Language trivia 001: What you did not know about…Irish!

Did you know why the Irish never (or rarely) say yes or no?

If you talk to Irish people regularly, you might have noticed (as this man did) that they often respond in what you might call a roundabout way, not clearly saying yes or no, but instead repeating the verb in question. It’s one of the many interesting peculiar features of Irish English (also called Hiberno-English). But do you know how it came to be?

The answer is simple: the original Irish language has no words for yes or  no. If you ask an Irishman/-woman a question such as An dtiocfaidh tu?” (“Will you come?”), he/she does not have an option that would correspond to English yes or no. Instead, he or she will use a socalled echo response by repeating the word in question. Thus, his answer might be “Tiocfad.” (“I will).

Even though in many languages such as English, French, and German the two little words yes and no (and respectively ja/nein as well as oui/non) are considered part of the basic vocabulary, there are quite a few languages that lack them. Another example of these would be Latin, which employs echo responses as well.

The more you know!

Published in: on May 29, 2011 at 11:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

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