Tag Archives: Grammar

What am I doing with my Gaelic?

Deagh cheist (good question) – what have I been doing? Well, there was never any real plan after An Cùrsa Inntrigidh other than to enjoy having Gaelic as a hobby. The whole point of doing the course was to give me a foundation upon which to build in my own time – over many years, in amongst doing other things I enjoy. So that’s what I’m doing. Don’t expect fluency any time soon! After ACI I worked through Scottish Gaelic in 12 Weeks which covered the areas ACI didn’t cover, but would have been covered on the following course An Cùrsa Adhartais, which I chose not to do. Therefore I have the vast majority of the grammar covered and the focus over the next year or two will be:

Improved Vocabulary – Not looking to swallow a dictionary, but I’m trying to develop a vocabulary which is relevant to the words I need i.e. no point in trying to remember the Gaelic for a word I’ll barely use. 

Improved Idiom – What’s Idiom? Well idiom is the way a language chooses to say something with a structure which may be unusual to non-native speakers. For example there are a lot of idiomatic phrases involving the verb cuir (put).

  • Tha mi airson crìoch a chur air an leabhar seo – I want to finish this book
    • literally: put an end on this book
  • Bu toil leam eòlach a chur air Barraigh – I would like to get to know Barra
    • literally: put familiarity on Barra

Idiom is the bit which means solid grammar foundations and a good vocabulary isn’t enough. You need to know how things are said. Until you do you will always come across as a learner. That said, until you know the idiom you can only go with what you have, and in time you will learn the idiomatic phrasing when you come across it. As long as you’re understood, you have a foundation to build on.

Improved Listening – At the moment this is not good. I still struggle to keep up with anything other than really basic conversations. The plan for later this year, possibly next, is to start working through the Beag air Bheag podcasts on Rèidio Nan Gàidheal. These are not for beginners but the hope will be that my knowledge of grammar backed up by solid vocabulary and improving idiom will serve me well.

To help with the first two goals I have started to read through Leabhar nan Litrichean (Book of Letters). This is a collection of the first 200 letters of an on-going series. The letters so far have been primarily old tales of where, when and how the Gaelic language was used. The writing can be a bit poetic at times but it has helped me add some much needed idiom as well as some useful vocabulary.

To date I’ve read letters 1-5 and the intention is to read and work on 5 before doing something else – including write blog pieces and working on other resources i.e. letters 6-10 will be tackled in a few weeks.

Key point in all of this is that there is no magic wand. It’s going to take time and effort – both of which I will give willingly. However, the results will be slow but that was always the idea. Gaelic is now something I have in my life which I enjoy greatly and it’s something I will work away at for the rest of my days, even if the outside world doesn’t see much evidence of it!

Taing airson leughadh!

A Question of Grammar – Semicolon

semicolonEverywhere I go these days I see one. My eyes can barely glance at a piece of fiction without one of them being there. Talk about being in vogue! I’m almost beginning to worry whether I should publish any more writing without this year’s grammatical must have. I am of course talking about the oft lamented but now simply irresistible semicolon. It’s getting to the stage that I now come across them so often I genuinely wonder whether people are putting them in for the sake of it. Are they all really needed? If in doubt put one in seems to be the mantra for writers in 2013. Well I confess I’m not totally sure when to use them. There will be others out there like me embarrassed to admit they are semicolon ignorant. If you’re one of those then be ignorant  no longer. When should you use one? When shouldn’t you? What is the point? Time to find out.

Let’s first get a couple of definitions:

While terminal marks (i.e., full stops, exclamation marks, and question marks) mark the end of a sentence, the comma, semicolon and colon are normally sentence internal, making them secondary boundary marks. The semicolon falls between terminal marks and the comma; its strength is equal to that of the colon

In other words:

The main task of the semicolon is to mark a break that is stronger than a comma but not as final as a full stop.

Yes, yes. “Examples, examples” I hear you cry. Well, if I’m reading this correctly there appears to be two main uses for the semicolon.

1.Between items in a series or listing containing internal punctuation, especially parenthetic commas, where the semicolons function as serial commas

To you and me this means sentences which already have punctuation such as commas i.e.

The report concluded the following: 76% of surveyed firms monitor employee Web-surfing activities, with 65% blocking access to unauthorized Internet locations; 57% monitor employee telephone behaviour, including the inappropriate use of voice-mail.

2. Between closely related independent clauses not conjoined with a coordinating conjunction:

Again to you and me this suggest sentences where we don’t use words like “and” or “but” to join two closely linked pieces of text i.e.

At the sales I spent £20my brother spent over £50.

In this example you could use two sentences as both elements stand independently. However, as they are related pieces of information the briefer pause given by a semicolon makes it read better.

For more info check out the following links:


http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon (This is particularly excellent!)

Well, after writing that I am a bit clearer. Hope you are too!