Friday, December 26, 2008

Contrasting Hebrew & Gaelic Revivals.

In Lazarus Tongues in Israel & Ireland," the language columnist "Philologos" shares the insights of U. of Delaware grad student Kevin Barry who compares the Gaelic Revival, or its lack, with the success of the Hebrew triumph for Israel. Philologos, writing in the Dec. 19th 2008 issue of The Forward, our national Jewish weekly paper, naturally controls the court for Hebrew, but Barry helps assist with his Irish expertise. Barry's arguments may not widen the comparative presentation as much as I'd crave, but it's useful to have these sensible discussions condensed for a popular (by my standards) audience.

Many observers of Ireland's language death and resuscitation-- at least in passing-- have wondered: why not only Hebrew, but even Scandinavian languages, or Czech, or Hungarian: how did these recover in the 19c Europe when German, for instance on the Continent, appeared so dominant in terms of empire and education, jurisdiction and imposition? Why didn't the Irish rebel by reverting to their own native tongue, to reject English in the same patriotic manner as many in Mitteleuropa? For that matter, why did Welsh thrive in this same period, and why's it still much healthier today, despite a much longer lag in state-sponsored support, vs. the Republic's eighty-odd years in institutionalizing its promotion in schools, signage, and the civil service?

P.S. I left this comment on-line at The Forward:
Thanks for an informative column, as usual. One factor that Barry probably stressed in his original paper: the negative mindset associated with the pre-independence British-imposed school punishment that punished the Irish-speaking children with wearing a "tally stick" that'd be passed on to the next child caught talking in Irish (a similar "Welsh not" was the norm in Wales at this time). Such methods inculcated further the notion in parents and their offspring that Irish needed to be eliminated so that English, and progress, could advance. It's also noteworthy that mid-19c, it was estimated only about fifty people could write in Irish; contrast this with the rich oral-- and recorded-- traditions of Hebrew.

Photo: I looked mighty long for an Irish-language t-shirt of the Red Sox, "Stocaí Deargaí," and here 'tis. You can buy it and hundreds more Sox gear at Yawkey Way Store outside Fenway Park. A student of mine was a Boston fan and he directed me thus. The Hebrew version accompanies it.

Sorry to Niall who worships the Lakers, but I admit my loyalty tilts to the Celtics ever since I was a kid. The collapse of the Celtics yesterday in the final minutes, 13-2 outscored, that enabled the Lakers to win by eleven discouraged me, but as we were able to watch some of the opening game when lunching at Harris Ranch (I had veggie soup at that meat emporium, but I like the fruit crate art framed there), I could see how the Lakers had the energy, the determination, and that home court advantage.

Niall and I agree, however, that the Red Sox can remain a second choice after the Dodgers. As tomorrow's entry documents, matching Irish with Hebrew in any image hunt produces a paucity of useful illustrations.

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