I'm in my third week here in Conamara and for those of you who don't know, Conamara is a region that stretches (roughly) from west by northwest of Galway town to Leenan along the coast and is bordered on the east by Loch Corrib and Lock Mask. I was supposed to go out to Carna for a spell to visit with Mícheál Ó Cuaig but he has surgery on his leg and I thought it best to leave him to recover without a stranger in his house!
Another long silence and my apologies. Traveling around Europe while having fun is simply not conducive to keeping up on my blog. It has been three weeks since I posted last and in that time I have traveled to the Isle of Man, London and Berlin bookended with stays in Conamara (western Co. Galway). I'd like to focus on the Isle of Man in this post.
I must first apologize for the silence as of late as I have been sick. In fact, I've been sick since right around xmas and since I've been traveling for nearly as long, my poor little immune system couldn't keep up the fight. I've had an unrelenting cough ever since I struggled back to life after my bout with flu in the States.
This was an interesting read! Aside from the drama, the mention of two linguistic theories really lit a fire in my mind--those of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which suggests that language shapes our experienced reality and the Conceptual Metaphor theory established by George Lakoff at UC-Berkeley, which states that the way we think and act is metaphorical in nature.
I've been thinking much on the extent to which the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis applies in Irish (most linguists would accept a "weaker" understanding of it).
Several projects going on here in Muskerry, the cultural region where I'be been for roughly a week and a half now. Yesterday, I made a visit to the local naíonra (daycare center) in Béal Átha 'n Ghaorthaidh to play music for the children and to seek out the possibility of returning to collect poems, sayings and songs that they utilize in their curriculum.
I thought I had my sleep sorted out last night but it's (apparently) the time my brain prefers to process and plan. :-/ Anyhow, all sorts of things popped up today. I woke up at a decent hour (10 a.m.) and made my way to the local naíolann (with Síle and her grandaughter), which funny enough in the dialect of west Cork would be understood as the laundromat.
So after many travels, the flu, and injuring my back, I’ve arrived in west Cork to the village of Béal Átha na Ghaorthaidh (Ballingeary) to stay with my friend Síle Uí Chróinín and her family. I had a day or so in Baile Bhuirne, which is on the main road from Killarney to Cork with Eilís Ní Shúilleabháin but decided since Síle had a larger home, children, dog, and was in a more isolated area it would suit my documentation and language hunting better. I’ve been here two days and the first thing I have to say is that I’ve slept horribly but in a good way. I’ve been only speaking in Irish and so at night when I’m trying to sleep, my brain is processing language like a freaking pinball machine. Phrases, words, questions, thoughts in Irish refuse to shut up. I’m being patient as this is likely a “dusting off” period. I suspect that once it’s all dusted off I’ll likely sleep better. Perhaps some of you have some insight into this with your own experience with language acquisition?
I’ve signed myself up for quite a ride to be in west Cork for three weeks, west Galway (Conamara) for three weeks and out on Tory Island in Donegal for three weeks. I don’t think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew but I will certainly be doing a shite ton of work because if I don’t I will be bored stiff! I’ve decided while in these areas that I’ll focus on three projects aside from just hunting on my own and practicing my language. First, I’ve created a roadmap in standard Irish so while I’m in each area I’ll work on augmenting this roadmap based on the dialects of the area. I’ll document speaking through the game with fluent speakers from these areas as well. Next, I’ll be volunteering and observing in the schools to grasp a better understanding of the curriculum and of the little songs, games, poems, etc. that children pick up here during their eduction, which is all through Irish. Finally, I’ll be collecting songs, stories, vocabulary, experiences of life in these various Gaeltachta to culturally supplement the roadmaps.
I’ve already had some great experiences. I’ve had two very deep conversations about the state of Irish in the west Cork Gaeltacht. These conversations verified what I’ve suspected for many years now and have voiced to my students back in the States; while Irish is thriving in use, it is falling in standard. In particular, Irish is becoming anglicized more specifically in syntax and loan words. Both of my friends have said that it’s worse than they initially suspected. There are many factors feeding this, non-Irish speakers moving into the area and enrolling in the local school, a falling level of Irish among the teachers, organizations choosing not to use Irish (such as the local Gaelic Athletic Association whose initial aim was to promote hurling and Gaelic football through the Irish language!!!), and a generally weak economy in the area that has non-Irish speakers traveling to the area to work or native speakers moving out of the area to find work. All sad stuff, indeed. I’m sure I will find just as many positive experiences to balance this out (I hope).
I went on an hour long walk with Síle yesterday and we discussed the land and its place names and the stories associated with them. This is a fairly common feature of the language called dinnseanchas. Béal Átha ‘n Ghaorthaidh is located at the confluence of An Bun Síleann and the River Lee (Abhann na Laoi) and the plain on which it’s situated was clear cut to create it (sound familiar to Portland?!?!) so Béal = mouth, Átha = ford, Gaorthaidh = cleared plain of stumps. We worked through the names of trees, plants, moss, streams, etc. and the local lake named after the serpent who was cast from the land by St. Fionnbarra, which formed the pot (source) of the river Lee, which flows through the town of Cork. ALL SORTS OF AMAZING STUFF THAT IS SURE TO MAKE YOU JEALOUS.
More to come later. I’ll try to do a write up each day. Soup is on–anraith le fáil!