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Nuadu
October 20th, 2008, 02:40 PM
Hi there :)

I have a question for reconstructionists regarding languages. Why are old languages so important in Reconstructionism?

The reason I find it strange is in Ireland we have Irish hammered into us from the time we can speak until we go to College but noone speaks Old Irish at all. Old Irish isn't even a degree course here any more.

I have been reading one of the helenic reconstructionism threads and a black mark against 1 hellenic author is he doesn't care about old Greek. I have seen the same emphasis on the old irish language in essays on Clannada na Gaelica and Imbas. Surely there isnt an old Irish speaking community there (there are none here) and there cant be many universities teaching old Irish? I dont understand it at all

banondraig
October 20th, 2008, 03:07 PM
It's because learning a language introduces you to a new way of thinking, in this case the way the ancient Irish thought. Learning ancient languages also protects you from other people's errors in translation.

Nuadu
October 20th, 2008, 03:48 PM
It's because learning a language introduces you to a new way of thinking, in this case the way the ancient Irish thought.

I dont want to be negative nelly but why cant you get that learning contemporary Irish?


Learning ancient languages also protects you from other people's errors in translation.

The main thing that mixes me up is arguing about Old Irish etymologies and translations. Why does it matter when 95% of our early literature is in Middle Irish and Old Irish was a heavily Conservative\Limited language?

Fiamma
October 20th, 2008, 03:48 PM
Hi there :)

I have a question for reconstructionists regarding languages. Why are old languages so important in Reconstructionism?

First off, what Banondrag says, which applies not only to ancient languages, but also contemporary languages, and even studying modern derivatives of those languages can be a way to bring you closer to the gods, not to mention its potential use in the world.

In my own experience, I've noticed that use, even of a modern derivative language, can make a difference. My own particular experience involves an invocation to Iannus delivered in Italian, then translated into English for the benefit of the ritual attendees. Additionally, in the same ritual, I addressed a prayer to some of my ancestors in Italian. I'd never had any luck in communicating with my ancestors in the past, certainly not for lack of trying...and while it took me a while to realize it, that prayer was eventually answered, and continues to work itself out, two years later.




I have been reading one of the helenic reconstructionism threads and a black mark against 1 hellenic author is he doesn't care about old Greek.

Please understand that that point is an extremely minor issue with that particular individual, and that thread was the first time I've ever seen that point brought up. For the most part, issues of language don't even register on the radar of folks who have a problem with him. I don't remember what exactly was said in the thread without going back to it, but it wasn't so much that he didn't think it was important to learn Greek, but that particular thought combined with many other things that he's said which are contradictory.

There are plenty of folks in the reconstructionist communities who have no interest in learning the ancient language/s

banondraig
October 20th, 2008, 03:52 PM
I dont want to be negative nelly but why cant you get that learning contemporary Irish?

Contemporary Irish would be the next best thing. :) Y'all pay for things in euros, not cows, these days, though, so I would say there is still a significant difference.




The main thing that mixes me up is arguing about Old Irish etymologies and translations. Why does it matter when 95% of our early literature is in Middle Irish and Old Irish was a heavily Conservative\Limited language?


That's an excellent question. I was under the impression that most of the literature was in Old Irish, myself. :bigredblu

Nuadu
October 20th, 2008, 05:03 PM
Thanks for Replying Fiamma :)


First off, what Banondrag says, which applies not only to ancient languages, but also contemporary languages, and even studying modern derivatives of those languages can be a way to bring you closer to the gods, not to mention its potential use in the world.

How does it bring you closer to the Gods?

Look at this from my perspective Irish is a living language I and almost everyone else I know here learned it at home and in school growing up. I have an Irish name and an English name and so does every housing estate, geographical area and rank in the social services (Hospital, Army, Policy etc...) every chocolate bar and bag of crisps has ingredients in Irish, every pack of smokes has Irish health warnings - its a part of everyday life there is no mysticism about it for me.


I'd never had any luck in communicating with my ancestors in the past, certainly not for lack of trying...and while it took me a while to realize it, that prayer was eventually answered, and continues to work itself out, two years later.

Why do you think that was?
Would your ancestors refuse to talk to you because you are a member of a foreign culture and in taking the time to learn their language they felt you were honestly dedicating yourself to a cause they cared about?


There are plenty of folks in the reconstructionist communities who have no interest in learning the ancient language/s

I honestly dont want to insult people or imply things that arent true so thanks for clarifying that point.

Nuadu
October 20th, 2008, 05:19 PM
Thanks for replying Banondraig :D


Contemporary Irish would be the next best thing. :) Y'all pay for things in euros, not cows, these days, though, so I would say there is still a significant difference.

Ok I dont understand how philosophy is contained within a language but my way of thinking is our inevitable adoption of a monetary system and centralised government aside (every other european culture adopted both those things before us) our language didnt dissapear and get reconstructed it has existed throughout our historical period so it encompasses the entirity of our culture since it began to evolve am I wrong?

Seren_
October 20th, 2008, 05:53 PM
Most CRs learn modern languages, unless the language of the culture they focus on is now extinct, like Gaulish. Some do have the opportunity to learn the older languages and do so, but for most it's very difficult without access to a university course.

In the case of learning Old Irish, the way the myths are written is very complicated and if you want to study them in any depth, beyond them being tales about gods, then understanding the nuances and the way the language works is essential to get a deeper understanding. Many of these nuances are specific to the period of time in which they were used; the meaning of words can shift and change over time, so you have to look at the words in their original context.

The people who composed the myths were extremely accomplished and used lots of linguistic, poetic and literary tricks to show off their skill. There's the tale of Liadain and Cuirithir, for example, which on the face of it is a story of two poets, in love, who can never be together. If you understand the language and techniques used, though, you immediately get a sense that the two can never be together as man and wife because the woman's name, 'little grey one', hints at the fact that she eventually takes the nun's veil...It's quite common in Irish tales for there to be obvious hints at what's to come in the rest of the tale and the use of specific words and names is just one way of doing this. I'm sure there are better examples, that are more pagan oriented, but that's the only one that springs to mind.

Then there's the example of roscada, say, which generally employ very archaic (or archaised) language in a formal and poetic way, often to convey something magical. The Morrigan's prophesies in The Battle of Mag Tured is written in this way and it's so obscure no one's yet fully translated it (as far as I'm aware), although others have. But in understanding the tricks and techniques that were used in the composition of the myths, like the roscada, and the incredibly versatile meanings, double meanings and so on in the very careful choices of words and names that were often used, you get a much clearer understanding of what the person (or people) who composed the myth, is trying to convey. For a CR interested in the filidh, then learning techniques like this can be a valuable compliment to their path as well.

You can read articles by linguistic experts about all this, but if you truly want to understand and have an informed opinion about it all, then it's better to learn it yourself, neh? Middle Irish is an important language as well, of course, but starting with Old Irish makes understanding Middle Irish so much easier. It's not so much that Old Irish is the only language that needs to be learnt, but it's the best starting place if you want to get more in depth with the literature, especially since even the Middle Irish tales often contain much older passages in Old Irish (and it's a natural assumption that these will contain the least messed around with pre-Christian ideas).

As I said, most recons who learn a language seem to learn modern languages, being the most accessible languages to learn, and providing an insight into modern cultural concepts that can often be only conveyed by the peculiarities of a particular language. After all, the modern language gives a link, a continuity to the past, and it's better than nothing, and for someone like me, who focuses on Scottish practice and finds a lot of value in the relatively modern folklore that's been recorded then of course it's a natural choice to learn the modern language as well in order to better understand that sort of thing.

Fiamma
October 20th, 2008, 09:23 PM
Thanks for Replying Fiamma :)

How does it bring you closer to the Gods?

Look at this from my perspective Irish is a living language I and almost everyone else I know here learned it at home and in school growing up. I have an Irish name and an English name and so does every housing estate, geographical area and rank in the social services (Hospital, Army, Policy etc...) every chocolate bar and bag of crisps has ingredients in Irish, every pack of smokes has Irish health warnings - its a part of everyday life there is no mysticism about it for me.

Perhaps it does nothing for you, sorry if what I said appeared to mean that it was true for everyone, but I do feel that to learn a language in which the gods were originally written of, spoken of, worshiped, or even a modern derivative, helps to better understand them and facilitate communication and therefore bring us closer. That's been my (however limited) experience anyway, and I know others have had similar. And there are others whose experience is more like that of yours.



Why do you think that was?
Would your ancestors refuse to talk to you because you are a member of a foreign culture and in taking the time to learn their language they felt you were honestly dedicating yourself to a cause they cared about?

Couldn't say for sure. I'm not very close to my family, know very little about my ancestry, except for where they came from and when. I know that the Sicilian part of my family sent one woman to the US in the midst of a family scandal in the very late 1800's, and somewhere in all that, all information about that part of the family prior to this woman's immigration got cut off. I know her name, and by way of the name- which is a very unusual name, I can make a pretty good guess of where she came fro on the island. None of the genealogy websites seem to have anything on the name, or a very few records in the US from twenty or more years after she came here. Maybe it was because I made that effort to get past it (I'm also the only person in my family in the last two generations, as far as I know that has bothered to learn Italian...which is not the same as it is spoken on Sicily, and even more different than it would have been in their time, but it's as lose as I've been able to get so far. I'm actually interested in learning the Sicilian dialect) Maybe I just asked at the right time. Maybe they took pity on me. I don't really know. kinda wish I did.



I honestly dont want to insult people or imply things that arent true so thanks for clarifying that point.

no problem

banondraig
October 20th, 2008, 11:47 PM
Ok I dont understand how philosophy is contained within a language

Not exactly philosophy, but a more subtle kind of turn of mind which is what makes each nation more or less what it is.

Have you ever learned a foreign language to the point where you could speak it to natives of that country? I am excluding Irish for the purpose of this discussion as it is indeed all over signs and so forth which you have grown up with.

parallax
October 21st, 2008, 12:18 AM
Ok I dont understand how philosophy is contained within a language but my way of thinking is our inevitable adoption of a monetary system and centralised government aside (every other european culture adopted both those things before us) our language didnt dissapear and get reconstructed it has existed throughout our historical period so it encompasses the entirity of our culture since it began to evolve am I wrong?

Our language helps shape our reality. The words we use are the words we think with. Different languages can express ideas differently, which can show us a new point of view. Learning a new language can shift the way you think. I think some of the reason people decide to learn old languages is to have an understanding of how those people thought about the world around them. You can get a sense of that by learning their language.
I think a lot of recons that choose to learn old languages are also looking to read the lore closest to its original state. As something gets translated over and over again it loses some of the nuances and definitely the poetry of the original script.

*~Amora~*
October 21st, 2008, 12:19 AM
Hi there :)
I have been reading one of the helenic reconstructionism threads and a black mark against 1 hellenic author is he doesn't care about old Greek. I have seen the same emphasis on the old irish language in essays on Clannada na Gaelica and Imbas. Surely there isnt an old Irish speaking community there (there are none here) and there cant be many universities teaching old Irish? I dont understand it at all

In addition to what others have mentioned, there are certain languages, like ancient Greek, which have a song-like quality. Have you ever felt so in tune with a song, that you couldn't help but sing, dance, or move to the rhythm because it felt like you were vibrating with it?

That's what I feel when I hear the old stories, like the Iliad, sung in the old language. I feel more in tune with the story through the way it's told.

Additionally, there is something to speaking the same prayers, in the same way, that the ancients did. For some, it makes them feel as if they are part of a long tradition, and that much closer to how the ancients felt when invoking the gods. That is, in a way, what Reconstruction is about - in my humble opinion.

banondraig
October 21st, 2008, 01:45 PM
Our language helps shape our reality. The words we use are the words we think with. Different languages can express ideas differently, which can show us a new point of view. Learning a new language can shift the way you think. I think some of the reason people decide to learn old languages is to have an understanding of how those people thought about the world around them. You can get a sense of that by learning their language.
I think a lot of recons that choose to learn old languages are also looking to read the lore closest to its original state. As something gets translated over and over again it loses some of the nuances and definitely the poetry of the original script.

This is what I was trying to say.

Nuadu
October 22nd, 2008, 09:45 AM
That has really cleared things up for me.

I can definately understand people wanting to reconnect to their heritage especially given that Reconstructionism began in the United States and wanting to get the native understanding of the mythology completely is cool too. I appreciate that relating to your Deities using a language can psychologically make you feel more in touch even if my perspective on it would differ because of my views on the language.

I could also see the history of old irish being appealing to Reconstructionalists too because it was only recently codified again and in the greater part by people outside the living culture. That must give hope that your goals can be achieved.

Faol-chu
October 22nd, 2008, 01:01 PM
Hi there :)

I have a question for reconstructionists regarding languages. Why are old languages so important in Reconstructionism?

The reason I find it strange is in Ireland we have Irish hammered into us from the time we can speak until we go to College but noone speaks Old Irish at all. Old Irish isn't even a degree course here any more.



Firstly, something to think about...

In Scottish Gaelic (modern), there are two words that refer to the colour "blue"...

There is liath...which can also refer to the colour grey. Therefore, when someone says "liath", they are referring to a grey, light blue, or a grey-blue (as we say in English!).

Then, there is gorm...which refers to a navy, or midnight blue...almost black. It can also be used to refer to black.


I gave this example to illustrate in as concrete of a way as possible the differences in languages, and meanings inferred by the use of words.
This phenomenon is magified with other words and phrases that are more philosophical in nature.

There is truly no such thing as an exact translation...

Keep in mind that I speak as more of a 'Traditionalist', or "Celtic Reconstructionist"...and that is different, because, though ancient writings are still important, in say, Gaelic tradition, the oral tradition is just as important. Writing is not the end-all, be-all of Gaelic tradition, and the written tradition has never been, for all practical purposes, "worshipped" in the Celtic world in the way that it has been in writing-oriented cultures (like the Greek). There is still far more lore that has been recorded (memorized) in Gaelic ORAL tradition (just that is extant NOW) than there is, or ever will be in the written one (except for the exception of the Bible, which was only relatively recently translated into Gaelic, and was still "worshipped" in the languages from which it was translated (Latin, mostly!).

In oral-based cultures, it is truly the spirit of the thing which is most important. Words and ideas get manipulated from generation to generation to reflect that which the current adult generation thinks is IMPORTANT to record for posterity and pass on to the next generation.
(This does not, however preclude the fact that the lore can be and has obviously been extremely consistent over time.)

I grant you that there are obviously differences, sometimes large, in the meanings of words from 1200 or so years ago, to now.
However, it's more "direct" to 'get there' (to the point of understanding, or recognizing it) from a modern point in the same language...especially when the language (as compared to other languages, including English) has changed comparatively little. For that matter, in trying to understand it, you get a social history lesson....dealing with how they got from 'this point', to 'that'.

I happen to believe that an understanding of the history can be, and often is, a spiritual imperative.

There has been more than one occasion when I've happened to re-read some of the stuff as a more advanced language learner that I read several years ago. Years ago, the meaning of it was a complete enigma...Now, I look at it and it just 'clicks' in a way that it never would have without me learning the modern language.

Faol-chu
October 22nd, 2008, 01:08 PM
In addition to what others have mentioned, there are certain languages, like ancient Greek, which have a song-like quality.

Gaelic certainly fits this description, as well.

la tortuga
October 22nd, 2008, 01:24 PM
It's because learning a language introduces you to a new way of thinking, in this case the way the ancient Irish thought. Learning ancient languages also protects you from other people's errors in translation.

BINGO. When I translated the Aeneid in my senior way of high school it completely opened up my mind to completely different ways of seeing the world. When you study ancient language you get into that author's head in a way you can't ever really get out, or at least I haven't yet. Latin, for example, has a very different sentence structure than English does, even to the point that some people would dare to say it doesn't have any strucutre (which is a lie, because it does, but it's very subtle and is often toyed with a bit by poets, which is what most people translate). Through that difference you are given a completely different perspective on things. when something comes first in a sentence it is what starts your thought off and as it continues on and on and on you get more ideas. The way I've always seen it is that Latin was always kind of like a swirl, this HUGE vortex of words in different tenses and with different meanings. English is very much a straight line with one concept following another, like a train. Once you immerse yourself in a different language you can see how those people viewed things slightly differently than you did before you understood that language. For example, the roots of words. This has got to be the MOST important aspect in viewing things through another person's eyes. Say one word means "virtue" in another language... but you don't know why it does. Then you come across the history of that particular word and find that the root it came from means "man" and as you continue along that path of understanding that paricular word you are given such a beautiful understanding of what virtue to those people meant, that it was a very masculine characteristic, etc, etc. In this particular example, say you were reading a translation of a Latin text which discusses womanly virtue and masculine virtue. You would have NO idea that, in Latin, virtue for a woman is a completely different word that comes from a completely differet part of the language than the word for manly virtue, of which there are SEVERAL that, in English a simple translation would way "virtue" but the connotations of each individual word are so very different and mean different things.

Also, especially with old greek as the example, the letters themselves are symbols. This is drastically important because each letter has a meaning that is both audible and visible. To simply hear it is a crime and to simply see it is a crime, both must come together to understand that meaning fully.

Also, if you understand the language, you don't have to rely on someone else's interpretive translation. You can go directly to the source and see "okay, this is what was said and I don't agree on the connotation in this translation, I'm going to take it the way I see it". It's so much more personal and cherished when you go through it yourself.

Faol-chu
October 22nd, 2008, 01:42 PM
Have you ever learned a foreign language to the point where you could speak it to natives of that country? I am excluding Irish for the purpose of this discussion as it is indeed all over signs and so forth which you have grown up with.


"All over the signs" does not equal being able to sit and converse with someone in the language.

If you can do that, you should understand well about the mental shift between English and Gaelic.

banondraig
October 22nd, 2008, 02:50 PM
"All over the signs" does not equal being able to sit and converse with someone in the language.

Certainly not. I excluded modern Irish for two reasons:

1) It's not a foreign language if you have grown up in Ireland, as Nuadu has; it's a less-common local language.

2) Irish Gaelic is not a completely unfamiliar language to someone in Ireland, even if that person speaks only English. It's somewhat akin to the way most Americans have encountered Spanish before.


If you can do that, you should understand well about the mental shift between English and Gaelic.


Yes, although my mental shift has been between English and German.

Nuadu
October 22nd, 2008, 05:21 PM
Banondraigs question was valid and excluding Irish a necessity Im sorry I glossed over it.

Because Im not a native speaker of anything but english and Irish - and being Irish I am fully aware of English culture I wouldnt have encountered a new cultures world view through learning a second language as much as I would if I learned spanish or chinese.

I dont value old irish or think the study of old irish is worthwhile for the same reason I dont value shakspearian english because I can speak with a better vocabulary using modern Irish and modern english then someone 1000+ years ago could in old irish or its english counterpart.

I apologise if I offended anyone that wasnt my intention. I asked the question because I honestly didnt understand and I am greatfull for all your help. :thumbsup:

YoungSoulRebel
October 26th, 2008, 07:29 PM
It's because learning a language introduces you to a new way of thinking, in this case the way the ancient Irish thought. Learning ancient languages also protects you from other people's errors in translation.

Exactly.

One of the things that many language immersion courses state before one begins is that the goal is not to "think as a speaker of X who is speaking Y" but to instead to "think as a speaker of Y".

With translations, there will always be certain... nuances lost to translation, so to eliminate that, eliminate the need for translation. Now, that's not to say that translations are inherently spiritually invalid, but it would be false to insist that they aren't missing a certain nuance and context.