Lewis Gaelic

Ciamar a chanas mi.... / How do I say...
Mairead
Posts: 232
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2014 4:13 pm
Language Level: Intermediate
Corrections: Please correct my grammar
Location: Dùn Èidinn (às na SAA)
Contact:

Lewis Gaelic

Unread post by Mairead » Fri Jun 17, 2016 12:26 pm

My Gaelic teacher was from Harris, and she always complained that Lewis Gaelic was gramatically terrible but was disproportionately represented in learners' material and in the BBC. Obviously her value judgements are just that (and probably typical of a Hearach), but is it true that Lewis Gaelic is disproportionately represented? I noticed that I often hear 'dèanamh' pronounced 'jee-a-noo' on RnG, which my teacher claimed was a feature of Lewis Gaelic, but I hear it more often on the radio than her pronuncation 'jee-a-nuv' (which is the one listed on AFB). (She also dislikes 'Cò às a tha thu?' and taught us 'Càite às am bheil thu' instead - she used 'am bheil' rather than 'a bheil'.) Are these features really Lewisisms that have come to dominate 'mainstream' Gaelic? Or is it more that Harris Gaelic is an outlier?


Tha avatar agam à dhealbh aig mo phiuthar anns an Cellardyke. Tha trì videothan Ghàidhlig agam anns an Youtube.
My avatar is from a photo that my sister took in Cellardyke. I have three Gaelic videos on Youtube.

akerbeltz
Rianaire
Posts: 1756
Joined: Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:26 am
Language Level: Barail am broinn baraille
Corrections: Please don't analyse my Gaelic
Location: Glaschu
Contact:

Lewis Gaelic

Unread post by akerbeltz » Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:53 pm

Well, in the last census, out of the 58k or so Gaelic speakers, 18,489 were on Lewis. So roughly (allowing for the fact non-Lewis Gaelic speakers also live on Lewis) a third of all Gaelic speakers are Lewis. Numerically, it is the single largest contingent of speakers of a particular dialect group. Skye is probably the next biggest by speakers, has less than 4k in total. So the chances are good, just from a statistical point of view, that a Gaelic speaker you meet will be a Lewis speakers. Nothing sinister about that.

Beyond that, the problem is a) that overall strong dialect features are in decline. Which is not great surprise given the impact of Gaelic education, media and mobility. And b) that most speakers aren't linguists - no reason why they should be but it means that while they are very able to judge what is NOT local, they ability of where it IS from varies and is not always reliable. Lewis bashing is also popular amongst some circles... a bit like "this is not like my granny said it it must be Lewis".

Take your example of dèanamh. There is the /əv/ pronunciation and the /u/ pronunciation but that has almost nothing to do with dialect. In the main, /əv/ is the more conservative and careful pronunciation, /u/ a more progressive (in the linguistic sense this means "modern" - though this is relative, we're talking a centuries old development here) pronunciation which occurs virtually in all dialects and in some, like Argyll, it's practically the default. So most likely your teacher just has more conservative speech and just assigns anything she doesn't say herself to "Lewis".

Of course there are features of Lewis which have made a leap into Mid-Minch Gaelic or even other dialects but that's hardly surprising or worrying - it happens to any living language.

AFB tends toward giving mid-ground pronunciations. It would be unhelpful to list all the possible pronunciations of a word - for dèanamh for example I'd have to list /dʲiənəv/ /dʲiənu/ /dʲanu/ and that's not even the worst, abhainn would end up showing /avɪNʲ/ /au.iNʲ/ /auNʲ/ /ahiNʲ/. So I go for something that has the highest chances of being understood by most people even if they don't say it that way.

akerbeltz
Rianaire
Posts: 1756
Joined: Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:26 am
Language Level: Barail am broinn baraille
Corrections: Please don't analyse my Gaelic
Location: Glaschu
Contact:

Lewis Gaelic

Unread post by akerbeltz » Fri Jun 17, 2016 6:02 pm

Incidentally, càit às instead of cò às/cia às looks weird and I can't find any instances of it either in the DASG corpus or online (the nearest are càit às a thàinig formations). In this case, certainly, cò às/cia às is more conservative ... it's possible that càit às is a localism that has gone unnoticed but it would probably sound weird to the majority of Gaelic speakers.

Mairead
Posts: 232
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2014 4:13 pm
Language Level: Intermediate
Corrections: Please correct my grammar
Location: Dùn Èidinn (às na SAA)
Contact:

Lewis Gaelic

Unread post by Mairead » Fri Jun 17, 2016 8:48 pm

Yes, I agree that on balance there is nothing sinister/worrying about any predominance of Lewis Gaelic, or features that are mistakenly ascribed to Lewis Gaelic by speakers of other dialects. But I was wondering whether it was really true that Lewis was disproportionately represented, so your answer was very interesting. I think part of it is the Harris/Lewis rivarly - she was my first exposure to that, and I remember being shocked when I later discovered they were actually on the same island. Interesting that you find 'càite às' an unusual construction. She was very firm that it was gramatically superior to 'cò às' since she said that it made more sense to say 'where are you from' than 'who are you from'. (Though she did explain how this originated from an understanding of kinship.)

Out of curiosity, on AFB do you ever give alternate pronunciations? With abhainn as an example, I feel like as a learner it would be helpful to know that sometimes the 'bh' is pronounced as a 'v' and other times it is not - I always have a hard time figuring out whether or not to pronounce mid-word 'mh' and 'bh'. I think that would add a lot of extra work for you though so I understand not doing that. (By the way, I want to take this opportunity to thank you once again for your part in AFB - I use it all the time, and it is really a wonderful resource!)
Tha avatar agam à dhealbh aig mo phiuthar anns an Cellardyke. Tha trì videothan Ghàidhlig agam anns an Youtube.
My avatar is from a photo that my sister took in Cellardyke. I have three Gaelic videos on Youtube.

Níall Beag
Rianaire
Posts: 1388
Joined: Sun Sep 23, 2007 6:58 pm
Language Level: Fluent (non-native)
Corrections: I'm fine either way
Location: Sruighlea, Alba
Contact:

Lewis Gaelic

Unread post by Níall Beag » Sun Jun 19, 2016 10:41 am

As I understand it (from reading Akerbeltz's site) "cò às" is a very, very, very old "fixed phrase" which was grammatically correct centuries ago, but now is an exceptional case as the rest of the language has changed round about it.

Consider the letters OU in English. In contemporary English, they denote an "ow" sound... sound, cloud, round etc. But in Middle and early Modern English, they were probably more like "oo". Are the words "you" and "through" somehow less correct, simply because they reflect an archaic rule? Should we be teaching English learners to say "yow" and "thr-ow" because it's "more correct" than what the majority of natives say (I believe some accents in or near Birmingham pronounce them like this, so it's not unheard of)?

Níall Beag
Rianaire
Posts: 1388
Joined: Sun Sep 23, 2007 6:58 pm
Language Level: Fluent (non-native)
Corrections: I'm fine either way
Location: Sruighlea, Alba
Contact:

Lewis Gaelic

Unread post by Níall Beag » Sun Jun 19, 2016 10:44 am

Oh, and if you think the "that's Lewis Gaelic" thing is bad, never try learning Corsican. Anything you say that sounds slightly odd gets the response "that's Italian". Say something in a northern dialect to someone from the south... "that's Italian." Something from a southern dialect to someone from the south... "That's Italian". Something in Spanish... Italian. It's really rather infuriating.

Mairead
Posts: 232
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2014 4:13 pm
Language Level: Intermediate
Corrections: Please correct my grammar
Location: Dùn Èidinn (às na SAA)
Contact:

Lewis Gaelic

Unread post by Mairead » Sat Jun 25, 2016 9:15 am

Níall, no, of course I don't think that about English, or about Gaelic. I just find my teacher's perceptions of linguistic differences interesting. ;) (I'm a convert to descriptivism so you're preaching to the choir.) Anyway, I'm going to Lewis this summer (my first time ever going to a Gaelic-speaking area) so I shan't be saying anything against their dialect while I'm there. :lol:
Tha avatar agam à dhealbh aig mo phiuthar anns an Cellardyke. Tha trì videothan Ghàidhlig agam anns an Youtube.
My avatar is from a photo that my sister took in Cellardyke. I have three Gaelic videos on Youtube.

Post Reply