Indo-European Language 1

Required for all-

Exit Standard 1. Compare and contrast the language you have chosen to study and your native language (and any other languages you have studied, if you like). Consider each languages’ syntax and grammar, as well as vocabulary matters, such as cognates, derivatives or borrowed words. (minimum 300 words)


This is an interesting topic for an English major and one that can become quite lengthy due to the nature of language and it’s plethora of grammar variations from language to language, especially when dealing with a comparison between American English and IE languages. Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) is a Celtic language native to Scotland. A member of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic languages, Scottish Gaelic, like Modern Irish and Manx, developed out of Middle Irish, and thus descends ultimately from Primitive Irish which is a member of the IE languages. The modern Scottish Gaelic alphabet has 18 letters (as opposed to the 26 in the English alphabet): A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, L, M, N, O, P, R, S, T, U. (Gaelic is missing  J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y, and Z). The letter h, now mostly used to indicate lenition (“softening” or “weakening”) of a consonant, was in general not used in the oldest orthography (a standardized way of using a specific writing system (script) to write the language,) as lenition was instead indicated with a dot over the lenited consonant.

Long vowels are either marked with a grave accent (à, è, ì, ò, ù) or are indicated through digraphs (e.g. ao is [ɯ:]) or conditioned by certain consonant evironments (e.g. a u preceding a non-intervocalic nn is [u:]). Traditional spelling systems also use the acute accent on the letters á, é and ó to denote a change in vowel quality rather than length. The quality of consonants is indicated in writing by the vowels surrounding them. So-called “slender” consonants are palatalised while “broad” consonants are neutral or velarised. The vowels e and i are classified as slender, and a, o, and u as broad. The spelling rule known as caol ri caol agus leathann ri leathann (“slender to slender and broad to broad”) requires that a word-medial consonant or consonant group followed by a written i or e be also preceded by an i or e; and similarly if followed by a, o or u be also preceded by an a, o, or u. Consonant quality (palatalised or non-palatalised) is then indicated by the vowels written adjacent to a consonant, and the spelling rule gives the benefit of removing possible uncertainty about consonant quality at the expense of adding additional purely graphic vowels that may not be pronounced.

“Gaelic shares with other Celtic languages a number of interesting typological features:

  • Verb Subject Object basic word order in simple sentences with non-periphrastic verbal constructions, a typological characteristic relatively uncommon among the world’s languages.
  • conjugated prepositions (traditionally called “prepositional pronouns”): complex forms historically derived from the fusion of a preposition + pronoun sequence (see Prepositions below)
  • prepositional constructions for expressing possession and ownership (instead of a verb like English have):

Tha taigh agam — “I have a house” (literal. “A house is at me”)

Tha an cat sin le Iain – “Iain owns that cat” (literal. “Is the cat that with Iain”)

  • emphatic pronouns: Emphatic forms are systematically available in all pronominal constructions Pronouns.

Tha cat agadsa ach tha cù agamsa – “You have a cat but I have a dog” (Wikipedia)

This discourse could go on for many more pages as the individual parts of speech are explained and exampled but the thing of importance here is that there is a very large dissimilarity in the entire grammar spectrum between Scottish Gaelic and the version of English that is spoken here in the United States. I have traveled fairly extensively around the world in my life and had previously believed that German was the most grammatically correct language that I had encountered and studied (I have learned French, German and Latin many years ago) but now I am leaning more towards Gaelic as fulfilling that role.

English itself is a Germanic language and has assimilated many words into its vocabulary over the years. There are words from Latin, French, Spanish, Greek and even Technology that have found their way into common usage. This may have been the case as the Celts moved across Europe as well but to a much lesser extent inasmuch as their vocabulary is rather ‘compact’ in comparison to English. Like many IE languages, Gaelic does not mess around with a variety of confusing words to explain an item but gets directly to the point and leaves the listener very little doubt as to the intent of the speaker. This may be as a result of the fact that it was an oral society for many years and the necessity to be explicit was predominant (except among the politicians probably as is still the case today) because there was not another method in use such as the written word that would offer definition. Even Ogham when it came along required somewhat of a terse message to the reader and did not offer confusion like the written word today. The majority of Gaelic’s vocabulary is native Celtic. “There is a number of borrowings from Latin, especially in the religious domain (eaglais, Bìoball), Norse (eilean, sgeir), and, in common with other European languages, neologisms tend to be formed from Greek and Latin roots (telebhisean).” (MacBain 44)


Exit Standard 2. Based on what you understand about the language studied, linguistics in general, and your knowledge of the associated culture(s), briefly describe how the characteristics of the language may reflect the attributes, history or values of the associated culture(s). (minimum 300 words)

Gàidhlig is the traditional language of the Gaels, the Celtic ethnic group now mainly in the Scottish Highlands, and the historical language of most of Scotland. As such, it occupies a special place in Scottish culture, and is recognized by many Scots, regardless of whether they speak Gaelic, as being a priceless part of the nation’s culture. There is a fairly recent resurgence in the number of people who are once again learning this language which was on the verge of extinction it seems.

As noted previously there some words that are borrowed from other cultures but these cultures with whom the Irish/Scots had close contact. The Norse who settled in coastal areas of Ireland and Scotland, and Latin which we know came from the Roman invasion of what is now the British Isles. The fact that these words are to some extent limited shows that while assimilation or incorporation of specific words was practiced it was not as prevalent as it is in English and also indicates that the Scots did not venture far from home and so were not inclined to encounter new vocabulary. Because this language came from the primitive Irish it is logical to find similarities between the two and often identical words. An example of this is the word Welcome (English) Fàilte (Scots and Irish), Good Day (English) Latha math (Scots Gaelic) Lá maith (Irish), Thank you (English) Tapadh leat (Scots Gaelic) Go raibh maith agat (Irish). These simple examples show of the progression from terms that are the same to similar to dissimilar.

The Scottish segment of the Celtic world, more even than the Irish were less than adventuresome than others of their kin and it has historically only been by force primarily, that they venture past their shores for other than brief excursions to Ireland or those employed in providing fish. There is likely that they had some contact, albeit sparse with the Celtic kin on the mainland of Europe notably in the areas of what is now France, Spain and Portugal. Most of what we know of their culture is derived from the seriously slanted view of the Romans and interpretations provided by Christian monks. The predicament that arises due to the lack of significant comprehensive written record prior to the time of the Romans leaves the scholarly world well within the realm of conjecture and speculation, hardly anything solid to build more than a skeletal framework of assumption and unsubstantiated statements.


Required- one of the following

Exit Standard 1. Copy of college transcript for any Indo-European language (minimum one semester/quarter with at least a grade of “B”).


Exit Standard 2. Create a tape recording and accompanying “phrase-book” of a minimum of 25 phrases or sentences in the Indo-European language of your choice. Try to choose phrases and sentences that will a) be useful to you in your studies and/or spiritual practices; and b) reflect the cultural uniqueness of the native speakers of that language.


Gaelic Phrases

“Glac m’íobairt!” … “Accept my sacrifice!”
Na diathan leibh – agus leat fhín uisge seo … ” May the Gods and ancestors bless the waters of Life”
Na diathan leibh – agus leat fhín  an néamhaidh seo  … “May the Gods and ancestors bless this Sacred Place / Nemeton “
 Na diathan leibh – agus leat fhín an tobar seo … “May the Gods and ancestors bless this Well.”
 Na diathan leibh – agus leat fhín  a’ chopain seo … “May the Gods and ancestors bless this Cup.”
Bitheadh e mar sin  … “So Be It”
Fosgailtear na geataichean … “Let the gates be opened”
Dùintear na geataichean  …”Let the gates be closed”
Dìon nan diathan air an fhear seo … “Protection of the Gods upon this woman”
 Dìon nan diathan air a’ bhoireannach seo … “Protection of the Gods upon this man”
 Dìon nan diathan air a’ phàisde seo … “Protection of the Gods upon this child.”
Dìon nan diathan air an àite seo  … “Protection of the Gods upon this place.”
  Dìon nan diathan air an rud seo  … “Protection of the Gods upon this object.”
 Cuirear urram air na diathan … “May the Gods be honored”
Tha sinn annseo chum urram a chur air na diathan … “We are here to honor the Gods”
Beannú na déithe’s n’aindhéithe ort … “The blessings of the gods and the non-gods upon you”.
Go gcumhdaí is dtreoraí na déithe thú … “May the gods guard and guide you”.
   Neart inár lámha, fírinne ar ár dteanga, glaine inár gcroí. – “strength in our arms, truth on our tongue, clarity in our heart”
 Beannú na déithe’s dhuit … “Blessings of the gods be with you.”
 Seo an teine coisrigte. … “Behold the Sacred Fire.”
 Seo an teine bile … “Behold the Sacred Tree.”
  Seo an teine tursach … “Behold the Sacred Stone. (standing stone)”
 Tapadh leat beannú na déithe’s … “Thank you (singular) for the blessings of the gods.
 Tapadh leibh … “Thank you (plural) for the blessings of the gods.
 Tha sinn annseo chum urram a chur air na diathan n bunchur … “We are here to honor the Gods so let this happen”
  Coire fhís na geataichean … “Let the Cauldron of Knowledge be opened.”
 Dé that thu ag iarraidh? … “What do you want?”
  A bheil thu ag iarraidh im? … “Do you want something in particular?”
 Na diathan leibh – agus leat fhín  féisan. … “May the gods and the ancestors bless this festival.”
A bheil thug am chluinntinn? … “Can you hear me?”
 Am faod mi faighneachd an tusa a tha ann? … “May I ask who you are?”
 Córd gabh mo leisgeul.” … “Please excuse me.”





Robertson, Boyd and Iain Taylor. Teach Yourself Complete Gaelic, McGraw Hill Companies, Inc. Blacklick, OH. 2010. Print. CDs

MacBain, Alexander. An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language, BiblioLife,Charleston, SC 2009

Wikipedia Scottish Gaelic Grammar – Grammar Overview September 15, 2010




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