Comparative Vocab in Ulster and Scottish Gaelic

I recently spent a wee spell in a gorgeous part of the Tír Chonaill Gaeltacht, Gaoth Dobhair (I had never been there before - yes, shocking, I know!) and have since endeavoured to become better acquainted with the Ulster dialect. One thing that struck me was how similar their pronunciation of “Caide mar atá tú?” sounded to the Gàidhlig “Ciamar mar a tha thu?”. This particular area in Donegal had quite strong connections with Scotland, and people across the generations have moved backwards and forwards between the two areas of Gaoth Dobhair and the Gorbals in Glasgow. From conversations with Tír Chonaill friends of mine (from Gaoth Dobhair and Rann na Feirste), I’ve noticed a few words that are the same or similar use in Gàidhlig. After my trip, I acquired a copy of An Teanga Bheo: Gaeilge Uladh by Dónaill Ó Baoill (which joins my much-referred to and tattered copy of the Gaeilge Chonamara in the same series). There’s a wee ‘Stór Focal’ or vocabulary section at the end of the book, which is handy for getting to grips with idiomatic or local uses of certain words. I noted the words that had Gàidhlig echoes and decided to share them here. The study of the close relation between Ulster Irish and Scottish Gaelic has been touched on, but I’m not sure if it has been discusses extensively. Maybe those of you out there with more knowledge on the subject could direct us into the direction of some sources?


ábhar / adhbhar

  • Goidé an t-ábhar nach dtáinig sé? (Why didn’t he come?)

  • Ní thiocfaidh sé ar an ábhar sin (He won’t come then/because of that)

  • Dè b’ adhbhar dha seo? (What was the reason for this)

  • air an adhbhar sin (for that reason, because of that)

barraíocht / barrachd

  • barraíocht is ‘too much’ in Gaeilge, while barrachd is ‘more’ or ‘extra’ in Gàidhlig.

buachaill / buachaill

  • The meaning of ‘shepherd’ or ‘herdsboy’ as opposed to ‘boy’ (in general) for the word buachaill is stronger in Ulster, with the word having the same meaning in Scotland.

  • Buachailleacht is the act of herding, which is buachailleachd in Gàidhlig.

cé / ge(d)

  • is pronouced as ‘gidh’ in Ulster, which is closer to the Gàidhlig ge or ged (‘though’ or although’)

  • Gidh gur liom é (Though it’s mine)

  • Ged a racadh do chasan os do chionn (Even though you might be turned upside down)

cha / cha

  • Ulster Gaeilge uses the forms cha, chan, and char for the negative instead of and níor. Gàidhlig uses cha and chan (cha robh, chan eil), though some dialects pronounce it like and níl.

  • Cha raibh mé ann. / Cha robh mi ann. (I wasn’t there.)

  • Chan fhuair mé é. / Cha d’ fhuair mi e. (I didn’t get it.)

  • Char imigh siad go fóill. / Cha d’ fhàg iad fhathast. (They didn’t leave yet.)

  • Chan Máire a bhí ann. / Chan e Màiri a bh’ ann. (It wasn’t Mary.)

cionn is / a chionn

  • In Ulster, cionn is is used for ‘because’; D’imigh sé cionn is muid sin a rá (He left because we said that)

  • In Gàidhlig, a chionn means ‘because’, ‘for that reason’; a chionn nach do chreid iad (because they did not believe)

  • Óir in Gaeilge and oir in Gàidhlig are also both used for ‘because’; Óir tá mé ag mothú tuirseach / Oir tha mi a’ faireachdainn sgìth (Because I’m feeling tired)

cuimhneach le / cuimhne le

  • An cuimhin leat? (do you remember) is found in other dialects and in the standard Irish, but Ulster speakers use an cuimhneach leat? This is closer to the Gàidhlig an cuimhne leat?

  • An cuimhneach leat an ghaoth mhór? Is cuimhneach. / An cuimhne leat a’ ghaoth mhòr? ‘S cuimhne. (Do you remember the big wind? I do.)

dáiríre / dha-rìribh

  • The Ulster form for dáiríre (serious) is dáiríribh, which is closer to the Gàidhlig dha-rìribh.

  • 'Bhfuil tú i ndáiríribh? / An (ann) an dha-rìribh a tha thu? (Are you serious?)

i ndiaidh / an déidh

  • The pronunciation for i ndiaidh (after) in Gaeilge Uladh is like the Gàidhlig an déidh; Tá sé i ndéidh a bheith ansin / Tha e an déidh bhith an sin (He’s after being there)

díth / dìth

  • In Irish I’d tend to say Tá sé de dhíth orm (I need/want it), but in Ulster they say a dhíth (which I prefer, to be honest)

  • Tá sé a dhíth orm / Tha e a dhìth orm (I need/want it)

dóigh / dòigh

  • There are multiple uses for dóigh in Gaeilge Uladh: ar dhóigh (in a way); goidé an dóigh atá ort? (how are you?); ar doígh (fine, nice). In Gàidhlig it also has the meaning of ‘way’; air an aon dòigh (in the same way) and the similar positive connotations of air dòigh (happy).

  • Bhí an oíche sin ar dóigh (That was a great/lovely night)

  • Bha mi air mo dhòigh ann (I was happy there)

doiligh / doiligh

  • Instead of deacair (hard, difficult) we find doiligh in both Gaeilge Uladh and Gàidhlig. Doirbh is another word for the same meaning in Gàidhlig.

  • Níl sé doiligh a fhoghlaim / Chan eil e doiligh a ionnsachadh (It’s not hard to learn)

idir / eadar

  • Idir (between) is pronounced as ‘eadar’ in Gaeilge Uladh, which is closer to the Gàidhlig.

eagla / eagal

  • Eagla (fear) is eagal in Gaeilge Uladh and Gàidhlig.

fadálach / fadalach

  • Fadálach in Gaeilge Uladh means ‘slow’, ‘tedious’, ‘tiresome’, while fadalach in Gàidhlig means ‘late’, ‘tardy’.

faichilleach / faiceallach

  • This is pretty much the same word in both languages, meaning ‘careful’.

feidhm / feum

  • Feidhm in Ulster means ‘need’, while in Gàidhlig it means ‘need’ and ‘use’; if you see how the word is used, it kind of has the same meaning in both languages.

  • Níl feidhm agam air/dó/leis (I have no need for it, i.e it’s no use to me)

  • 'S beag feum a rinn sin dhomh (That was of little use to me)

  • Tá feidhm ag do mháthair ort (Your mam wants/needs you)

  • An robh feum agad orm? (Did you call for me?/Were you looking for me?)

feitheamh / feitheamh

  • This has the same meaning in both languages; Bhí mé ag feitheamh leat / Bha mi a’ feitheamh riut (I was waiting for you)

  • Fanacht is found in other Irish dialects, and fanachd in southern Scottish Gaelic dialects.

fuirigh / fuirich

  • Again, this is pretty much the same verb with the same meaning; Fuirigh bomaite / Fuirich mionaid (Wait a minute)

furasta / furasda

  • The same again here, both meaning ‘easy’.

garraí / gàrradh

  • Gairdín is the standard Irish word for ‘garden’, but in Ulster and in some parts of Connacht it’s garraí. The Gàidhlig gàrradh is pronounced as ‘garraí’ in some dialects, and is gàrraidh in the genitive (pronounced ‘gàrraí’)

glan / glan

  • This word can mean ‘clean’, but, more interestingly, it has the added meaning of ‘totally’, ‘completely’ in Ulster and Scotland.

  • Bhí sé briste glan (It was completely broken)

  • Bha mi air mo dhòigh ghlan (I was totally happy)

go maith / gu math

  • This is used to denote when something is ‘very’ something; Tá sé fuar go maith / Tha e gu math fuar (It’s very cold)

leaba / leabaidh

  • Both meaning ‘bed’, though leaba is pronounced as ‘leabaidh’ in Ulster.

níos / nas

  • Níos (more, comparative particle) is pronounced ‘nas’ in Ulster, and seems to lenite the f in fearr like in the Gàidhlig; Tá sí nas fhearr inniu / Tha i nas fheàrr an-diugh (She’s better today)

nuacht / naidheachd

  • Nuaíocht is used instead of nuacht in Ulster (and in some parts of Connacht) for ‘news’, which is a bit closer to the Gàidhlig naidheachd.

oscail / foscail

  • Again, Gaeilge Uladh uses a form closer to the Gàidhlig foscail (open).

sáith / saith

  • The word saith is found in the Gàidhlig of Islay (the closest Scottish Gaelic dialect to Gaeilge), meaning ‘bellyful’, ‘satiety’. In Gaeilge Uladh, if you say ‘D’ith siad a sáith’ it means ‘They ate their fill’.

tosaigh / tòisich

  • The verb for ‘begin’ or ‘start’; in Ulster the form ‘toisigh’ is used,.

tríú / treas

  • Instead of tríú for ‘third’, treas is found in Gaeilge Uladh as in the Gàidhlig.

nua / ùr

  • Again, Gaeilge Uladh uses úr to mean ‘new’ as in Gàidhlig.

guí / ùrnaigh

  • Another example of Gaeilge Uladh using a more Scottish form, with úrnaí instead of guí for ‘prayer’. Though Gàidhlig also uses guidh.

Comparative_Vocab_in_Ulster_and_Scottish_Gaelic.pdf Download this file

"Gaelic? Or Irish, Scottish and Manx?" : Your Comments

Go raibh maith agaibh :: Tapadh leibh :: Thank you all for sharing your views. I’m creating a collection here of all your comments, from the blog page itself, the Facebook page and Twitter. If people add more, I’ll be sure to update this post with them.

Comments on the blog:

Seán Ó Hóireabhard: Well a chara, I come in on the opposite side of this debate. The term Gaelic is not offensive in of itself - one is proud to consider oneself a “Gael”, to support a Gaelic Ireland and to support Gaeilge na hAlban whatsoever it calls itself, Gaelic included. However, the history of the term is negative - the Anglo Irish used it and despised the language, and The Gaelic League changed its name partly because of the effect the word “Gaelic” was creating in the public image. Reference is made to this in Proinsias Mac Aonghusa’s “Ar Son na Gaeilge”, a history of Conradh na Gaeilge. Not only is the history of the term one of abuse - (much like “Fenian” which has suffered a similar fate) its connotations are ones of backwardness and poverty. The term itself reminds Irish people of their inferiority under colonial rule and I believe that Irish people (sub-consciously) run a mile when they hear it. I don’t think it does anything for Scottish either, and I advocate a re-branding for our cousins.

Irish, Scottish, Welsh.

Ian MacDonald: In Scotland, the term Gaelic, used on its own (as it generally is), simply means Scottish Gaelic - for the majority of the population this is the language, in isolation from any culture or people, which is barely recognised, though those with a connection have a wider understanding.

The possible emotive responses linked to this word are probably more significant to all Scots than any potential use outside of Scotland. The range is from utter contempt to soaring pride, with the weight of numbers in the somewhat favourable but rather bemused camp (to the extent that a large number of Scots will opt to pronounce it ‘Gay-lick’ because that’s sort of how it looks like it should be pronounced in English).

The term Gael has never been widely used. One difficulty is that in Gaelic, the term is ambiguous, principally meaning highlander (regardless of language), as well as signifying someone with Gaelic origins. The Gaelic movement has now taken it as its own, to some effect.

Rebranding in Scotland is not needed to overcome any massive negative perception, or for any other reason. There is some anti-Gaelic reporting in the press, mainly, but it is increasingly isolated. Our problem has for at least 40 years been apathy, not antipathy.

Recently, things genuinely appear to be moving toward enlightenment and even a degree of pride in Gaelic. Calling it Scottish would be wholly strange and confusing to Scots, and counterproductive.

We Scots view the Celtic language spoken in Ireland as Irish, though we would also recognise the term Irish Gaelic. Gaelic speakers would of course recognise Gaeilge, and realise its closeness linguistically and in terms of shared need.

As for Manx Gaelic, those that are aware of it are generally approving of its closeness to our own variety of Gaelic, and of the success of Manx people in achieving revival and recognition for their language.

Joint Gaelic/Irish broadcasts such as Sruth na Maoile and Taigh Ciùil can only have a positive effect on mutual recognition and understanding, and ultimately progress for our languages. I would also imagine there is a role for Welsh and other southern Celtic languages as these are not as distant linguistically or politically, as all that.

Brian Ó Maoldúin: "Your language is a major factor in how you view the world"
How true. I would go as far as to say that the grammar and nuances of any nations’ language is a great indicator of that nation’s character. The Gaelic languages demonstrate that the Gaelic peoples were very respectful and law abiding. Our ancestors were not the uncivilised warring people portrayed by the Norman/Vatican or Elizabethian invaders. A small example , When addressing someone by name in Gaelic, the name is aspirated and put in the genitive case. This has the effect of softening the pronunciation thereby showing respect to the individual. Another is that there are no verbs “to have or “to own”. This would indicate that they believed their possessions ,land or wealth were a gift or blessing but could be taken away from them at any time should they not care for them or use them fittingly.
Gaelic languages and the Brehon laws paint a picture of a caring secular society very different from the uncivilised indisciplined warring people I was taught about at school.
It is time the Dept. of Education revised their History curriculum and scrap the “Celtic” rubbish written by English, victorian (so called) historians. It is time for our children to be taught the TRUE history of this nation and our ancestors.

Seán De Búrca: I have a lot I want to say, and I’ll write up a more engaged post on the Irish/Gaelic later, but first I feel a desperate need to address one claim, and the comment which picks up on it: linguistic relativism, or the idea that language influences cognition. I’m currently a near-graduated student of linguistics at university, planning on going on to graduate school when I finish. I am not focusing on sociolinguistics, but nonetheless these are claims that come up very frequently, and are very familiar.

The idea that language determines thought processes and cognitive categories is called the strong Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and is, among linguists, almost universally considered false. The weak Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which says that language can affect cognition in a limited way, has more general acceptance. I would like to emphasise the word ‘limited’. Experiments have to be cleverly designed to demonstrate differences in cognition between speakers of two different languages. I therefore disagree with the statement that it is a major factor in one’s view of the world. Instead, culture (which is generally closely tied with language) is a more likely culprit. Language communities of course have their own idiosyncratic contributions to subculture.

Brian, it isn’t my desire to refute your statements about Gaelic culture, but I do want to add a linguist’s view of the particular phenomena you mentioned. When addressing someone, the lenition of the name is due to regular sound changes in the history of the Celtic languages. Respect does not play into it. If it did, would that mean I respected Tadhg more than Ruairí? Extending it, do I have more respect for the window than the doctor? Perhaps the Gaels were more respectful toward others than surrounding groups, but that has nothing to do with leniting forms of address.

Second, the lack of ‘to have’ or ‘to own’ is a red herring. The structures still exist in the language, and have since the earliest written records of Old Irish. In fact, parallel structures exist in at least Welsh, suggesting it goes back to a time when people spoke the language that later became Old Irish and British. The same meaning can be expressed. The same concepts of ownership and possession existed. The linguistic structure is all that differs.

Again, this isn’t an attack on perceptions of the Gaels. My only desire is to stamp out a long-running linguistic myth that never ceases to rankle.

barnai (Brian Ó Maoldúin?): Many thanks for your reply. Please keep on refuting any thoughts I post otherwise I’ll learn nothing.
Just to put you in the picture. I’m not a scholar of linguistics, sociology or indeed Irish history. I do however have an insatiable love of reading books, dissertations,theories etc on these subjects. Just occasionally, this can be an advantage because I have no preconceptions nor do I accept any unproven theories to be true no matter how convincing the arguments.
I believe that the history I was taught at school, though in the main factually correct in terms of dates & events, was thoroughly sanitized and censored by the church and state. The alleged Celtic invasions being a case in point. My son had to do an essay on this for his exams recently, even though no such invasion ever took place. Recent advances in mapping our genetic composition has confirmed this.
In terms of our language I agree with you that language does not determine thought processes I do however think that collective thought processes and collective behaviors are reflected in the language. In short the character of the language reflects the disposition of the people.
With regard to “Is liom” & “Tá agam”. To own can just as easily be translated as to have stewardship over. It was only with the coming of the Vikings and later the Normans that Gaelic perspectives ownership began to change. Even so only the South & East were effected. In fact the entire Brehon law system with regard to ownership is based on the fact that each of us is here for a short period of time therefore ownership is temporary even during ones lifetime. It is an accurate reflection of a peoples core beliefs.
I am also struggling with the “P-Celt” “Q-Celt” theory. Given that we are not and never were Celts. Welsh Cornish and Breton neither look or sound like Gaelic. One look at their respective dictionaries is enough to show that. I reminds me of the Paleontologist who, based on current evolutionary theories concluded that the mammoth was the ancestor of the rhinoceros. Anyone with a pair of eyes can see it’s an ancient elephant.
Anyway that’s enough of my amateurish ranting. I look forward to hearing from ye.
Le Gach Dea Ghuidhe.

Facebook comments:

Aonghus Dwane: Gle mhath!

Isaac M. Davis: Iontach maith!

Kevin J. McLauchlin: 's fheàrr leam 'Gàidhlig, Gaeilge, agus Gaelg.' Nì gach uile fhacail cùisean troimh-a-chèile. Cleachdaidh an t-uabhas a dhaoine ann an Alba (gu h-àraid air a' Ghalltachd) Gaelic a chum brìgh a dhèanamh nan uile chànan. Is coma leam gach dòigh eile a bhith a' cur an cèill an diofair.

Xaviar Cava: In my opinion, although nowadays are regarded as separate languages, they are all forming a dialect continuum with different standards (with ‘An Caighdeán’ and ‘Gàidhlig meadhan na mara’ as clearly cases of diglossia).

…so, I think that Gaelic is an appropiate term.

Isaac M. Davis: I think that Gaelic is a useful term, and if the speakers of all the varieties thought of themselves as speakers of one big transnational language, then I’d be happy to speak of it thus. However, since they don’t, so much, I go with the flow and tell people that I speak Irish, and talk about them as different languages. When I was at a conference on the Isle of Man, back in May, though, there were many inter-Gaelic conversations, once the Irish-speakers had learnt a bit of Manx and were able to modify their utterances accordingly so that they were more likely to be understood.

John O’Brien: Gaelic is a handy term cos when ever someone says to me, do you speak Gaelic, I immediately know that they aren’t from Ireland.

Phil Busby: Yes that’s right

Xavier Cava: It is important to state too that gaeilge, gàidhlig, gaelg and even gaelic, are cognates. The first three are autonyms and the last one is an exonym.

Phil Busby: its great that its still popular

Edoardo McKenna (Éamonn MacCionaith): Apologies for barging in in this fashion, but by a fortunate coincidence I was discussing the topic this very morning with my uni supervisors.
The point of contention was the classification of Gàidhlig within the context of its historical evolution, particularly against the backdrop of the unified literary language known to this day as “Classical Irish”. A few eyebrows were raised when in one of my submissions I opted for “Classical Gaelic” instead (I’ll explain in a sec).
To simplify things somewhat, over the past two centuries there have been two main tendencies among scholars: on the one hand those who consider Gàidhlig a mere off-shot of Irish (not to say a dialect), who are essentially Irish or Continental researchers (most notably Germans), and on the other a not negligible group of Scots who consider it completely independent of it, with some debatable theories involving both Pictish (see Diack, for example) as well as ‘nativisation’ (see Campbell’ the Sea kingdom of the Scots, as well as Colm O’Baoill in Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig).
My point was that in a diachronic context the language had always been known (at least in records) as Gaeilge, Geulach, Gàidhlig, Gaelg, or a variant thereof (as you correctly pointed out), and the only way to mirror this fact nowadays was to adopt the orthographically uniform term “Gaelic”. My point was taken, albeit somewhat willy-nilly. Having said this, your post made me think of another aspect: in dealing with language standardisation there is the accepted consesus based on Kloss’ definition that a dialect or a speech variant may become a language by means of Ausbau, or the engineered development usually promoted by a state. That seems to fit the Irish scenario fairly well: a variant of the Gaelic language, in itself genetically related to the other two (therefore no Abstand, or genetic distance, in Kloss’ terms), becomes “Irish” with its adoption by the Irish State; a similar case could well be Luxembourgish, in itself a peculiar Central German dialect elevated to the role of national language with a different name. So the two definitions are not necessarily at odds.

Finally, concerning your question on self identity for non-Gàidhlig Gaels: yes, they are still largely considered part of the Gaels’ community by virtue of ancestry and family ties, especially if they are only 2nd or 3rd generation on the mainland and have kept their ties to the original island (I think I read something in this sense in A companion to the gaelic language, mcleod and macleod, but don’t take my word for it-it’s been a while) Apologies for the long post, but keep your blog going, it’s an excellent idea and good food for thought. Le meas, Ed.

Ps. Another interesting point could be whether the modern varieties of gaeilge are linguistically one language: Donegal Gaeilge is very very similar to Gàidhlig, and the now defunct Tyrone and East Ulster ones were even more so. Connacht gaeilge is still approchable, from a Scottish perspective, while Munster’s is essentially a related but foreign language (the conjugations and the stress patterns being the main problem). From an historical perspective (see the Irish Dalriada in Scotland, which hailed essentially from Antrim and Down) Gàidhlig is an off-shot of Ulster gaeilge, and I suspect the discriminating line shoud be set somewhere along the Shannon, rather than in the Sruth na Maoile :-D Cheers!

Séamas Ó Sionnaigh: There are vociferous minorities of English speakers in Ireland and Scotland who determinedly use the terms Gaelic and Gaels to differentiate themselves from those they identify as having a different identity (ethnicity?) from their own. In Ireland it is not so bad, though you will see newspaper commentators who refuse to use the words “Irish language” and always couch it in the terms of “Gaelic” and “Gaelic speakers” (usually with half-a-dozen discriminatory or quasi-racists remarks). In Scotland it is far worse. If we drop terms like the “Irish language” or the “Scottish language” and embrace the “Gaelic language” we lose the essential connection between language, culture and nation in both countries. And we hand a victory to that small minority of militant Anglophones who wish to destroy the native languages and cultures of both nations.

Additionally, the Irish, Scottish and Manx languages, though very close cousins, are not the same. They may be dialectal versions of the same mother tongue (Gaelic!) but they have diverged enough to deserve their own identifying terms. That is not to deny a Pan-Gaelic identity (we are the “sea-divided Gaels”) or the necessity for keeping the term Gaelic as a useful identifier in the English language for that international ethnicity or for Irish, Scots and Manx people with a “native” identity, either through birth or adoption in later life (though in this I would be far more expansive in my definition of who qualifies as a Gael and would not restrict it to native speakers but to anyone who self-identifies with the term in its fullest extent).

I agree absolutely with the promotion of a Gaelic identity that embraces the Gaelic nations and peoples as a whole. I would see Ireland, Scotland and Mann in a Gaelic Council along the lines of the Scandinavian Council and closer co-operation between our respective governments. Especially if that would ease the old sectarian and ethnic tensions in both nations. If the British or Scots-Irish minority in Ireland could be accommodated and integrated via a Scottish Gaelic identity, while the Irish minority in Scotland could be accommodated or integrated via a Gaelic Irish identity, both nations would benefit hugely. Just a few thoughts.

Phil Busby: irish language tends to get labelled as a republican ideal when in my case i love the language although im really still school boy ish /holiday standard i embrace it as a cultural thing. thats why im commited to learn more of it by 2015.

Edoardo McKenna (Éamonn MacCionaith): @ Séamas: Just a few considerations on your comments, if I may. I agree completely with your observation that using “Irish” and “Scottish” in connection to the language does carry an emotive and affective connotation for many people; nonetheless, I am under the impression that the importance of the local label may be greater in Ireland (presumably for historical and political reasons) than it is in Scotland. Regardless of what attitude people have towards the language, both supporters and detractors usually call it simply Gàidhlig, and in their mind-set there is no question that it IS an integral part of Scottish culture (the days of yore when Highlanders were called “Erse”, or Irish, as if they were a separate body within the country, are luckily gone and forgotten). In other words, as John O’ brien pointed out above, the general pronunciation ‘Gah-lick’, even when spellt Gaelic, is enough to make it Scottish. And I doubt that detractors would change their mind simply because the language retains a national label.

You are also right in highlighting that in a synchronic context the 3 languages are different enough to be something more than variants: but would the retention of Gailge, Gàidhlig and Gaelg as denominations not be sufficient to designate both diversity and communality? Just a thought. The Pan-Gael council would be an excellent idea, but unfortunately I doubt it would be viable: since history and sectarianism still play a noticeable role in the social lives of both countries, it is often the case that speakers on both side of the Sruth (whether native or learners) do not wish to to be associated with one another, alas and alack.

As for your suggestion of mutual cultural accommodation, the Protestant group in Ireland would hardly agree with a Scottish Gaelic identity, since Gàidhlig was historically the mother tongue of only a section of the settlers, and some of them were not even Scots at all.
Moreover, whenever their members have taken an interest in Celtic
things, it was usually the Gaeilge they turned to, for the simple fact that, well, they live in Ireland (there’s an excellent book on 18th century Gailge promoters and language users within Ulster’s Presbyterian community, the title fails me now). Conversely, the descendants of the Irish in Scotland seldom have an interest in the ancestral language beyond the few slogans and chants heard on football pitches; I suspect this may be largely due to the suppression of the collective memory linked to poverty and emigration (a cliché which dies hard in Scotland) as well as, presumably, the pressure towards integration.

I hope I have not been too polemic, just a few thoughts I wanted to share with you. :-)

Séamas Ó Sionnaigh: Lots of points to agree with there :-) I use “Scottish” for the same reasons I also use “Irish”: to tie nation and nationality and national language together. The very same reasons why the opponents of Irish and Scottish use Gaelic but with the opposite intent. In an ideal world, where the Gaelic languages and English were of equal validity in their respective countries, there would perhaps be no such need but unfortunately we live under a post-colonial paradigm with all that stems from it.

If you examine the general attitudes in Scotland towards the Scottish language, yes there is a rising tide of good will, but equally there is still (intense) hostility. Terms like “Erse” are still in use (look to the Comments sections of any Scottish newspaper site, such as the Scotsman) as well as arguments that Gaelic is not Scottish because it was imported from Ireland, and is therefore foreign to the Scottish nation (nonsense we know). Even more ridiculous (or desperate) are the arguments that the native language of north-eastern Scotland should be Norwegian or Icelandic because of the temporary Viking presence in those areas, which means there is no place for Gaelic in those regions (but none for Norwegian or Icelandic either!). On the North, I agree that most of the British minority in Ireland reject any form of Gaelic identity – even a Scottish one. But most is not all. Look at the work of An Droichead in this area. /2011/08/23/the-irish-and- scottish-languages-a-union-of-hearts-and-minds/ Even if a minority of the minority were to embrace some form of Gaelicness, or see relations between Ireland and Scotland in the light of an ancient Gaelic milieu, it might build somewhat towards a shared future on this island.

Maybe I’m too hopeful? Or too much of a Pan-Gaelic nationalist? ;-)

Twitter comments:

@Goidheal (Brian Ó Maoldúin): Iontach maith.

@AnSionnachFionn (Séamas Ó Sionnaigh): But using “Gaelic” plays into the hands of some militant anglophones in Ireland who argue that Gaelic/Gaels are not “Irish”.

@leftmostcat: Here’s a vote for some sort of comment system. (Disqus on tumblr?) I have a lot to say, and 140 characters just isn’t enough!

@Goidheal (Brian Ó Maoldúin): In Ireland it’s “An Ghaeilge” In the north of the country Gaeilge is pronounced gaeilic. Older spelling An Ghoidhlige

@Goidheal (Brian Ó Maoldúin): Genetically 90% of people in Ireland with Gaelic surnames are Gaels.

@cumhnaint (Muiris): Thòisich Gaelige ann an Èirinn agus dh`fhàs Gàidhlig as Gaelige. ‘S ann gòrach a tha “militant anglophones”.

@AnSionnachFionn (Séamas Ó Sionnaigh): Gaelic = mother tongue. Irish, Scottish & Manx = daughter tongues. Gaelic identifies all 3 and individually. Will post to FB

@cumhnaint (Muiris): Uill, aontaichidh mi, ach na dìochuimhnichibh gum bruidhinn Gaidheal Gàidhlig/Gaelige cuideachd.


Gaelic? Or Irish, Scottish and Manx?

So I’m hoping to resuscitate Sruth na Maoile, on this blog, Twitter and Facebook. Posterous has improved its iPhone app, so it might give me opportunities to blog more frequently. As you can imagine, real life has to take you away from your online life from time to time! My problem is that I tend to write very long blogs, on here and on my personal blog (, and that can put me off even attempting to blog if I have demands in my life already.

On my personal Twitter account (@ANiDhorchaidhe) today, I entered into a debate about the term ‘Gaelic’. Now, in Ireland, Irish-speakers often take issue with the term ‘Gaelic’ being applied to Irish. This goes back to the days of the Irish Free State, and even further back again. The Irish language became part of the political cause for the freedom of Ireland, as can be expected. As such, Irish-language speakers and learners took issue with the language being called ‘Gaelic’. Only the Brits and the Anglo-Irish referred to the Irish language as ‘Gaelic’ (the word often being spat out in distaste). Irish speakers felt that the term ‘Gaelic’ suggested a language that was a thing of the past, and not relevant to the would-be modern Irish state. The people were ‘Irish’, so the language should be ‘Irish’. However, not every Irish person speaks Irish. Ireland is a bilingual country (in theory anyway), with speakers of Irish and Hiberno-English. (However, Hibero-English is becoming less Hiberno with the media influences of English and American English. Especially the latter.) Irish became the national language of Ireland. Which is merely a symbolic position, unfortunately.

Linguistically, not every Irish person can claim to be a Gael. Only Irish-speakers, whether native or learners, can be described as Gaels, as they have the Gaelic mindset inherited through their language. (Your language is a major factor in how you view the world. Look at semantics, very interesting topic!) This would suggest a difference between ‘Irish’ and ‘Gael’. As a post-colonial society, it can be seen clearly that Ireland’s people have been altered by the colonisation process. The majority of the population have been alienated from their original Gaelic culture. Personally, I think the ‘original’ Gaelic culture that existed in Ireland died after British occupation, and only remnants exist, that people guard ferociously. Unfortunately, ‘Gaelic’ culture has become manufactured beyond recognition as an attraction for tourists, another symptom of the post-colonial reality. But that’s a topic for another day. The point that I’m trying to make is that Irish and Gaelic can be taken to refer to two different cultures. As the Irish language is Gaelic, in which the ‘Gaelic mindset’ is preserved, why not call it Gaelic? Call it Irish Gaelic, as distinct from but related to Scottish and Manx Gaelic. In my humble opinion, the three forms of Gaelic need to start relating with and supporting one another, if they are to survive. If we start referring to Irish as ‘Gaelic’, this might foster a relation with the sister forms of the Gaelic language.

Aside from all of this analysis of culture: ‘Irish’ in Irish is ‘Gaeilge’, Scottish Gaelic is ‘Gàidhlig’ and Manx Gaelic is ‘Gaelg’. Isn’t the closest English word to these words ‘Gaelic’? The Gaelic languages refer to themselves as ‘Gaelic’, so why can’t the Irish get over it? When you think about it, Irish-speakers wouldn’t have really needed to refer to their language much in English, which leads me to think that it was actually Irish English-speakers with a certain political agenda who came up with this notion of Gaeilge being called ‘Irish’.

I remember John Purser bringing up this topic in a lecture that he gave in UCD. He took issue with the Irish referring to their Gaelic as ‘Irish’. He said it should be either Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic, or ‘Irish’ and ‘Scottish’. The latter would not only undermine my argument above, but it might also cause confusion with the Scots language. And that wouldn’t help the people who still think that Gàidhlig and Scots are the same language! :-/

When I’m in Scotland, I relish in the fact that I can refer to the language as ‘Gàidhlig’ in English-speaking contexts, as the Scots pronounce ‘Gaelic’ as it’s pronounced in Scottish Gaelic. I can say ‘Gaeilge’ in Ireland, but it’s not the same deal. Gàidhlig is Gaelic [gah-lik]/[ˈkaːlikʲ] in Scotland, end of story.

I’m interested in the Scottish opinion of this terminology. There’s an obvious distinction between Highlanders and Lowlanders in Scotland, but would Highlanders who don’t speak Gaelic consider themselves as Gaels? Are there Highlanders who do feel that Gàidhlig should be referred to as ‘Scottish’ in English?

I would heartily welcome people’s insights and opinions on this matter, be you Irish (Irish or English-speaking), Scottish (Highlander or Lowlander) or Manx (Gaelic or English-speaking). The idea of Sruth na Maoile is to prompt discussion on all things Gaelic, and to encourage partnership and support between the Gaelic nations. (Nation is such an old word, I realise!)

A gloss from Gàidhlig to Gaeilge

One of my good friends came across this incredibly useful web page with a gloss from Scottish Gaelic to Irish Gaelic. Notice how the editor says ‘Albanach - Éireannach’, literally meaning ‘Scottish - Irish’.

Pay a visit by clicking on this link.

Scottish folk legends set for big screen →

A further example of how the Gaels in Scotland are more in tune with the times… Margaret Bennett gave a great lecture/media experience at Ainmeil Thar Cheudan; a truely remarkable woman.

Frásaí | Abairtean | Phrases 2

Frásaí_2.pdf Download this file

As I said, the lols.
Uncyclopedia, me gusta.


As I said, the lols.

Uncyclopedia, me gusta.

New Blog Address - Will be linked to this blog, don’t worry!

You may have noticed that I haven’t been very productive with this blog of late. This was due to my frustration with the formatting of the posts; when you’re indenting and trying to keep tables of verbs neat and user-friendly, Tumblr’s text formatting is not up to speed. Which can be forgiven, as Tumblr is a micro-blogging platform with an emphasis on media.

I did my homework, and found Posterous, another blog platform that allows you to upload files on to your posts, which includes PDF files. Haw haw haw! I laugh in triumph!

I thought that Posterous were better with their text formatting, and they are a bit, but my verb posts still caused me strife. When I tried putting up the PDF file as an accompaniment to the post, so that readers could print it out in a more user-friendly fashion, I was delighted with the results. The PDF comes up as a readable, interactive part of the post! As such, I’m in the process of deciding whether to keep the original, untidy post underneath it, or to keep the post purely as the PDF reader. Please let me know your thoughts as I value your opinion!

The new Sruth na Maoile blog can be found here:

I will still be posting on this blog site too, so it is not redundant. Also, my new posts from the Posterous blog will be automated to post here too.

A x