57 Varieties

57 Varieties – the linguistic varieties blog

Oíche Shamhna

Samhain night, or oíche shamhna, is the night from Oct. 31st to Nov. 1st.

This is a festival that is already mentioned in early sources (9th century) and marks the end of the summer half-year and the start of the winter half year. It is seen as a time when transition between the worlds is possible, also between the worlds of the living and the dead, and between humans and supernatural beings.

At Samhain, bonfires were – and still are – lit during the evening and farmers take stock of their cattle and their harvest on Samhain day, i.e. the day following Oíche Shamhna (in the Celtic calendar the ‘day’ started with the night and is followed by the day).

The date, Nov. 1st has also been adopted by Christianity to celebrate the dead, a festival known as All Saints. Together with the All Souls festival afterwards this is also known or All Hallows, and the night before it Hallows Even. When Irish emigrants brought their traditions to America, Irish and other traditions merged, and the focus changed to presenting the dead and the supernatural in popular terms. The harvest-element is still present, though, in the use of pumpkins! (31-10-2015)


Take-away food, two definitions

Comment: Last St Patrick’s Day on Grafton Street, I saw two lads coming out of McDonald’s eating hamburgers. In the blink of an eye, a huge gull swooped down over one lads’ shoulder, took the burger out of his hand and flew off with it. Everyone else was laughing, but the poor kid was in shock. Horrible creatures those gulls. (Ghiolla Mear July 22nd 2015)

Irish, Welsh and Anglo-Saxon cousins – or not

New genome research by researchers at Oxford, carried out by Peter Donnelly’s team and now published in the Journal Nature, vol. 519 (pp. 309-314), finds that the DNA of eastern, central and southern English is relatively homogenous and 10-40 % of it can be linked to the Anglo-Saxon migrations. This relatively low percentage suggests again that the Anglo-Saxon settlers around the 5th century did not eradicate the previous Celtic population groups, but intermarried with them.
Very interestingly, the study also finds that the Celtic population groups are genetically diverse. England, Scotland and Ireland were influenced by pre-Roman continental (Celtic) settlers, but not so Wales, where the genome remains more distinct, pointing back to earlier population-groups who settled post-Ice-Age.

Read more here! (21.03.2015)

Verbal valencies

According to the valency approach, each verb determines how many interactants it needs. An monovalent verb will have one argument – the subject (the sun is shining). A divalent verb takes two arguments, a subject and an object (the sun is warming the air), and trivalent verbs sport subject, object and prepositional objects (Santa is bringing presents to the children). But we can also imagine even complex constructs: verbs which specify four object positions, e.g. I’ll send you money by post. Other verbs that allow four these trivalent structures are transmit or transfer. It would be nice to think of verbs that allow for five arguments. Any offers?

Politeness in Irish English

Irish English is known to value politeness and face-saving strategies highly (e.g. Kallen 2005, in Hickey and Stewart). The following text message has been posted by Danielle Murphy, and Irish drift-driver on her facebook page.

Hi Danielle, your vehicle will be ready to collect from Wednesday afternoon onwards if you would like to suggest a day and time when you would like to collect it and I can confirm if it suits. Regards, Jamie (11.08.2014).

not really a linguistic variety –

but a very interesting comic strip on an Old Irish epic. (08.07.2014) http://aboutabull.com/ch01.html


Did you ever think about the word chauffeur? If you are an English speaker you are probably thinking “big limousine, uniformed driver with or without cap”. If you are a French speaker, you are probably thinking chauffage “heating”, so somebody who heats. Did it occur to you that the chauffer used to be somebody who shovels the coals into the engine of a steam-operated locomotive?

Can you picture your modern CEO/politician…. and their chauffeurs? (18.06.2014)