Thursday, December 22, 2016

140 Characters is not enough!

Recently I foolishly got involved in a twitter argument on Irish and the usefulness of language. That topic usually does get my temperature up after a short series of tweet exchanges I thought the exchange was over. But then the fray was joined rather extraordinarily by @gtcost who sent in quick succession some dozen tweets to each of which I wished to respond. But twitter is not the best way to express deep felt thoughts so I resolved to write a piece and put it up as a jpeg attachment but it became veru=y long so I resolved to put it on my English blog. I hope it is civilised and not insulting - it is not intended to be.

The why of this piece!
For what it is worth here it is:

"I live in an Irish speaking community. The community council does its business through Irish. as do our local sports organisations, church functions, local bridge clubs, drama groups etc etc. I could not be classed as a member of a language pressure group - nor could any of my neighbours. It just happens to be a "required language" in our district. (a fact lamentably ignored by the Irish state but that is perhaps an entire other argument!)

Should we abandon it? Your logic seems to be that we should abandon or at least sideline that heritage (as so many other parts of Ireland have either voluntarily or otherwise done; to deprive the people of a country of the opportunity to link with the heritage of the oldest written language of Europe which is still in daily vernacular use.

You seem to say that the study of our own language in some way is a hindrance to the study of the other subjects and ideas mentioned. I would hesitate myself to make such a bold claim as to put such a limit to the ability of the human intellect.

I think that is the tragedy of this way of thinking reflects the attitude described by our President some years ago when he referred to those “for whom Irish was not half dead enough.” (2010).

Indeed our first President stated unequivocally many year ago: "the Irish language is worth knowing, or why would the greatest philologists of Germany, France, and Italy be emulously studying it, and it does possess a literature, or why would a German savant have made the calculation that the books written in Irish between the eleventh and seventeenth centuries, and still extant, would fill a thousand octavo volumes." (1882)

Is it still worth knowing?

Recently a project on modern Irish writers has been published with portraits and short biographies. These can truly be described as Irish writers in the tradtions of those scholors and writers who went before like Céitinn and Raifteirí etc. Yet so many of their fellow country men and women are ignorant of this flowering of Irish literature. Look it up on line at (It is English as well as in our own language!).

Are they wasting their time writing prose and poetry for our delight and sometimes enlightenment?

An American professor in the field of mathamathics has been involved with others in translating the various platforms facebook, twitter, etc for use with Irish - I use both and they work fine. Users may choose Irish as their language of choice on their mobile phones. Firefox, the popular browsing platform is available in Irish as are Microsoft programs.

Are they wasting their money?

Almost 8000 people follow the Gaeilge Amháin facebook page and they are by no means all Irish by blood. I have seen Japanese, Dutch, Americans, Russia, English and Finnish contributors among others.

Should this be classed as "zero universal (as in cross-national) value?"

Me? I am not competent to discuss the merits of bi-lingualism and there are many studies that may be found using Google I do know from my own experience that my life has been enriched by my knowledge of English and a also of Latin and through this knowledge I have a smattering of German and make my way through the Latin-languages. I also find I have an little understanding of the Scottish languages and even Welsh which comes from the enriching influence of learning the National Language.

Quite frankly I was shocked at the defensive - or was it hostile? – of these dozen or so tweets. English, still less the fabric of Irish society is not damaged by our love or our learning of our own language. On the contrary losing our linguistic sovereignty – a cornerstone of our cultural identity, heritage and soul as a nation - is a clear and present danger. (vide Seán Ó Cuirreáin's final address to an Oireachtas Committee Jan 2013)

I am sad that you do not appear to understand that."

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