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Subject: Re: new publications: Keltische Forschungen 1
From: Marion Gunn <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Scholars and students of Old Irish <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 3 Mar 2007 15:40:57 +0000
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On 3 Mar 2007, at 14:24, scríobh David Stifter:

> ... It has taken time enough for me to be able to publish in
> English.

I fully understand that. And still congratulate you. I trust you will  
read and understand what follows, which I believe you and some others  
on list O-I-L are able to do.

> And that holds true for many other scholars who come from
> comparable backgrounds as I, i.e. comparative linguistics...
> it would mainly be up to native speakers of those languages to
> contribute.

Thinking purely in terms of human limitations, I hope you can see how  
_very_ few young German or English students would take up the study  
of Old English or Old German studies, if they had first to learn to  
do so via French or Greek classes or journals, which is a fair enough  
description of the situation in which the natives of my country and  
its sisters traditionally find ourselves in re our more ancient text  
(Welsh being the honourable exception).

 From experiences of my own youth and what younger contemporaries  
today tell me, it is common to find (a) academics inadequate to the  
challenge of teaching Old Irish to Modern Irish speakers; (b)  
academics scornful of such students who do not read German; (c)  
academics mostly dedicating their time to publishing to please others  
who share the above characteristics. I hope you remember a visit of  
mine to Vienna about ten years ago, David, bringing you gifts of  
Irish books so that you and your fellow students who all met with me  
that night would believe in my community's existence and in its  
urgent need to be served outside of the Germanic loop in which I  
thought you in danger of becoming trapped at the time, although your  
grasp of Modern Irish was improving, which encouraged my hope.

Old Irish is a river, deep, wide, generous enough to satisfy the  
thirst of all, whether native or not, which is well able to support  
the digging out and maintaining of manmade English and German canals  
- all we ask is that such scholars would shift a percentage of their  
efforts from servicing their peers to restoring and maintaining the  
small native streams, at least until our communities regain the  
strength to sustain a native academe on a par with those already  
established elsewhere, if collaborators can be converted from the  
ranks of the above.

The modern Irish language community is on the edge of survival/ 
revival, with all hands needed to work the oars just to keep ordinary  
schools and other basic community services going, with no energy to  
spare to compete with entrenched academic interests in the specialist  
field of Old Irish studies, which studies have always been, to date,  
mostly the province of alien tongues (that part of our history we  
cannot change, although ashamed by it).

Some time ago, for an entirely different purpose, I translated some  
verse by Máirtín Ó Direáin into English, which I am moved to quote here:

          Ta/ cleacht mo dhaoine ag meathadh,
          Ni/ cabhair feasta an tonn mar fhalla,
          Ach go dtagaidh Coill Chuain go hInis Mea/in
          Beidh na bre/ithre chnuasai/s tra/th
          Ar marthain fo/s i dteanga eachtrainn.

               <The ways of my people are dying out>
               <The sea-wave can no longer give them protection,>
               <But until Coill Chuain comes to Inis Mea/in>
               <The sayings which you collected then>
               <Will live on in a foreign language.>

That doesn't _have_ to be our fate - Máirtín was writing in a time  
when there were no computers, no internet, very few foreigners  
learning our language, all of which componets are now capable of  
clicking into place.

mg

- -
Marion Gunn * EGTeo (Estab.1991)
27 Páirc an Fhéithlinn, Baile an
Bhóthair, Co. Átha Cliath, Éire.
* [log in to unmask] * [log in to unmask] *

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