Content of the focal.ie database
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Brief introduction to the Irish language
Background to CT terminology stock
Digitization of terminology stock
Strengths and weaknesses
Conclusions
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Proto-Indo-European (7th? – 4th millennium BC)
◦ Centum-Satem isogloss (4th millennium BC)
 Centum languages, Satem languages
 Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, Italic, Anatolian, Tocharian
 Proto-Celtic (c. 4000 - 800 BC)
 Insular Celtic, Continental Celtic (Gaulish, Celtiberian) (c.
800 BC)
 Goidelic, Brythonic (Welsh, Breton, Cornish, Cumbric, Pictish?)
(c.600 BC – AD 600)
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Primitive Irish (AD 300-600)
◦ Old Irish (AD 600–1000)
 Middle Irish (AD 1000– 1200)
 Early Modern Irish (1200–1700), Manx (12001974;+revival), Scottish Gaelic (1200-)
 Modern Irish (1700 – )
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5th C: Christianity – introduction of Latin alphabet, borrowings
from Latin
9th C: Viking invasions – borrowings from Norse
12th C: Norman invasion – borrowings from French
15th/16th C: British colonization, plantations of English and
Scottish settlers – borrowings from English
17th C: conquest or flight of the native ruling class, loss of
patronage for writers
19th C: Potato famine – death, disease, emigration
17th – 20th C: Irish the language of the poor, powerless,
dispossessed, geographically marginalized- language shift,
domain loss
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4th C: memorial inscriptions in Ogham alphabet
4th -9th C: Annals, genealogical books, historical and semi-historical stories, appear in
manuscripts transcribed from 11th C, including Keating’s History of Ireland in 17th C;
6th C: earliest surviving written texts, mainly religious, some poetry
7th C: 187 epic sagas including prose interspersed with poems, which appear later in
manuscripts transcribed c.1100
7th- 10th C: Brehon laws, legal treatises
8th C: Early Christian literature – lives of saints, homilies, commentaries, prayers, hymns,
religious poetry; Old Irish glosses in religious manuscripts in Switzerland, Germany,
France, Italy
9th-17th C: Bardic poetry
11th -13th C: Translations from medieval and classical texts
12th C: Books of miscellaneous literature, transcribed from earlier written and/or oral
versions
12th-17th C: Grammatical tracts, metrical tracts, glossaries
14th C: Astronomical, geographical, medical tracts
14th – 17th C: Love poetry (amour courtois)
Thousands of manuscripts exist in various libraries - Royal Irish Academy, Trinity
College Dublin, Marsh’s Library, British Museum, Bodleian Library (Oxford), Advocates
Library (Edinburgh), Bibliothèque Royale (Brussels)
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Late 19th/early 20th C: cultural renaissance
Early 20th C: independence (for c. 75% of island)
Legislation translated to Irish since1922
Introduction of compulsory Irish in educational system and some
Irish-medium education
Lexicographical and terminological activity intensified
Standardization of spelling & grammar, mid-20th C
Media activity – some Irish content in general media since late 19th
C; national Irish radio station 1972, Irish TV station 1996
High density of Irish-language writers and publishers
late 20th C: peace initiative, Belfast Agreement, establishment of 6
North/South bodies, including The Language Body comprising 2
language agencies, Foras na Gaeilge and Tha Boord o Leid
2003 – Official Languages Act
2007 – official status as working language of EU
Republic of Ireland
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1.66m of overall population of 4.42m claimed
fluency in 2006
85,000 claimed to speak Irish as daily vernacular
538,000 use some Irish every day
98,000 use some Irish every week
14% claim to listen to Irish on radio and TV
Northern Ireland
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25,000 claim fluency
10% claim some knowledge of Irish
Indeterminate pockets of speakers located in
USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Pategonia, Brussels
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Literature and literary criticism
Education system (including textbooks and other aids)
Legislation (Irish and EU)
Bilingual or monolingual signage (official and commercial)
Official forms, documents, annual reports
Bilingual leaflets and bills from public services (gas, electricity, etc.)
Documentation generated by Irish-language organizations
Paper and electronic newsprint
Subtitling on TV
Software localization
Advertising, plaques, greeting cards, tattoos
Handbooks, glossaries and dictionaries by public and private
organizations (environment, flora and fauna, police, army)
State lexicography and terminology work
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Cf. Literary heritage – all of this literary activity
required means for term formation
Many new concepts were designated by
loanwords:
◦ Maighnéad < maignéit < Saltair na Rann, a poem penned
in AD 998
◦ Criostal < cristall < Sanas Chormaic, 8th C
◦ Ciogal < cicul < Félire Óengusso Céli Dé , 9th C
◦ Éiclips < eclipsis < Corpus Astronomiae, 16th C
translation (into Irish) from Spanish
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Other early term-formation methods included
compounding and calques
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Cultural renaissance – late 19th C
◦ Literary activity in Irish led to founding of the bilingual literary journal in
1882 (Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge), the bilingual newspaper in 1899 (An
Claidheamh Solais) – many others followed.
◦ A new language register was being created in order to discuss and write
about political and cultural issues since the vernacular focussed on the
practicalities of agriculture, weather, fishing, crafts, flora and fauna.
◦ The need to form new terminology as well as to collect existing domains
was recognised.
◦ An annual Irish literary competition called An tOireachtas, founded in
1897, launched competitions for collections of native terminology.
◦ A pioneer in this field, Liam S. Gógan, set about advertising in the media
for lists of native terms in the domain of architecture and related trades –
the resulting collection was published in the form of weekly short lists in
various newspapers over a period of 20 years.
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Contexts
◦ Educational system: exam papers, textbooks, teaching notes (terminology
committee1927-)
◦ Translation of legislation: in-house term formation (1922-)
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Criteria
◦ Dissemination of terminology through the educational system assumed
subsequent implantation
◦ Term formation in the first half of the 20th C tended to avoid loanwords
and new terms were formed from native words and particles
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Results
◦ Implantation had limited success in Gaeltacht areas – a divide existed
between east and west
◦ Loanwords for technical terms based on Greek or Latin roots began to be
introduced during the forties and fifties
◦ The compiler of an English-Irish dictionary (1959) collected 15 different
Irish equivalent terms for ‘telescope’, about half of which were based on
native words and half on the loanword ‘telescope’
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Contexts
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Approaches
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Legislation (Irish and EU), Official Languages Act 2003
Media & advertising
Creative writing, literary criticism
Translation industry, localization
Education, wider public
Collection and digitization of existing terminology stock
Continual term formation on demand and collection of native and spontaneous terms
Standardization and harmonization work
Development of terminology handbook
Awareness-raising, workshops, seminars, talks, articles
Elaboration of terminology
More reference to languages other than English due to EU translation work
Implantation
◦ More visibility - bilingual signage, subtitles on TV
◦ Some resistance from native speakers to neologisms and from others who dislike
loanwords
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Results
◦ Increased language status and awareness
◦ Surging translation industry and development of academic courses
◦ Focus on problems – grammatical, linguistic, terminological, lexicographical.
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No linguistic relationship later than IndoEuropean - 4000 BC
All Irish speakers (from Ireland) are also English
speakers
Small percentage of Irish speakers are mothertongue speakers – 0.05% of all claiming fluency,
16% of those who speak language every day
Most of these were brought up in pockets along
western seaboard
Many migrated and live in English-speaking
areas or abroad where they have little or no
context
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School curricula (primary and secondary, mainly)
textbooks, exam papers, educational documents
not all areas fully covered
areas outside curricula generally not dealt with
series of dictionaries focussed on various curriculum
subjects developed over the years
◦ some projects focussed on domain loss (flora and
fauna, sailing, trades)
◦ most projects focussed on domain expansion and
domain gain (business, sciences, telecommunications,
IT)
◦ some projects focussed on harmonization of existing
terminology (literary criticism, biblical proper names)
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Collaboration with a number of external
public and private agencies leading to
handbooks, dictionaries or glossaries in
various fields
◦ telecommunications, broadcasting, flora and
fauna, computing, finance, enterprise,
military, policing, environment, retail sector,
administration, food and drinks industry, etc.
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Collaboration with software companies in
localization projects
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Enquiries from the public led to terminology advice
service and the accumulation of lists of miscellaneous
terminology and associated phraseology
◦ Numbers of enquiries processed increased from c. 1000 per
year in the 1980s to 2000 in late 1990s to 5000+ in 2009
◦ Interface with the public reflected topics of current interest
and debate; less so since introduction of Official Languages
Act and EU status for Irish
◦ Enquiries reveal uncertain state of living language in terms
of terminology, language registers, anglicisms, syntax and
grammar
◦ Enquiries also reveal vigorous and unbridled development
of English as written in Ireland
◦ Enquiries arising from EU translation work and lists for the
IATE database reveal uneven quality of English terms in the
legislation
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Lack of transparency in multiword terms due to lack of case
and gender
Confusion due to partial equivalence of concepts in various
English-speaking regions, e.g. harbour/port/ferry, public
school
Multiple spellings
▫ British English vs American English
▫ Lack of clear coordinated hyphenation rules
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Influence of EU English and EU translation work
▫ Direct translations from French or other languages
▫ False friends
▫ False cognates
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Influence of American English in localization work
Influence of American English in language-learning
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Term bank initiated in the early nineties failed to
get off the ground due to lack of resources
Compilation of 18,862 miscellaneous terms edited
and issued on the Internet in 2002
Further collections added over the following years
CD of 9 terminology dictionaries published in 2004
12 further dictionaries and other material scanned
Project for National Terminology Database initiated
with FIONTAR, DCU, in 2005 with the help of
Interreg funding and funding from Foras na Gaeilge
All digitized material, including unedited draftlists, was input into new database
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Vast harmonization work ensued and is
ongoing
Refinement of data categories and subjectfield classification
Ongoing work on individual collections
Projects focussing on additional technical
facilities (link with New Corpus for the Irish
language, facility to download terminology
stock in CD format, export to translation
memory, etc.)
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Collaboration with external agencies led to
agreements to input other collections in the form
of auxiliary glossaries
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legal terminology and phraseology from the
Government translation section
military terms from the Defence Forces
Further collections of legal terminology sourced by
FIONTAR
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2 dictionaries of legal terms
collection of terminology prepared for IATE database
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All available terminology work carried out by the Terminology
Committee and its Subcommittees since at least the
nineteen-sixties now available online
Facilitates those of us working in the field – which is still
primarily term-formation work
Facilitates the public, including educators, students,
translators, public bodies and the media
Leads to feedback from the public about certain terms
Raises awareness of the nature of terminology work
Assists implantation of standardized terminology
Enhances the status of a minority language in a very
weakened position
Provides opportunities for further elaboration of the
terminology stock or parts thereof
Provides research opportunities for universities and other
entities involved in linguistic projects
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Translation from paper to electronic format creates new
challenges, e.g. lack of clear contexts – hence the need for
refinement of subject-field classifications, definitions and
usage examples
Merging over 70 collections reveals inconsistencies,
inaccuracies, multiple versions for the same English term
which may or may not designate the same concept in one or
more fields
Ongoing harmonization work can lead to uncertainty and
confusion for users
Confusion in the minds of many users between lexicography
work and terminology work - expect a one-stop shop
Conflicting terms in external resources – including the
spoken language – increases confusion and amount and types
of enquiries
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Official legal status and technological facilities
have come rather late for the Irish language
◦ Much has been lost, fabric of spoken language is
breaking down or changing dramatically
◦ Irish has a long literary tradition, and continues
to provoke enthusiastic interest in the written
word
◦ Terminology constitutes the bones of the written
word
◦ Population, maintenance and development of the
National Terminology Database is an undoubted
asset towards preserving and prolonging the
lifespan of the language – this work needs to be
consistently and adequately resourced.
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