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An tSeachtain deireanach i mBÁG…

January 20, 2013

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/12/24/121224fa_fact_foer?currentPage=all&mobify=0

This was an interesting read! Aside from the drama, the mention of two linguistic theories really lit a fire in my mind–those of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which suggests that language shapes our experienced reality and the Conceptual Metaphor theory established by George Lakoff at UC-Berkeley, which states that the way we think and act is metaphorical in nature.

I’ve been thinking much on the extent to which the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis applies in Irish (most linguists would accept a “weaker” understanding of it). Recently, I’ve taken on the project of collecting “language softeners” (i.e. you know, on that same note, if only, etc.) and a third of them have no equivalents in Irish–neither in language NOR feeling in many cases. HOW CAN THIS BE?!? Well, it just is. Sin é! Having read the article mentioned above, I continued with how Irish shapes an understanding of things and to the extent by which that is realized. I suppose one of the most interesting ways that Irish creates meaning outside of verbs is the use of prepositional pronouns (orm, liom, agam, srl.). Having feelings before you, on you, at you, in you, with you, etc. begs the question, “Is there a difference in the way that Irish speakers think in regards to feelings (or feel for that matter)? And to what extent does that shape the Irish character? Are the Irish more long suffering? Are the Irish more passionate? Are the Irish more complacent?” I’ve satisfied myself (and these questions) with the realization that so few people are without the influence of English in Ireland and, I’d likely never get the funding to sort out these answers. Regardless, you can be sure that these questions will be bouncing around in my mind and will play part in my interactions with Gaeilgeoirí.

Now, metaphor…this is term that I would interchange with seanfhocal (proverbs), which at one time not long ago was a HUGE feature of the Irish language. It’s my understanding that the older generation of speakers would have a greater store and use of these proverbs than those of younger generations as well as the strength of the language communities with whom they’re in contact (my theory). To be clearer, experience has shown me that when native speakers of Irish live in communities of mixed language (i.e. Irish & English (among others like Polish)), the language is stripped as it were of the richer features of the language (proverbs for one) so that meaning can be related to speakers of less ability. Perhaps Baile Mhuirne and BÁG are just such communities? I’ll have to be conscious of this when I travel to Carna in Conamara (west Galway) next week. Carna is a very strong community in the heart of a very strong Gaeltacht.

I just have to say that I feel uncomfortable even writing this because these communities are delicate and my contacts good friends of mine. I’d hate for them to think that I’m passing judgement on them and their attempts to maintain their language. My comments above only reflect my experiences up to the present. I don’t feel that terms like “better” “more pure” or “stronger” are appropriate but given the limit of language to strip feeling from meaning, I’m left to use strength as an indicator of prevalence.

Anyhow…Dr. Hart is leaving the office.

So, this is my last week in Béal Átha n’ Ghaorthaidh/Baile Mhuirne. I’ll likely get another few visits to the nursery and primary schools in the area. I’ll finish collecting the songs and rhymes that I heard last week and also lists of publications that would satiate anyone looking for an Irish version of Ol’ McDonald Had a Farm! I’ll also be recording various people working through the first two laps of the race to the party and updating the standard version of the roadmap to the party with the preferences of the dialect of Irish spoken here. Finally, I’ll be adding all the little drips of language that I lack (mostly language softeners) to a master this that I’ve been working on for a week already.

I feel a lag in excitement starting over the weekend but that likely stems from staying out drinking late on Friday night after a phenomenal concert at the Ionad Cultúrtha (arts center) in Baile Mhuirne. I’m also limited on transportation and access to much entertainment. It’s like being at my mom’s in rural Indiana except I can’t borrow the car to drive to Louisville or Bloomington. 😉

I’ve learned so much this past week and (no doubt) I’ll continue to learn more. I definitely feel that the brain is all dusted off and I’ve found a groove and schedule that suits my needs. I’ve a weekend to unwind in Dublin this weekend coming and then BRING ON CONAMARA!!!

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From → Teanga/Language

4 Comments
  1. Reblogged this on The Language Hunters' Blog and commented:

    From Dr. Hart. 😉

  2. Vesta Lou Hall-Hubbard permalink

    Brian, we need to discuss this–not language ’cause I do not even speak English–only Virginianese, but the dregs of Irish emotion, outlook, “stuff” that linger after 4 generations.
    Love you
    Vesta Lou

    • Hi Vesta Lou,

      Great to hear from you. Yes, I agree dregs of emotion are there in Irish American communities many generations after they’ve left Ireland. I’d imagine those emotions likely stem from other aspects of Irish culture that continue to be sustained like religious outlook, acceptance of cultural specific norms (like drinking or sports). You make a good point!

  3. Gingerale permalink

    Dr. Ó hAirt’s heart is in the country of the harts. I’m sure you must be there in Conamara.

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