June 5, 2013 | Irish

On Irish Nouns and Irish Verbs

I am trying daily to acquire some more Irish parts of speech.

Lenition—which adds an after and softens many beginning consonants in Irish—is taking over my life! 

An Unambiguous Title: Irish Nouns, by Andrew Carnie

An Unambiguous Title: Irish Nouns, by Andrew Carnie

Today I wrote the word “thriathlete” in an e-mail and had to stare at it a moment before I realized what had gone wrong.

Today also saw two exciting language developments. One was the arrival of a review copy of Irish Nouns: A Reference Guide (2008) by Andrew Carnie.

It is from Oxford Linguistics, and the list price is a dazzling $120, though I see you can get it online for just a little more than half that.

You will never guess what it’s about!


The dedication reads, “For my father, Professor Robert Carnie, 1928-2007, who passed away as I was writing the final parts of this book. Among many other things, he taught me that categorizing and listing things has its own special beauty.” That is a lovely and moving tribute.

From Carnie's Irish Nouns: Lots and Lots of...Nouns

From Carnie’s Irish Nouns: Lots and Lots of…Nouns

I used to enjoy categorizing and listing things myself. I don’t so much anymore, but I do love when other people do, so that I can enjoy the fruits of their labors.

If you have ever studied Irish, you know that the subject of Irish nouns is not a simple one. I will report more on this book when I have had a chance to go through it.

The second exciting development: I posted a word recently on Forvo that I wanted pronounced. The word was cisteanach, which means “kitchen” (in the Connacht dialect, I believe). And BridEilis, whom I mentioned in a previous blog entry, pronounced it for me and posted her pronunciation online.

I knew because Forvo e-mailed me a notification, which opened by congratulating me and then proceeded to inform me:

There are new pronunciations for words you added to Forvo:

Word: cisteanach in Irish

We hope you like this and keep on using Forvo.

I do like it, Forvo, I do! I went to listen to my new pronunciation. It was like getting a package in the mail containing, oh, say, a noun book!

You can listen to it yourself by clicking the link above. Doesn’t she pronounce things clearly? 

I am continuing to appreciate that any time I have grammar or other language questions, I can post them on the Irish Language Forum and get answers. One question I put up there on the 25th of May, on “Language Terminology - Irish vs. Gaelic vs. Irish Gaelic,” has exploded into 70 replies so far. My question, in case you can’t tell from the title, concerned how to refer to the language. Some of the responses have gotten pretty animated, as the study of Irish is not devoid of political content.

Cool-Looking Irregular Irish Verbs

Cool-Looking Irregular Irish Verbs

Returning to the actual language itself, one of the things I am enjoying so much about Irish is simple aesthetics: the look of some of the words. The verbs, for instance, are fascinating. They do not line up with anything I knew from before.

The good news about Irish verbs is, there are very few irregular ones.

The not quite as good news (although I’m deriving a weird kind of pleasure from the disordered confusion in my brain) is that at present it feels as though many of the regular verbs might as well be irregular. Even the normal ones do funky things by English standards.

More on that later, when some of the disorder has subsided!

Comments (6)

farschied • Posted on Thu, June 06, 2013 - 2:16 pm EST

Hi Ellen!
I wish I could speak Irish or at least I was learning it, so that I could talk to you about these books and other stuff that you study.
I really like it when you put pictures like these on blog posts, even though It seems just a simple picture I really like the ” Cool-Looking Irregular Irish Verbs” picture. It’s kinda friendly.

So according to the schedule Irish is about to be finished.
One question, are you going to rest and learn nothing till the start of July?

Are you going to add any new languages?

Another question:
After you learned for example German from Oct to Nov ‘10 and started learning Japanese, you never go back through German again until the Review Period? If so, then is it possible to memorize the things you learned after months?

I hope you get what I mean!


Ellen Jovin • Posted on Thu, June 06, 2013 - 9:05 pm EST

Hello, Farschied!

Thank you for the nice comment. I am actually scheduled to continue with Irish through the end of the month. “June ‘13” on the schedule = June 2013, not June 13th. Sorry if it’s a little hard to read!

Then two months of Yiddish, concluding at the end of August.

Then I am still planning to spend some time revisiting previously studied languages before I add new ones, but I expect in the longer term I will study additional ones. I just don’t think I will be able to help myself! But for now, I really do want to return to some of the ones that got such brief attention before.

German in particular is not so hard to remember, because I have studied it so much in the past. So even when I don’t use it at all, it sticks for quite a while. Italian leaves my brain much faster, because 2009 is the first time I ever studied it. But I can revive the Italian I learned fairly quickly. I have done it three times now, I think. For some months I took a volunteer job at a tourist center in New York so I could practice several languages at once, but I haven’t been doing that lately.

More practice would be better for sure, but there just isn’t time. I have time generally for one language, plus my regular job teaching writing classes through my company, Syntaxis, plus blogging and reviewing the materials I am using for whatever language I am studying.

That’s why I want to do some concerted reviewing soon! Forgetting too much is painful!


Farschied • Posted on Fri, June 07, 2013 - 5:49 am EST

OK, thanks for the answer.

So you mean that during a specific language period like Irish, you don’t study even a single word from other languages?

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, June 07, 2013 - 10:05 am EST

Actually study study, with books and other lessons? Normalerweise nicht. Ich habe nicht genug Zeit. Aber ich habe gerade mit einem netten Ehepaar in einem CafĂ© Deutsch gesprochen.  ;)

But please understand that this is not what I would recommend to someone who is focused on acquiring and maintaining skills in particular languages. I have some practical (self-imposed) constraints that affect the time I can devote to the maintenance piece right now. Above all, the time required to write and maintain this site is significant (and growing), and I want to focus as much of my remaining time as I can on whatever language I am writing about during a particular period. In the long run, as I have said, I want to return to these languages. Mine is a particular type of odd adventure through numerous language families in a short period of time.

By the way, I tried for a while to maintain past languages better than I am doing now, but as soon as I was a couple of languages into this project, it became too onerous a task to learn a new one, write about a new one, review the old ones, and also work. My brain has its limits, I’m afraid!

HOWEVER, if I were focused on, say, four languages and especially if I already had some meaningful skills in all of them that I wanted to upgrade, I would probably cycle repeatedly through all of them. Like three or four in a day. I did that with German, French, Spanish, and Italian, as I said previously.

Farschied • Posted on Fri, June 07, 2013 - 12:22 pm EST

Vielen Dank!

Das war aber eine klare Antwort!

Bottom line:

You may review words from the past studied languages in such occasions but not in the form of studying a whole book.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, June 07, 2013 - 12:46 pm EST



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