Scríobh an teangeolaí Sualannach seo leabhair ar Ghaeilge an Chláir, Aontroma agus Reachlainn agus bhí cur amach aige ar mhórchuid eile teangacha, ina measc teangacha Indiaigh Mheiriceá, an Bhascais, agus teangacha bhunstoc na hAstráile. Scríobh a mhac, Dr Arthur Holmer, An Roinn Teangeolaíochta agus Foghraíochta, Ollscoil Lund, cuntas air in Acta Americana, 1994 [1995]. Is léir ar an leabharliosta a d’ullmhaigh seisean nach mbaineann ach beagán de shaothar iomlán a athar leis an nGaeilge. Ó 1933 amach bhíodh ailt aige in Revue Celtique, Language, Ériu, Celtica. . . Bheadh sé deacair cuimhneamh ar aon scoláire Gaeilge eile a raibh a oiread céanna spéise aige i dteangacha Eoráiseacha, Meiriceánacha agus Astrálacha.

In Göteborg in iardheisceart na Sualainne a rugadh é ar 5 Feabhra 1904. Línitheoir agus déantóir bóithre iarainn a athair agus ba í Anna Lindström a mháthair. Bhog an teaghlach go Kalmar nuair a bhí Nils cúig bliana d’aois. Sa chalafort ansiúd chuireadh sé spéis ina raibh scríofa i dteangacha éagsúla ar na hearraí allmhuirithe, agus sna hainmneacha ar na longa ó thíortha thar lear. An Rúisis an chéad ábhar a bhí aige in Ollscoil Lund; chun go leanfadh sé dá chúrsa staidéir d’iompaigh sé úrscéal le Turgenev go Sualainnis i 1925. Níor thug sé riamh arís faoina leithéid. Is é a bhí foghlamtha aige ón saothar aistriúcháin sin ná nach sa chaoi a ndeirtear rud atá an difríocht is mó idir na teangacha éagsúla ach sa rud atá á rá, gurb uirlisí sóisialta atá i dtiúin lena dtimpeallacht is ea teangacha go príomha.

Thosaigh sé a dhéanamh staidéir ar na teangacha Slavacha i bPrág ach ba ghairid gur mhó a spéis sna teangacha Ceilteacha. Rinne sé taighde ar an nGaeilge labhartha i gCúige Uladh agus bhí ina Léachtóir Todd in Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann i 1937-38. Ghlac sé páirt i rith 1938-39 sa taighde ar chanúintí Ghaeilge na hAlban a bhí ar siúl faoi threoir Carl Marstrander in Albain. Deir an mac: ‘Long into the 1970’s, there were still old people on some of the islands who remembered the tall thin man who came wandering across the moors with a notebook in his hand and who would note down their stories and their songs. His persistent use of phonetic script to note down the dialectal differences in pronunciation already was a source of great amusement to some of his informants: “He spoke very good Gaelic, but his spelling was atrocious!” was a comment which still could be heard in the late seventies.’ Chuir an Dara Cogadh Domhanda stop lena thaisteal agus chuir moill ar an staidéar a bhí sé a dhéanamh ar na teangacha Ceilteacha.

Tar éis an chogaidh thosaigh sé ar thaighde a dhéanamh ar chuid de theangacha threibheanna Indiacha Mheiriceá Thuaidh agus bhí páirt aige sna turais ar Phanama i 1947 agus ar an gCholóim i 1955 a d’eagraigh Músaem Eithneolaíochta Göteborg d’fhonn eolas a bhailiú ar Indiaigh na dtíortha sin. Deir a mhac: ‘His most important contribution, however, was in grammatical typology, and much of what he later wrote had direct bearing on the two linguistic types that he first met among the Indians of North America. In fact, it is safe to say that his contact with Amerindian languages was probably the most important single factor which influenced which direction his work was to take.’ Ba mhó an lé a bhí aige le teangacha na réimíreanna ná le cinn na n-iarmhíreanna agus chuir sé spéis ar leith dá réir sin sa Bhascais. ‘His contacts with Basque were rather intense, and he spent long periods of time among the Basque people, studying their language and their ways. Basque was to become one of his major interests and the focus of several of his linguistic works, as well as a purely personal interest on his part.’ Bhí sé ina ollamh le Teangeolaíocht in Ollscoil Lund ó 1950 go 1969 agus i rith na 1960idí agus na 1970idí chaith sé tréimhsí fada san Astráil, in New South Wales agus Queensland go háirithe, ag staidéar ar theangacha an bhunstoic. Ba é an leabhar deiridh aige Linguistic Survey of South-Eastern Queensland, 1983. D’éag sé ar 10 Meitheamh 1994 tar éis breoiteachta fada. Bhí sé pósta ar Vanja Abrahamsson.

Is iad na leabhair leis a bhaineann le hÉirinn agus le hAlbain: Argyllshire Gaelic, 1938; On some relics of the Irish dialect spoken in the Glens of Antrim (with an attempt towards the reconstruction of northeastern Irish), 1940; The Irish language in Rathlin Island, 1942; The Gaelic of Arran, 1957; The Gaelic of Kintyre, 1962; The dialects of Co. Clare, 2 iml., 1962-1965. In Uppsala a foilsíodh an dá leabhar tosaigh agus i mBaile Átha Cliath an chuid eile.

Diarmuid Breathnach

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