*Making the language up

The authoritative form of a language is that spoken by its native speakers. In most countries, this is not a controversial proposition, because in most countries the official language is widely spoken. In Ireland, the pretence remains that Irish is the official language. I say it is a pretence, as nearly all work in government departments is done through English, and in most cases it is done by people who couldn’t do it in any other language. The official working language is English.

However, for political reasons, the official language is stated as being Irish, and everything must be translated into Irish. The problem is that Irish is a language only spoken natively in small farming or fishing communities. If Irish had remained the language of all, then scientists, politicians, academics, journalists and others would all have had Irish as their first language, and the vocabulary needed for every sphere of life would have evolved naturally. But as this is not the case, vocabulary is being invented by a Coiste Téarmaíochta to fill the gaps.

Clunky terminology

Terms that are simply not needed, and therefore not found, in the Gaeltacht, are being concocted by the Coiste, which is part of a public-sector body, Foras na Gaeilge. A glance at their website (focal.ie) shows the following terms now “exist”:

  • géarpholaifhréamhán-néarapaite dhímhiailinitheach athlastach: acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
  • siondróm easpa imdhíonachta faighte: AIDS
  • eangach dhronuilleogach ilmhodúlach phleanála: rectangular multimodular planning grid
  • cáin ghnóthachan caipitiúil: capital gains tax
  • téacs réamhshocraithe: boilerplate
  • tuirse chomhbhá: compassion fatigue
  • claonbholscaire: spin doctor
  • ionadaíocht chionmhar: proportional representation
  • tógáil shóisialta na n-inscní: social construction of gender
  • féiniúlacht chorparáideach: corporate identity
  • liobraíochas: libertarianism
  • deicre: decking
  • comhdháil mhúscailte feasachta: awareness raising conference
  • frith-bhriochtchuarc: anti-charmed quark
  • ascalascóp ga-chatóideach: cathode-ray oscilloscope
  • tacaíocht trasphobail: cross-community support

Most of these are transparent inventions by non-native speakers in Dublin, often in defiance of the real meaning of words. For example, ínscne means “grammatical gender”, not biological sex, and so is just not correctly used above in any case. This matters because unlike English Irish does have grammatical gender, and there is the case of the noun cailín, which refers to females, but is grammatically masculine. Sex and gender can diverge in Irish. Most of the others are clearly not in use in any Irish-speaking community and would not be accepted. Then the final category are words that would be understood, but have been concocted in order to correspond to some kind of media catchphrase. For example, “compassion fatigue” is a hackneyed cliché in English, best avoided by good writers, and yet the Coiste Téarmaíochta has come up with an Irish equivalent. If English has a hackneyed cliché, Irish must have the equivalent cliché too. Tuirse means “tiredness”, so to my mind tuirse chomhbhá is only correct if the feeling of “compassion fatigue” involves a genuine physical exhaustion.

Conor Keane, a native speaker of Irish from the Galway Gaeltacht, has written of the development of what he calls Gobbledegaeilge, nonsense Irish that is used by officialdom to translate officialese:

 Most translated documents are converted to a clunky overdeveloped Gaeilge that is impenetrable for the majority of Irish speakers. One remembers the last Lisbon campaign where the booklet detailing the treaty provisions in Irish held the odd distinction of being more difficult to understand than the stilted English used in the original. We care little for the ‘Official Irish’ because it is not a natural form of the language we have lived with for hundreds of years. We normally use the English standards of forms and so on because they are easier to understand.

Even more damningly, Feargal Ó Béarra, also a native speaker of Irish and an academic working in NUI Galway, wrote of the incorrect terms made up by the Coiste Téarmaíochta:

 Much of the terminology being coined by terminologists in Ireland flouts some of the most basic rules of Traditional Late Modern Irish. Very often, it displays a total lack of understanding of the way the language works. The latest example I came across is the term for dental hygienist, i.e. sláinteolaí déadach. Now of course anyone who has heard of Fearghus Déadach or Dubhdhéadach will know that the word déadach means ‘having teeth’. So sláinteolaí déadach actually means a toothed hygienist. What we should expect is sláinteolaí fiacla with the noun fiacail being used to form a genitive plural with adjectival force. But as this concept does not exist in English it will not be found in Irish.

Despite, therefore, claiming the “authority” to coin terms, the Coiste Téarmaíochta has a clumsy approach to new terminology, with new terms being devised by non-native speakers with an inadequate grasp of the language. Following Ó Béarra’s intervention, the Coiste Téarmaíochta has changed its recommended translation of “dental hygienist” to sláinteolaí fiacla. While some assert that, owing to the Coiste’s “authority”, which should not be questioned, any alternatives are “incorrect”, the Coiste clearly can be embarrassed into improving its translations from time to time.

Should native speakers do the coining of new terms?

Had Irish remained the first language of most Irish people, they would have used Irish terms for everything. English officialese is similarly clunky, but people who don’t speak any other language than English don’t have any option other than to say “cathode-ray oscilloscope” if that is the meaning they intend to convey. We might groan at some of the Greek and Latin origins of these terms, but there are no alternatives. Surely, if Irish were spoken by everyone in Ireland, terms as clunky as those devised by the Coiste Téarmaíochta would be being used by everyone in Ireland for things like VAT, beef premiums, alternating current and the like. The Plain English Campaign exists because clunky English terminology is not appreciated by all, but at least terms like “cathode-ray oscilloscope” were devised by native speakers of English to begin with and are in daily use by native speakers of English working in the appropriate fields.

However, the fact that all languages have clunky modern jargon does not change the fact that Irish is spoken as a native language by a small and dwindling population of people who are all bilingual. They pepper their speech with English words. Where Irish terms weren’t even made up by native speakers in the first place, they are simply wrong unless and until adopted in native speech. If cáin ghnóthachan caipitiúil has been adopted into the natural speech of the Gaeltacht—and it is likely a similar term would have been so adopted had Irish remained the only language of most Irishmen—then it has become native Irish. If the native speech of the Gaeltacht drops into English to utter the phrase “capital gains tax”, then cáin ghnóthachan caipitiúil has no validity as an Irish term. I personally have not conducted research into what is said in the Gaeltacht for “capital gains tax”, but the principle I am advancing should be clear.

Gaeltacht speakers should exclusively staff the Coiste Téarmaíochta, so that if terms are to be coined, they will be coined well and coined in line with the rules of the language and the correct meanings of words. But what if terms are coined by native speakers, but not frequently found in Gaeltacht speech? This is an interesting question, because some would argue that the speech of the tigh tábhairne, the conversational language of those native speakers in the Gaeltacht who do not read and write the language much, cannot be expected to provide authoritative modern terms, and we ought to look to new coinages, novels and longer writings by Gaeltacht natives who are engaged to a greater degree in the creation and use of a wider range of modern terms. An example that is sometimes given is that Niall Ó Dónaill was in favour of “modernism”, including the creation of new terms. I have also read that Máirtín Ó Cadhain was not afraid to use new words, including those he borrowed from Scottish Gaelic.

In the context of studying Munster Irish, the works of younger Gaeltacht writers such as Pádraig Ó Ciobháin may provide a wider range of vocabulary from which to draw native Irish words and phrases. It makes sense to base the Irish that learners aim to imitate on the Irish of the best Gaeltacht speakers. But to the extent that such writings contain new coinages, it is still worth considering the question of the wider adoption of such terms. For example, many words entered the English language through the works of William Shakespeare: by being accepted, they changed the language. But where Thomas Cranmer, who compiled the 16th-century Book of Common Prayer, attempted to concoct the word immarcescible, meaning “never-fading” in the context of immarcescible crowne of glory, the word failed to gain wider currency. Consequently, even were the Coiste Téarmaíochta purely staffed by native speakers of Irish from the Gaeltacht, it would still be a relevant consideration the extent to which terms were being made up but then not adopted into use by the community of native speakers, but only used by translators in the Galltacht.

There is a difficulty here, as most native speakers of Irish, as Feargal Ó Béarra pointed out in his article, do not read Irish. The Irish language—at the native end of the Irish-using community, at least—has become more or less a purely spoken language. While not totally so, as there are Gaeltacht novelists, it is largely so. There is a mismatch, therefore, between the spoken language of the Gaeltacht and the written, official language found in the artifical so-called Standard. Where native speakers hardly ever read or write a language, the language quickly loses an official register of speech, a register that the Coiste Téarmaíochta is clearly trying to summon into existence for the purposes of official translation. The reason why native speakers might drop into English for certain phrases is that those phrases belong to the official register, a register of language that is better known to them through English. In other languages, including English, new coinages, devised by native speakers, are spread through the written word, with the Bible, Shakespeare and the Book of Common Prayer playing a key role in that process in the English language at one point, with literature and newspapers playing a similar role in the modern day. (At one point, it looked as if Peadar Ua Laoghaire’s works would establish a native Irish standard, but his works have nearly all been allowed to go out of print.) If native speakers in the Gaeltacht don’t read Irish, then new words cannot spread too far. Even where modernist writers in the Gaeltacht do coin words, they are unlikely to be taken up by many. This limits the ability of Gaeltacht modernists to develop the language, leaving everything in the hands of the Coiste Téarmaíochta in the Galltacht.

The importance of Gaeltacht use of words and phrases

Gaeltacht usage is everything. That is all there is to it. This is because the spoken language of the Gaeltacht is the only real register of native use of the language. Many words in Irish—as in every other language—were artificially introduced, including the word cigire, which resulted from a misinterpretation long ago—but as long as the word has been adopted in the native speech of the Gaeltacht, it is good to use now. Of course, Gaeltacht use varies over time, and Peadar Ua Laoghaire’s opposition to the use of ball in the meaning of “member” has probably given way to frequent use of this word in this meaning in native Irish. As long as it is in use in native Irish, then the word is good. All other considerations are irrelevant.

Clearly, the Gaeltacht communities do vary one from the other, and they are farflung, and so the terms that have been adopted in natural speech are likely to vary. Primary research is required into Gaeltacht speech in the various communities. I was told in Múscraí that there is no such word as deicre—that is just a made-up term and the word used is just “decking”. Similarly, I was told in Múscraí, “aftershave lotion” is precisely that—and not lóis iarbheárrtha. It would be interesting to know if these terms are in native use in the Connemara. If they are, then they must be accepted as good Irish terms; if they are not, then they are just not. Similarly, the term for “microwave oven” is not oigheann micreathonnach in the Gaeltacht.

Another important point that learners fail to notice is the way in which as Gaelainn is used in Irish. As Gaelainn refers to the spoken language; i nGaelainn is of wider reference, including both the spoken and written languages. This is one area of syntax where usage in the Galltacht appears to be replacing the natural usage of the Gaeltacht (and subsequently influencing the Irish of younger and weaker speakers in the Gaeltacht itself). Abair as Gaelainn é! Scríbh i nGaelainn é!: these are the correct forms. With labhairt, it is much better to say labhair Gaelainn than labhair as Gaelainn, labhair i nGaelainn or even labhair an Ghaelainn. Yet the preferences of learners seem to have the upper hand in Ireland today.

Numerous terms are also found at much greater frequencies in officialese than in native speech, but are still valid Irish terms and could be recommended for a written register of Irish. Look at these for example:

  • teaghlach: family
  • tuismitheóirí: parents
  • garmhac: grandson
  • forbairt: development

These words correspond to modern concepts. Teaghlach is a good Irish word, meaning “household”. The nuclear family, as such, was not a traditional Irish concept. Muiríon would refer to the “burden” of dependents a man had. Líon tí would refer to all the people under one roof. None of these words corresponds exactly to the nuclear family, but all may be used in various contexts, and teaghlach would seem the most appropriate one for use in official contexts. However, made-up terms like teaghlach núicléach for “nuclear family” aim to replicate English clichés. If they are in common use in the Gaeltacht, then they are right. Clann is found in the Galltacht for “family”, but only refers to children or offspring in native Irish (clann mhac, “sons”).

Tuismitheóirí was attested in Dinneen’s dictionary and so is not a new coinage, but the word fundamentally means “originators, progenitors” and is glossed by Lambert McKenna as a Connacht word. Do mhuíntir is a much better word for your parents in Irish; you could also say t’athair agus do mháthair. In official contexts, tuismitheóirí seems advisable, but once again this word can be overused. Garmhac is also an old word, but mac mic and clann clainne would seem much better in conversational Irish.

Forbairt is an awkward word, as it has been introduced to translate, on a one-for-one basis, “development” in English. Its fundamental meaning is “growth, increase”, and so the meaning has been extended to cover “development”. Forbairt isn’t wrong, but saothrú and saothrúchán cover most of the intended meanings (“the development of the Irish language”, saothrú na Gaelainne; “development fund”, given in McKenna’s Foclóir Béarla & Gaedhilge as ciste fás shaothrúcháin). It is worth adding that examples of the use of forbairt in the Royal Irish Academy’s Corpas na Gaelainne 1600-1882 mainly contain the phrase d’fhás agus d’fhorbair. Claims that a finite verb exists with forms such as forbraím (present), d’fhorbair mé (past), d’fhorbraínn (past habitual), forbróidh mé (future), d’fhorbróinn (conditional) and go bhforbraí mé (present subjunctive) need to be checked against corpuses of Gaeltacht Irish usage. I would argue that aside from d’fhorbair, forbairt and forbartha, all other forms of this verb should be avoided. An example is d’fhorbrófaí córais, found on an EU website: this would be much better as do déanfí córais a dh’fhorbairt (or do chur ar bun, avoiding the modern use of forbairt as a transitive verb). (I am personally unsure if córas is correctly used in the plural, as the word means “system/systems, arrangements” anyway, but this is a separate question.)

Similarly, no attempt should be made to avoid terms that mirror English if they are used in the Gaeltacht. They may reflect English influence over the centuries, but if they are the natural terms used by native speakers of Irish—as opposed to the Béarlachas of weak learners thereof—they are the correct terms. For example, Peadar Ua Laoghaire used these:

  • déanamh amach: to make out (what something is)
  • fáil amach: to find out (who someone is)
  • duine ’ chur suas chuige: to put someone up to it
  • fáil dul ann: to get to go there (cé ’ gheóbhadh dul ann?)
  • cur suas le: to put up with
  • cimeád suas le: to keep up with
  • iompáil amach: to turn out (a certain way)
  • féachaint rómhat chun an lae: to look forward to the day
  • slí ’ thógaint suas: to take up space
  • déanamh suas le: to make up for (some lack)

I found the following in the stories of Amhlaoibh Ó Loingsigh:

  • críochnú suas: to finish up (conclude)
  • tu féin a fháil ollamh: to get yourself ready

Clearly, what is good Irish is therefore dependent on a detailed knowledge of the spoken language of the Gaeltacht. Most individual people do not have the resources to investigate Gaeltacht speech. The Coiste Téarmaíochta do, but choose instead to make up their own vocabulary. As Ó Béarra said in his article, this serves the needs of the translation industry, which has become a public-sector vested interest that is now opposed to traditional Irish and the language of the Gaeltacht communities.

On email forums such as that run by acmhainn.ie, translators frequently ask for recommended translations of abstruse terms unlikely to exist in the real language. Recent examples on that forum have included “VRT Export Refunds” and “quantum entanglements”, neither of which has any equivalent in the natural Irish of the Irish-speaking communities. In answering queries relating to the translation of such terms, discussion of the gap between Gaeltacht Irish and that used by translators in the Galltacht has been ruled off-topic on that list. Most translators on such lists seem to be aggressively and vituperatively opposed to Gaeltacht Irish, easily provoked to sudden fury if it be pointed out that the terminology they are suggesting has no currency in the Irish-speaking community. To answer a query on the translation of an odd phrase by examining what the native Irish speakers might say is, apparently, unacceptable, so far has the translation industry come from any connection with the real language. In another context, these translators might wax lyrical over the role of British rule in eroding the Irish language, while overlooking their own contempt for native Irish and the role of their made-up Standard in weakening the language in the Gaeltacht.

Claims that all English terms must have an Irish equivalent are false; there are entire subject areas the technical vocabulary of which cannot be put into Irish. It seems that translated nonsense is being churned out in great quantities, using made-up terminology and with nary a peer review, by people whose main aim is to corner public spending for themselves. Apparently, their livelihoods depend on there being an Irish phrase meaning “VRT Export Refunds”. Consequently, anyone who suggests there is no natural phrase in Irish for this is seen as attacking their professional and financial interests as translators.

The best approach to unusual terms that would certainly not be found in any Irish equivalent in the Gaeltacht is to use the English word in italics. In English, words like “restaurant” and “façade” entered the language in this way. After long usage, they seem to have been nativised and italics are no longer used for those terms. Similarly, any English word that is nativised by natural usage in the Gaeltacht and thereby adapted to Irish grammatical patterns can be accepted. Words like neoidríonó, which have never been used once by a single native speaker, simply display a pretense of nativisation—apparently even plurals such as neoidríonónna are adduced on focal.ie for such non-words. It can even be declined in all the cases. If you ever need to say, “ye lovely neutrinos!” in the vocative plural, the Coiste Téarmaíochta will tell you it will be a neoidríonónna breátha! The word has genitive singular and plural too, but no dative, as the dative has been retired in Standardised Irish. The fact that detailed forms of a word that has never existed are being made up will not concern the Coiste. Yet the correct way of writing about neutrinos in Irish is simply to accept that the word relates to a concept that is not Gaelic and to acknowledge that no particle physics has ever been done in the Gaeltacht. Neutrino in italics it is, then. Any other approach is simply incorrect. I would urge the people paying for these translations to demand their money back. They have been sold a pig in a poke!

27 Responses to *Making the language up

  1. Siobhán says:

    You have some weird thoughts on what Irish should be, and constantly refer back to English.
    There are a great many languages in the world, and I’d like to suggest that you look outside the Anglosphere for examples of how people in other countries have dealt with these matters.

    One thing you will find is that the matters you write about – dialect vs. standard form, introduction of modern terminology etc. – are common matters of concern, and the Irish way of dealing with them is not unique, nor even uncommon. You could look at Rhaeto-Romansch in Switzerland and its Italian dialects (called Ladino, I think), for instance; you could look at Finnish; you could look at Basque where the various dialects are compressed into a tiny area and at the same time are hugely diverse, so diverse that at one time it was considered that each should have its own standard for administrative purposes. These are just a few of the many cases of forming a koiné out of a group of dialects.

    In relation to “neoidríonó, which have never been used once by a single native speaker”, first of all, the term is used in Irish language secondary schools and doubtless also in universities, and some of the users would be native speakers – all of the users would be in the Gaeltacht schools – so your proposition is incorrect ab initio.
    Secondly, “neoidríonó” may look strange to your English eye, but is in fact a good way of representing the sound of “neutrino” in Irish, always accepting that “d” replaces the “t” as in other Gaelicisations of words based on “neuter”.

    • Rennie says:

      Rumatsch Grischun has been rejected by most communities in Graubünden where it is still the vernacular. It is stuck to mainly in the Surses valley, where they speak dialects that are fairly close to RG.

  2. djwebb2010 says:

    Siobhán, what I am talking about is the creation of terms by non-native speakers that are not used by native speakers, and the insistence of those non-native speakers that whatever they say goes, and that if the native speakers don’t use their made-up terms, that means the natives don’t speak their own language properly!

    This is not forming a koiné out of disparate dialects – but making a totally fake form of the language.

    You are quite wrong – neoidríonó has never been used by a single native speaker – it is not an Irish word. It is a fake word. The use of the word should be heavily penalised in the Leaving Certificate, as it is proof positive that the writer has poor Irish.

    What you are saying is that poorly educated teachers in Irish-language schools – who don’t have any traditional dialect – insist – INSIST – to the children that whatever the Coiste Téarmaíochta says is right – and try to foist words like neoidríonó on them. None of them will have ever heard the word in the Gaeltacht.

  3. franc 91 says:

    If it’s any consolation to you, I have a similar problem when translating between French and English. I find myself confronted with all kinds of artificial jargon on translation forums such as Linguée. These terms have obviously been created by non-English speakers in the EU language machine that are consequently translated into other European languages, including Irish I would imagine, and then get translated back into English. It’s all very incestuous and once they get into the system it’s assumed as if it were some kind of authentic English terminology, not forgetting that there always those who think you can use automatic word for word translation such as google srl. You don’t need me to tell you about the havoc that creates with Irish or with any of the other Celtic languages. Don’t forget as well that here in France, as elsewhere in Europe, you have a similar linguistic situation as in Ireland concerning regional or minority languages – Occitan for example has a whole range of variants and dialects that have to adapted in one way or another for teaching subjects like modern maths, physics and and chemistry. Meanwhile I’m still trying to learn Irish – West Kerry Irish – I hasten to add.
    Is mise le meas agus go raibh maith agat for your work here. It’s very much appreciated.

  4. An interesting article, to which I’ll say a word about “neutrino”. In small but vigorous languages like Icelandic or Finnish, both of which have nearly universal early monolingualism, it is not the case that random native speakers are the people who devise terminology. The Icelandic for “neutrino” is “fiseind”; for “neutron” it is “nifteind”; for “proton” it is “róteind”‘ for “positron” it is “jáeind”. The word “eind” is a unit (in counting) and a particle (in physics). I guarantee you that it was professional terminologists at Íslensk Málstöð who coined these terms in consultation with Icelandic scientists. The ordinary man or woman on the street would not just “come up” with terms like these. (“Fis” is ‘light’, “nift” is ‘sister, niece’, “rót” is ‘root’, and “já” is ‘yes’.) Professionals who care for the language do so.

    Terminologists and lexicographers are not infallible, but as a user of the term “boilerplate” I can’t find anything wrong with “téacs réamhshocraithe” for instance above. Few people probably know why we use the term “boilerplate” in English. The Wikipedia does, and I’ll past that in below. But in terms of a good Irish term for re-usable text, I think “téacs réamshocraithe” does a pretty good job. I wouldn’t agree that Irish should be hobbled by the notion that new Irish words shouldn’t be coined, and that every new concept just be written in English and set in italics. Are we better off with a term like “luchóg” for a computer mouse than we would be with “mouse” or “mabhs”? I think we are.

    ON BOILERPLATE: “In the field of printing, the term dates back to the early 1900s. From the 1890s onwards, printing plates of text for widespread reproduction such as advertisements or syndicated columns were cast or stamped in steel (instead of the much softer and less durable lead alloys used otherwise) ready for the printing press and distributed to newspapers around the United States. They came to be known as ‘boilerplates’. Until the 1950s, thousands of newspapers received and used this kind of boilerplate from the nation’s largest supplier, the Western Newspaper Union.”

    Obviously this is a realm in which anecdotes can be devised to prove or disprove pretty much any view. The point about “sláinteolaí fiacla” was well made, certainly.

    • djwebb2010 says:


      You immediately jump into non sequiturs. The fact that professional terminologists at Íslensk Málstöð make up terminology for Icelandic doesn’t change the fact – READ SLOWLY – AND READ AGAIN IF YOU CAN’T COMPREHEND – that **real native speakers** use the terminology they come up with.

      Why can I write an article on this, making the point over and over and over again, and then read some stupid comment by someone ignoring what I said in the article? I have an extremely low tolerance threshold for low-IQ individuals, so if you wish to comment here again, drop the stupidity. Do not post comments that totally ignore my argument. If you can engage with what I wrote and refute it, all well and good — but posting a comment totally ignoring the fact that I wrote that adoption into real native usage is the only valid criterion is moronic.

      Words that are created by non-native speakers or by native speakers in committees that are actually adopted into native Irish usage are correct Irish words. There is nothing “wrong” with téacs réamhshocraithe, apart from the fact that no one in the Gaeltacht has heard of the word. If it becomes adopted into Gaeltacht speech, then regardless of how it was arrived at, it will be correct Irish. I suspect you know that a real Irish speaker would say “boilerplate” in English, which renders invalid and incorrect the terminology produced by the Coiste Téarmaíochta. It makes no difference that an American called Michael Everson thinks the word téacs réamhshocraithe does a pretty good job – the term does not exist in native Irish. End of.

      More non sequiturs. I didn’t say that new words shouldn’t be coined, and words like gluaisteán and guthán were new coinages at one stage. The sole criterion I am advancing is real native usage. A second time: the sole criterion I am advancing is real native usage. A third time (for morons who don’t get the point): the sole criterion I am advancing is real native usage. Now what point is it that I’m making, Michael? See if you can read this paragraph and sum its key point.

      Of course, I know that the REAL reason why you posted this message on my site is your role in publishing An Hobad, Nicholas Williams’ translation into absurdly bad Irish. Stop PISSING on the Irish language! Let’s have more Gaelainn na Múmhan, and less Gaelainn an Mhúin!

  5. Mr Webb, the reason I posted here was that I’m interested in terminology in Irish. I have indeed read your other post concerning “An Hobad”, and I’ve considered responding to it in due course. If I do, I’ll do it in a polite way, because the topic is of interest to me. Perhaps you might find the comments I might make to be of interest. We’ll see.

    I feel a little sad that your response to what I wrote above—which amounts to “Being a native speaker does not make one a terminologist” (something as true for English and French as it is for Icelandic, Breton, Tatar, Finnish, or Irish)—elicited such harsh comments from you. You and I have never met, and have never argued previously. An ad-hominem attack (about my evident stupidity) seems to me to have been unwarranted. At least your point might have been made without it.

    In any case, I am sorry if you think that I did not read or understand your post. I understand you to have criticized terminologists in part for sometimes coming up with bad terms (which is fair enough) and in part because some of the terms they come up with might not be taken up by native speakers. If I have missed the point of your article, I apologize, but I’m fairly certain that those points were made, and I was responding mostly to the *first* part.

    One interesting point about terminology development is the question of how it gets disseminated. In the 1990s was involved in the creation of some computer terminology when I worked with someone else who was translating Mac OS terms into Irish. The bulk of the terms we created turned out to be useful, and can be found in other software localizations now on the PC and Linux platforms, even though (One term I can think of which was not taken up was “gliogáil” which we used for ‘to click’. “Cliceáil” has won the day.)

    But let’s say the Coiste Téarmaíochta were to create a large number of truly excellent terms. There’s still the question of how these might be disseminated to speakers of Irish, whether native speakers or learners. How is a native speaker (ever so lucky to have been born a native speaker of a rich but endangered language) to come across these words at all? Yes, native speakers of Icelandic use the terminology devised by Íslensk Málstöð, but that’s because they are all literate, and the print and broadcast media take up new terminology and disseminate it. So they have access to the terminology that’s created. I don’t think it’s possible to say that the residents of the Gaeltachtaí have the same opportunities to be exposed to new Irish terminology that the average Icelander does to new Icelandic terminology.

    So it’s all very well to say that your sole criterion is “real native usage” but that doesn’t take into consideration the problem of the dissemination of new terminology—not all of which is useless and loathsome, I am sure.

    I am not a native speaker of Irish. (Nor are you, I understand.) I have, however, lived nearly half my life in Ireland, and have been a user of Irish since my early days here. (I started with Old Irish, indeed.) I have contributed, evidently usefully, in helping to create some computer terminology in Irish (which *has* been taken up by native speakers), I typeset over a hundred books for Coiscéim, and I have published a number of books in Irish, including early 20th-century translations in modernized spelling, which have languished unread for lack of availability. (See http://evertype.com/Irish.html for the current catalogue.) Moreover, I engage in publication in Irish without receiving a government grant to do it. I do it because I like making books. May I suggest, good sir, that this activity does not consist of “pissing on” the Irish language? (Again, I’d like to leave details about the possible shortcomings you have discussed about a particular book to the thread on that book, if you don’t mind. My comment here is one of principle.) I’m working to do something that really very few people try to do.

    • djwebb2010 says:

      Michael, you’re right, I could have and may should have not made any personal remarks, but most of your post above ignored the fact that I had said above that words, no matter how derived (including cigire), are valid if they’ve entered native usage. Even sláinteólaí déadach would be correct if the native speakers nativised it.

      The “being a native speaker does not make one a terminologist” line reminds me of some unpleasant characters on the acmhainn list who openly posted “I will not allow a bogger to tell me how to speak Irish”. Some, at least, of the Coiste Téarmaíochta crowd, are openly contemptuous of native speakers. In fact, disdain for native speakers in the Gaeltacht seems to be virtually universal in the Standardised Irish crowd.

      While it is true that being a native speaker does not make one a terminologist — as far as that point goes — a terminologist can only **recommend** terms for native speakers to adopt. If they don’t do so, those terms are invalid. Oigheann micreathonnach doesn’t mean anything in Irish – because the step that needs to happen **after** a terminology committee has suggested a term, is for the term to enter widespread usage among native speakers. This is even more imperative for common terms, such as microwave, as native speakers **do** discuss microwave cooking, and the word is part of the colloquial register of speech, and so if they don’t say oigheann micreathonnach, then that term is not correct Irish. One might argue that for concepts such as anti-charmed quark that are not part of colloquial speech in any language, whether the terms made up enter native speech or not is less important, as, generally, native speakers of Irish or any other language, don’t discuss anti-charmed quarks. [However, no particle physics is done in Irish, and so you would still need to prove that Irish physicists do use the made-up term in order to show it is used by **anyone at all** other than translators. Otherwise, you end up with a conlang.]

      I regard Standardised Irish as a conspiracy to defraud the public purse and embezzle public funds for an arrogant bunch of learners. Peadar Ua Laoghaire’s comments about Michael Sheehan are very apposite – he felt no respect for the learners who appointed themselves as governors of the language and started making things up. I regard the members of the Coiste Téarmaíochta as unworthy of respect. That is my view.

      You yourself say that gliogáil did not win the day, and cliceáil is used — but that admits that real native usage is relevant, and committees of Americans sitting there pontificating on what the Irish terms should be have no relevance to the language. You would make more sense if you were to say “the ignorant boggers don’t know what the word for ‘click’ is, and they have no expertise in devising terminology, so we will tell them what word for ‘click’ to use, thank you very much”. What about teilifís? As far as I know, teilifiseán is the real word.

      I agree that the average native speaker won’t come across the CT’s terms, but you can’t change the fact that the national language of Ireland is English. If as you say, the residents of the Gaeltachtaí don’t have the same opportunity as Icelanders to absorb new terminology, that may be regrettable — but regrettable or not, it means the terms made up are *failed attempts* to introduce terminology. If they’re not used by native speakers, they are incorrect. I do take into account the problem of the dissemination of new terminology, but nevertheless, words that are not recognized by 95% of native speakers are simply not in the language, despite the problems of disseminating them. You can’t get past this point or wave it away.

      If someone in China sat in Shanghai and made up terms for English native speakers to use — which is the equivalent of the CT’s behaviour, as non-native speakers, whether Irish citizens or not, are still non-native speakers, just as the Shanghai residents are non-native speakers of English — they would be invalid. Michael, why don’t you sit in Mayo and create technical terms for Mandarin speakers to use?

      I welcome your role in publishing books in modernised spelling, as long as the language is not caighdeánised. Why does Cuaird an Domhain i gCeithre Fichid Lá need to become Cuairt na Cruinne in Ochtó Lá? This is not just updating the spelling. You are caighdeánising on the fly too. I wonder what other changes are made in your books. Updating the spelling means just changing -ughadh into -ú and things like that, things that don’t affect the pronunciation or grammatical form (although I would argue the new spelling and the Roman script are incorrect too).

      Michael, let me be clear: you start publishing works in late traditional modern Irish (see Feargal Ó Bearra’s paper here), with no change to the wording or grammatical forms (only modernising the spelling), and I will become your greatest supporter. See numerous files and blogposts on my site for what I have done to modernise Peadar Ua Laoghaire’s works without changing the dialect.

  6. Dáithí says:

    I want to add my two cents to this, hoping that you don’t take this too badly.

    A little background: Having studied Irish at school for 12 years, I finished the leaving cert without the ability to throw a simple conversation together. I studied French for five years, and managed to become fluent enough to read Albert Camus in the original French before I even sat my exams. I even had to buy ‘Teach yourself Irish’ to understand basic Irish grammar. I was born and raised in the ‘Galltacht’ and didn’t have the luck, as Michael puts it so well above, to be born in the Gaeltacht to Irish speaking parents.

    I have, recently, decided to take up Irish again. I have been trying, with great difficulty, to learn Irish as spoken in my native Cork (I am living on the East coast of Sicily), so thanks for the site, it’s a great help.

    I have some issues with your argument:

    1. I am utterly against the idea of language purism as you seem to promote in this article, and others (at times, quite angrily). Considering the dismal state of Irish at the moment, I would argue that any, yes any, attempts to keep the language alive and spread it outside the Gaeltacht are valid and worthy of support. We live in the 21st century, communication has largely moved online, and we NEED new terminology if we are to keep the language going. Irish medium schools NEED new terminology to continue teaching all subjects through Irish. How are kids today supposed to relate to Irish if we don’t start modernising? We don’t live in Peadar Ua Laoghaire’s era. We need social media in Irish, magazines, programmes that are worth sitting through, documentaries, i.e. we need funding. We cannot allow the language to petrify. Languages change. If noone in the Gaeltacht wants to step up and coin new phrases for us, what should we do? Speak Irish like Peadar Ua Laoghaire? We need 21st century Irish for 21st century people. Arguments about real Irish or the Caighdeán are, in my eyes, futile and time wasting. If we all stopped speaking because we are using a made up version of the language, Irish would already be dead. If people are to have the grá (as they say in my native Cork) for the language again, it has to relevant, modernised, able to express concepts in all sorts of contexts, approachable and most importantly, usable in everyday life.

    2. The Gaeltacht, as I remember it, is pretty closed. Efforts to speak Irish with locals were met with a brick wall and 90% of the time they responded in English. How, then, am I supposed to learn the language? Who am I supposed to speak with? Should I have to travel 30km to the Gaeltacht to find a speaker with ‘pure’ Irish? Living in the ‘Galltacht’, I have no choice but to speak with learners and their poor Irish. I have no choice but to gather the few resources available and crawl my way through them to try scrape together a basic understanding of Irish, and try, earnestly, to speak. That’s if I can’t or don’t want to spend outrageous amounts of money on a short course.

    3. I live in Sicily, Italian is the official language, but Sicilian is used every day. It is not taught in the schools, and yet it is so ingrained in the people that it is ever present and alive. When a word doesn’t exist, they make it up or they use the Italian word. So what? What’s the big deal? Look at Italian. They use ‘cliccare’ for ‘to click’, I have heard someone saying ‘baggiare’ (from badge) to mean ‘swipe my work badge through the security gate’, ‘drinkare’ for ‘to drink’, and many others that I can’t think of now. Rather than debating the validity of such terms, is the important thing not communication?

    4. Leaving aside the politics of the region, look at modern Hebrew. Or Welsh for that matter. What do you think is the difference between efforts there and here?

    5. Living in Sicily, I now have the dog and the wall to practice my Irish with. You, too, seem to be living abroad and I doubt you have many opportunities to use Irish in your everyday life. While I lived in Ireland, I was part of a small group ‘cupán tae’ who met once a week to speak Irish together for an hour or two. We were all learners, but that is an example of the kind of thing that needs to happen, people using whatever Irish they have in every day contexts. While I appreciate your efforts with the site, I get the feeling that you have contempt for anything that isn’t ‘pure’ Irish. I don’t know if you are Irish, but I think you’ve missed the mark completely. Language purism has a place in languages like English, Chinese or Spanish, which boast impressive numbers of speakers. Irish needs every speaker it can get, whether they speak ‘pure’ Irish or the Caighdeán, or a mishmash of both.


    • djwebb2010 says:

      1. What difference to me does it make that some low-IQ man in Sicily doesn’t agree with me? Attempts to “keep Irish alive” outside the Gaeltacht are as fake as attempts to keep Latin alive in Dublin by raising children to speak bad Latin. Irish may “need” new terminology, but that doesn’t mean that terms that are not used by a single native speaker are valid. Unless they’re used by native speakers, they are just not in the language. You can sit in Sicily with one hand on your d*ck making up terms for “Internet” and “modem” to suggest for use by native speakers of Tibetan, but if those are not used by the Tibetans, they won’t be real Tibetan. Irish-medium schools should only use native Irish — or close down (and criminal charges should be laid against their governors for fraud).

      You state languages change. LANGUAGES AS SPOKEN BY NATIVE SPEAKERS CHANGE. But changes made up by learners are just not valid.

      Let me make clear, you DON’T have love for the Irish language. You have CONTEMPT for it and for the residents of the Gaeltacht.

      2. Attempts to speak Irish with Gaeltacht natives are probably rebuffed in your case, because you have learned a buffoon’s variety of made-up Irish. If you are not in the Gaeltacht, you should read Gaeltacht literature. If you learn the CO — you will have nothing at all.

      3. Once again, as a person of desperately low IQ, you fail to address the argument. If Sicilians – THE NATIVE SPEAKERS OF SICILIAN AND NOT LEARNERS IN SOME OTHER AREA – make up words for “click” and “badge”, then those are the correct terms. If learners make them up for them, and express contempt for Sicilians who don’t use the made-up terms, that is not the same thing at all. The important thing is NOT communication at all – communication can be achieved in English – and so if you are only trying to communicate, you would do so in English.

      4. Modern Hebrew – is an incorrect revival of Hebrew in a heavily stilted, European-influenced form. It is nothing like Biblical Hebrew. As there are people who speak no other language, it must be accepted as a language, but it is not really Hebrew.

      5. Irish does not “need” to get any speakers it can. The language is inanimate and doesn’t need anything at all. I recommend learners of the CO to cease their buffoonery and their attempts to speak piss Irish.

    • michaeleverson932 says:

      Hear, hear.

  7. Dáithí says:

    I’ll leave your comments speak for themselves. Luckily, you’re one of the very few that speak with such anger. Attempts at reasoning and having a dialogue without insults about my IQ or ‘piss Irish’ seem futile.

    As an Irish person, I feel pretty ashamed that you think like that (but then again, I don’t know if you even are Irish).

    Some responses…

    “Irish-medium schools should only use native Irish — or close down (and criminal charges should be laid against their governors for fraud).”

    How long do you think Irish would last if we did this? Do you not see how positive Gaelscoileanna have been in the last few years, and how many children now attend them? Should we close them down and deprive children of the opportunity to learn? The idea that criminal charges should be pressed against organisers of Gaelscoileanna is a bit far-fetched and silly. Not to mention exagerated.

    “Attempts to “keep Irish alive” outside the Gaeltacht are as fake as attempts to keep Latin alive in Dublin by raising children to speak bad Latin.”

    Do you think that Irish people who are not born and raised in the Gaeltacht to Irish speaking parents should not have the right to learn Irish? Do you think exclusivity is the answer to keeping the language alive? Do other people living in the Gaeltacht share your views? Your analogy is also a bit weak.

    “Irish does not “need” to get any speakers it can. The language is inanimate and doesn’t need anything at all.”

    Can you support the first statement with figures? Do you think declining numbers of speakers is a good thing? Do you think it is better to let the language die or to keep it alive?
    You say it is inanimate. Why should it be so? There is still a glimmer of hope for Irish and you seem to be against any attempts at keeping it alive.

    “Modern Hebrew – is an incorrect revival of Hebrew in a heavily stilted, European-influenced form. It is nothing like Biblical Hebrew. As there are people who speak no other language, it must be accepted as a language, but it is not really Hebrew.”

    Modern Hebrew is quite happy to be considered a made up language. It is the most successful language revival project in history. There are people who speak no other language because of efforts in the early 20th century to make it work. Would you prefer Ireland to be monolingual and finally bow down to English, or would you prefer that Irish live on?

    “The important thing is NOT communication at all – communication can be achieved in English – and so if you are only trying to communicate, you would do so in English.”

    I thought the function of any language was communication. Is Irish not to be considered a language? Why should we have to speak in English if we can communicate perfectly well in Irish?

    “Once again, as a person of desperately low IQ, you fail to address the argument.”

    Without refering to the low-blow about my IQ, I was referring to making up language in general. Making up language is part and parcel of any language. We have to look at Irish in context. In Sicily, pretty much all people understand and speak some Sicilian. It is used every day. The Irish case is more complex. Most people can’t string two sentences together. How else, if not with the help of an official body, are we to coin new terms, seeing as how folk in the Gaeltacht seem to have no interest in promoting Irish in the rest of Ireland and keeping the language alive?

    “Attempts to speak Irish with Gaeltacht natives are probably rebuffed in your case, because you have learned a buffoon’s variety of made-up Irish.”

    There is a fundamental issue lying underneath your statement. This seems to imply that native speakers are unwilling to engage with learners, and have no intention to ‘share’ the language. Irish, then, as native speakers know it, is surely doomed to die. So, maybe I should ask you, do native speakers have contempt for me because I am trying to learn Irish?

    “If you learn the CO — you will have nothing at all.”

    On the contrary, I will be able to communicate with a lot of people, read many books, watch many programmes etc…

    “Let me make clear, you DON’T have love for the Irish language. You have CONTEMPT for it and for the residents of the Gaeltacht.”

    You must have misunderstood my comments. The fact that a ‘person with a desperately low IQ’ is trying to learn an ‘inanimate’ language, ‘piss Irish’ as you call it, in the back end of Sicily, means that the language has meaning for me. If that doesn’t indicate my grá to you, táim ag cur mo chuid ama amú.

    “You can sit in Sicily with one hand on your d*ck making up terms for “Internet” and “modem” ”

    I don’t usually make up terminology when I have my hand on my d*ck.

    “What difference to me does it make that some low-IQ man in Sicily doesn’t agree with me? ”

    None at all! As I said, I was just adding my two cents. But seeing as how you have such contempt towards meaningful debate, I don’t really know how to relate to your opinions.


    • michaeleverson932 says:

      My “hear, hear” was in response to Dáithí’s comments, not to Mr Webb’s angry response.

      • djwebb2010 says:

        Thanks for your view, Michael, but I still believe your comments reflect your participation in the CO publishing industry, including The Hobbit, translated into Droch-Ghaelainn by Nicholas Williams. You have become a vested interest.

    • djwebb2010 says:

      The Gaelscoileanna are not keeping Irish alive – they are killing the real language. They have produced whole cohorts of children who have never been exposed to good Gaeltacht Irish, and the policy of TG4 is to employ mainly speakers of this made-up Galltacht Irish. The Irish they learn is as bad or worse than the Hiberno-English of the “do be” variety. If you’re saying Irish children should get the opportunity to learn Irish – then let them learn real Gaeltacht Irish.

      No. Irish children don’t have the “right” to learn Irish. There is no definition of “human rights” that includes the right to learn a minority language. Teaching of Irish should be as widespread as the availability of teachers with good Irish is, and where teachers don’t have good Irish, they are themselves abusing the children’s rights by teaching them wrong!

      The CO is not a glimmer of hope for Irish – but the nail in the coffin for the Gaeltacht.

      Daithí, you say people in the Gaeltacht don’t want to “promote” the Irish language – but the problem you have in your argument – which a low-IQ one because you refuse to engage with my argument – is that the language is by definition the language as used by native-speaking communities. Any attempt to “move the language on” without the active participation of the Gaeltacht is just fake. The CO is just Droch-Ghaelainn.

  8. smagl says:

    I have to say I found this blog interesting and amusing. One has to admire the learning and commitment that is evident in it and it is intriguing to reflect that an tAthair Peadar still has at least one devoted fan all these years later.

    The author doesn’t pull any punches when expressing his views, and he is particularly scathing about the translation business. I thought some of his onslaughts were hilarious. See for example:
    “It seems that translated nonsense is being churned out in great quantities, using made-up terminology and with nary a peer review, by people whose main aim is to corner public spending for themselves.”
    “I regard Standardised Irish as a conspiracy to defraud the public purse and embezzle public funds for an arrogant bunch of learners.”

    Anyone who fails to see the compelling logic of an tUasal djwebb2000’s argument he refers to as low IQ or desperately low IQ. Tagann na focail díomasach agus sotalach chun cuimhne.

    Despite these arrogant views the blog is well worth reading and there’s a wealth of material on the site. But the basic flaw in its world view is that it’s stuck in a time-warp and fails to acknowledge the real world in which Irish struggles to exist – ie, faoi scáth an Bhéarla, the linguistic juggernaut of the contemporary world. It’s a David and Goliath struggle and the miracle is that Irish has survived even to the extent that it has.

    The balance in the Irish language community has shifted from rural based native speakers to urban based native or semi-native speakers and learners. What the spoken language has lost in historic richness and fluency has been compensated for by a wider access to the language through modern media and in its written form. A greater number of people can read and write Irish now than was ever the case before. A large part of the credit for this has to go to the modernisers, including the standardisers and translators for whom an tUasal djwebb2000 seems to reserve a particular disdain.

    Ní mhaireann an tAthair Peadar ach tá an Ghaeilge beo fós más ar éigean é. Is léir domsa nach mairfidh an teanga gan nua-aoisiú agus beidh ról lárnach cinniúnach ag lucht an aistriúcháin san nua-aoisiú seo. Thug mé cuairt ar ionad Cuairteoirí Pharlaimint na hEorpa sa Bhruiséil i mí na Samhna seo caite agus bhí chuile rud ann ar fáil trí Ghaeilge (i bhfoirm labhartha agus scríofa). Bhí an cur i láthair ann ar fheabhas. Ba chúis mhórtais agus gliondar croí dom é go raibh an Ghaeilge suas ansin leis na teangacha Eorpacha eile. Agus chomh maith leis sin ba theistiméiracht é ar cé chomh éifeachtach is atá an fhoireann bheag aistritheoirí s’againne thall ansin.
    Aontaím leis an tuairim go gcuireann an obair sa Bhruiséil go mór le hinfreastruchtúr na Gaeilge. Is obair cheannródaíoch í an obair atá ar siúl ag an bhfoireann ansin. Tá siad ar thús cadhnaíochta i bhforbairt na teanga, á leathnú agus á haclú le haghaidh réimsí nua. Agus dála an scéil, tá siad i bhfad chun tosaigh sna cúrsaí seo ar a gcomhghleacaithe i státseirbhís na hÉireann anseo sa bhaile.

  9. Eoin Ó Murchú says:

    Pseudo-democratic [nonsense]. All languages need new terminologies. That is as true of English as it is of Irish. How many native speakers of English know what an acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy is. Aren’t you the clever bucko to pick a word that barely exists in either language.
    Again what is a neutrino? If people should be penalised for using neoidríonó, what word should they use: Niúitrín, nó céard? Or should they just use the English word?
    The role of the gaelscoileanna is brilliant. Compare when the Irish people switched to English, at first they used the hybrid known as Hiberno-English. When we switch back we won’t immediately switch to pure gaeltacht speech but to one heavily influenced by English. But as time goes by, and using gaeilge is more natural so th elanguage can take back the richest roots which gaeltacht speech entails.
    Our hero writer pretends to be a radical, cutting through the nonsense. In fact he is just another anti-Irish layabout making a few bob from attacking the language as it is spoken throughout Ireland, trying to separate gaeltacht from non-gaeltacht speakers, which will make it easier for the language to die.
    What [nonsense]!

    • djwebb2010 says:

      Maybe all languages need new terminology, but TERMINOLOGY NOT USED BY NATIVE SPEAKERS IS BY DEFINITION NOT IN THE LANGUAGE. You could sit in Ireland making up words for the Somalis to use – but if Somalis don’t take them up, they can’t be considered good Somali. So committees of learners in the Galltacht can only suggest words – but if the Gaeltacht speakers don’t use them, then those words will not have been imported into the language.

  10. michaeleverson932 says:

    I know native speakers of Irish who have learnt twentieth- and twenty-first-century vocabulary. And who write using the Caighdeán Oifigiúil.

    • djwebb2010 says:

      As I said above, Thomas Cranmer used the word immarcescible – and he was a native speaker of English. But the word did not catch on. Native speakers who use the CO are doing so in the belief that their own Irish is “wrong” – because the government says so (and the people in the government who say so are learners….) It is amazing to see how native speakers defer to the shills on government salaries and expense packages, is it not?

      Unless the words that you pretend are “21stC vocabulary” – actually just incorrect words – have entered Gaeltacht speech – they are just not in the language. I expect some native speakers go on focal.ie to find words they don’t know – because they are not in use in native-speaking communities!

      You can’t get round the fact that if words are not used by the Gaeltacht communities, they are not in the language, even if they are words for things that Irish might be thought to need words for.

      Try sitting in Mayo with one hand on your genitalia writing out Dinka words for “mortgage”, “capital gains tax”, “VAT”, “export refunds” – all words that the Dinka people of the Sudan might need if they are not to drop into Arabic or English to express those concepts. But if the Dinka people don’t use the words you make up for them, they will not be genuine words in the language. Even if the occasional Dinka drops into unintelligible speech by using words created by a man sitting in Mayo, if he does so knowing he’s using unintelligible words not accepted in his speech community, he will just be using poor Dinka.

      If you know “native speakers” (Gaeltacht speakers, or speakers of Droch-Ghaelainn from the Irish-medium schools???) use “21stC vocabulary”, maybe you can ask them every time they do so how many people in the Gaeltacht they heard those words from. If the answer is “none” – then it is clear the only real speech communities don’t have those words. You can’t just wave this point away.

      The best Irish speakers are the old seanchaithe – if they don’t use a word – it’s not a correct word to use.

  11. michaeleverson932 says:

    I guess you won’t be interested in reading the new translation of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” when it appears next month. I know a lot of people who will, though. People who live in the present and look to the future.

    I really don’t fathom your worship of native speakers who live in the Gaeltacht. New words and new ideas appear all the time. They are usually presented to minorities via a major language like English or Russian or Spanish or French. What is your advice about Irish words for “mobile telephone”, for “thermos”, for “scanner”, for “binding arbitration”, for “to click”, for “to tweet”, for “internet”, for “web page”, for “terminology”? Why are Gaeltacht speakers—those who live in remote “reservations” the only ones who are important? I am a learner of Irish and I don’t live in a Gaeltacht, and I’m not ever going to live in a Gaeltacht. People ring me on the telephone and speak Irish to me, and I speak Irish back to them. Some of the words I use date back to Old Irish. Some date to the 1950s. Some words I use I helped to invent, and are used by other speakers whom I know—and they don’t have any idea I helped to invent them. I know people who say “teileafón soghluaiste” and I know people who say “guthán póca”. I like the latter. I’ve heard “fón póca” too. I have no idea what they call those things in the Gaeltacht, because I don’t visit Gaeltachts very often. I know that people use these words though. Seems like the language is alive to me.

    • djwebb2010 says:

      The reason why Gaeltacht speakers are important is – duh! – that is the only real speech community. There are learners of French in Dublin – but they should model their speech on – duh!!!! – the French spoken in France, where it is the community language. Why should such an obvious point need to be made? The areas where Irish is the community language should tell YOU how to speak the language – and not the other way round. To say the language is alive outside the Gaeltacht totally ignores the fact that they are speaking it in the Galltacht as a hobby language – one they don’t speak properly. You could compare it to Dr Johnson’s Latin – which Latin speakers in 18th century France couldn’t understand!!! The word for mobile phone is just whatever the native speakers in the Gaeltacht say – I haven’t been able to visit as often as I’d like – I expect fón póca, but whatever it is – it should be whatever they say. And if they say “mobile” – that would be preferable too.

      My French teacher told me to say “la fin de semaine”, but when you go to France, you find out the word is…. drumroll…. le WEEKEND – and the point of learning a language is to learn to speak it as the target speech community does – in the case of France the French of France, in the case of Irish, the Gaeltacht dialects. The fact that you speak to your friends using your own made-up words is neither here nor there. That is just for your private amusement.

      Is Asimov’s Foundation all in Gaeltacht Irish? If so, it was worth publishing.

  12. Robert Stevens says:

    I see you’ve lost none of your charm Mister Webb!

  13. preasail says:

    The trouble with your piss-taking blog is that it’s based on a false premise. You know well that all pure native-born monoglot speakers of Irish are dead. Nonetheless, you’ve fooled quite a few well-known people to respond to your wind-em-up assertions. It’s a pity that yobs like you are on the Internet spouting such fallacious tripe. Do you work for fox-tv, the station that likes to create and prolong controversy, and yearns to be taken seriously? The obvious purpose of your blog is to stop people from learning Irish. Admit it. What better way to follow up for your quaint Sasanach queendom than to carry on the work of the English government and their lackey priestly allies? Native–good; non-native–no good. Very funny! Now go and apply for a position at fox-tv; they’ll love you!

  14. djwebb2010 says:

    By the way, I purchased your summary of the Christian Brother’s Grammar. It makes for an accessible guide to the made-up standard. Although throughout your book there is the STUPID brain-dead decision to refer to the English language as Béarla (in the middle of English-language paragraphs). In general, your book could do with a good subedit, but is useful to those looking for an English-language reference to the incorrect standard.

  15. Pól Ó Braoin says:

    Fágann djwebb2010 ar mo mharana mé, ar bheagán smideanna. Deichniúr a casadh orm, déarfainn féin, nach raibh ach an Ghaeilg acu, an dá theanga ag an gcuid eile de lucht labhartha na Gaeilge. Ní thuigim an doicheall, an nimh seo sa muinchille do lucht foghlamtha na teanga.

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