Irish Language Blog

Spleáchas vs. Neamhspleáchas Hotting Up in Scotland Posted by on Sep 18, 2014 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

A timely time to look at the Irish word for ‘independence’ as the “vótáil” for the Scottish Referendum comes down the home stretch.

Much like the English word “independence,” the Irish equivalent, “neamhspleáchas,” is also a compound word. Knowing that probably makes it a lot easier to pronounce, and, as it were, digest. Otherwise, for a typical English speaker, looking at a consonant cluster like “-mhspl-” might seem a little baffling.

The “-mh-“ is actually the ending of the prefix “neamh-“ (un-, in-, ir-, il-, im-, non-, sometimes “-less”), pronounced by some as “nyow” and by others as “nyav.” You might recognize it from words like “neamhrialta” (irregular) and “neamh-mheisciúil” (non-alcoholic, non-intoxicating, etc.). In the second example, the hyphen is included so we don’t have two “MHs” in a row (-mhmh-); that is the standard punctuation rule in Modern Irish today.   A double “mh” would be a bit eye-boggling even for those accustomed to Irish consonant clusters. Similarly, we have “drochubh” (and 😉 “drochéan”), but “droch-chuma” or “droch-charr,” with the “chch” separated.

Removing the prefix “neamh-“ leaves us with the core noun, “spleáchas” ([SPLyAW-khuss] dependence, dependency). Examples include: spleáchas ar dhrugaí, spleáchas pH (which I couldn’t define scientifically but I can translate into Irish!), and what must be a fairly new-fangled term in Irish, spleáchas gléis (device dependence – is that just the computers or all us device-dependent carbon-based organisms as well?).

A parallel set of words is:

spleách, dependent, as in – oh, here’s a goody – friotóir solas-spleách (aistriúchán thíos)

neamhspleách – independent

“Imspleáchas” and “idirspleáchas” are additional related words, both meaning “interdependence.”

It’s also intriguing to consider the very root of the word “spleáchas,” since the “-chas” ending is a suffix, usually creating an abstract noun out of something more concrete, though not necessarily tangible (m. sh. Béarlachas, cumannachas, ailbíneachas, srl.). So far, I’ve gotten to the noun “spleá,” which, even without the suffix, also means “dependence.”   It also means “subservience,” and has a secondary set of meanings (obsequiousness, flattery), not very widely used today, at least in my experience. In fact, I’ve rarely ever seen “spleá” as such, mostly just “spleáchas.”   Another topic for a rainy day investigation.  And what words do we see more frequently for obsequiousness and flattery. Cúpla moladh thíos!

It’s also interesting to ponder the difference between “neamhspleáchas” and “saoirse” ([SEER-shuh] freedom, liberty), but mostly I’ll leave that to the fealsúnaithe, the eolaithe polaitíochta, and, well, other interested parties. From a language viewpoint, I’ll simply note that “saoirse” is based on the word “saor, which has many meanings, including, as an adjective, “free,” and as a noun, a free person. It is related to the phrase “ar saoire” (on holiday/vacation). The American Declaration of Independence is “Forógra Saoirse Mheiriceá.”

Spleáchas nó neamhspleáchas?  Tá mise ar bís ag fanacht ar thorthaí an Reifrinn – Róislín

Aistriúchán: friotóir solas-spleách, a light-dependent resistor (LDR), téarma leictreachais agus/nó leictreonaice nár bhain mé úsáid as riamh go dtí seo!

Moltaí chun “obsequiousness” agus “flattery” a rá i nGaeilge:

Obsequiousness: lúitéis, lústar, lútáil. Dare I say it – what a “lulu” of a trio! Is there something about the sound “lú-” here that contributes to the meaning. I wonder!

Flattery: bladar, plámás, béal bán. Overall, I’d say I’ve heard these three much more than the words for obsequiousness.   But then, I’ve probably heard the word “flattery” in English more often than “obsequiousness” as such.   “Obsequiousness will get you nowhere” mar sheanfhocal? Somehow, ní cheapaim!

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