Slán abhaile

My week in Gleann Cholm Cille comes to an end today and I’m off to Limerick. I’ll stay there tonight, then travel back to Bangor tomorrow via train and boat.

It’s been a very enjoyable week. I learnt some new songs, met some interesting people and caught up with old friends, and got to practise various languages, especially Irish, French and Swedish.

The weather has been very variable, as it usually is here, with blue skies and sunshine one minute, and heavy rain the next.

Last night there was a great concert with John Spillane, a singer-song writer from Cork. He sang songs that most of us know, and we all joined in. He also told some very interesting and funny stories about the songs – he calls himself a song detective, or bleachtaire amhrán in Irish.

After that I went to a singing circle / coircal amhránaíochta in Carrick / An Charraig, the nearest town, with some friends.

On Thursday we were treated to an evening of sean-nós, which involved music, singing, dancing and story telling. The sean-nós class took part, as did the set dancing class, and it was great fun.

You can see photos from this year and previous years in Gleann Cholm Cille on Flickr.

I haven’t managed to do much work on Omniglot while I’ve been here, but normal service will be resumed next week.

By the way, Omniglot now lives on a new, faster and more powerful server, so hopefully there won’t be any more problems like there have been over the past few weeks.

In case you’re wondering about the title of this post, slán abhaile means “safe home” in Irish. It’s what you say to people who are leaving a place.

Gleann Cholm Cille

I arrived safely in Glencolmbcille (Gleann Cholm Cille) on Saturday night. As we went further west the skies got darker, and when we arrived in Donegal the heavens opened, and it rained almost non-stop until this morning. I don’t come here for the fine weather, but this was a bit extreme, even for this part of the world. Today the sky cleared for a while, and the sun even put in a welcome appearance.

Irish language classes started yesterday afternoon, and the cultural workshops started this afternoon. I’m doing the sean-nós singing, as usual, and am enjoying it, and the Irish classes very much.

There are plenty of people here who I know from previous visits, and quite a few new faces as well. So far I spoken a lot of Irish, and bits of French, Breton, Swedish, German and Czech – people come here from all over the world, so it’s a great place to practise languages.

Last night we were treated to some excellent music and poetry from Bríd Harper and Diarmuid Johnson. Here they are playing some Welsh tunes. Tonight there is some more poetry, this time from Áine Ni Ghlinn.

Ar an bhealach (On the way)

Tá mé ag déanamh mo bhealach ag dhul bhealach na farraige ar an bhealach go Dún nan nGall in Éirinn, ca mbeidh mé ag déanamh cursa teanga agus cultur in Oideas Gael in nGleann Cholm Cille. Is fada an bealach é.

I’m finding my way, going by sea on my way to Donegal in Ireland, where I’ll be taking part in an Irish language and culture summer school at Oideas Gael in Glencolumbcille. It’s quite a long way.

I’m just playing with the word bealach here. It means way, road or track, and has various other meanings when used idiomatically.

I started writing this on the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin, but ran out of wifi. I’m now on the bus from Dublin to Donegal Town.

I’ve been to Glencolumbcille for a week or two every summer since 2005, and always have a great time. I get speak and sing lots of Irish there, and usually have opportunities to practise other languages as well.

Up North & Out West

Directions

This week I learnt some interesting weather-related phrases in Swedish on Memrise, including norrut (up north / northward), söderut (down south / southward), österut (out east / eastward) and västerut (out west / westward).

Examples of how they are used include:

  • Upproret blir mer allmänt och går norrut = The rising is spreading and moving northwards
  • Enandet, som skedde i rätt tid, jämnar vägen för utvidgningen österut = This prompt agreement paves the way to enlargement eastward
  • Det blir regn västerut = There will be rain out west
  • Det klarnar nog upp söderut = It’ll probably clear up down south

Sources: bab.la, Memrise

In Swedish they all have the ut (out) in them, so more literal translations of norrut and söderut would be “out north” and “out south”, or even “north out” and “south out”.

These sound wrong in English, at least to my ears. To me north is up and south is down, so it makes sense to say up north and down south, although I’m not sure why we say out east/west. Does anybody know? Are there other ways to refer to directions?

In Irish, and other Gaelic languages, the words for directions change depending on whether you’re in the north, going north, coming from the north, and so on. For example:

  • tuaisceart = north, northern, ó thuaidh = north of / going north, aduaigh = from the north
  • deisceart = south, southern, ó dheas = south of / going south, aneas = from the south

More details

Oxbows and Fossils

On an episode of the Talk the Talk podcast that I listened to today, they discuss fossil words or, as presenter Daniel Midgely calls them, oxbows, which is a rather poetic and fitting name from them.

An oxbow lake is a part of a river that has got cut off from the main stream due to the changing course of the river, and a fossil word or oxbow is one that’s only used in one or two expressions, and is no longer part of the main stream language.

Oxbows

Some examples they gave include kith and kin, to and fro, and akimbo, as in arms/legs akimbo.

Other examples of fossil words / oxbows include:

  • by dint of = because of, by means of – dint is an old word for a blow or stroke, force, power, or the mark left by a blow
  • in high dudgeon = indignant and enraged – dudgeon possibly comes from the Welsh dygen (anger, sad, grievous, painful, serious). A related words is the old Scots word humdudgeon, meaning an unnecessary outcry of complaint, or an imaginary illness
  • in fine fettle = in good condition, energetic – fettle is nothern English dialect word meaning one’s physical condition or mental state.
  • the whole shebang = everything, the entire thing – shebang might come from the French chabane (hut, cabin), or from the Hiberno-English shebeen (a cabin where unlicensed liquor is sold and drunk), from the Irish síbín (illicit whiskey).

Do you know others in English or other languages?

Time is pouring

This week I learnt the Russian expression до сих пор ― (do sikh por), which means still, hitherto, up to now, thus far, or literally “until this time”.

The пор comes from пора (pora – time, season, weather, period), which appears in such phrases as:

  • пора́ идти́ (pora idti) = it’s time to go
  • в са́мую по́ру (v samuju poru) = in the nick of time
  • до каки́х пор? (do kakikh por?) = how long?
  • с каки́х пор? (s kakikh por?) = since when?
  • до тех пор, пока́ (do tekh por, poka) = so long as
  • с тех пор, как (s tekh por, kak) = ever since
  • на пе́рвых пора́х (na pervykh porakh) = at first

Source: Wiktionary

It’s interesting that пора means both time and weather – some other languages also have one word for both: temps in French, amzer in Breton, aimsir in Irish. Do you know of others?

Bratislava

I’m currently in Bratislava in Slovakia for the 2019 Polyglot Gathering, which starts tomorrow, although there was an opening ceremony this evening.

The Polyglot Gathering 2019 begins

Today I went on a tour taking in three countries – Slovakia, Hungary and Austria. I had conversations in English, French, German, Mandarin, Spanish and Irish, and spoke odd bits of Czech, Slovak, Russian, Scots, Hungarian, Portuguese, Welsh, Esperanto and Swedish.

Hainburg Castle

I probably won’t have much time for blogging with all the intensive polylgotting that’s going on. Normal service will be resumed next week.

Echoes on the Tongue

Many years ago I went to a fascinating talk by David Crystal in Bangor University about endangered languages. One of the things he said was that a good way to spread the word about the plight of such languages might be for creative people to make art, or to write songs, stories, poems, etc about them.

Since then I’ve been thinking about writing a song about this topic, and finally got round to it a few weeks ago. Today I made a recording of it, with harp accompaniment. It’s called Echoes on the Tongue, and is written from the perspective of the words of an endangered language that has never been written down, and has only a few elderly speakers.

At the end of the recording I’ve added the phrase “we are still here” spoken in endangered languages – currently Welsh, Breton, Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx. If you can translate this phrase into other endangered languages, and ideally make a recording of it, please do. Recordings can be sent to feedback[at]omniglot[dot]com.

Thatched Stegosauruses!

What do togas, stegosauruses and thatch have in common?

Stegasaurus

These words all come from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)teg- (cover, roof) [source].

Toga comes from the Latin togategō (I clothe) , from the Proto-Indo-European *togéh₂ (cover), from *(s)teg- (to cover) [source].

Stegosaurus comes from the Ancient Greek words στέγος (stégos – roof) and σαῦρος (saûros – lizard) [source], and στέγος comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)teg- (cover, roof) [source]. The origins of σαῦρος are uncertain. So a stegosaurus is a “roof lizard”.

Thatch comes from the Old English þæc (roof-covering), from the Proto-Germanic *þaką (covering), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)teg- (to cover) [source].

Words for house in the Celtic languages also come ultimately from the same root – (Welsh) chi (Cornish), ti (Breton), teach (Irish), taigh (Scottish Gaelic) and thie (Manx). More details.

Asterix and the King

Have you ever wonder why the names of the Gauls in the Asterix books all end in -ix?

Asterix & Obelisk

There were genuine Gauls with names ending in -ix, or rather rix, which means king in Gaulish. They include Vercingetorix (see photo), Dumnorix, Albiorix, Adgennorix and Dagorix [source]. Asterix and friends have joke names with the -ix suffix to make them sound Gaulish.

The word rix comes from the Proto-Celtic *rīxs (king), from Proto-Indo-European *h₃rḗǵs (ruler, king). Words for king in Irish (), Scottish Gaelic (rìgh), Manx (ree) and Welsh (rhi) come from this root [source].

The Welsh one is in fact rarely used – the usual Welsh word for king is brenin, which comes from the Proto-Celtic *brigantīnos ((someone) pre-eminent, outstanding), from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰerǵʰ- (to rise, high, lofty, hill, mountain) [source], which is also the root of such English words as barrow, burrow, bury, borough, burgher and fort [source].

Words for realm or kingdom in Germanic languages come from this root, including Reich (empire, realm) in German, rike (realm, kingdom, empire, nation) in Swedish, and rik (realm, kingdom) and kinrick / kin(g)rik (kingdom) in Scots.

We also get the English suffix -ric from this root – as in bishopric (a diocese or region of a church which a bishop governs), and in the obsolete English word for kingdom – kingric, which means “king king” [source].

The words for king in the Romance languages also come from *h₃rḗǵs, via the Latin rēx (king, ruler) [source].