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IRISH LANGUAGE Q&A

Live Q&A: Gaelainn Chorca Dhuibhne

These are the shownotes of the Irish Language Live Q&A held by Eoin and Ben in May 2022. Ben grew up in Corca Dhuibhne (the Dingle Peninsula) in County Kerry. We invited questions specifically around Gaelainn Chorca Dhuibhne (the Irish language of Corca Dhuibhne).

In the questions below, we’ve linked to specific parts of that same video for your reference. When you play the videos below, it will jump to the relevant question being answered.

In Munster Irish, how do you pronounce “mh” and “bh”?

Go raibh maith agat, Mary!

The simple answer to your first question is that, yes, in the case of words starting with, or including, the letter combination ‘mh’ or ‘bh’ the pronounciation is always “V”. If there is an exception I cannot think of it ‘de bharr mo chinn’ (off the top of my head).

Príomh-bhóthar’, for instance, is pronounced /pree-ev-voh-hur/.

Are there schools in Kerry where I can improve my Gaeilge?

Yes, Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne have an in-person Irish course for beginners. You’ll find all the details of this and their various other Irish courses at https://www.oidhreacht.ie/ga/cursai-gaeilge/

How can I learn the Irish language from New Zealand?

We have a handful of customers in New Zealand, between Explore and Grow members.

I understand that it’s hard with time zone issues.

(2022): We’ll be experimenting Bitesize Beo calls for Grow members at 10:00 on Tuesdays, which is 9pm in New Zealand.

Sign up for Grow membership.

Favourite words in Munster Irish?

What parts of Corca Dhuibhne Irish are inextricably linked to the landcape?

Seán asked:

D’oibrigh mé leis an Ollscoil Sacred Heart sa Fairfield, CT a bhfuil campas aige sa Daingean. Bhí mé ann leis Sacred Heart in 2019/2020 for New Year’s. Dingle and Corca Dhuibhne kickstarted my aistear as Gaeilge … an talamh, an fharraige, na daoine.

What elements/quirks/pronunciations etc. of Corca Dhuibhne Irish do you feel are inextricably or quintessentially linked to the land, sea, and people there?

Ben’s response:

An interesting question, Seán.

While the landscape, ocean and people of Corca Dhuibhne are indeed captivating, I do not truly think that there are elements/quirks/pronunciations etc. of Corca Dhuibhne Irish that are inextricably or quintessentially linked to the land, sea, and people there.

While I must emphasise that I am neither a linguist or a historian, my view of things is that the various dialects spoken in all of the remaining historic Gaeltacht areas (as distinct from ‘new’ Gaeltachts such as Ráth Chairn in Co. na Mí and West Belfast) are remnants of a single language or dialect that was spoken country-wide outside of the Pale.

As Irish ceased to be spoken in the regions that linked together the areas where Irish continues to be spoken, what we now call ‘na Gaeltachtaí’ become isolated from one another.

There is a romantic notion currently en vogue that the Gaeltacht dialects continued to evolve in isolation from one another, and that this evolution was linked to the qualities of the landscape. I do not think that this was the case. Rather, I think that the quirks and differences in language that existed at the time that the historic Gaeltachtaí became separated were preserved by extended isolation.

If not, why is there such a small difference between the Munster Irish spoken in Corca Dhuibne and that spoken in An Rinn in Waterford?

Certainly, all of the surviving Gaeltacht areas are marginal and coastal (except for Gaeltacht Mhúscraí in north Cork), and the communities living in them relied on the sea and subsistence farming for survival. Some people hated the poor land and bad weather and were eager to emigrate. Read Peig – it was not an easy life.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, of course, and songs that tend to romanticise the landscape of Corca Dhuibhne and the life lived there were more likely to be written by emigrants than by those who stayed at home. I am intrigued to hear singers in Corca Dhuibhne who never themselves emigrated singing songs in praise of Corca Dhuibhne penned by emigrants. Songs such as ‘An Baile Ata Láimh Le Siúd’ and ‘Oileán Dhún An Óir’.  As a sort of way of honouring your ancestors – recognising their plight and loneliness as emigrants – this practice has a cathartic value. To me, though, it also has a bizarre quality when you can literally look out the window of the pub where the song is being sung and lay eyes on that townland or island that the song’s lyrics speak of so longingly.

I suggest that you buy and read a copy of ‘An Teanga Beo: Corca Dhuibhne’ le Diarmuid Ó Sé (Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann 1995).

In terms of quirks of Corca Dhuibhne dialect there are plenty, though they do not, I think, exist for the reasons that you have speculated. (See the next section).

What are special words and phrases of Corca Dhuibhne Irish?

  • We are more likely to say “na haon cheann” than ‘gach ceann’
  • Na héinne (gach éinne)
  • Tarna (dara)
  • Cén taos anois tú (cén aois tú). I got in trouble for saying this in Conamara!
  • Ag tarlúint (ag tarlú)
  • Le feiscint (le feiceáil)
  • Canathaobh (cén fáth)
  • Fachta (faighte)
  • Chnoc (chonaic mé)
  • Liom féinig (liom féin)
  • Go bhfuileann sibh (go bhfuil sibh)
  • dearúd (dearmad)
  • Thar nais (ar ais)
  • sáipéal (séipéal)
  • Sa tseomra (sa seomra) / sa tsiopa
  • Neomat (nóiméad)
  • We say “abair” a lot in conversation (“say”)
  • We are forever saying “n’fheadar” (“maybe”, “I’m not sure”, “doubtfully”, depending on context)
  • You may hear “de bharr mo chinn” said rather than “ó bharr mo chinn” (“off the top of my head”)
  • We are fond of saying that things are “breac le” something (‘spotted with/littered with’)
  • We use term word “ag marachtaint” frequently where speakers of other dialects would sa “ag conaí” (living / residing.. in a place) / (maireachtáil elsewhere but less commonly used)
  • If we are having a busy day we are “cúramach” rather than gnóthach.
  • Things that are exceptional or great are described as “nótálta” and “go diail” where they might be labelled “ar dóigh” or “thar barr” elsewhere
  • Someone trying to do something might be “d’iarraidh x a dhéanamh” whereas elsewhere the speaker would say “ag iarraidh”
  • You may hear ‘tach‘ or ‘ach‘ tacked onto the end of ‘éigin’for no particular reason – “ar shlí éigin-tach”
  • We sa “téir” rather than “téigh” (abhaile).
  • We say ‘aige baile‘ rather than ‘ag baile’
  • Things are “ana-mhaith
  • Dos na (de na)
  • Roimis (roimh)
  • Thán sibh (tá sibh)
  • An dtuigeas tú (an dtuigeann tú)

With the verb “go” in the Irish language, are “téigh” and “dul” interchangable?

Téigh is the verb ‘Go’.

What you refer to in your question, I think, is “téigh” as the imperative form, second person singular. This form is used to give orders or make firm requests (advisedly with a “le do thoil”/ if you please).

‘Dul’ is the verbal noun (the ‘going’ in English) relating to the verb ‘téigh’.

So, imagine that your neighbour’s dog comes to your back door. You might order the dog to go home:

Téigh abhaile!”

The dog leaves to go home.

A minute later your neighbour shows up at your door and asks if you have seen his dog. You might reply thus:

“Bhí do mhadra anseo, ach anois tá sé ag dul abhaile” (Your dog was here, but now he is going home).

Dul is the “going” in the example. All of which presumes that his dog has not already reached his destination (in which case it would be past tense: “chuaigh do mhadra abhaile” / your dog went home)!

Incidentally, in Munster we say “téir‘ rather than “téigh”

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2 thoughts on “Live Q&A: Gaelainn Chorca Dhuibhne”

  1. Karen McDowell

    This is fascinating! I have really enjoyed reading everything, and I followed up (and am still reading) by reading about Corca Dhuibhne on other websites. I wish these two books, especially Peig’s autobiography, were in English, because I cannot read them in Irish. An Teanga Beo: Corca Dhuibhne’ le Diarmuid Ó Sé (Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann 1995).and Peig.

    I don’t understand this you posted at the beginning of this page. D’oibrigh mé leis an Ollscoil Sacred Heart sa Fairfield, CT a bhfuil campas aige “sa Daingean. Bhí mé ann leis Sacred Heart in 2019/2020 for New Year’s. Dingle and Corca Dhuibhne kickstarted my aistear as Gaeilge … an talamh, an fharraige, na daoine.” Did you translate it into English, and I just don’t see it?

    Thank you for posting all this. I have had so much fun learning about Corca Dhuibhne and Gaelainn Chorca Dhuibhne. I am a beginner in learning Irish, and love BiteSize!

    1. Go hiontach, Karen. Glad you enjoyed.
      Peig’s autobiography is available in English, I actually read it in English recently. I you search “Peig: The Autobiography of Peig Sayers of the Great Blasket Island
      by Peig Sayers, Bryan MacMahon (Translator)”, you should find it. It might be an idea to grab the English and the Irish and use it as a tool to help you learn! 🙂

      In regards to the part posted towards the beginning, I’m not sure, I imagine it is linked to a different question. I will find out and fix it!

      Le beannacht
      Emma

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