The Irish language has been part of this island’s cultural inheritance for over 2,000 years

A letter Micheal O’Cathail:

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 7:21 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd April 2021, 7:39 pm
Many languages have loan words. Geoffrey Chaucer, pictured, who had a connection to Gaelic Ulster, wrote in the 14th century in the unfashionable Germanic/English dialect, in addition to writing in the more cultured French and Latin, thus helping forge modern English. Picture: National Portrait Gallery

The letter correspondent (‘DUP is not heeding community feelings,’ Mar 30), commenting on Ben lowry’s article on the Irish language (March 27), dismisses Irish out of hand and, by inference Irish speakers, as dodos.

He says: “It’s (Irish) dodo status quickly becomes obvious when those conversing in the language invariably have to revert to English — either because they don’t know the Irish or the word does not exist in Irish.” and “It is sad that the DUP doesn’t seem to pay any heed to the feelings of the unionist community -”.

Choosing the word dodo to describe Irish is more telling about the correspondent’s outlook than it is about Irish speakers. It also shows an insensitive disregard for the feelings of speakers of the language. Setting aside some of the more ugly pejorative meanings attached to dodo, for example, it can mean excrement, it is an interesting comparison.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Letter to the editor

The poor old dodo was a harmless creature that inhabited Mauritius. Because of hunting by English and other sailors, and the depredations of invasive species, such as rats, that were carried on their ships, the defenceless dodo population was wiped out: sadly, it became extinct. Is this what the letter correspondent, and others of that outlook, hope will be the fate of Irish: a language that has been part and parcel of this island’s cultural inheritance for over 2000 years.

The word dodo, like many words in English, is borrowed from a non English language: it is taken from the Portugese word duodo which means stupid.

I suppose the respondent is aware the English is originally, and basically, a Germanic language and gets its name from the Angels who, along with other German and Nordic peoples, invaded Britain after the Romans left in the 5th century.

Modern English is greatly Indebted to Geoffrey Chaucer (he had a close connection with Gaelic Ireland, especially Ulster) who in the 14th century decided to write in the unfashionable lower class London Germanic/English dialect, in addition to writing in the more cultured higher class French (and Latin), by using French and Latin loan words to augment its Germanic/English vocabulary.

I did a quick check on the word origins of the correspondent’s letter and a great many are derived from Latin: for example, editorial, silence etc. My point is that many languages, in varying degrees, have loan words, especially English.

However, I am in agreement with the correspondent that Irish, as presently spoken, may be over reliant on borrowings: in my opinion, if not checked, this trend could be detrimental.

Micheal O’Cathail, Fermanagh

——— ———

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Alistair Bushe