An Old Irish Primer
by Wim Tigges, in collaboration with Feargal Ó Béarra
Nijmegen: Stichting Uitgeverij de Keltische Draak, 2006.
ISBN-10: 90-806863-5-2 (NL)
ISBN-13: 978-90-806863-5-9 (NL)
ISBN 10: 3-89323-085-8 (D)
This Primer aims to be a pragmatic introduction to Old Irish — a language in which many fascinating prose narratives and moving as well as witty lyrical poems have come down to us, but which unfortunately has some very complicated and possibly off-putting features for the new-comer. The only available English-language course-book, R.P.M. and W.P. Lehmann’s An Introduction to Old Irish, may be felt to be too comprehensive for the beginning student and possibly too academical for the interested layperson. Moreover, the information given there is not always reliable. E.G. Quin’s Old-Irish Workbook is rather old-fashioned and cannot be used independently from other sources of linguistic information, and Pádraig Ó Fiannachta’s more basic SeanGhaeilge gan dua is obviously inaccessible to the learner who has little or no knowledge of Modern Irish.
The present volume largely follows the approach of Ó Fiannachta in terms of its presentation of grammatical information, combined with that of the Lehmanns with regard to providing textual material with full glosses and grammatical explanations. For the latter purpose a choice has been made here in favour of lyrical texts, which on the whole are linguistically relatively simple but at the same time substantially sophisticated and therefore hopefully more challenging than the syntactically informative but otherwise not terribly exciting Old Irish Glosses which have often been the beginning student’s main alternative. It may be objected that this choice is problematical from a linguistic point of view, in that the lyrics are often “contaminated” by Middle Irish forms, but these can be easily taken in stride by beginners. Moreover, students with a mainly linguistic interest will soon find their way to more scholarly handbooks.
This Primer is divided into twelve chapters, each comprising three sections of grammatical information as well as one or more glossed texts. Some additional items, similarly glossed, are provided at the end of the volume. The material is presented so as to be usable for the purpose of an introductory academic course as well as to the individual learner. For the sake of those familiar with Modern Irish, the glosses will also provide the modern reflexes of the vocabulary