The Irish Language
To the non-native Irish speaker and reader, a readily grasped and understandable
description of the Irish language is given by Arland Ussher in "The Face
and Mind of Ireland", with foreword by Oliver St.John Gogarty, published
by The Devin-Adair Company, New York, 1950. At p.146 Ussher writes:
"The Gaelic....is a language of prodigious diversity of sound and expressiveness
of phrase. Owing to its peculiar anatomy of' "broad," "slender,"
"aspirated" and "eclipsed" consonants, it has about twice
the number of sounds that other European languages can boast; sounds, too,
for most of which there are no precise equivalents in any other tongue. (For
instance: d broad is dth, d slender is dy, d aspirate broad is a sort of gargle,
d aspirate slender is almost y, d eclipsed broad is a n with clenched teeth,
d eclipsed slender is ny. There is no d as we know it in English, French,
German etc.; and so with the other consonants.) The softening and eclipsing
of initial consonants (according to complicated and uncertain rules) causes
the words to dissolve and change their shapes like objects in a mist; more
than with most languages the student has to speak and think in unit-sentences
rather than unit-words, as it were single indivisible spasms of feeling or
imagination; "the colours run" on the palette--or the palate--so
that he is lost if he has not a fine ear and a mobile larynx."
"Twice the number of sounds that other European languages can boast"
calls to mind Myles na gCopaleen's comparison of the normal vocabularies of
Irish and English peoples, quoted elsewhere in this home page.
The Bards Of Ireland - Part II - Navigation
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