Friday, March 26, 2010

Writing in English Using the Ogham (Old Irish) Letters

Writing in English with a non-English alphabet is difficult. For example, when using the Japanese katakana alphabet, you cannot write “led” and “red” since there is no difference between “R” and “L” sounds in Japanese. Similar problems also occur as well with the Ogham. For example, writing words that contain the English letters “V” or “X” are riddled with problems since neither exists as Ogham letters.

To write a simple paragraph of English using the Ogham, I encountered several problems. The English letter “P” has various representations. The Ogham letter Uileand is both “UI”, “P”, and “PE”, while Ifin is “IO” and “PH”. Although I do not speak Old Irish, I assume that English sounds for “P” differs from Irish. Likewise a similar situation exists for the letter “X”. The Ogham letter Eamhancholl is both “AE” and “X”. For the English letter “K”, Eabhadh is “EA”, “CH”, and “KH”. However for a hard “K” sound in English, I used Coll (“C”).

The sounds of different languages do not always replicate each other. For example, Japanese has “TSU” sound which English cannot replicate. Care should be used when using a non-native alphabet in writing any language. For those reasons, I could not write letter for letter in English using the Ogham letters.

When I was writing the word “squirrel”, I had a choice. I could be literal and use the Ogham letters Ceirt (“Q”) and Ur (“U”) or use the sounds that the letters Coll (hard “C”) and Ur (“U”) represent for the “QU” sound. I chose to be literal. However this exercise does highlight the problem that linguists often have in translating words from one alphabet to another alphabet.


Stori Lundi said...

Also, isn't Ogham written in columns like from top to bottom?

Va. Carper said...

Yes, that is so. So even writing the letters down is different from across.