Tag Archives: the Standard

Pure Evil (English version of Íonaí Meanie)

The Irish language is obviously in trouble. There are people who believe it to be a dead language, though that is obviously untrue. I am able to write this article and I am sure that a lot of people will read it and understand it in the future. If Irish were dead, this wouldn’t be the case, of course. But Irish is in a weakened state, undoubtedly, especially among the young people in the Gaeltachts.

The English were certainly responsible for its decline. They were the ones who made it a language of paupers and pee-ons. They were the ones who forced their culture and their language on our ancestors and left the Irish language up shite creek without a paddle.

Having said that, people often blame the Irish themselves and especially the íonaithe or the purists as they are known in English. The purists are the ones who are killing the language, according to many people. They put off people who are learning the language. They discourage people. They were the ones who created a split between the native Irish of the Gaeltachts and the unnatural Irish of the books! The purists are a disgrace! If it weren’t for them, the language would be safe and sound (yeah, right!)

But this is the question which is bothering me. Who are these purists? You would think that is a simple question, so simple that it is barely worth asking, and that there would be a simple answer too. However, things are rarely as they seem.

Even if we are talking about the official language of written Irish, there are significant differences between the Christian Brothers, the different versions of the Official Standard and the practices that educated writers use in their writings, both native speakers and people in the cities.

Or there are native speakers (I mentioned people like this recently) who will not accept any new-fangled words at all. If a person says that they have to buy bogearraí to put onto the tiomántán crua in their ríomhaire, they will think there is something false and un-Irish about that way of talking. That person should buy software, they would think, to put on the hard drive of the computer. It doesn’t matter to those people that the language can’t survive if it is not able to tackle ordinary modern subjects. And this kind of defeatism didn’t exist in the olden days, when native speakers like Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin were quite happy to make words up rather than accepting words from English. Who are the purists in this case? The native speakers who want to protect their version of the language (which is full of English), or those people who are trying to keep the language free of English?

And what about those people who believe that one dialect is better than any Standard, or the other dialects? There are people like this, people who believe that anything which is not Munster Gaoluinn is not Irish, or that nothing is as good as Ulster Irish. Who are the purists in that case? Them, or the lovers of the Standard?

And there are people who believe that the rot set in long before there was any mention of the Official Standard. For example, John Grenham, a man whose opinions I have little respect for and who doesn’t even have a couple of words (because he wrote those couple of words “an cúpla focal” as the cúpla focail in the same article), claimed (wrongly, of course) that the people of The Gaelic League thought that the language of the people was corrupt and they decided to purify it. And because of that, urban Irish-language experts who had been raised with English were teaching groups of students who also only had English. The result – that English-language idioms, grammar and syntax seeped into the “revived” tongue.

Then, he gives us an example of this impure Irish : My own favourite example is the Irish-language sign in my local park urging dog-owners whose pets foul the grass to “Glan suas é”, “Clean it up”, an utterly idiomatic English phrasal verb translated word by word. Imagine a sign in French that says “Nettoyez-le en haut.” But this comparison is not valid at all, because French has an entirely different history. There are plenty of long-established phrasal verbs in Irish which have suas in them, which is not the case with en haut in French, of course. (If you don’t believe me, this is a line referring to Luther from the year 1615 – he opposed [chuir sé suas do – he put up to] the head of the Church through envy and lust and the phrase glanadh suas/clearing up was common enough with Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin in the 1820s in reference to the weather.) So, it is clear that Grenham’s opinions about the Irish language and its corrupters are nothing but horse feathers and nonsense.

What is my position on these matters, then? Well, I am not a purist. I believe in the Standard. It is a very useful thing. With the Standard, Irish speakers can share books, material on line and other things freely throughout the island and overseas. But it is not necessary to give up the dialects at all. The Standard is only a tool and as is the case with English, it is not a matter of Irish but of Irishes. There are different kinds of Irish which are suitable for different purposes. A conversation in a pub in Kerry and an article on science in a state publication are not the same and it would not be right to use the same kind of Irish in both cases.

Having said that, I respect people who care about the Irish language and who work tirelessly to master it. At the end of the day, we Irish speakers cannot do much to defend the language. The only thing which all of us can do is to learn the language properly and acquire fluency and richness and a wide knowledge. If there are ten thousand people speaking Irish throughout the country every day, the enemies of the language can say that it is not worth saving. It wouldn’t be as easy for them to claim that if there were three hundred thousand, or five hundred thousand, or seven hundred thousand people speaking it every day. If everyone who is favourable to the language learned the language and used it, it would stop the rot immediately.

There are strong similarities between falling in love with a language and falling in love with a person. If you love a language, you will try to learn everything about that language. Not only that, but you will accept that language for what it is. You won’t try to change it or recreate it in your own image, as the various purists mentioned above do – and as those dilettantes do, who are too lazy to put in the effort needed to acquire the basics of the language.

Íonaí Meanie

Is léir go bhfuil an Ghaeilge i dtrioblóid. Tá daoine ann a chreideann gur teanga mharbh í, cé gur cinnte nach bhfuil an méid sin fíor. Tá mise ábalta an t-alt seo a scríobh agus tá mé cinnte go léifidh agus go dtuigfidh neart daoine amach anseo é. Dá mbeadh an Ghaeilge marbh, ní bheadh sin amhlaidh, ar ndóigh. Ach tá an Ghaeilge in ísle brí, gan amhras, go háirithe i measc aos óg na nGaeltachtaí.

Is cinnte gurb iad na Sasanaigh ba chúis leis an mheath sin. Iadsan a rinne teanga an bhochtáin agus an íochtaráin den Ghaeilge. Iadsan a bhrúigh a gcultúr agus a dteanga féin ar ár sinsir agus a d’fhág an Ghaeilge in áit na leithphingine.

Agus sin ráite, is minic a chuirtear an locht ar na Gaeil féin agus go háirithe ar na híonaithe nó na purists mar a deirtear i mBéarla. Is iad na híonaithe atá ag marú na teanga, dar lena lán. Cuireann siad as do dhaoine atá ag foghlaim na teanga. Cuireann siad beaguchtach agus lagmhisneach ar dhaoine. Iadsan a chruthaigh scoilt ollmhór idir Gaeilge dhúchasach na nGaeltachtaí agus Gaeilge mhínádúrtha na leabhar! Mo náire iad na híonaithe! Murab iadsan, bheadh an teanga slán sábháilte, mar dhea!

Ach seo an cheist atá do mo chrá. Cé hiad na híonaithe seo? Shílfeá gur ceist shimplí sin, chomh simplí sin nárbh fhiú í a chur, agus go mbeadh freagra simplí air fosta. Ach ní mar a shíltear a bítear.

Fiú más teanga oifigiúil na leabhar atá i gceist, tá difríochtaí suntasacha idir na Bráithre Críostaí, na leaganacha difriúla den Chaighdeán Oifigiúil agus na nósanna a úsáideann scríbhneoirí oilte na teanga ina gcuid scríbhinní, idir chainteoirí dúchais agus daoine sna cathracha.

Nó tá cainteoirí dúchais ann (luaigh mé a leithéid ar na mallaibh anseo) nach nglacfaidh le focal nua-chumtha ar bith. Má deir duine go bhfuil orthu bogearraí a cheannach le cur ar an tiomántán chrua den ríomhaire, beidh na cainteoirí dúchais seo ag smaoineamh go bhfuil rud éigin bréagach neamh-Ghaelach faoin chaint sin. Caithfidh an duine sin software a cheannach, dar leo, le cur ar an hard drive den computer. Is cuma leis na daoine sin nach féidir leis an teanga maireachtáil mura bhfuil sí ábalta dul i ngleic le gnáthrudaí nua-aoiseacha. Agus ní raibh cloíteacht mar sin ann sna seanlaethanta, nuair a bhí cainteoirí na teanga ar nós Amhlaoibh Uí Shúilleabháin sásta focail a chumadh in áit glacadh le focail ón Bhéarla. Cé hiad na híonaithe sa chás seo? Na cainteoirí dúchais atá ag iarraidh a leagan féin den teanga (atá lán focal Béarla) a chosaint, nó iad siúd atá ag iarraidh an teanga a choinneáil saor ón Bhéarla?

Agus cad é faoi na daoine sin a chreideann go bhfuil canúint amháin níos fearr ná Caighdeán ar bith, nó na canúintí eile? Tá a leithéid ann, daoine a chreideann nach Gaeilge rud ar bith nach Gaoluinn Chúige Mumhan í, nó nach bhfuil canúint ar bith inchurtha le Gaeilge Chúige Uladh. Cé hiad na híonaithe sa chás sin? Iadsan, nó lucht an Chaighdeáin?

Agus tá daoine ann a chreideann gur thosaigh an meath seo i bhfad sula raibh trácht ar an Chaighdeán Oifigiúil. Mar shampla, mhaígh John Grenham, duine nach bhfuil mórán measa agam ar a thuairimí agus nach bhfuil an cúpla focal féin aige (mar scríobh sé an cúpla focal sin “an cúpla focal” mar an cúpla focail san alt chéanna), gur shíl muintir Chonradh na Gaeilge go raibh caint an phobail truaillithe agus go ndearna siad íonú ar an teanga dá réir (nil an méid seo fíor, ar ndóigh). Agus mar gheall air sin, bhí saineolaithe uirbeacha Gaeilge a tógadh le Béarla ag teagasc grúpaí daltaí nach raibh ach Béarla acu fosta. An toradh – gur shíothlaigh cora cainte, gramadach agus comhréir an Bhéarla isteach sa teanga “athbheoite”.

Ansin, tugann sé sampla dúinn den Ghaeilge neamhghlan seo: Is é an sampla is fearr liom féin ná an comhartha Gaeilge sa pháirc áitiúil a áitíonn ar úinéirí madaí a mbíonn a gcuid peataí ag salú an fhéir le “Glan suas é”, “Clean it up”, briathar frásach atá go hiomlán nádúrtha sa Bhéarla atá aistrithe focal ar fhocal. Samhlaigh comhartha i bhFraincis a bhfuil “Nettoyez-le en haut” air. Ach níl an chomparáid seo ceart ar chor ar bith, mar tá stair iomlán difriúil ag an Fhraincis. Tá neart briathra frásacha seanbhunaithe sa Ghaeilge a bhfuil suas iontu, rud nach bhfuil sa Fhraincis le en haut, ar ndóigh. (Mura gcreideann sibh mé, seo líne ag trácht ar Liútar ón bhliain 1615 – chuir sé suas do cheann na hEagluise tré formad agus ainmhian agus bhí ag glanadh suas coitianta go leor ag Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin sna 1820í agus é ag trácht ar an aimsir.) Mar sin de, is léir nach bhfuil i dtuairimí Grenham faoin Ghaeilge agus lucht a truaillithe ach cleití capaill agus amaidí.

Cad é an seasamh atá agamsa maidir leis na nithe seo, mar sin? Bhal, ní íonaí mise. Creidim sa Chaighdeán. Rud úsáideach atá ann. Leis an Chaighdeán, is féidir le lucht na Gaeilge leabhair, ábhar ar líne agus rudaí nach iad a roinnt go saor lena chéile ar fud an oileáin agus thar lear. Ach ní gá éirí as na canúintí ar fad, ná ar chor ar bith. Níl sa Chaighdeán ach uirlis. Agus mar atá i gcás an Bhéarla, ní Gaeilge atá i gceist ach Gaeilgí. Tá cineálacha difriúla Gaeilge ann atá fóirsteanach do chásanna éagsúla. Ní hionann comhrá sa phub i gCiarraí agus alt ar an eolaíocht i bhfoilseachán stáit agus ní cóir an cineál céanna Gaeilge a úsáid sa dá chás.

Agus sin ráite, tá meas agam ar dhaoine a bhfuil dúil acu sa Ghaeilge agus a bhíonn ag obair go dúthráchtach le máistreacht a fháil uirthi. I ndeireadh na dála, ní féidir linne, lucht na Gaeilge, rud mór a dhéanamh leis an teanga a chosaint. An t-aon rud is féidir le gach duine againn a dhéanamh ná an teanga a fhoghlaim mar is ceart agus líofacht agus saibhreas agus eolas leathan a fháil. Má bhíonn deich míle duine ag labhairt Gaeilge gach lá ar fud na tíre, is féidir le naimhde na teanga a rá nach fiú í a shábháil. Ní bheadh sé chomh furasta sin a mhaíomh dá mbeadh trí chéad míle, nó cúig chéad míle, nó seacht gcéad míle duine á labhairt gach lá. Dá ndéanfadh gach duine atá i bhfách leis an Ghaeilge an teanga a fhoghlaim agus a úsáid, chuirfeadh sin stop leis an mheath láithreach.

Tá cosúlachtaí láidre idir titim i ngrá le teanga agus titim i ngrá le duine. Má tá grá agat do theanga, beidh tú ag iarraidh gach rud a fhoghlaim faoin teanga sin. Ní hamháin sin, ach glacfaidh tú leis an teanga sin mar atá. Ní bheidh tú ag iarraidh í a athrú nó a athchruthú i d’íomhá féin, mar a dhéanann na híonaithe éagsúla atá luaite thuas – agus mar a dhéanann na dileataint (dilettantes) atá rófhalsa an dua a chaitheamh le máistreacht a fháil ar bhunchlocha na teanga.