Ag Cruthú Foclóir Nua / What It Takes to Build A Dictionary

Agus muid ag ceiliúradh fhoilsiú an chéad fhoclóir Béarla–Gaeilge le 60 bliana anuas, breathnaímid siar ar réamhtheachtaí an fhoclóra chéanna agus an fear dílis a stiúraigh an togra úd.  

As we celebrate the publication of Ireland’s first English–Irish dictionary in 60 years, we take some time to look back at its predecessor that served us so well throughout those decades and the man behind it all.

Ba scoláire Gaeilge agus foclóirí é Tomás de Bhaldraithe (1916–1996). Rugadh é i mBaile na Cora, Contae Luimní ar 14 Nollaig 1916. Bhog a theaghlach go dtí Domhnach Broc i mBaile Átha Cliath agus é cúig bliana d’aois. D’fhreastal sé ar Choláiste Belvedere agus bhain sé céim amach i gColáiste na hOllscoile, Baile Átha Cliath. Fuair sé scoláireacht taistil le dul anonn chuig an Sorbonne i bPáras. Bhí sé i mbun staidéir sa léann Ceilteach, sa Laidin agus sa teangeolaíocht nuair a thosaigh an cogadh domhanda i 1939. D’fhill sé ar Éirinn ansin agus tugadh cead dó a chuid staidéir a chríochnú i gCois Fharraige, Co. na Gaillimhe. Ansin a dhírigh sé a aird ar an gcanúint áitiúil ag bailiú samplaí de stór focal na ndaoine. Ba é a chéad fhoilsiúchán The Irish of Cois Fhairrge, Co. Galway: a phonetic study (1944) toradh na hoibre seo.

Tomás de Bhaldraithe (1916–1996) was a lexicographer and Irish language scholar, who was born in Ballinacurra, then an area of Co. Limerick, on 14 December 1916. Aged five, he and his family moved to Donnybrook in Dublin where he would attend Belvedere College and go on to receive a BA from UCD. A travel scholarship brought him to La Sorbonne, studying Celtic Studies, Latin, and linguistics, though his studies there were cut short due to the war in 1939. Instead, he returned to Ireland where he was allowed to complete the second year by studying the Irish of Cois Fharraige, Co. Galway. Here begins the wealth of his contribution to Irish lexicography and the study of the dialects, as he compiled samples of the language they used, resulting in his publication The Irish of Cois Fhairrge, Co. Galway: a phonetic study (1944).

Bhí de Bhaldraithe ina eagarthóir ar an bhfoclóir Béarla–Gaeilge a foilsíodh i 1959. Iarradh air cuidiú le foclóir Mhic Chionnaith i dtosach báire, ach bhí dearcadh éagsúil ag de Bhaldraithe maidir le cén sórt foclóra ba cheart a fhoilsiú. Bhí aithne phearsanta ag de Bhaldraithe ar Thaoiseach na linne sin, Éamon De Valera. D’eagraigh sé cruinniú leis an Taoiseach chun coincheap an fhoclóra a léiriú. D’éirigh leis a dhearcadh a áitiú ar De Valera agus tugadh cead dó tosnú ar an bhfoclóir nua. Thosaigh de Bhaldraithe ar aistear 15 bliana chun an foclóir a ullmhú. Sin an foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla a bhí in úsaid le 60 bliana anuas, English–Irish Dictionary an Ghúim, a dtagraítear dó mar ‘Foclóir de Bhaldraithe’.    

De Bhaldraithe was responsible for the English–Irish Dictionary (EID) published in 1959. He was originally approached to contribute to Mac Cionnath’s dictionary, however, Tomás had a different vision. As a result, he approached then Taoiseach Éamon De Valera in a personal capacity to pitch his concept for his English–Irish dictionary. De Valera was persuaded and with his permission, De Bhaldraithe began nearly 15 years of work on the dictionary that would go on to serve speakers for the following six decades.  

Is i 1953 a bhunaigh de Bhaldraithe Cartlann na gCanúintí, tráth a raibh sé i mbun léachtóireachta in UCD agus ag obair ar an bhfoclóir. Le Sainchnuasaigh UCD a mhaireann an chartlann seo le cúpla bliain anuas. Tá tuairim is 500,000 iontráil foclóra sa chnuasach. Lámhscríbhinní is ea formhór na n-iontrálacha seo. Is é sin le rá go bhfuil 10 n-uaire níos mó iontrálacha sa chartlann is a bheadh ag teastáil chun foclóir fisiciúil a fhoilsiú. Tá na cártaí roinnte i gcnuasaigh éagsúla, timpeall 60 mionchnuasach ar fad, de réir údair nó an áit a bailíodh an focal. Ina theannta sin tá lámhscríbhinní sa Chartlann le húdair agus scoláirí na Gaeilge, mar shampla, Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Séan Ó Dálaigh agus Donncha S. Ó Drisceoil. Bhronn Éamon De Valera rogha leabhar ar an gCartlann ar cheiliúradh 20 bliain an na cartlainne, agus tá na leabhair sin istigh sa Chartlann fós.    

In 1953, during his work on the dictionary, De Bhaldraithe established the Irish Dialect Archive (Cartlann na gCanúintí) while also lecturing in UCD. The archive now resides under the care of the Special Collections department in UCD Library. The archive contains a card index comprising approximately 500,000 dictionary entries on individual cards, many of which are handwritten. For context, this is nearly ten times the amount of entries that make up a dictionary such as the EID. The cards are broken up into c.60 different collections categorised by location or author. Beyond the card index, the archive contains manuscripts by several Irish language scholars including Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Séan Ó Dálaigh and Donncha S. Ó Drisceoil. The archive also contains a collection of books gifted by Éamon De Valera to the archive on its 20th anniversary. 

Le linn na tréimhse a chaith de Bhaldraithe i gCois Fharraige, d’aithin sé cumhacht na teanga mar theanga bheo. Dhírigh sé isteach ar bhailiúchan den stór focal a bhí ag muintir na háite chun a innéacs chárta a bhunú. Chun cabhrú leis an obair bhailithe seo, d’fhostaigh sé foclóirithe, bailitheoirí béaloideas agus scoláirí ar nós Sheáin Uí Ruadháin, Philib Uí Fhoghludha, Sheáin Uí hEochaidh, Sheosaimh Uí Dhálaigh, Phádraig Ua Mhaoleoin, agus Shéamais Uí Mhaolchathaigh. Níos déanaí, d’fhostaigh sé cúigear chun obair a dhéanamh ar an bhfoclóir, údar clúiteach Máire Mhac an tSaoi ina measc. Agus é ag plé leis an dúshlán a bhain le focail nua-aimseartha a aistriú ón mBéarla, ar nós tearmaí teicniúla, chinn sé gan dul i dtreo cruthacháin nua. Ina ionad sin, chuir sé ceist ar chainteoirí laethúla Gaeilge a bhí ag treabhadh sna goirt ábhartha ag an am.

From his time at Cois Fharraige, De Bhaldraithe recognised the importance of Irish as a living language, and the significance of collecting the words used by various dialects. In the creation of the card index, he focused on documenting the vocabulary of native Irish speakers. For this, he employed the aid of a variety of Ireland’s lexicographers, folklore collectors and scholars, to collect and document oral vocabularies, including Seán Ó Ruadháin, Pilib Ó Foghludha, Seán Ó hEochaidh, Seosamh Ó Dálaigh, Pádraig Ua Maoleoin, and Séamas Ó Maolchathaigh. Later, he would employ five assistants including renowned writer Máire Mhac an tSaoi. When it came to seeking out Irish translations for new words in the English vocabulary, particularly technological terms, de Bhaldraithe turned to everyday Irish speakers working in those technologies to add the vocabulary in use by them to his research rather than seek the development of new words by scholars.

Chabhraigh an chartlann le forbairt foclóirí éagsúla thar na blianta. Ina measc sin, bhí foclóir Gaeilge–Béarla Ó Dónaill (1977), roinnt foclóirí teicniúlá a d’fhoilsigh an Roinn Oideachais, agus foclóir de Bhaldraithe fhéin (1959). Ba eagarthóir comhairleach é de Bhaldraithe ar fhoclóir Uí Dhónaill ar feadh tréimhse 6 bliana.

The archive as a resource supported the publication of De Bhaldraithe’s own dictionary (1959), that of O’Donaill (1977), and also a number of technological dictionaries published by the Department of Education. Tomás himself acted as consulting editor over a period of six years for O’Donaill’s 1977 Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla.

Sular bhásaigh sé, d’adhmhaigh de Bhaldraithe go raibh an foclóir as dáta. Ba é a thuairim gur gá foclóir a uasdatú gach sé bliana, ar nós na bhfoclóirí Béarla. Bheadh áthas air foilsiú an fhoclóra nua a fheiceáil an bhliain seo. Le linn a oráide faoin bhfoclóir nua, dhearbhaigh an tUachtarán Micheál D. Ó hÚiginn cé chomh tábhachtach is a bhí obair de Bhaldraithe d’fhorbairt an teanga. Tar éis bhás de Bhaldraithe i 1996, dúirt Máirtín Ó Murchú “[nach] raibh aon duine san aimsir dhéanach leasaitheach seo a tháinig in aon chóngar dá dhílseacht sin don teanga agus do lucht a labhartha.” D’fhág de Bhaldraithe acmhainn teangeolaíochta den chéad scoth do scoláirí na hÉirinn i bhfoirm Chartlann na gCanúintí. Is cinnte go bhfuil saibhreas le fáil sa Chartlann a bheidh ina hábhar taighde do scoláirí ar feadh na mblianta.

In the years preceding his death, De Bhaldraithe lamented the lack of an updated edition to his dictionary and spoke at how such works should be updated every six years. It is with certainty that he would be delighted to see the publication of his dictionary’s successor. At its launch, President Michael D. Higgins spoke of how the language and its users are indebted to the work of de Bhaldraithe to this day. Speaking after his sudden passing in April 1996, Mairtín Ó Murchú stated that there was no one “who came close to his devotion to the language and its speakers.” Beyond the dictionary, de Bhaldraithe left scholars with an unparalleled resource in the form of the Irish Dialect Archive which has the potential to yield scholarship for many decades to come. 

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Foinsí breise/ Further reading:

“DE BHALDRAITHE, Tomás Mac Donnchadha (1916–1996).”

De Bhaldraithe, Tomás, and Vivian Uíbh Eachach. “Agallamh Na Miosa:Vivian Uíbh Eachach Ag Caint Le: Tomás De Bhaldraithe. An Tagallamh.” Comhar 54, no. 2 (1995): 4-10. doi:10.2307/25572578.

De Bhaldraithe, Tomás, and Vivian Uíbh Eachach. “Agallamh Na Miosa: VUE Ag Caint Le: Tomás De Bhaldraithe. Na Foclóirí.” Comhar 54, no. 3 (1995): 4-8. doi:10.2307/25572594.

Higgins, President Michael D., President Launches New English-Irish Dictionary, President of Ireland Speeches.

Mac Amhlaigh, Liam. “An Examination of Irish Language Lexicographers of the Twentieth Century.” Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium 34 (2014): 166-79. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24640158.

Ó Dónaill, Niall, and Tomás De Bhaldraithe. “An Foclóir Nua.” Comhar 37, no. 8 (1978): 7-9. doi:10.2307/20554115.

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