Oddities of the Irish Language
I was wondering if we could have a thread to discuss some of the stranger aspects of the Irish language, some of its quirks and oddities.
One thing that baffled me recently was when I discovered that the word for 'steak' ('stéig') can also be used as the word for 'intestine'. I still haven't managed to figure that one out!
Any other odd features of Irish you can think of?
One of my favourite quirks is how Irish refers to the animal below as a 'Bóin dé' or 'God's little cow'!
It's something that's apparently reflected in a number of European languages and is believed to have its roots in the ancient Indo-European language.
In Hebrew, which is not an IE language, this is a "Parat Moshe Rabbenu", or "Cow of Moses our teacher". Maybe the roots go farther back, but I reckon - and I have no proof to back me up - that the phrase was made up when Hebrew came back to life in the early 20th century. I can't recall ladybugs being mentioned in the Old Testament. :)
Its Spanish name literally translates to 'St Anthony's little cow'. I had no idea this thing was considered holy in so many languages.
In Italian it's called coccinella, but in Sicilian it's the Santanicola (=Saint Nicholas... Santa Claus?) and it's said to bring money and gifts to children losing their milk teeth.
One of its quirks is the ambiguity of voice in a particular verbal noun structure, e.g. Tá Pól á mholadh, which can mean either “Pól is praising him” (active) or “Pól is being praised” (passive). The ambiguity can be removed for the active meaning by switching to the passive voice — Tá sé á mholadh ag Pól — and the ambiguity can be removed for the passive meaning by switching to the autonomous form, which is an active voice — Táthar ag moladh Póil !
My favorite is with some of the ambiguity in relative clauses. An fear a mholann an sagart can be either "The man who praises the priest" or "The man who the priest praises".
Actually, I just love relative clauses. Oh, and all the fun stuff you can do with the verbal noun.
To get around the ambiguity those crafty Muimhnigh would say An fear go(/a) molann an sagart é to indicate that fear is the object.
Can I humbly intrude with a question for you folks on this thread? You all seem so good at Irish. Did you learn it before duolingo? Or are you just getting it here? If so, do you have any tips for how to improve? I am finding it very difficult... especially with the spelling issue. Some websites have been shared, but so far they have not worked for me. Maybe I am just bad at this! But I'm still hoping I'll find a way to get a handle on Irish.
This is my third attempt to study Irish, and by far the most successful. The things that tripped me up most before were spelling and prepositions; I still have trouble with prepositions but I think I'm getting a handle on the spelling.
The most important thing for me is something galaxyrocker already mentioned: listen to native speakers. A lot. And not just large blocks of material, like listening to radio or what have you, but go on teanglann.ie and see if they have pronunciations - for every new word Duolingo throws at you. I really can't stress this enough; it's the way I finally broke through the barrier and started to read Irish, and not to look at entire words as ideograms.
I mean, I'm still bad at it, but at least now it's not an incomprehensible mess.
Other tips: Don't try to charge through the tree too fast. I did that when I was starting, and now I'm playing catch-up, mostly with vocabulary - which preposition does that verb take again?
Don't be afraid to ask questions about individual sentences. The community is excellent and includes several folks who are both very active and extremely knowledgeable.
Don't get discouraged.
I learned it before Duolingo. In fact, I minored in it in college, and am planning on getting a masters this coming school year.
So I've just seen a dictionary entry that defines 'Stéig' as 'A strip (of meat, flesh, etc)'. So I guess that makes more sense.
It also gives an amazing idiomatic phrase ' Bainfidh siad na stéigeacha as a chéile' for 'They will knock the stuffing out of each other'. :D
It's because all diminutive nouns are masculine. Cailín is actually from caile + ín, or "little maid". Caile was feminine, but the ín makes all nouns masculine.
It's actually the same reason Mädchen has a neuter gender in German.