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CMS
11-10-2005, 01:55 AM
I just wanted to ask a quick question of anyone from Ireland or Scotland. So, here it is:

Would you recognize ancient Gaelic if you heard it spoken or saw it written?

Silly question, I know. But, I do have a reason. :)

Thanks, bunches,

CMS
*******

scarletpeaches
11-10-2005, 02:02 AM
I'd recognise it but I wouldn't understand it.

waylander
11-10-2005, 02:50 AM
My wife (from Galway) reckons she would recognise it though it is written in a funny way

scarletpeaches
11-10-2005, 02:54 AM
I should also bring it to your attention that Scottish and Irish Gaelic are different languages...also, in Scotland at least, we pronounce it Gah-Lick, not Gay-Lick. Don't know about Ireland though - and I should, seeing as I'm a Scot of Irish/Italian descent.

Just call me Vittoria MacSporran. :D

CMS
11-10-2005, 04:18 AM
Thanks for all the replies. :)

Yes, I've noticed that Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic are different. But, didn't they both originate from the same language? Or am I making an inaccurate assumption about ancient Gaelic? *humble grin*

The reason I'm asking is because a character in a story I'm working on is from modern-day Ireland and he meets up with someone from the past who speaks ancient Gaelic (or would it be Celtic?). So, I was just wondering if he would realize what language was being spoken, simply based on the fact that he's Irish or if I could get away with him thinking it sounded "familiar" but not know what it was he was hearing....or reading.

Has to make sense, dont you know? ;)

-CMS
*******

Medievalist
11-10-2005, 04:19 AM
Ancient Gaelic is really properly known as Old Irish; it dates from roughly 600 C.E. to roughly 1200 C.E.

Middle Irish is from roughly 1200 CE to roughly 1400 C.E.

Scottish Gaelic is descended from Middle Irish, and with some very minor differences in orthography and verb forms, is very very similar.

A speaker of Modern Scots Gaelic from the Hebrides would have very little difficulty understanding spoken Middle Irish in the "main" dialects, and would have roughly the same difficulty a native speaker of Modern English would have with Middle English. The Hebrides have been much more conservative in terms of retaining the older language than other extant Scottish Gaelic dialects.

Medievalist
11-10-2005, 04:20 AM
The reason I'm asking is because a character in a story I'm working on is from modern-day Ireland and he meets up with someone from the past who speaks ancient Gaelic (or would it be Celtic?). So, I was just wondering if he would realize what language was being spoken, simply based on the fact that he's Irish or if I could get away with him thinking it sounded "familiar" but not know what it was he was hearing....or reading.

It would depend on the date and area of the older speaker. What's the era, roughly?

Perks
11-10-2005, 04:21 AM
... seeing as I'm a Scot of Irish/Italian descent.

Just call me Vittoria MacSporran. :D

That's friggin' hysterical! Lol!

scarletpeaches
11-10-2005, 04:25 AM
Actually Scottish Gaelic dates from the 4th century C.E. and the earliest known texts in that language date from the 12th century. There's also Classical Gaelic which is a whole new ball game.

Medievalist
11-10-2005, 05:02 AM
Actually Scottish Gaelic dates from the 4th century C.E. and the earliest known texts in that language date from the 12th century. There's also Classical Gaelic which is a whole new ball game.

No, the language on the ogham stones in Scotland, which are generally associated with the 4th-6th centuries, is Old Irish and is similar in every respect with the Irish on Irish ogham inscriptions from the same era. Most of the stones are now thought to be later than 4th century; there are a few that might be that early, but the recent scholarship, especially that of Damian MacManus, suggests that the language and the stones, are most if not all from the fifth and early sixth centuries.

In case anyone is curious, the oldest written and definitively Scottish Gaelic texts are the six land charters in The Book of Deer. You can read about it here:

http://www.bookofdeer.co.uk/homepage.html

CMS
11-10-2005, 05:15 AM
It would depend on the date and area of the older speaker. What's the era, roughly?

I was wanting to have the person from the "past" be from the time of the rule of the Tuatha De Danann (according to legend) or, perhaps, a couple of centuries before. From what I've been able to find, that was around 1800 BC. Although, I believe the Gaelic language came about earlier than that. (?)

Also, I believe Newgrange, and many stone circles and such, were dated to be from around 3000 BC. So, if the Gaelic language was around then, I might place his timeline there, instead.

Nothing is set in stone just yet. :)

-CMS
*******

Medievalist
11-10-2005, 05:38 AM
I was wanting to have the person from the "past" be from the time of the rule of the Tuatha De Danann (according to legend) or, perhaps, a couple of centuries before. From what I've been able to find, that was around 1800 BC. Although, I believe the Gaelic language came about earlier than that. (?)

The Tuatha De Dannan are 1) mythical and 2) not human.


Also, I believe Newgrange, and many stone circles and such, were dated to be from around 3000 BC. So, if the Gaelic language was around then, I might place his timeline there, instead.

We have no idea what language[s] the Neolithic people who built Newgrange/Brugh Na Boine spoke--it wouldn't have been Gaelic. It might have been Celtic--or it might not. There are strong opinions on either side, and it's not likely we'll really know since there are no written records.

We do have increasing data about the genetic makeup of the early peoples of insular Europe, but linking that data definitively with language is still tricky.

But let's assume it was Celtic, or Proto-Celtic--in which case, no, your modern Scottish Gaelic speaker would not be able to readily communicate--not even the current authorities on early Celtic language would be able to, since too much of *Proto-Celtic is based on guess work to be reliable as communication.

johnnysannie
11-10-2005, 05:59 AM
The Tuatha De Dannon are the ancient name for the old ones or the fairy folk, not actual historical humans as has already been noted here.

I would think that most modern speakers of Gaelic would understand an ancient form of the language about as much as most English speakers could understand the language of Chauncer.

Also, it might be well to note that in today's Ireland, native Gaelic speakers are limited to the western counties called the Gaeltach. Although Gaelic is taught and studied to some extent in schools as Irish, it's not the same as the handful of people who still grow up with Gaelic as their first tongue.

CMS
11-10-2005, 09:33 AM
Yes..I'm aware the Tuatha De Danann are mythical, thus the reference to "legend". But, this -is- a fictional story, so.. :)

I was just concerned with whether or not someone from our time would be able to understand a language that was spoken so long ago but was the predecessor of the modern Gaelic language.

On the NaNoWriMo board, I was given a sample of a phrase written in "Old Irish" and the same phrase in modern Gaelic and it seemed, to me, to be very different, though a few places could have been considered similar.

Samples: Old Irish: "oc precept soscelo atto"
Modern Irish: "ag scaipeadh an tsoiscéil atáim"

So, I can likely, safely, assume that Celtic is even more different. Yes? In which case, the answer would be 'no'. Someone from modern Ireland or Scotland wouldn't recognize the language, least of all understand it. Correct?

-CMS
*******

Medievalist
11-10-2005, 10:13 AM
On the NaNoWriMo board, I was given a sample of a phrase written in "Old Irish" and the same phrase in modern Gaelic and it seemed, to me, to be very different, though a few places could have been considered similar.

Samples: Old Irish: "oc precept soscelo atto"
Modern Irish: "ag scaipeadh an tsoiscéil atáim"

That's a fragment of one of the Old Irish glosses, bits of the very earliest extant Irish written in an effort to translated parts of the Gospels. It's gloss no. 6. It looks odd compared to Modern Irish because MI is in many ways a created language, re-invented and combined artifically from several dialects, from different times and areas.

It's not a fair comparison--Scottish Gaelic would be closer, and the spelling rules have changed more than the language itself.


So, I can likely, safely, assume that Celtic is even more different. Yes? In which case, the answer would be 'no'. Someone from modern Ireland or Scotland wouldn't recognize the language, least of all understand it. Correct?

Correct. And in some texts the Tuatha de Dannan are said to speak a different language.

johnnysannie
11-10-2005, 05:05 PM
Another name for the Tuatha de Daanon is Sidhe. Sidhe or faery folk are rumored to be smaller than a normal human, BTW.

If you're interested in comparing a fictional account of early Ireland, during the time of Roman Rule in Britan (Britannia) you might want to find A Shadow of Gulls by Patricia Finney and the two sequels to the same story. It might offer some insight into how another author handled using the fictional Sidhe as real.

Medievalist
11-10-2005, 06:41 PM
Another name for the Tuatha de Daanon is Sidhe. Sidhe or faery folk are rumored to be smaller than a normal human, BTW.

The Irish Lebor Gabála Érenn, “The Book of the Conquest of Ireland,” usually referred to as “The Book of Invasions tells how the Túatha Dé Danann were defeated in battle by the mortal Sons of Mil. The Túatha Dé Danann were divine beings and the denizens of Ireland before mortals. As part of the surrender terms the Túatha Dé Danann agreed to dwell underground in the síde (singular síd), the mounds and barrows, natural and constructed, that are so much a part of the geography of Ireland and Britain. Eventually both the mounds and the people became known as the síd.

In the medieval texts the Tuatha de Dannan/Sidhe are generally described as tall, beautiful and exquisitely dressed. The word síd is related to the Welsh word for a sacred mound or hill, a gorsedd, and both are related to the English word "seat," as in "royal seat."

johnnysannie
11-10-2005, 11:05 PM
Sidhe is most often translated as "faery folk" or "old ones". For example, consider the legendary banshee, the screaming harbinger of death in many Irish stories and tales. Banshee came from the Gaelic bean sidhe which in literal translation means "fairy woman" just as bean (sometimes spelled ban) lichte means white lady or wise woman.

Sidhe are traditionally thought to live in the burrows refered to above; these are commonly called duns.

One of the earliest Irish stories, one still recounted to the present day and often published in many versions is that of Cuchallain. This ancient hero, sometimes called "The Hound", was said to have been born of a mortal father and a Sidhe woman, thus raised in a dun. Cuchallain's exploits can best be read about in a good translation from the original Tain Bo Culaigne or Cattle Raid of Cooley. In the same work, the legendary Deirdre of the Sorrows appears as does King Conor.

Because we're dealing with legendary beings, it's not surprising that in some traditions the Sidhe are smaller than their human neighbors and tall in others. Like any mythical creature, stories embellished and changed over many tellings.

John Mac
11-11-2005, 12:31 AM
I just wanted to ask a quick question of anyone from Ireland or Scotland. So, here it is:

Would you recognize ancient Gaelic if you heard it spoken or saw it written?

Silly question, I know. But, I do have a reason. :)

Thanks, bunches,

CMS
******* I would understand or at least recognise Scots Gaelic but I don't understand what you mean by ancient Gaelic...let's face it, it is already pretty ancient!

John

veinglory
11-11-2005, 01:03 AM
Given that Gaelic shows are on the TV for hours a day I would expect most people to have a vague idea how it sounds.

Medievalist
11-11-2005, 03:19 AM
Sidhe is most often translated as "faery folk" or "old ones". For example, consider the legendary banshee, the screaming harbinger of death in many Irish stories and tales. Banshee came from the Gaelic bean sidhe which in literal translation means "fairy woman" just as bean (sometimes spelled ban) lichte means white lady or wise woman.

At the risk of sounding pedantic, I'm responding, hoping that I'll be forgiven once I explain that my academic area of specialization, in the most narrow sense, is medieval Celtic and English "otherworld" mythologies, or "fairies."

Literally, bean sidhe means "woman of the [fairy] mounds."



One of the earliest Irish stories, one still recounted to the present day and often published in many versions is that of Cuchallain. This ancient hero, sometimes called "The Hound", was said to have been born of a mortal father and a Sidhe woman, thus raised in a dun. [i]

The tale being referred to here is the Compert Con Culainn. There are two versions of the Compert Con Culainn, but in both Cú's mother is a mortal woman; it's his father that's somewhat unusual. His mother, Deichtine or Deichtire, depending on the ms., is either King Chonchobor's sister or daughter, and Cú has a mortal father named Sualtaim, but his real father is the otherworldly/divine Lugh. In one version, Lugh visit's Cú's mother in a vision/dream; in another, after she loses a son, she inadvertantly swallows "a small creature" in some drink, and thus becomes pregnant with Cú via divine intervention and oral conception.

johnnysannie
11-11-2005, 05:25 PM
Yes, you do sound pendantic and no, I don't agree with you. You are not the sole board member here with an educational background or speciality in Celtic matters. These traditions are also more than textbook examples or history lessons to me but family heritage, handed down over many generations. Let's agree to disagree. And, no, I don't refer to the Compre de Cuchalllian but the Tain Bo Cualnge or The Cattle Raid of Cooley. If you are not familiar with that particular work, then perhaps you should study further.

Information that comes not from my opinion includes:

From the Encyclopedia Labor Law Talk online:

The banshee (ban'shē) in Irish mythology (http://encyclopedia.laborlawtalk.com/Irish_mythology) is derived from the Gaelic (http://encyclopedia.laborlawtalk.com/Gaelic) bean-sidhe (Mod. Ir. "bean s�, meaning "spirit woman". They are remnants of the Tuatha de Danaan (http://encyclopedia.laborlawtalk.com/Tuatha_de_Danaan). Traditionally some Irish (http://encyclopedia.laborlawtalk.com/Ireland) families had a banshee associated with them, and the banshee might make an appearance before a death in the family. The banshee is particularly well known for a mournful cry or wail by which this death is heralded. Some traditions distinguish between seeing and hearing the banshee; hearing of this "banshee's wail" as predicting a death in the family, and seeing the banshee portents one's own death. She is invariably dressed in white, with long fair hair which she brushes with a silver comb.

From a Vassar hosted site:

The Cattle-Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cúalnge) is the central epic of the Ulster cycle. Queen Medb of Connaught gathers an army in order to gain possession of the most famous bull in Ireland, which is the property of Daire, a chieftain of Ulster. Because the men of Ulster are afflicted by a debilitating curse, the seventeen-year-old Cuchulain must defend Ulster single-handedly. The battle between Cuchulain and his friend Ferdiad (http://vassun.vassar.edu/~sttaylor/Cooley/Ferdiad.html) is one of the most famous passages in early Irish literature.



From the Celtic Society:

The Sidhe (shee) are considered to be a distinct race, quite separate from humanbeings yet who have had much contact with mortals over the centuries, and there are many documented testimonies to this. Belief in this race of beings who have powers beyond those of men to move quickly through the air and change their shape at will once played a huge part in the lives of people living in rural Ireland and Scotland.-It is difficult to pin-point an exact historical era as the time when fairy lore began.http://celticsociety.freeservers.com/sidhe1.jpg

Many writers maintain that the people of Ireland and their Gods before the coming of the Gaels are the 'ancestors' of the sidhe. Clearly the belief in the sidhe is part of the pre-Christian religion which survived for thousands of years and which has never been completely wiped out from the minds of the people. When the first Gaels, the sons of Mil, arrived in Ireland, they found that the Tuatha De Danaan, the people of the goddess Dana, already had control of the land. The sons of Mil fought them in battle and defeated them, driving them 'underground' where it is said they remain to this day in the hollow hills or sidhe mounds. In the early Irish manuscripts (which were recorded from an earlier oral tradition) we find references to the Tuatha De Danaan.In 'The Book of the Dun Cow' and the 'Book of Leinster' this race of beings is described as "gods and not gods", pointing to the fact that they are 'something in between'. Also in the Book of the Dun Cow it says of wise men that: "it seems likely to them that they [the Tuatha De Danaan] came from heaven, on account of their intelligence and excellence of their knowledge".


-

The hold that the Tuatha De Danaan had on the Irish mind was so strong that the new religion of Christianity could not shake it. In 'The Colloquy of the Ancients' a dialogue which supposedly took place between St. Patrick and the ghost of Caeilte of the Fianna, Patrick is amazed to see a fairy woman coming out of the cave of Cruachan, wearing a green mantle with a crown of gold on her head.

http://celticsociety.freeservers.com/sidhe4.jpgAs in any field of study, there are obviously different schools of thought.

Medievalist
11-14-2005, 01:09 AM
Yes, you do sound pendantic and no, I don't agree with you. You are not the sole board member here with an educational background or speciality in Celtic matters. These traditions are also more than textbook examples or history lessons to me but family heritage, handed down over many generations.

I'm sorry I offended you. It was not my intention. I am exceedingly dismayed at the antagonistic tone of your response. It's meant to be insulting, and it strikes me as more than a little inappropriate in the context of my carefully worded post. I went out of my way to be courteous. You've just done the opposite.

I'm not, as you put it, relying on "textbook examples." Nor am I speaking of an "educational background or specialty in Celtic matters." I'm referring to professional expertise; this is my profession. I am a Celticist, and one specializing in the early forms of the Celtic languages and literatures. I'm using primary resources in the form of medieval mss., transcripts of tale tellers, and audio recordings. I'm not relying on someone else's translations.


Let's agree to disagree. And, no, I don't refer to the Compre de Cuchalllian but the Tain Bo Cualnge or The Cattle Raid of Cooley. If you are not familiar with that particular work, then perhaps you should study further.

I'm fine with agreeing to disagree with matters of opinion, but not matters of fact. I'll deal with two of the more obvious errors of fact. To wit:

1. You said Cu had a Sidhe mother. Cu Chulainn has a mortal mother. There is no Irish or Scottish tradition that says his mother was other than Deictire/Deichtine, the sister or daughter of Conchobor the king. His mother is never said to be other than mortal.

His mother Deictire/Deichtine conceives Cu either because of a vision/dream in which she sees Lugh, or because she is given a drink containing a "small creature," which causes her to conceive Cu. Deictire/Deichtine, while pregnant, is married to the mortal Sualtaim. Lugh Lamfada tells Cu he is Cu's "real" father, rather than Sualtaim.

The tale that tells of Cu's birth is the Compert Con Culainn. It isn't part of the Tain, it's one of the seven foretales considered part of the rem scela, as is the tale of Derirde. You can find the Irish version of the Compert, based on Van Hamel's edition for the D. I. A., the standard edition of the tale and its variants, here (http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/G301013/). Patrick Brown has two versions of the tale in English here (http://www.geocities.com/patrickbrown40/cu-con.htm ). It's an old and public domain translation, but it's good enough to give a basic idea of the tale. You'll also find the Compert in Cross and Slover, and in Gantz, Early Irish Myths and Sagas. Penguin, 1982.

Rees and Rees. Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales. Thames and Hudson, 1961. 217-229. Tomas O Concheanainn has a good summary of the textual history in Celtica 21 (1990): 441-455. You can find a free .pdf of the article here (http://www.celt.dias.ie/publications/celtica/c21/c21-441.pdf ).

2. Ban sidhe really and truly does literally mean woman of the sid; sidhe is the modern Irish genitive singular form of the word sid, (with fadas on the i) which means [fairy] mound or hill. Sid truly is cognate with Welsh gorsedd and the modern English verb "sit." All go back to the *I. E. root *-sed (http://www.bartleby.com/61/roots/IE444.html). See Sims-Williams (see below), or Pokorney, if you want more evidence.

On the meaning of sidh, see MacKillop, James. The Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. s. v. sidh, p. 340. "the form sidhe, commonly cited in English, is the unreformed ModIr. genitive singular. Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx words for fairy mound and, by implication, the realm beyond the senses, the Othrworld or, in oral tradition, the fairy world. The fairy mound/sidh is a familiar landscape feature in Goidelic culture: a round flat-topped, manmade barrow, tumulus, or hillock of ancient origin apparently intended to bury or commemorate a mortal king or ruler."

You might also check Sims-Williams, Patrick. "Some Celtic Otherworld Terms." Celtic Language Celtic Culture a Festschrift for Eric P Hamp. Eds. Melia, Matonis. Ford and Bailie, 1990. 57-81 for a discussion of the history and etymology of sid and related terms.

For a good source on the ban shee/bean sidhe, see Lysaght, Patricia. The Banshee: The Irish Death Messenger. Second. ed. Boulder, Colorado: Robers Rinehart Publishers, 1986. Patricia is a native Irish speaker, and did much of the tale collection herself, as well as relying on the national archive.
Information that comes not from my opinion includes: From the Encyclopedia Labor Law Talk online: An online reference without internal citations is not really a good source. Moreover, that site is based on an old dump from the Wikipedia--which is itself not always reliable. You might look at the actual Wikipedia entry, in the current and much improved version of the Banshee (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banshee ) entry.
From a Vassar hosted site: (snip of a gratuitous paragraph of Tain plot summary)

The "Vassar hosted site" is Steve Taylor's; he's using two outdated public domain translations of the Tain. While free and better than nothing, it's a less than ideal resource, given the ease of obtaining Kinsella's or Gantz or the very reliable and free translations of Recension I (http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T301012/index.html), mostly from LU/Dun Cow, and then the Leinster (http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T301035/) version, both edited and translated by Cecille O'Rahilly at CELT. I assume the plot summary was related to your deliberately offensive remark in which you suggested, rather snootily, that I was unfamiliar with the Tain.

Yes, I know the Tain. I had to translate it, in its entirety, including the bits not usually translated, from LU, YBL, and Leinster. I've taught the Tain and the rem scela a few times in translation, using Kinsella's redaction, which you are no doubt familiar with.

It is exceedingly clear to me that you're antagonistic, and that I inadvertently touched a nerve, though I was carefully attempting to be diplomatic and trying to avoid pointing out the plain truth--that you don't know what you're talking about.

In your response to my carefully worded post, you were deliberately offensive, you were again inaccurate, and you insulted me in my professional capacity--a capacity you could have easily verified before making a fool of yourself.

Those are three behaviors I find inappropriate.

Since I really don't intend to cause anxiety for other Absolute Write members, this is my last post on the topic.

Aconite
11-16-2005, 12:18 AM
Since I really don't intend to cause anxiety for other Absolute Write members, this is my last post on the topic.
Not to try to persuade you to go back on your word, but I for one am experiencing no anxiety and would consider it a pity if this person's behavior deprived the rest of us of your expertise.

Charlotte_Morgon
11-29-2005, 08:36 PM
I'm Irish I live and Ireland know a bit of gaelic both in the written and spoken if I can be of assistance , please let me know.

As after thought I saw there was some discussion on the term bean sidhe which is faery woman more commonly known as the bashee. The banshee can be traced to Irish, Scotish and Welsh folklore.

I pretty well up on the myth's and lengends to so, like I said if you need help let me know

:)