MUNSTER IRISH – GAEILGE NA MUMHAN
Munster Irish dialects are those spoken in Kerry, Co. Cork, and in Co. Waterford. When we speak of Munster Irish, this tends to mean Kerry Irish, which is the most well known one, especially due to the fact that it was the dialect of Peig Sayers. Although Munster Irish dialects are quite small in terms of native speakers, they have exerted a formidable influence on the formation of the standard language.
Is iad canúintí na Mumhan na cinn a labhraítear i gCiarraí, i gContae Chorcaí, agus i gContae Phort Láirge. Nuair a bhímid ag tagairt do Ghaeilge na Mumhan, is í Gaeilge Chiarraí is mó a bhíos i gceist againn, nó is í an chanúint sin is aithnidiúla, agus a lán daoine tar éis í a fhoghlaim ó Pheig Sayers. Cé nach bhfuil mórán cainteoirí dúchais ag na canúintí seo, bhí an-tionchar acu ar fhoirmiú na teanga caighdeánaí.
ag 'at' becomes ag s- before the plural article na, which accounts for such written renditions as ages na fearaibh, aiges na fearaibh, agesna fearaibh (for ag na fir) – there is no strong agreement on how the dialectal form should be written.
Aimeirice (stressed on the second syllable) is what America is called in Munster (at least Kerry) Irish, rather than Meiriceá (standard) or Meireacá (Connemara). There is a simple explanation: in Munster Irish, syllables with long vowels are stressed, so that words with non-initial stress are more common and accepted than in other dialects. Thus, the English word America could be borrowed into Munster Irish with the unstressed first syllable intact.
aige baile 'at home', rather than sa bhaile.
ainm 'name' is or can be feminine in traditional Munster Irish
áis 'the act of borrowing': áis ruda a thabhairt do dhuine is used as a full synonym of iasacht ruda a thabhairt do dhuine, at least in Co. Cork Irish. (In proverbs at least, áis often contrasts with iasacht – if a difference in meaning is observed, áis suggests ownership or right to use something constantly, while iasacht implies a more limited act of borrowing – one single occasion of use.) Note that even in Munster, áis does not have the figurative meaning of foreignness that iasacht has. A foreign thing or person can be called rud iasachta, duine iasachta, using the genitive form of the noun iasacht, but you could not use the genitive form of áis there.
ansan is the Munster way to spell and pronounce ansin 'there'. See san. Cf. anso, ansúd.
anso 'here' rather than anseo in Munster. See also so.
ansúd 'out there, yonder' rather than ansiúd in Munster.
aos is in Munster used for aois 'age'. In other dialects aos means only 'a class or group of people'.
aosánach – more than one non-Gaeltacht author has misperceived this Munster word to mean 'an old person', but in fact it means 'adolescent'.
aosóga: 'Young people' is an t-aos óg in Irish, but in Kerry this has turned into a plural: na haosóga.
as 'out of' lenites the naked noun in Kerry, where they basically say as chló instead of as cló 'out of print'. On the other hand, in Cork Irish (at least in Cape Clear Island), as is only used with definite article. With naked nouns, they instead use the historically more correct form a, which does not lenite: a cló. It does add a hiatus h- to a noun beginning with a vowel, though.
beach 'bee' has the old irregular plural beachaidh, which is of course pronounced as beachaig in Munster
birdeog is a wicker basket – one of the quintessentially Kerry or Blasket words, if you ask me.
bunóc 'small child, baby' is a literary word used by Peig and other Blasket classics, but as far as I know it is not common in spoken Kerry Irish anymore (in other dialects, leanbh and tachrán have always been preferred). Grammatically it is feminine and behaves similarly to fuinneog and other feminines ending in -óg/-eog (genitive bunóice, plural bunóca, plural genitive bunóc).
canathaobh or cad ina thaobh is 'why'. It is followed by a go/gur/nach/nár clause (but note that nach is in Munster ná, which neither eclipses nor lenites, but adds h- to a vowel: cad ina thaobh ná fuil Seán anso? 'why isn't Seán here?' – in a more mainstream Irish, cén fáth nach bhfuil Seán anseo?)
canta as an adjective is used for 'nice, pretty, beautiful' in Waterford Irish. A pretty girl can be cailín canta, with a nice (!) allitteration. The corresponding abstract noun, 'prettiness, beauty', is obviously enough cantacht.
choigin(t), chuigin(t), a choigin(t), a chuigin(t) means more or less the same as ar chor ar bith, i.e., 'at all'. You won't find it in Ó Dónaill's dictionary, but rest assured that you will find it in any collection of folklore in the dialect of Déise (i.e., Ring of Waterford or old Tipperary Irish).
chuala(g) – The first person singular past tense of the verb clois!/cloisteáil 'to hear' is in the standard language chuala mé. The historically correct form is chuala without mé, but this is used only in Kerry, while Cork Irish has the form chualag, influenced by thánag 'I came'.
chún for chomh is specifically Déise Irish. Don't confuse it with the Connemara conjunction chúns, which is actually a chomhuain is.
comáin!/comáint is typical Munster Irish for tiomáin!/tiomáint.
comhnaos is a County Cork development of comhaois 'the same age' or 'a person of the same age'
comraí is the Déise dialect form of coimirce, 'protection, patronage'. A similar phonetic development has happened with imirce, which is imirí in Déise Irish. Notionally speaking, the process is -rce > *-rche > *-rghe > -rí.
contúirt or cúntúirt means 'danger', you say? Well why not, but in Kerry Irish it is also used to mean 'counter', i.e. the sales desk of a shop or a pub (cuntar in Standard Irish, and in dialects frequently cabhantar). In his poem Máistir Scoile, Michael Davitt meets his old schoolmaster in the Kerry Gaeltacht and notes that as the teacher is using the word cúntúirt in this sense, he must be a frequent visitor, being so confident in the local dialect already.
coráiste 'courage' is not exactly an English loan word but rather an old Norman French one, which was borrowed into both English and Irish at more or less the same time. It is common in Munster, as are words derived from it: coráistiúil, míchoráistiúil.
craimsigh!/craimsiú is a form of the verb aimsigh!/aimsiú that is sometimes used by Munster writers; the standard form is common in Munster too, though.
cuileachta is a form of cuideachta 'company' used in Munster in the sense of 'jolly company, fun'. The syllable -ach- is stressed in Munster and tends to knock down the preceding syllable, so that it often sounds like cleachta.
deabhadh is the quintessentially Munster word for ’haste, hurry’ (although not unknown to Máirtín Ó Cadhain, either). Don’t confuse it with the Ulster noun deabhaidh ’fight, strife’. Deabhadh is masculine and has the genitive form deabhaidh, which in Munster obviously has an audible -ig sound in the end. The other noun is feminine and has the genitive form deafa.
druid – ’to move [towards]’ – has in Cork Irish the verbal noun druidiúint, and from that dialect I have noted the delightful expression tá sé ag druidiúint chun deireanais ’it’s getting late’. This can easily be standardized as tá sé ag druidim chun deireanais, and it is much better than the Anglicistic tá sé ag fáil deireanach.
eachtraigh!/eachtraí is a verb obviously related to eachtra 'adventure', but it means 'to tell (stories)'. The idea is that of telling stories about adventures: you don't need to experience them first-hand. Eachtraíocht means story-telling rather than an adventurous life, and the masculine noun eachtraí means 'story-teller', the same as scéalaí more or less – an adventurer should be called eachtránaí to keep him distinct from the eachtraí. Jules Verne was a great eachtraí, but an eachtránaí he was only in his imagination.
eagla 'fear' is or can be masculine in traditional Munster Irish.
falla is the word for 'wall', balla elsewhere
fé is the usual form the preposition faoi takes in Munster even when written, and at least in the Irish dialect of Waterford (and in directly related, now-extinct dialects) it is used as a conjunction, meaning 'before'. This is a long-established usage in the dialect and can even be seen in literature – Séamus Ó Maolchathaigh's Gaeltacht autobiography An Gleann agus a Raibh ann (An Clóchomhar Tta, Baile Átha Cliath 1963/1974) is a case in point. Ó Maolchathaigh grew up in South Tipperary when Irish was still spoken there natively, and his speech was the Déise dialect, of which the Irish in County Waterford is the last remnant.
feiscint rather than feiceáil is the verbal noun of feic! 'see'. Note also the participle form feiscthe, feiscithe.
fiacha 'debts' is used in the sense of 'price' (the price paid for a thing purchased) in Munster Irish. (Less regional words for the same idea are praghas from the English word and luach 'worth'.)
fuaid is the way how fud is pronounced in the expression ar fud: ar fuaid na háite for instance.
Gaolainn – Gaeilge. The name of the language itself ends in a slender -ng sound, the -l- is pronounced broad, and -ao- is a long [e] sound in the dialect. Even by writers of standard Irish or other dialects, the form Gaolainn or Gaelainn (or even Gaeluinn!) rather than Gaeilge is often used when they are (jokingly) referring to the dialect of Munster or specifically of Kerry.
garsún 'boy' is one of the typical Norman French words in Munster.
imirí means 'the act of moving house, removal' in Déise Irish. It is actually the same word as the standard term imirce 'migration'. Cf. comraí.
iomardúil 'difficult, rugged' (talamh iomardúil 'earth that is difficult to till')
lánú: The word lánúin 'married couple' is now treated as the nominative, and has the regular genitive lánúine. However, in the older system lánú was the nominative, the dative form was lánúin, and the genitive was lánún. At least the old nominative form lánú is still found in Munster literature.
leabhair is an inflectional form of leabhar 'book', but it is also an adjective meaning 'long and slender', and very typical of Munster Irish.
leonaitheach: mar ba leonaitheach 'as luck would have it, providentially'. Probably a phonological development of deonaitheach (standard: deonach).
leonú Dé 'God's will'. A dissimilation of deonú Dé. The verb deonaigh!/deonú means 'to vouchsafe'.
lógóireacht means 'lament', 'the act of lamenting'. It is usually supposed to be related to the noun olagón, which means more or less the same, and the underlying form would thus be *olagóireacht, but as far as I know this is just conjecture (this is why I mark it with an asterisk). I used to think that lógóireacht was confined to Ring of Waterford, i.e., to Déise Irish, but it is indeed found even in other Munster dialects.
luch 'mouse' has in Kerry retained the irregular plural form luchaidh (which is obviously pronounced as luchaig)
macánta means 'nice, friendly, not angry' in Kerry. The opposite is mallaithe. When a new schoolmistress came to teach Blasket children, parents asked whether the new teacher was macánta or mallaithe by disposition.
mairbhitíocht 'apathy' (Kerry). Mairbhití is the standard form, and both variants are of course feminine. The adjective 'apathetical, dull, listless, numb' is mairbhiteach.
matalang is a great calamity or disaster, something like tubaiste in other dialects. While tubaiste is feminine, matalang is masculine (an matalang, an mhatalaing, na matalaing, na matalang).
meaisín can in Cúil Aodha be feminine, at least in the genitive form (na meaisíne).
Mí na Féile Bríde is the traditional name of the month of February in Kerry. Feabhra is a literary word.
mótar is the usual word for 'car, motor-car, automobile' in Kerry Irish.
nach is somewhat problematic. As you probably already know, instead of the verbal particle nach 'that...not', which eclipses, Munster Irish uses ná, which adds h- to a vowel, but does not change an initial consonant: ná fuil 'that...is not' (nach bhfuil in the standard language), ná hosclaíonn 'that...doesn't open' (nach n-osclaíonn in the standard language). Note though that nach does exist as the negative form of the copula even in Munster. Moreover, there are two kinds of nach in Munster not used in other areas: In Kerry, nach means gach, as in the title of the memoir Nach aon saol mar a thagann sé by Caitlín P. Mhic Gearailt. In Déise, though, it means ach.
nath is a masculine noun meaning 'aphorism, adage', but in Munster it is used in the meaning 'something worth paying attention to'. Ní dhearna sé nath de 'he didn't pay attention to it, he didn't care about it', for instance. You can also use a similar construction as with sonrú in Ulster, i.e. cuir!/cur with the preposition i: níor chuir sé nath ar bith ann.
nóisean is the English word 'notion', but in Irish it has the sense of either a foolish notion or an infatuation: thug sé nóisean don chailín = thug sé teasghrá don chailín. Typical of Munster Irish, especially Kerry; and of course, 'notion' is used similarly in much of Hiberno-English.
nótáilte (which becomes nótálta in Munster, or even nótáltha) means 'great, cool' in the dialect – i.e. it is an adjective of praise that tends to be somewhat overused
ó 'from' combines in Munster with plural na into ósna (rather than standard ó na) 'from the...': ósna fearaibh 'from the men' (ó na fir in the standard language). Note the use of the plural dative fearaibh.
oiriúnaigh!/oiriúnú This I first thought to be a somewhat literary verb coined to cover the meaning of cuir!/cur in oiriúint, i.e. to adapt something to something else, but in Kerry, it is part of the natural spoken language and means 'to suit', when talking about clothes. It takes a direct object: oiriúnaíonn na bróga san thú 'those shoes suit you' (other dialects say feileann/oireann/fóireann na bróga sin duit). In the dialect it is usually pronounced without the initial oi-, and it is sometimes seen written as riúnaigh!/riúnú.
ól refers to smoking: in Munster Irish smokers are said to "drink" tobacco. Ná hól tobac anso! 'Don't smoke here!' The more mainstream verb is obviously caith!/caitheamh: Ná caith tobac anseo!
ráinig is usually only used in the past tense, and it means "reached" or "happened" (more commonly current words would be shroich and tharla, respectively). It is not entirely uncommon to see other forms of the verb such as ráingeoinn or ráineoinn ('I would reach') in Irish written by Munster authors, but the past tense is by far the most common form.
réiltin rather than réalta is the usual word for 'star' in Kerry. Note that the -t- after the -l- is pronounced as [h], thus the spelling réilthín makes sense in the dialect (but if you wanted to be consistent about this, you'd end up writing, say, cuimilth for cuimilt).
rúcach for 'greenhorn, rookie, newbie' is found in Munster native literature and must rank as an acceptable Irish word, although obviously an English borrowing to start with. An absolute beginner, newbie or newcomer is rúcach dearg, a 'red rookie'. It can also refer to raw recruits (policemen or soldiers), as you will find out by reading Pádraig Ua Maoileoin's delightful little book about his Garda Síochána years, De Réir Uimhreacha.
saghas is originally the English word 'size', but it means 'kind, sort' in Munster, where it is an old loanword. (In Ulster, it does occur in the sense 'size', when talking about clothes or shoes, but up there it is a recent borrowing.)
sáipéal is how they pronounce séipéal 'chapel' in Kerry. Even in books aimed at reproducing authentic dialect, the word is not usually spelt like this, however.
san rather than sin is used for 'that', when the preceding word ends in a broad consonant: an fear san, an bhean san. Similarly, ansan rather than ansin 'there'.
saoráideach is used in Munster, at least in Cork Irish, for 'easy'. The word is connected with the noun saoráid 'convenience, facility', as in 'modern conveniences', saoráidí nua-aimseartha – you can also use áiseanna nua-aimseartha. Both nouns are feminine: an tsaoráid, na saoráide, na saoráidí, an áis, na háise, na háiseanna, na n-áiseanna.
scamhard for 'nourishment, nutrition' is recommended even by standard dictionaries, with the Foclóir Póca and Foclóir Scoile giving the spelling pronunciation [skauərd]. However, in Munster, where this word is used in dialect, the pronunciation is more like [skəwa:rd], the second syllable being both long and stressed. Thus, writing it scamhárd would give a better idea of the actual pronunciation.
scéaltóireacht instead of scéalaíocht 'story-telling' is often enough encountered in Munster Irish. The corresponding word for 'a story-teller', scéaltóir, does exist in the dialect too, but is in my opinion less common – I'd say scéalaí is just fine even in Munster. Note that Munster Irish also has the verb eachtraigh!/eachtraí.
seim!/seimint is used instead of the standard seinn!/seinm 'to play (music)'.
seoigh: this word needs some explanation. In Munster, masculine nouns ending in a vowel are frequently perceived to have an inbuilt final -gh or -dh, which is not pronounced, but which changes into -igh/-idh in the genitive case, and this is in Munster Irish pronounced quite audibly as if written -ig. This produces such genitives as for instance sneachtaig from sneachta 'snow' (the speaker thinks of sneachta as sneachtadh or sneachtagh). Now, in a similar way, seó (basically a loan from English 'show') 'show, fun, great amount' has in Munster developed the genitive form seoigh. This has then come to be perceived as an adjective and acquired a generally positive meaning, something like 'great, cool, wonderful'. Adverbial use with go – go seoigh 'greatly, wonderfully' – is allowed, and common.
sid can be used instead of seo in copula constructions where seo comes first: seo é an scéal or sid é an scéal. It is an attempt to avoid the hiatus (clash of two vowels) in seo é. It has some currency even in written Irish and in contexts where one would expect standard Irish. So, if you see sid é... where there should be seo é..., it is vintage Munster dialect, not a misprint for sin é.
slí 'way, road' often means 'room, space, elbow-room' in Munster
so is used instead of seo 'this' when the preceding word ends in a broad consonant: an fear so, an bhean so. Note also anso 'here'.
sochas is used instead of seachas 'besides, other than, compared to'
sóinseáil means 'change' in Munster – not just changing money, but also a change of weather. This is one example of how Munster Irish tends to prefer Norman French-derived words.
súd rather than siúd is used after a broad consonant, and similarly, ansúd is preferred to the standard ansiúd 'out there, yonder'.
tar!/teacht can mean "become, get" at least in some Munster varieties, notably in Cork Irish: do thánag tuirseach 'I got tired' (less provincial usages are tháinig tuirse orm, thuirsigh mé, ghlac mé tuirse, ghlac tuirse mé, and d'éirigh mé tuirseach)
téana is a defective verb meaning 'come (along), go (along)'. Its most common forms imperative téana 'come along!' and first person plural subjunctive present téanam 'let's go!' According to Ó Dónaill's dictionary, it has a verbal noun, téanachtaint, but I have no idea of ever having seen that form anywhere else.
thána(g) – The first person singular past tense of the verb tar!/teacht 'to come' is in the standard language tháinig mé. The historically correct synthetic form is thánag, but it has survived only in Cork. In Kerry thána is used instead.
thar n-ais is used for ar ais 'back'.
tómas used in the expression i dtómas 'intended for' (= le haghaidh, i gcómhair). This is Cork Irish.
tosnaigh!/tosnú is the Kerry variant of tosaigh!/tosú 'to begin'
trácht!/trácht means, as you should know, 'to remark, to comment, to mention', and it usually takes the preposition ar: thrácht sé orm 'he mentioned me'. In Munster, though, we also see thar: thrácht sé tharam. This is most probably influenced by the fact that the verb tar!/teacht 'to come' means 'to mention' when used with thar: tháinig sé tharam 'he mentioned me'.
turlabhait is a very expressive word meaning something like a crashing or bashing sound
varnáil for 'warning' is quite an old and established loanword in Munster Irish, but foláireamh is also used. Note that even the verb ordaigh!/ordú can mean 'to warn' in Munster.