Saturday, March 18, 2017

Translating "Chun" from the Irish: a triad of sorts

Yesterday, a stranger sent me an Irish saying:
Chun go léir na laethanta anseo agus ina dhiaidh
Is féidir iad a líonadh le cuimhní cinn
Fond, sonas, agus gáire.
I couldn't find it on the internet, so I turned to Google Translate to see if I could glean more information from it. Google translated it as:
For all the days here and beyond
They can be filled with memories
Fond, happiness, and laughter.
Dissatisfied with the translation, using Google, I broke it down word-for-word.

Chun go léir 
na laethanta
agus ina dhiaidh 

Is féidir iad
a líonadh 
le cuimhní cinn 

Fond?  is this a typo???
sonas, agus gáire. 

And then I made a rough interlinear translation:

For/to all/entire days
here (in this place) and before (after) (to come??)

afterwards can, be able, They can 
fill memories/recollections/, pain, or an ache in the head, fond/ahead/accumulate
(why fond again??? and in English?); good luck, good fortune, happiness, and laughter. 

I thought of how "chun" or "in order to" (in the direction of, or arriving at, to/towards), an elusive preposition, was always the bane of my existence during Irish class... It was like a rusty gate hinge in the language. And here I was without the blasted WD-40.

And then I remembered that the preposition "go" or that, which can also mean until, also becomes something which never comes (a shapeshifter), a verbal particle when hitched to a verb or noun. Like "go leor" (galore—or plenty, and enough—which is also a kind of magic, or right enough, as my granny would say).

I translated it as:
To all the days now and to come
may they be filled with fond memories
of (fond) happiness, and laughter.
And then I did another Google search. Damned if I didn't find it under Irish Toasts & Quotes, translated almost exactly the same as my version.
To all the days here and after
May they be filled with fond memories, happiness, and laughter.
The original translator went for the rhyme-scheme with "after" and 'laughter." But he broke the pattern of the triad in the process. 

Then using Google Translate, I back-translated it to the Irish to see what it would come up with. I got:
Chun go léir na laethanta anseo agus tar éis
Is féidir iad a líonadh le cuimhní cinn
Fond, sonas, agus gáire.
Here's the original again to compare them: 
Chun go léir na laethanta anseo agus ina dhiaidh
Is féidir iad a líonadh le cuimhní cinn
Fond, sonas, agus gáire.
So the only difference was "ina dhiaidh" vs. "tar éis" which was "before/afterwards/later" and "back/following/the past/after. "So, it seems my choice of "to come" was closest to the original Irish, despite the fact there are no infinitive forms of Irish verbs. (Also, in order to be able to (chun!) use an Irish dictionary, you have to be able to unpack, and strip the word back to its original form. Easier said, than done. This is where Google Translate comes in handy. It's not picky.)

The only fly in the ointment was the word in the last line, "fond," which wasn't translated into an Irish word in the original copy I received, and even with Google, and with back-translation, I couldn't find the original word. Fond is not on the Irish dictionary I used, and I don't think it's an odd form, perhaps, old. And if it really was fond, why was it written in English? Puzzling.

To be able to say that one is fond, of something requires a different word and sentence construction cinn: from Old Irish cin (“love, affection; esteem, respect”). Tá cion agam air. Him, fond (at ag (preposition, 1st person), on/upon it/him (air /preposition). Or cinn could merely mean advancement, or accumulate.

Using MacBain's Scottish
etymological dictionary, I stumbled upon the word fonn, or land, Irish fonn, Early Irish fond; so, if I'm right, then fondness has little to do with the correct translation in that last line, but the idea of land, or homeland does. It deepens the aphorism considerably.
To all the days now and to come
may they be filled with fond memories
of homeland, happiness, and laughter.
But, the idea of fondness is already embedded with the word cinn. Why would it be used twice? Besides, if it was a modern variant of an Old Irish triad (which begin with the word, "Three"), it would need the setup of three nouns, or ideas, not two things. Still not quite satisfied, I again trolled MacBain's etymological dictionary, and found another archaic definition of fonn—a tune, Irish fonn, melody/tune, desire, delight...

Sadly, I am not a very good student of Irish, and my sense of Irish grammar, noun declension, base forms, and sentence structure, is shaky, at best. But without adding more articles and particles, this translation rings truest—even though in modern Irish, the word would be foinn. My reasoning?  because clann was originally spelled cland in Old Irish, a borrowing from Old Welsh plant, from Latin planta.... Note the -d ending: d/t are sounds-twins.

I'm not quite up to cracking open my Rudolf Thurneysen's Old Irish Grammar (one of the most expensive books I ever bought, and least used). But it's now online. Sort of. Not the right word, but note that the word fond does exist in Old Irish. From him I learned that Medieval Irish scribes refrained from doubling consonants in unlenited words as it wasted precious parchment space.

In Irish Word database, I found the modern Irish word for fond is ceanuil, among 20 other suggestions. That doesn't help much, other than to also verify that the Irish word fond exists. It is not a typo. The concept of fondness, in Irish, depends upon the exact usage, whether  you're planning on loving, or drinking it.

The fact that I can't find fond in modern Irish suggests that this saying is an Old, or Medieval  Irish aphorism, not a modern one. But I can't find it online. Inconclusive. A pity that I am too shy to ask my Irish teacher Dan Melia  if this is correct interpretation. But I think it is very close to the original (if I could find it...) Here's hoping my use of fond wasn't a faux ami.

I am also resisting the urge to make the first and last lines rhyme, as it doesn't rhyme in the (original) Irish. To come vs beyond, or after. There are no infinitive verbs in Irish. So, to come is technically wrong as well.
To all the days now and to come (or, after/beyond/following)
may they be filled with fond memories:
tunes, happiness, and laughter.
I guess the word "chun" wasn't the bane of my existence, after all, as it merrily led me down the tangled path of translation. "In order to," one foot in front of the other. The grating sound of a rusty gate hinge, was merely the tarnished metal of a dying language polishing itself anew again.

An Irish Blessing
Clan vs Clann

(MacBain) An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language
Wictionary's Old Irish index
Irish Word database
eDIL - Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language  
New English–Irish Dictionary
I found an oddity,, which seems to be a Chinese Irish dictionary of sorts, I would've delved further, but it wanted to download as a PDF, so I bailed.

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