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Ag Caint faoi Heaney, a shaol agus a bhás (i nGaeilge) agus gluais Posted by on Sep 11, 2013 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

If you click this link, you’ll find a short bio of Seamus Heaney in Irish (“Seamus Heaney marbh in aois 74,” http://www.nuacht24.com/nuacht/seamus-heaney-marbh-in-aois-74/).   The writing is quite clear and straightforward, but I thought that some learners on our list might like to have a glossary and some pronunciation tips to go with it, so  … here goes.

1. fuair sé bás, lit. he got death.  This is the most typical way to say in Irish that someone died.  There are other ways, some more equivalent to the verb “to die” as such, but in my experience at least, “to get death,” is the most widely used phrase.  “Fuair” is from the verb “faigh” [say “fie,” rhyming with “pie” or “eye”], one of the eleven “briathra neamhrialta” (irregular verbs) in Irish.  “D’éag sé” (he died) and “bhásaigh sé” are more like the English verb, and “stiúg sé” can be used for animals or to suggest that someone “gave up the ghost.”

It’s not easy writing about such a sad situation as Heaney’s death and simply looking at grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation, but I hope that doing so helps some readers explore the commentary on Heaney in Irish.

2. dá shaol [daw heel OR daw hayl], of his life.   Translating “” can be challenging because there are several different words with the same spelling.  In the phrase “dá shaol,” we have a shortened form of “de + a + shaol.”  The “de” (of) and the “a” (his) combine to form “.”  Some of the other “” words you may have seen include “” (two) and “” (if).  Examples of “” as “two” include “an dá rud” (also “an dá mhadra,” “an dá cheist,” etc.); here “” is a form of “dhá.”  Examples of “” as “if” include “Dá mbeinn i mo dhraíodóir, bheinn sásta” (if I were a wizard, I would be content, lit. if I would be a wizard, I would be content) and “dá mbeadh Cáit anseo, bheinn sásta.”  Hmm, hazy memories there of Mícheál Ó Siadhail’s Learning Irish, the ubiquitous “Cáit,” and the perennial question of whether anyone anywhere is ever “sásta” (satisfied).  Ach “sástacht” agus “sásamh” (and, for those who remember, “feilméaraí Chonamara”) sin ábhar blag eile.

3. drochshláinte [DROKH-HLAWN-tchuh], bad health.  This is a compound word, consisting of the prefix “droch-” (bad) and “sláinte” (health).  The prefix “droch-” causes lenition, so “sláinte” [SLAWN-tchuh] changes to “shláinte” [HLAWN-tchuh].  “Droch-” can be used in many other compound words, such as “drochbhail” (bad condition or circumstances), droch-cheann (a bad headache, literally “a bad head”), “droch-chroí” (a bad/weak heart OR ill-will), and “drochphláinéad” (an unlucky star, literally, “a bad planet”).  Note that when the word following “droch-” begins with a “ch” (as in “droch-cheann“), the hyphen is used, to separate the “chch” combination you’d have otherwise.  With other uses, however, the hyphen is no longer used, as in “drochshaol” (hard life/times, or, if capitalized, “The Famine,” referring to the 1840s), “drochthuar [DROKH-HOO-ur],  bad omen, and “drochthátal [DROKH-HAW-tul],” which also means “bad omen.”  Hmmm, words for “bad omen” in Irish?  Ábhar blag eile.

4. ar na mallaibh [erzh nuh MAHL-iv OR erzh nuh MAHL-ee], lately.  This is an example of an old ending (-ibh), which has been fossilized in modern Irish.  It used to be used regularly for plural nouns in the dative case (i.e. in prepositional phrases), but this was abandoned during the language reform of the 1950s.  Presumably this is based on some sort of noun form of “mall” which today, in modern Irish, is usually an adjective, meaning “slow” or “late.”  As for “ar,” the preposition meaning “on,” yes, it’s pronounced slender, even though it’s written as if it were broad.   Hence the “zh” in the transcription.

Well, that’s just a few “nótaí tráchta” about the “alt” (article), but, as they say “i dTéacsais,” HTH (abbreviatable in Irish as “TSAGgCSSL” but even I have to admit that the Irish isn’t really quite as snappy, sa chás seo).  Could I propose a shorter abbreviation, “SGOG” [Tá] S[úil agam] GO G[cuidíonn sin leat]?  Róislín

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