tír + scamall + fada + bán = Aotearoa (probably!)

Posted on 05. Jun, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Scamall fada bán mar seo atá i gceist san ainm "Aotearoa," b'fhéidir -- cé go bhfuil an ceann seo thar Wyoming (nasc thíos)

Scamall fada bán mar seo atá i gceist san ainm “Aotearoa,” b’fhéidir — cé go bhfuil an ceann seo thar Wyoming (nasc thíos)

So what was that dú-shlán [DOO-hlawn] mentioned in the last blog (nasc thíos).  Gaeilge a chur ar Mhaorais (to translate Maori to Irish)?  Bhuel, cén fáth nach ndéanfaí sin (Well, why not, lit. why wouldn’t that be done)?The hitch is, here, that I’m just going to set out the vocabulary in this blog, and see if any readers take up the challenge of putting the phrase together. An freagra, nó mo leagansa d’fhreagra? Sa chéad bhlag eile.

First, also let me mention that “land of the long white cloud” is just one interpretation of what “Aotearoa” actually means.  A couple links to sources discussing this further are listed in the links below.

If we accept “land of the long white cloud” as our basic phrase, here are the four main words, with some variant possibilities.  As with any “possessive” phrase in Irish, there will be no word equating to “of.”  Irish uses the genitive case (an tuiseal ginideach) to express possession, even when it’s in the more descriptive sense, not ownership as such.  A typical example is “Tír na nÓg” (land of the young, where the extra lower-case “n” is the real tip-off that the phrase is genitive).

land: most typically, “tír” although there is also “talamh,” which can mean “land” as well as “ground,” as in “Talamh an Éisc” (Newfoundland, lit. the land of the fish, understood to be codfish).  In fact, I’ve always wondered why it’s “Talamh” not “Tír” here, but if there’s an answer to that, it’ll have to be ábhar blag eile.  The word “land” doesn’t seem to literally be in the compound word “Aotearoa,” but, intriguingly, “ao” can mean “cloud” or “world.”  Hmmm.

long (as an adjective here, of course, not as in “to long for”): fada.  Not too much variation here.  There are several related words in different parts of speech (fadó, i bhfad, srl.)  but most of them go back to the basic concept, “fad” (length).   The Maori element is “roa,” which also means “tail.”

white: bán, or sometimes “fionn” (white, bright, fair) and sometimes “geal” (bright, white) which is interesting because the “long white cloud” connected to Aotearoa is sometimes described as “bright.”  Hmm, if a cloud is bright, would it ever be any color other than white?  The Maori element is “tea” (white).

cloud: “scamall” is probably the most typical word, with “néal” as an alternate.  And then there can be “ceo” as in “ceo deannaigh” (a cloud of dust) and “púir” as in “púir deataigh” (a cloud of smoke).   But those latter two examples don’t really apply here.   Both “scamall” and “néal” have nice recognizable cognates: cumulus and nebula

Now all that’s left to do is to string these words together in the right order, check for initial mutations (lenition), and throw in the word for “the” (but, remember, no ‘of” as such”).

Let’s see what you come up with.  And if there could be several correct answers.

By the way, I did look online to see if there was a pre-existing official Irish translation of the Maori “Aotearoa” and found nothing, not even in Wikipedia, which would be the most likely candidate for such a phrase

I did find it in French:  Le pays du long nuage blanc

Agus sa Ghearmáinis: das Land der langen weißen Wolke

Sa Phortaingéilis: A Terra da Grande Nuvem Branca

Sa Tagálaigis: Ang Lupain ng Mahabang Puting Alapaap

San Indinéisis: Tanah Awan Putih Panjang

Sa Haváis: ao-kea-loa (sin “scamall bán fada,” san ord sin, gan “tír”)

Of course, translations like these and our Irish version to come would normally only be used as background information, for the etymologically curious, since, basically, “Aotearoa” is “Aotearoa,” much as “Hawai’i” is “Hawai’i” and “Manitoba” is “Manitoba.”   It could be a blast to find the Irish equivalents of the translations of indigenous names around the world, and it could be quite a challenge, good for vocabulary expansion, and often, for genitive case practice.  But that’s way, way, way more than one blog’s worth.   Maybe one of these days we’ll tackle Sagarmatha aka Chomolungma aka Zhumulangma.  Linguistically only, that is, at least for me, since I’m not really a mountain-climber, though, as a young teen, I did enjoy reading A Yak for Christmas, by Louise Hillary, who, tragically, died in 1975, predeceasing her husband Sir Edmund by over 30 years.  And then there are the renowned cases of Denali and Uluru, where the indigenous name finally became official.  All worth looking into.  Some day.  Some blog.   SGF and looking forward to seeing what you come up with to translate “Aotearoa.” – Róislín

P.S. And the saga doesn’t really stop here because there’s another indigenous name, Te Ika Nui A Maui (The great fish of Maui), but I think one concept is enough, for one blag, at any rate.  Translating “great fish” could be fun though — “olliasc” or just “iasc mór.”  Food for thought!


Aotearoa: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/1966/aotearoa agus http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Aotearoa

Na Scamaill: grianghraf le Kenneth Dwain Harrelson, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud#mediaviewer/File:Lenticular_Cloud_in_Wyoming_0034b.jpg (8 Feabhra 2008)

Blag faoin Nua-Shéalainn sa tsraith seo: http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/agus-muid-sna-fritiortha-while-were-in-the-antipodes/ (31 Bealtaine 2014)


Agus Muid sna Fritíortha (While We’re in the Antipodes)

Posted on 31. May, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Cíobhaí (an t-éan)

Cíobhaí (an t-éan) (nasc ag bun an leathanaigh) 


While we’re on an antipodal tear (naisc thíos), we might as well look at An Nua-Shéalainn also.  As with An Astráil, the place name itself, then a few ki-words (úúps – deacair sin a sheachaint!).

So first the country name.  Before we look at the actual Irish for “New Zealand,” let’s acknowledge the indigenous name, Aotearoa, sa teanga Maoraise.  There are several translations of the Maori name, such as “the land of the long white cloud” and ‘long bright world’ (referring to the hours of daylight).  These could give us some food for Irish vocabulary thought, such as “scamall” for cloud or “geal” for bright, but I don’t want to belabor translating Maori into Irish when we already have our hands full.  But I might be tempted, in a future blog, to make this a “dúshlán” for readers.

Meanwhile, let’s look at “An Nua-Shéalainn.”  Like “An Astráil,” and many other place names in Irish, “An Nua-Shéalainn” includes the word “the.”

An Nua-Shéalainn [un NOO-uh HAY-lin, note that the "s" is silent], New Zealand

na Nua-Shéalainne, of New Zealand

muintir na Nua-Shéalainne

fásra agus ainmhithe na Nua-Shéalainne

A person from New Zealand is a “Nua-Shéalannach,” as in “Is Nua-Shéalannach mé.”

And in some prepositional phrases:

go dtí an Nua-Shéalainn, to New Zealand

chun na Nua-Shéalainne, to New Zealand, using the genitive case construction after “chun

sa Nua-Shéalainn, in New Zealand

While we’re at it, we could take a brief look at “Zeeland” itself, for which New Zealand is named.

An tSéalainn, Zeeland

Here, the underlying word is “Séalainn,” with the “s” pronounced [SHAY-lin], but when we refer to the actual province of the Netherlands, the phrase becomes “An tSéalainn.”  The initial slender “ts” sound is your basic Irish slender “t” as in “teach” or “.”  In other words, this “ts-” is not like “tsunami,” “tsar (tzar),” or “tzatziki.”  In Irish, the “s” sound of “ts” is completely covered up by the “t.”   If the first vowel were a, o, or u, the pronunciation of the “t” would be different (broad) but the same principle would apply (an tsúil, [un too-il], for “the eye,” for example).

And now, let’s look at some iconic New Zealand vocabulary

kiwi (the bird): cíobhaí, although the spelling “cíbhi” has also been used.  Remember, no “k” and no “w” in most Irish words.

kiwi (the fruit): also “cíobhaí,” since we don’t seem to hear the original name, Chinese gooseberry, much anymore.

If you’re really curious about “gooseberry” in Irish, it’s “spíonán,” which understood as the “European gooseberry.”  The adjective for “Chinese” is “Síneach,” but I’ve only seen the combination “Chinese gooseberry” a handful of times in Irish, and even there, it’s given with quotation marks, probably indicating that the writer doesn’t consider it a typical term.  So I’ll go with the flow and stick to “cíobhaí.”

Cíobhaí (an toradh) agus Cíobhaí (an chaor) (nasc thíos)

Cíobhaí (an toradh) agus Cíobhaí (an chaor) (nasc ag bun an leathanaigh)

And few more words and phrases I’ve picked out from online glossaries.  I don’t have a lot of personal experience using these, so welcome any feedback from “lucht labhartha na Gaeilge sa Nua-Shéalainn.”  The Maori is listed first here, in case there’s any doubt, ; )

aroha: grá

kai: bia

kia kaha: bí láidir

Kia ora: Haló / Fáilte / Go raibh maith agat [go liteartha, ciallaíonn sé: Bí sláintiúil NÓ Bíodh do shláinte agat]

Meri Kirihimete: Nollaig Shona

tapu (gaolmhar letabusa teanga “Tongan”): tabú (tagann an focal Béarla “taboo” ón bhfocaltabu“)

wahine, bean (as “woman” or “wife”)

whanga: cuan, bá

Like Australia, New Zealand has some unique flora and fauna (fásra agus ainmhithe), including:

oisre leathan Nua-Shéalannach, New Zealand dredge oyster

geiceo crainn Nua-Shéalannach, New Zealand tree gecko, whose plural has become one of my favorite new words: geiceonna crainn Nua-Shéalannacha

líon na Nua-Shéalainne, New Zealand flax

niamhscoth dhearg, New Zealand hebe (tagairt ar bith do Nua-Shéalainn í féin)

nóinín Nua-Shéalannach, arorangi or New Zealand holly (note the Irish is literally “New Zealand Daisy,” not “New Zealand holly”)

Bhuel, taking céimeanna babaí sa Maorais: ka kita ano (Feicfidh mé arís thú) – Róislín


In áit eile sna fritíortha: 

http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/cuir-gaeilge-ar-fhocail-strine-focail-astralacha-mar-brumby-srl/ (25 Bealtaine 2014)

http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/beagan-eile-de-bhearla-na-hastraile-a-little-more-aussie-english-translated-into-irish/ (28 Bealtaine 2014)


http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TeTuatahianui.jpg (le Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust, fearann poiblí)

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hardy-Kiwi-Comparison-3.jpg, (le hiperpinguino)

Beagán Eile de Bhéarla na hAstráile (A Little More Aussie English, translated into Irish)

Posted on 28. May, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

An Astráil

An Astráil

Given our recent “turas focal go dtí an Astráil,” I thought it would be interesting to add a few more basics, going beyond just the “-ie” ending ones we just looked at, like “barbie” and “tallie” (nasc thíos).  These will include the word “Australia” itself and the Irish versions of some iconic Aussie words, with some blanks to fill in for the letters that make them fit the Irish spelling system.

First, “Australia” itself.  The place name, like many other country names, includes the word “the” (comparable to “La France,” lit. “the” France).  In English, the use of the word “the” with country names is mostly limited to those which have adjectives built into the name or are plural (the United States of America, the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands, the Bahamas).  The word “the” also shows up in some mostly outdated place names which are considered provincial (“the Punjab,” as it might have been called during the British Raj, just “in Punjab” now).  The amount of discussion over “Ukraine” vs. “the Ukraine” in English illustrates the point nicely.  In Irish, “the” vs. no “the” is not an issue, the country is called “An Úcráin,” including “the,” as is done with many other place names, big and small, (An Danmhairg, An Fhrainc, an Rúis, an tSín).  Of course, there are exceptions, but those will have to be ábhar blag eile.

An Astráil [un AHS-trawil], (the) Australia The possessive form picks up a few more letters and “an” (the) changes to “na” for (of) “the”:

Príomh-Aire na hAstráile

fásra agus ainmhithe na hAstráile

aeráid na hAstráile The final “e” is because the word is 2nd-declension, feminine, and the prefixed “h” is because it begins with a vowel.

Here are a few more phrases:

go dtí an Astráil, to Australia

chun na hAstráile, another way to say “to Australia,” using an tuiseal ginideach

san Astráil, in Australia (with the “an” absorbed into the preposition, i.e. the last two letters of s-a-n) So, that more or less covers the country name itself.

And now for some characteristic words, most but not all from the Aboriginal languages.  Freagraí agus aistriúcháin thíos.

Bhí an t-éan seo ag an mbeárbaicíú!  Cén sórt éin é?  Freagra thíos (faoi na freagraí eile)

Bhí an t-éan seo ag an mbeárbaicíú! Cén sórt éin é? Freagra thíos (faoi na freagraí eile)

1. did __ rid __ú

2.  é __ mú

3. __ úcabarra

4.  di __ ngó

5. valba__  (and the plural is: valba__the)

6. e __ claip

7. __ angarú

8. __ ombat

9. s __ arra

10. budr __ gár

Hope you enjoyed that!  SGF  — Róislín

Nasc: http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/beagan-eile-de-bhearla-na-hastraile-a-little-more-aussie-english-translated-into-irish/ (25 Bealtaine 2014)

Freagraí: 1) didiridiú, didgeridoo (NB: the slender “d” in Irish is like the “j” sound often represented in English by “dj” as in “fudge” or “edge”; also note the vowel harmony)

2) éamú, emu (NB: vowel harmony, so a “broad” vowel,” like “a” is needed before the “-mú”)

3) cúcabarra, kookaburra (NB: the letter “k” is almost completely absent from Irish, with “km,” the abbreviation, being one of the rare exceptions–“kilometer” itself is spelled with a “c,” as in “ciliméadar”)

4) diongó, dingo (NB: vowel harmony)

5) valbaí, wallaby (NB: remember there is a slight “uh” sound between the “l” and the “b” in Irish, so it matches the middle “-a-” of “wallaby (NB: initial “w” is very very rare in Irish; “v” isn’t all that widely represented either, but it does show up more than “w,” as in “veist,” “vóta,” and “vacsaín”).  Plural: valbaithe.

6) eoclaip, eucalyptus (NB: “eu” is almost unknown in Irish, with most “eu-” prefixes changing to “eo” (as in “eoihéimireachas” or “Eocairist”) or being shortened to “ú” (as in Útóipe, Utopia, where, in modern English,  the “eu” has already been shortened)

7) cangarú, kangaroo (NB: “k” almost always becomes “c” in Irish, as noted above; also, no double vowels, like English “oo” or “ee,” in Irish)

8) vombat, wombat (NB: “w” almost non-existent in Irish, as noted above)

9) searra, jarrah, an Aboriginal word for eucalyptus, also used in Australian English (NB: “j” is almost unknown in the Irish language, although there is a solid handful of exceptions, mostly recent, like júdó and jíp,  but most other “j” words change to “s” or “i” like seacál / jackal, seasmain / jasmine, and iaguar / jaguar, Iúpatar / Jupiter

10) budragár, budgerigar (NB: vowel harmony, so we can’t have “u-CONSONANT-e” or “i-CONSONANT-a).  The vowels “u” and “a” are “broad” so the next vowel after the consonant also has to be broad (a, o, u).  The vowels “i” and “e” are ‘slender” and have to be used in combination with other slender vowels.  We see this constantly in Irish spelling, but it may be so fundamental that we don’t pay much attention to it until we’re faced with a challenging word to spell.  Examples with “broad” vowel harmony include “leabhar,” arán,” and “cangarú,” and some examples with slender vowel harmony include “litir,” “Meiriceá,” and “didiridiú.”

Agus an t-éan: cúcabarra gáiriteach (laughing kookaburra) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kookaburrawithfood.jpg, fearann poiblí, le lander777)