it is relevant. Precisely because for any intransitive verb in English it’s impossible to provide an agentless structure at all. The dummy agent is absolutely necessary. Furthermore even with transitive verbs a dummy agent often perfectly captures the saorbhriathar. “They mostly speak English in Dublin” is a very accurate translation of Labhraítear Béarla i mBleá Cliath go hiondúil. To my ear it’s even more natural than “English is most spoken in Dublin.” Any preference for the latter translation over the former due to the presence of a dummy "they" is ultimately purely cosmetic.

You claim it’s the grammarians and I who are hung up on voice, but it’s you who insists that the English passive is the only accurate translation. It’s true that for some sentences the passive will be the best translation, but other sentences will occasion an active voice translation with a dummy agent, either by necessity or for the sake of idiom. This doesn’t spoil the character of the saorbhriathar because even if I say “somebody does” or “one does” I’ve still left the agent unspecified. To refute this point is to misunderstand the saorbhriathar entirely. Maybe old GGBC goes too far in it’s arguments against the autonomous being passive, but this argument is only necessary because of the continued misguided tendency to equate the saorbhriathar and the passive, a tendency that is sadly still on full display in this forum.

July 3, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ainm10

New Era Grammar of Modern Irish by O'Nolan is also available on archive.org.

Noting conversations on this thread about the autonomous form and the copula, I think NEG addresses the active/passive thing admirably (section 291) and it has the best concise yet comprehensive description of the copula that I have seen anywhere (although Graiméar na Gaedhilge is pretty good on that too) - see sections 224 onwards.

July 3, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MacBeatha

This is an absolutely wonderful book, especially the presentation of the copula. Though I do find that his explanations that resort to ellipsis can feel somewhat ad hoc.

July 3, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Maureen461377

Nice to know, however, with "Foclóir.ie" and other strong Irish dictionaries available on line with grammatical examples. why bother with this antique grammar? It is interesting from a language history point of view, but confusing to a novice language learner.

June 28, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/davidcwalls

I agree: I certainly wouldn't recommend it to a novice.

There is good information available in the various online dictionaries, however, there are many aspects of grammar you might want to know that are not in the dictionary, and for which there are very few good resources written in English. Examples that come to mind are: choosing correct word order, understanding the structure of the copula, or using the genitive case. http://braesicke.de/gramadac.htm is probably the best current, free grammar reference, but that is written in German, and the English translation is outdated (and hosted on a website with ads that are, in my opinion, sometimes overly aggressive).

June 28, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Maureen461377

I already I am well familiar with word order, copula, et al thanks to courses given by Dublin College University (DCU) free online. I have completed half of their online curriculum = 4 out of 8 four week courses. Excellent help with the finer points of grammar, pronounciation, and writing. Duolingo gave me my start with Irish and DCU is giving me my passport to expertise!

July 1, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SatharnPHL
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Grammatical examples are all very well if you have an inkling of the grammar that is being demonstrated, and you want to try to confirm that understanding. They aren't always as helpful when you aren't sure what the examples are demonstrating. The explanations in Graiméar na Gaedhilgemay be helpful, but they are also a hundred years old, and in some cases they show their age, even aside from the pre-reform spellings. The discussion of the Autonomous isn't too bad until it starts comparing it to Latin - the original audience for the book was quite likely to have studied Latin grammar, but today's readers? Probably not.

Because of it's age, I wouldn't rely on it as an authoritative source, particularly if it seems to conflict with more modern resources, but some people might still find it useful as a starting point on issues that are puzzling them. A more modern textbook would be better, but this one is free.

June 29, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ainm10

I do rely on it as an authoritative source. One of the best available. It does have some issues but, as you say, it is free and without some of the latter corruptions that actually, in my opinion make it harder to learn the "modern" (post-spelling change) language. It also shows something of a time in the recent past when the dialects were much closer than they are nowaday in a grammar sense.

June 30, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Maureen461377

If you want a good low cost modern grammar reference, Gaelchultúr's "Quick Guide: Irish Grammar" is very helpful. It is available on Amazon.

July 2, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/davidcwalls

Thanks for the tip, that looks like it could be useful as a quick reference. Am I right that it is a fold-out card?

I was excited to see that Nancy Stenson is writing a comprehensive grammar, planned for release in November. It's a bit expensive (US$66.95), but as far as I can tell it will be the only current, comprehensive, written-in-English, Irish grammar. Given the good things I've heard about her other books, I've got it on pre-order at Amazon.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1138236527

July 2, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MacBeatha

Since I can’t reply directly to SatharnPHL’s comment I’m replying one level above.

I’ll defend the presentation of the Autonomous found in the old GGBC because it’s a special section specifically that’s supposed to be just as much a response to other grammars as it is a learning aid. While I agree it might be daunting to a beginner, there’s a more pedagogical treatment of the saorbhriathar earlier in the book that’s more beginner friendly.

I also agree the comparison with Latin is unhelpful to the modern reader, but it’s also literally two short paragraphs. It’s not like the whole argument relies upon analogies to Latin, in fact Latin’s only broached to show that such analogies should be rejected. It’s definitely not the explanation I’d give to someone who’s just learning the autonomous for the first time, but it still holds tremendous value to a more intermediate learner of Irish.

I’ll also say that it’s the best illustration I’ve yet found of the differences between the saorbhriathar and the English passive, a subtle point ignored by virtually every modern English-language grammar of Irish, including this course and the excerpt from Donna Wong's book. Every one of her examples is translated into English as a passive. This isn’t incorrect for any of her examples per se, but the fault of this approach is that it’s incomplete. How would you translate labhraítear anseo or táthar ag teacht by analogy with anything given by Wong? To someone who's read the old GGBC treatment these examples pose no difficulty, because they'd understand the simple equation of autonomous and passive which dominates didactic materials today isn't fully valid.

Also I don't know if the error is in the original text or not, but it should be nochtfaí gur shnámh siad... on Wong's last example

July 2, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SatharnPHL
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If you genuinely think that GGBC does a good job of explaining the differences between the saorbhriathar and the English passive, good luck to you, because I think it kind of misses the point, which is that the saorbhriathar never has an agent, and that introducing a dummy agent (whether "somebody" that GGBC prefers, or the arch "one" that many non-Irish people seem to think serves the same purpose) is to fundamentally misrepresent the saorbhriathar, based on a purely semantic argument that only makes sense to grammarians that aspect or "voice" is more important than agency in the saorbriathar.

And maybe it's the same conceit that made comparisons with Latin relevant 100 years ago, but not today, but I would argue that the "passive voice" in English is how you make a statement without identifying the agent and therefore sentences like "I was born in Dublin" or "Irish is spoken here" are more correctly considered "Autonomous" statements than "passive statements". They have subjects, but they don't have agents.

Wong doesn't give an example that would allow you to translate táthar ag teacht, but that's no worse than GGBC, which doesn't explain the difference between táthar ag teacht and tá duine éigin ag teacht, and only references táthar at all to "prove" that aspect is more important than agency.

July 2, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/davidcwalls

@SatharnPHL - Yours was the first recommendation I've seen for Donna Wong's "A Learners Guide to Irish". Based on your thoughts, a very detailed review on Amazon, and an extensive preview on Amazon, I just bought a copy for my Kindle (US$9.99).

July 2, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/davidcwalls

@Maureen461377, I think it is fair to say that you have an extraordinary linguistic background. Based on the questions in this forum, the copula seems to be one of the most difficult aspects of Irish for ordinary learners here.

Good luck for the summer session - I think it would be a great experience.

July 2, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SatharnPHL
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Have you looked at Donna Wong's "A Learners Guide to Irish"? It has plenty of clear examples that highlight various features of the grammar - for example, the section on the Copula doesn't start with an answer to the question "What is a copula?" but it does include many examples of various forms of the copula that will help a learner who has the basics of the copula understand the different forms that are used.

I mentioned the discussion of an saorbhriathar in Graiméar na Gaedhilge in my first comment, as an example of why I don't find it a particularly helpful text. Here's what Wong has to say about the Autonomous/saorbhrathar:

The Autonomous (= Impersonal) Form of the verb does not have a subject. A following noun or a pronoun is not the performer, but the object of the action and is in the accusative (= objective) case. An Autonomous Form may also be followed by a preposition, a prepositional pronoun, or a dependent clause.

Examples of the Autonomous Verb with a Noun or Pronoun Object:
Labhraítear Gaeilge anseo - "Irish is spoken here"
Dhéantaí na báid seo d’adhmad - "These boats used to be made of wood"
Seolfar iad ar an bhfarraige - "They will be sailed on the sea"

Examples of the Autonomous Verb with a Preposition or Prepositional Pronoun:
Nach nglaofaí ar an úinéir? - "Wouldn’t the owner be called?"
Fiafraíodh dínn faoin timpiste - "We were asked about the accident"

Examples with a Dependent Clause:
Creideadh gur bádh iad - "It was believed that they were drowned"
Ach nochtfaí gur snámh siad i dtír - "But it would be discovered that they swam to shore"

You will have noticed in the examples above that an Autonomous Form is translated as a passive verb. In English the closest thing to an Autonomous Form is a passive verb, in which the subject suffers the action (e.g.‘they were drowned’) instead of performing it (e.g.‘they drowned their sorrows in chocolate’). Note that this requires translating the object of an Autonomous Form in Irish as the subject of a passive verb in English.

July 2, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Maureen461377

PHL Are you copula obsessed? There are many challenges in Modern Irish, but the copula is not one of them for me. Irish is a piece of cake compared to Arabic!

July 2, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SatharnPHL
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Not copula obsessed, it's just a useful thing to check in a Grammar book, because it is a concept that most monolingual English speakers have never had to think about, so they can find it challenging to deal with in Irish, as even a summary perusal of the Sentence Discussions for exercises that use the copula would make clear. People who speak other languages don't necessarily find it as challenging.

July 2, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Maureen461377

Yes, David it is a fold out card. I will look for Nancy's book on Amazon. I like good grammar books, although I am at the point of working in a more interactive environment. After completing Dublin College University course, I am looking for summer school session at an Irish University --maybe 2020. Irish is my 8th language, the first acquired online with Duo. So grateful for the opportunity to start with Duolingo and to communicate with you!

July 2, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Maureen461377

I am very comfortable with Latin...

July 7, 2019
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