Monday, March 28, 2011

Alternate history, continued

I've always been interested in the Irish language, its Gaelic. And although I have had a talent for foreign tongues --my Latin is still pretty good, and I could read the New Testament in Greek once upon a time, even did elementary Hebrew ok-- the mother tongue of my Hibernian ancestors always defeated me.

Le mo ghrása mise agus liomsa mo ghrá
I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine.

I mean, really, look at it. And know that what the letters indicate may have even less to do with the sound than they do in English, a language whose spelling is a study all on its own. And this, by the way, is the modernized simpler spelling! The word is bold below is pronounced illi-hoo-atah. See my problem"

Sagart: Is ceart agus is cóir duinn, go deimhin, is cuí agus is tairbheach, buíochas a ghabháil leat de shíor agus i ngach áit, a Thiarna, a Athair naofa, a Dhia uilechumhachtaigh shíoraí, trí Chríost ár dTiarna. Lena theacht ar an saol rinne seisean ionracas an duine a athnuachan; lena pháis scrios sé ár bpeacai; ag aiséiri ó mhairbh dó, réitigh sé an bealach chun na beatha siorai duinn; agus ag dul suas ar do dheasláimh dó, chuir sé doirse na bhflaitheas ar leathadh romhainn. Uime sin, mar aon leis na hAingil agus na Naoimh go léir, gabhaimid iomann molta duit a rá gan stad:

To my ears it has a sound both barbarous and beautiful. A sample.

But when the Irish spread out around the world in the middle of the 19th century, driven by the great famine, what would their fates have been if the English had not, by that time, given so many of them the language of Britain? When my people arrived on these shores, they already spoke the lingo. No "Press 1 for Gaelic."

I wonder if they would have thrived as quickly and as well had the Sassenach who ruled over them for so many centuries not deprived them of their ancient and difficult mother tongue and given them, not out of benevolence for sure, the language I speak now.

I lost my connection to Cooley's Cattle Raid and wound up belonging to the language of Shakespeare. Not so bad, after all.

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