From Irish Pedigrees; or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation by John O'Hart

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The ancient Alphabet of the Gaels contained sixteen letters; the Phoenician, sixteen; the modern Gaelic, eighteen; the Burmese, nineteen; the Italian, twenty; the Indians of Bengal, twenty-one; the Chaldee, Hebrew, Latin, Samaritan, and Syriac, twenty-two each; French, twenty-three; English, twenty-four (it has now twenty-six); Greek, twenty-four; Dutch and German, twenty-six; Slavonic and Spanish, each twenty-seven; Arabic, twenty-eight; Welsh, twenty-eight; Persian, thirty-one; Coptic, thirty-two; Turkish, thirty-three; Georgian, thirty-six; Armenian, thirty-eight; Russian, forty-one; Muscovite, forty-three; Sanscrit and Japanese, each, fifty; Ethiopic and Tartarian, each, two-hundred-and-two; the Chinese have, properly speaking, no Alphabet, except we call their whole language by that name: their letters are words, or rather hieroglyphics, amounting to about eighty thousand.

In the primitive Gaelic Alphabet H and P were not included.

The letters of the Gaelic Alphabet were named after shrubs and trees: the name of the letter, in every instance, save that of the aspirate H, begins with the letter itself; to preserve, as it were, its proper sound or power.

The sixteen letters of the ancient Gaelic Alphabet were arranged in the following order: B L F S N D T C M G R, and A O U E I. The H and P have since been added; so that the modern Gaelic Alphabet consists of eighteen letters, arranged as follows: A B C D E F G H I L M N O P R S T U.

Beginning with A, the names of the letters of the modern Gaelic Alphabet are: Ailm, which means the fig or palm tree; Beith, the birch tree; Coll, the hazel tree; Dair, the oak tree; Eadha, the aspen tree; Fearn, an alder tree; Gort, the ivy; (H) Uath (the name of the aspirate h), the white thorn; Ioga, the yew tree; Luis, the wild ash; Muin, the vine tree; Nuin, the ash tree; Oir, the broom tree; Peith, the dwarf elder; Ruis, the bore tree; Suil, the willow tree; Teine, the furze or whin bush; Ur, the heath shrub.

There is no K in the Gaelic Alphabet, ancient or modern; nor had the ancient Latins any character like that letter: they gave the sound of K to C, as in the word sacra (pronounced "sakra"), where the c has the sound of the English letter k. The Latin name Caesar is now in English pronounced "Seasar" (where c has the sound of s); in German, however, it is pronounced "Kaiser;" but in no case can C, in Gaelic, be sounded like S. Nor have the Greeks the letter C in their Alphabet; but K (the Greek letter "kappa") corresponds to the Gaelic and Latin C, which has or should have the sound of the English letter K.

Baoth, son of Magog, son of Japhet, was contemporary with Nimrod, of whom, according to an ancient Irish poem, it is said:

One was at first the language of mankind,

Till haughty Nimrod, with presumption blind,

Proud Babel built; then, with confusion struck,

Seventy-two different tongues the workmen spoke.

That one language was the language of Mankind down from Adam to the building of the Tower of Babel, when (Genesis xi. 1) "the whole earth was of one language and of one speech."

Upon the division of the Earth by Noah amongst his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japhet; and by Japhet of his part thereof amongst his sons, Scythia came to Baoth's lot. Thus in Scythia, in Central Asia, far from the scene of Babel, the "Valley of Shinar"—the Magh Senaar of the ancient Irish annalists, Baoth and his people, we are told, took no part with those of Shem and Ham in the building of the Tower of Babel; and that hence the lasting vitality of the Celtic language!

If Baoth and his people took no part in the building of the Tower of Babel, it may be affirmed that they did not on that head incur the displeasure of the Lord; and, that, therefore, their language was not confused. But the language of Baoth and his people was the Scythian: ergo, the Scythian language was not confused. If, then, the Scythian language was not confused; and that one was the language of mankind from Adam down to the building of the Tower of Babel, "when the whole earth was of one language and of one speech," it would follow that the Scythian was that one language—was, in fact, the language of Eden. But it has been above shown that the Scythian language was the Celtic: therefore, it may be affirmed that "The Celtic was the language of Eden."

Some persons consider that, because the Hebrew [1] was the language of the Jews, who were the chosen people of God, it therefore was the language of our First Parents; but, if the ancient Gaelic Alphabet had only sixteen letters, while the Hebrew had twenty-two, it would appear that, of the two languages, the Gaelic is the more primitive—is in fact more ancient than any of the languages above enumerated, save the Phoenician, with which it was identical!

« The Celtic was the Language of Eden | The Creation (start of section) | Contents | The Inventor of Letters »


[1] Hebrew: The Druidic Irish had Hebraic customs to a great extent: for instance—the Druidic judges were of a priestly caste, and wore each a collar of gold. Buxtorf states that this collar was called Iodhan Morain; and "Iodhan Morain" is Chaldee for Urim and Thummim (see Exodus, xxviii. 30). Whether it was the Gaels who borrowed that Mosaic badge from the Israelites, or that it was the Israelites who borrowed it from the Gaels, we cannot say; but Iodhan Morain is also Gaelic, and as such is said to be so called after a celebrated Irish Brehon who lived in the first century of the Christian era. (See "Brehon Families," in the Appendix.) As showing an affinity between the Irish and the Hebrew languages, it may be remarked that the Irish pronoun se signifies "he," "him," and that the Hebrew pronoun se also means "he," "him;" that the Irish pronoun so, which means "this" or "that," is like the Hebrew so, which has the same meaning; and that the Irish pronoun isi, always expressed to signify "a female," is analogous to the Hebrew isa, which means "a woman."—See Buxtorf's Hebrew Lexicon.

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