Gáidhlig Dhail Riata: a short introduction to an independent dialect revival

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Gáidhlig Dhail Riata: a short introduction to an independent dialect revival
  Perhaps there is relevance in beginning this short discourse in answering the question as to why I  began the reinstatement of this dialect back into common usage in Argyll and beyond. I was brought up in the Kerry peninsula in Cowal and having discovered a strong interest in Gaelic placenames as a teenager and an even stronger interest in learning the spoken tongue as an adult found myself upon reaching conversational fluency in standard Gaelic dis!satisfied with it and with a powerful desire to find out how the Gaelic of my homeland sounded and also if and when it had died out. "hile learning the dialect having availed myself to every resource I could find I began speaking it to my children who already had a #orth!Argyll!tinged standard Gaelic and before long I was determined that I would do $ustice to the almost forgotten speech of my home corner of Argyll by making it available to anyone who wished to learn it. %his is why and indeed how the revival began.&uring this process I started to feel the necessity to come up with a name for the dialect which described sufficiently well that part of Argyll in which it was once almost universally spoken. %his was because there was and is no name 'so far as the present writer is aware! that has ever been in use for this particular geographical area which includes the locales known as Craignish (ochaweside Kilmartin Kilmichael Knapdale (ochfyneside Cowal and the island of )ute. %he dialect spoken within all of these areas bar )ute has been well!enough documented to illustrate a marked uniformity of speech throughout evidence for which will be referred to later.I have been required to assume 'due to lack of documentary evidence! that the Gaelic of the island of )ute was similar to that of Cowal due to their e*tremely close pro*imity to one another and because of the ferry links which operated between the mainland of Cowal and the island and continue to this day. +ven at the north!west end of the island the service known as )lair,s -erry operated until /01  . It can be assumed that this was effectively the end of the Gaelic!speaking era of the island due to the failure of fieldworkers from the 2chool of 2cottish 2tudies to find anyone able to speak Gaelic in the island during the early /31s 4  but throughout the previous 31 years at least a regular albeit very modest ferry service had connected the Gaelic!speaking neighbourhoods of north!west )ute and the Kerry coast of Cowal 5 . 6orses and cattle were swum across the narrows 0  at Colintraive Caol an t-Snàimh  7#arrows of the 2wimming8 at the north!east end of the island where the current ferry operates meaning that contact  between the Gaels on both sides of the water there would also have been fairly regular and have e*tended well into the past. Given that until very recently the idea of water connecting rather than dividing was a truism it can safely be assumed that at the very least the Gaelic of the island of )ute shared more features with that of the Cowal mainland than with the speech of any other area due to their pro*imity to one other and the trading routes which were open and well!used right into the  period when Gaelic ceased to be spoken in this part of Argyll.And so )ute was included within the present study area for the simple reason that the evidence for its inclusion was stronger than the evidence for its e*clusion which amounts to nothing I have ever come across. %he island therefore $oined the rest of an area which still required to be named for ease of e*pression. %he name Cowal and 9id!Argyll Gaelic came to mind at first but since 9id!Argyll is often thought to include only (ochfyneside and Cowal does not contain the aforementioned island this option did not suffice.%he appropriation of the name 9id!Argyll in order for it to stand for the entire dialect area since it e*ists in what is geographically the centre of Argyll was something that was also considered but given that )ute was formerly regarded as a distinct council area and even now is referred to with the rest of Argyll as Argyll and Bute  this did not seem entirely appropriate either. 1  RCAHMS Canmore ID 78623; site Number NR97SE 27 2  Ó Docartai! "997 #o$ I% 3& 3  Mc'ean 2(("% 2&2 4  ibi)% 2&3  A friend suggested the name Gáidhlig Chloinn Dhiarmaid   after the Campbell clan whose holdings almost mirrored !somewhat remarkably but perhaps not coincidentally! the borders of the dialect area. )ut this held little more appeal despite the relatively neat solution it offered in terms of geography  because to name a language after one single clan seemed immediately e*clusive. %he label would therefore carry little significance to anyone other than myself and those who were able to mentally link the clan with the geographical area. %here was also no +nglish translation which did not sound clumsy. If the above were not enough )ute also fell outwith Campbell territory.I then began to think :outside the bo*; as an American businessperson might put it. Although there were definitely various issues with the previous ideas did the name that was eventually settled upon necessarily have to be directly representative of the geographical area< %his was a dialect which not one person since the turn of the present century spoke fluently. It was effectively moribund. In that case we were not talking about a revitalisation but about a complete revival. Perhaps a name reflecting the revivalist aspect of this venture and not necessarily the e*act geographical area would  be more appropriate altogether. Add this to the fact that the dialect like the landscape itself had never  been referred to by one single name and moreover had never received anything but the most cursory acknowledgment from the academic world as a distinct dialect 3  and I had a terrific case for starting from scratch.%he name that came to mind after much head!scratching was that of a conglomerate of ancient kingdoms stretching from the other side of the 2traits of 9oyle and e*tending perhaps as far north as the Isle of 2kye &alriada = . 6ardly a good choice of name for a dialect that e*isted only in a relatively small patch of this gigantic sea!state one might think. )ut also a name that had ceased to be used for anything other than a historical concept and so in a sense fair game. #ot only that but the most important seat within &alriada was arguably &unadd -ort on the western e*tremity of the dialect area but slap!bang in the middle of it if one measures north to south. At the top of &unadd -ort one can look out across the dialect area and see a good portion of it spread from where one stands. A seat of ancient power in a place of outstanding natural beauty in the heartland of the dialect area was a very appropriate vantage point from which to name this patois. %he only way now was up for &alriada Gaelic.And so it was that I came to regard this 2cottish dialect which only myself and my children now spoke as Gáidhlig Dhàil Riata . %wo old gentlemen who each had one parent from outside of the dialect area were the only carriers of anything remotely resembling the local speech and I have had to  be very careful with the forms they use as they would sometimes display influence from their (uing and 9ull parents and naturally also from "estern Isles!dominated radio broadcasts.A curious question oft!raised is that of whether I have any right to simply :invent a dialect;. %he truth is of course that there is only one invented Gaelic dialect in 2cotland and that is the :2tandard Gaelic; or :9id!9inch; which despite never having been spoken anywhere historically is now seen as the be!all and end!all of the life of the tongue. %his has been a somewhat destructive force which has helped strangle most of the remaining life out of the last of the dialects > . %he frequency with which one hears the statement :but of course my Gaelic,s not right not correct; from anyone outside of 2kye and the "estern Isles is down to the influence of standardising a language from whose speakers no  permission was ever sought. I therefore feel very little if any responsibility to $ustify my actions to anyone other than the last of the dialect area,s old people who either spoke the language as youths or still retain some ability to converse in it. Although I have the feeling that much of what has been said about the pro$ect over the years has been the result of amused curiosity rather than animosity without the advantage of having followed me for the last three and a half of those e*amining my every endeavour it would be difficult to know how I have arrived at the point at which I am completely confident that I speak the dialect of this midriff of Argyll. 5  Cam*be$$ + ,omson "963% -.iii 6  Dál Riata wikipedia 7   'amb 2(""% 8  %he answer for those who have not been e*posed to Argyll Gaelic before or who suspect that what I do speak is some kind of hash!up need only visit the 2chool of 2cottish 2tudies in +dinburgh from where I have with full permission from both fieldworkers and from the nearest living relatives of the contributors e*tracted hours upon hours of dialect recordings and painstakingly internalised the features therein. #ot only that but I have repeatedly recorded myself to listen back for the slightest syllable that could be out of place. If it weren,t enough that the 2chool contained a wealth of lovely material collected by their heroic fieldworkers of the /31s!/?1s I also acquired unfettered access to the unpublished notebooks of #ils 6olmer  ?  produced during his three!month stint in the dialect area. -rom these I was able to read directly thousands of responses taken down from the mouths of Argyll folk who would have yet been very fluent in their native tongue and taken down in scrupulously handwritten IPA. 6olmer,s venture lay concealed latterly in his son Arthur,s attic in 2weden for the  best part of >1 years and were it not for Arthur,s generosity in allowing myself and one of the 2chool of 2cottish 2tudies, latter!day heroes &avid Clement scanned copies of the books would perhaps have lain there still. I read read and re!read the scans until I had learned the pronounciation of every single word and e*pression in them by heart. %he laborious process of digitalisation is ongoing for the day when 6olmer,s incredible work may rightfully see the light of an appreciative day.I have been encouraged by well!meaning friends from time to time to take what I have learned and formalise it in the shape of a Ph&. Although I admit this would no doubt make fascinating reading for many academics and non!academics alike I must confess that I am not capable of producing such an opus@ not because of lack of ability to collate the evidence into a coherent structure but because of a simple lack of patience for that kind of endeavour.It must be said however that there is most decidedly something else at work here. %he dialect could follow on from that of Kintyre /  or Arran 1  in 6olmer,s case and be entombed in a linguist,s guide to the features peculiar to it@ there would be plenty precedent for that. In fact there would be nothing wrong whatsoever with that in and of itself and I hope that at a point in the not!too!distant future 9r Clement and myself can facilitate this somehow. )ut this is not for the most part where my personal interest lies. I have read endless te*ts which include accounts of language decline from &orian in +ast 2utherland   to "entworth in "ester oss 4  to B 9rch in +ast Perthshire 5 . It has always been nothing short of fascinating and has gifted me tremendous au*illiary knowledge to augment the  process of what I am trying to do. )ut there is also the feeling every time I read the section on how the dialects have declined that there is something in common to their demise and not $ust that they were all sub$ect to the relentless onslaught of +nglish. #o nothing in fact to do with the turning away of the native people themselves from the use of 2cottish Gaelic to 9ercian +nglish but to do with the way in which these dialects were handled by outsiders when on the brink of e*tinction.ather than taking the information I found and writing about it so that the dialect could $oin all the others on the bookshelves of academic institutions and of Gaelic language enthusiasts I decided to learn the dialect as fully as humanly possible and use it as if it were my own. Part of this would not only include passing it on as a matter of course to the ne*t generation but also providing the resources necessary for it to become and remain a part of the lives of the people who learned it and their children after them as "entworth had begun to do in "ester oss with his astoundingly detailed dictionary 0 . 8   Ho$mer /un*ub$ise) ra0 )ata1 9  Ho$mer "98" 10  Ho$mer 2((2 11  Dorian "978 12  ent0ort 2((& 13  Ó Mrc "989 14  Wentworth 2003   #ot only would the e*tant poetry of the area need gathered together and made available for use@ not only would the songs need brought back to life by being fitted with suitable 2cottish melodies were melodies not already assigned to them by their writers or by subsequent singers who kept them in use@ not only would there have to be a practical two!way dictionary for the language so that learners and speakers alike could maintain and grow their vocabulary and idiomatic ability but there would also need to be literature both written in the dialect and also translated into it using sensible natural orthography representative of how the language was spoken in order for reading pleasure to be obtained through the medium of the &alriada Gaelic.Dnfortunately by the point at which the dialect began to be recorded for posterity it had ceased to be a commonly heard sound in the district and had thinned a great deal not only represented by very few native bards who could be counted within its speakership but also containing a naturally reduced vocabulary and idiomatic scope. %hankfully however this has not been the catastrophe it could have  been because bards aplenty there were in days gone by and some have left their mark in published and also in unpublished work. -rom -letcher and Currie of Glendaruel 3  to Campbell of 2tronchullin =  9acColl of 9inard >  &uncan 9acIntyre of )raeleckan ?  and #eil 9acIntyre of )arrbreck  /  there have been enough contributions to the local literature to augment what the 2chool of 2cottish 2tudies had unknowingly laid as a foundation for a dialect revival 41 . 9uch of this material was contained in 6olmer,s notebooks some in poetry collections from days gone by others in manuscript form as well as the doEens of stories and anecdotes throughout the recorded and written corpus of evidence for the tongue some of which is contained in the incredible work done by Fohn &ewar which I have yet to have the chance to fully e*plore. 2afe to say there is enough to be getting on with and a fine corpus of material from which to learn the dialect once I have found the time to prepare it all for usePerhaps a good move now would be to set out some of the shibboleths one may encounter in Gáidlhig  Dhàil Riata and also some of the orthographic improvements which have been made many peculiar to the dialect area others which can happily be regarded as suggestions for the improvement of the writing of 2cottish Gaelic in general.Perhaps the most conspicuous feature of the dialect is the universal replacement of the verb and conditional ending  –adh  with  –amh 21 .  Fust as with the commonly found instance of this suffi* in well!known 6ebridean Gaelic words such as dianamh, seasamh  and  feitheamh  so &alriada Gaelic contains this form wherever you would e*pect to find  –adh  in the Gaelic of the north. +verywhere in the dialect area from (ochfyneside west the ending is often also pronounced strongly HvH 44  while in Cowal and presumably also )ute it sounded something like HuH 45 "e find to give $ust a few e*amples that the following verbs appear asJ  smaoineachamh, eachdachamh,  and also d!anamh,  whilst those so written and pronounced in northern Gaelic are often though not e*clusively found in the dialect area to end with the suffi*  –achd,  for e*ample  seasachd, feitheachd and also  gluasachd  .As mentioned the conditional form of the verb also ends with this sound and orthographic convention so that we find forms such as hitheamh, dh"fhaodamh  and reachamh  and even in Cowal the v, was sometimes pronounced although $ust as often lost in normal speech delivered at pace. 15  4ro0n% "9(8 16  Cam*be$$% "798 17  MacCo$$% "937 18  4ro0n% "9(8 19  Ho$mer /un*ub$ise) ra0 )ata1 20  Ó Docartai!% "997 21  Cam*be$$ + ,omson "963% -.iii 22  Ó Docartai!% "997 /.arious e-am*$es1 23  Ó Docartai!% "997 /.arious e-am*$es1  It must be added that other words normally ending in  –adh  would often be found to be  pronounced HvH HuH or even HLH %he likes of  seamh,   iomamh  and  feamh  being three e*amples of this. As can be seen the shortened form of the conditional to be, is not found in &alriada. "hile it can occasionally be heard in the Gaelic of one or two contributors as hiomh  this was the e*ception rather than the rule and e*tends to all forms of the verb to be,.6ere are the basic forms with which it is possible to come into contact when reading or hearing &alriada GaelicJ a hith, ith# na ith#ithidh, cha hith, am ith$ nach ith$ a hitheashithinn, hitheamh 2% %his provides an entirely unconfusing and instantly recognisable root of ith  for learners rather than the needless use of i  even in answer forms which are stressed such as cha hith. A further quick note would be that  hitheamaid  2&   was also unknown as part of common usage in the dialect area.%here is also a marked prevalence of the sound H ɛ H when normally written as a  or ai 4= . I had to find a way to get around this and decided that the easiest way was to make use of the now mostly redundant á . %his was a simple way to denote the sound without having to change the integrity of the Gaelic word thereby retaining familiarity with other dialects. +*amples of this would be às  written ás  thàinig   being written tháinig, màthair   as máthair   and indeed Gàidhlig   being written Gáidhlig. %he discovery of this latter pronounciation has caused some consternation. After years of telling non Gaelic speakers that the language was Hga ː likH and not Hge ː likH it was now found that despite the fact that most of the study area maintained the pronounciation Hg  ː ɛ lik H 4>  the dreaded Gaylick,  pronounciation of (owlanders was about (ochfyneside not only natural but historically correct 4? . %he cat went mercilessly among the pigeons as only the truth has the ability to do so well. It was now not at all wrong to refer to the oldest continuously spoken 2cottish language in +nglish as the spelling of the word itself suggests the Gaelic of the Gaels.%he adoption of á  is not the only use of the acute accent to be found in this volume. %he letters '  and (  have also been re!introduced as a matter of course given that their removal from 2cottish Gaelic orthography 4/  was one of the strangest decisions yet and often regarded as a notoriously needless one amongst speakers. %hese accents were and continue to be incredibly useful and have therefore been re!employed. "ords like t(iseachd   which would be written elsewhere as toiseach  can now be  pronounced and appreciated for their &alriada sound by readers from any dialect background once again utilising the fantastically versatile orthography at our disposal to its fullest and avoiding the assumption of placenames and unfamiliar words as containing H ɛ H or H ɔ H sounds when this was not in truth the case.&alriada Gaelic also contains a strong instance of a hard s, where this 'were spelling to dictate sound! should really be soft. Although this is a phonetic point rather than an orthographic one words such as  s)os, seac  and  seasamh * seasachd   were often pronounced with a hard s, sound at the  beginning 51  rather than a sh, an occasionally tough pill to swallow for some of those immured in the conventions of 9id!9inch. 24  to be% be5 )ont be5 sa$$ be% sa$$ not be% sa$$ be sa$$ not be tat 0i$$ be% I 0ou$) be% 0ou$) be 25  0e 0ou$) be 26   Ó Docartai!% "997 /.arious e-am*$es1 27  'S3:7a Harriet Cra0or)% Stuc<reoc "9&: /0it =re) MacAu$e>1 28  SA"97"286 Arcie Mac#icar% 'oc air "97" /0it Eric Cre!een1 29  ae$ic ?rto!ra*ic Con.entions 2((9% "2 30  'S9:7 @on Mac#icar% 'oc air "973 /0it Da.i) C$ement1
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