Tha mi air an ro-ràdh a thaidhpeadh air mo choimpiutair. Tha e obair inntinn soillier 's fiosrachadh agus théir e dhuinn gun robh na luchd-gramar na h-Alba gu math fad air adhart nan luchd-gramair na Sasunn.
Tha mi 'n dòchas gum biodh cothrom ann airson obraichean eile cho cudromach ath-sgrìobhadh a dh' aithghearr.
Uill, seo e:
The purpose of this Grammar is to afford assistance to such as may desire a living and intelligent acquaintance with the Gaelic language of Scotland. With this object in view, it was at first my settled intention to make little or no reference to the older language, but I soon found this to be impossible. An intelligent understanding of the Gaelic of the present day cannot be attained without some referenceto the older language from which the later Grammatical forms had origin. There is no pretence to learning in these pages, nor any attempt to indicate the results of modern Gaelic scholarship. I have admitted nothing which I did not believe would be helpful to the elementary student; and I hope my references will be found correct, and my inferences also correct and useful.
I have the advantage of being in touch with intelligent students of the language as their teacher, and I have made their actual difficulties guide me in everything. I hope I have been able in some degree to enlighten and to smooth their way, and that of others also who may undertake the same most interesting travel.
I followed the plan of Dr. Stewart's Grammar as closely as possible, feeling that I could not hope to improve upon in. I have also appropriated all of his work that I possibly could, even to his very words. Dr. O'Donovan -- no mean authority -- declared Stewart's Grammar to have been 'by far the most important work on Gaelic that ever appeared'; and I cannot express my admiration of it as I should wish. No one can ever clearly seee or fully know the philosophical comprehensiveness and artistic unity of this work, but one whose duty compels him to weigh and examine every word and line as I do. All that I claim is to have extended a little way into the light of to-day, the lines which Stewart laid down so well; and all I hope is that I have done so consistently and in some measure worthily.
I endeavoured to have special regard to the phonetic basis of the language and have always appealed to it whenever it was necessary to do so. It is from the speech-power of the organs of Voice that all speech-form proceeds. The written language is at best but an approximation to the spoken word, and the sense of Hearing comes as a not very stable or reliable medium between the Voice and the written Character. The principle of Aspiration which plays so important a part in Gaelic Grammar is based on phonetic expediency, so is Eclipsis, and so the Vowel law of Correspondence. No attention given to this aspect of the language is lost; without attention to it the language cannot be understood. But as my reference can only be partial and occasional I should wish all who may desire to know this aspect of Gaelic Grammar to refer to Mr. MacFarlane's very useful work on The Phonetics of the Gaelic Language.
The division of Nouns into three Declensions is different from all previous classifications. My departure from Stewart's philosophical arrangement I wish to justify by the explanation following:
The method I worked upon was by Exclusion:
1. The great class of Abstract Nouns in achd, and those in e and ad of Comparative forms, which have no inflection, were thrown out.
2. Such Nouns as are indeclinable in the Singular – all Nouns ending in a Vowel – were next taken as the First Declension.
3. Of Nouns ending in a Consonant it was found that a great number had a distinct inflection forming a Genitive in i. This class was made the Second Declension. It always has the characteristic Vowel Broad.
4. Nouns ending in a Consonant and having a Small Vowel characteristic were made in the Third Declension.
But it was found that a considerable number of Nouns remained, which though ending in a Consonant and having a Broad characteristic, were not declined in the Singular. This class must form a Fourth Declension or be included in the First. I have preferred the latter alternative as being the more simple way.
Regarding this classification it is to be remarked that Nouns of the Second Declension are so peculiarly distinct from others, that they must form a class by themselves. There can be no question regarding them.
It may be said that the First and Third might be put under one Declension inasmuch as they have no inflection of the Singular – excepting those of the First that make the Genitive in a, and those of the Third that make it in e. The fact however that all of the one class must be 'exceptions' to the other, if they are put under one Declension, appears to me sufficient reason, even if it was the only reason, for classing them seperately. The difference in the inflection of Adjectives of the one class and the other decides the matter conclusively in favour of two Declensions.
I have satisfied myself, by actual working results and otherwise, that for the purpose of learning Gaelic the arrangement of Declensions which I have given is the simplest that is possible. The arrangement according to Original Stems, even if they were clearly determined is, I am convinced, impracticable. To begin with they were far from regular, and they have so changed from their first form that it would be a desperate task for the beginner to master, first, the Original forms, and then their extremely involved later changes, before he approached the living tongue which he wishes to learn; and all this labour is the less necessary because, whether for good or for evil, the tendency of the language in its later development has been towards that uniformity which I have endeavoured to present.
The arrangement of the Tenses of the Verb is so far new. It has order and simplicity in its favour, and it discovers a point of supremely logical correctness – that there is no Indefinite Present Tense in the language. If linguists had not neglected to examine the Gaelic tongue, to their own great loss and disadvantage, there would not have been such confusion to them about the Aorist in other languages; and there would have been scarcely sufficient reason for so great ado over 'the lucid and remarkable discovery,' made so late in the day, that the forms used and taught as Present Tenses in Latin and Greek are not such at all but Imperfect Progressive or Aorist Tenses. The English can say I strike, an Indefinite Present form, and we thought that verbero and τύπτω were identical with it in meaning and it was made a point against Gaelic that its poverty was so manifest that it had lost, or never had, a form for the Present Tense. But now, we find that at any time it could have supplied all the light necessary to a 'lucid and remarkable' correction of languages and teaching of the highest respectability; and we find that what was too eagerly seized upon as to its deiscredit is only one other proof of its superiority.
Whatever errors in the accepted forms of the written languaeg I had occasion to point out, I have not ventured to make any change. I have deferred to custom throughout, even in some things which I am sure have nothing to commend them, but which I hope an intelligent common consent will soon rectify.
I intended to have given some Lists of Parts of Speech at the end, but have thought it better to give these in a small book of carefully graduated Exercises running parallel with the order of the Grammar, which is in hand and will soon follow.
Almost all my references to the older forms of the language are taken from Zeuss's Grammatica Celtica, Stoke's Kalendar of Oengus, and Windisch's Texte.
I am very much indebted to my Publisher, at whose expenses this book is issued; and I hope that all to whom the Gaelic language and tradition is more than a mere curiosity or patriotic fiction will appreciate Mr. Nutt's practical services, as they are bound to acknowledge the scholarly diligence and enthusiasm with which he has investigated very important chapters of the Gaelic life-story.
I could have no greater pleasure or satisfaction than to know that I had done something to commend my native Gaelic tongue, to which I owe so much of all I esteem most valuable, but I fear that my fragmentary and infrequent leisure for Gaelic study has not been conducive to good work. It may however stimulate others, with more opportunity and greater competence, to do better and in that way serve my ultimate purpose.
4th April 1896