Some issues I have with the Caighdeán

My issues with the caighdeán are:


* The initial mutations after de and do. In my opinion, after the combinations den and don, the initial s- should always take the t- if applicable. Thus, I prefer don tsagart, don tsaor, to don sagart, don saor. As far as I know (but I am not even sure), the Caighdeán tells us not to use the t- if the noun is masculine. Thus, we should say don saor but don tsióg, for instance. I don’t think this is necessary or feels natural. I write don tsaor, don tsióg, don tsaor bheag, don tsióg bheag.


* The use of the present and future forms ending in broad -s in direct relative clauses. They are not part of the caighdeán, but they are widespread in dialects and, moreover, make it easier to distinguish the two kinds of relative clauses, so they are didactically a good thing. I nowadays try to use them consistently.


* I would also like to reinstate ins an, ins na instead of sa, sna (although I must say that I don’t use the longer forms myself). This is again about didactics. Many learners struggle with sa, sna, not understanding their exact relationship with i, in. I think the relationship would be easier to explain with ins an, ins na.


* I would not revive all dative forms, but I would prefer to see the dative forms of feminine verbal nouns ending in -ach used wherever the verbal noun is preceded by ag or a = do: thus, caismearnach – ag caismearnaigh, leimneach – ag léimnigh, and so on. This is purely a question of personal taste, I am afraid.

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A Bloodcurdling Tale of True Crime

If you are a friend of bloodcurdling true crime stories, here is a short, easy reading text for you. At least Canadians should recognize the case, although I have omitted as much as possible of the details and names. The story is not a nice one, and if you find it nauseating you are probably right. I am only using it as a way to put Irish in use and to teach you idiomatic expressions.


Rugadh Pól thiar sna seascaidí. Dealraíonn sé go mbíodh a athair ag tabhairt drochíde dá chlann, rud a d’fhág an-tráma ar an gcuid is mó acu. Bhí an chuma ar Phól, áfach, gur tháinig sé slán as an gcruachás. Shíltí go raibh sé sona sásta lena shaol. Chuaigh sé sna scátaí, agus bhí cairde aige. Mar sin cheapfá nach raibh a dhath cearr leis.


thiar sna seascaidí back in the sixties


dealraíonn sé it seems (you could also say is dealraitheach)


tráma trauma


tháinig sé slán as an gcruachás he survived the ordeal unscathed


chuaigh sé sna scátaí he joined the Boy Scouts. Note that joining an organization is in Irish “going into” it. 


…nach raibh a dhath cearr leis …that nothing was wrong with him.


Nuair a chuaigh sé ag foghlaim léinn san ollscoil, casadh Carla air. Bhí cailíní aige roimhe sin, ach má bhí féin, ní dheachaigh aon bhean acu i bhfeidhm air mar a chuaigh Carla. Bhí an bheirt acu claonta chun Sádachais agus iad ag treisiú leis an gclaonadh seo ag a chéile.


ag foghlaim léinn studying. This means actually “learning (ag foghlaim) learning (léann, genitive léinn)”, which sounds funny in English, but I vouch for it being good Irish, because I picked it up from Séamus Ó Grianna’s books. 


ní dheachaigh…i bhfeidhm didn’t make an impression


claonta inclined


treisiú le… reinforcing, strengthening


Thosaigh Pól ag stácáil cailíní óga, agus d’éirigh leis cuid acu a éigniú fosta. Chuaigh an scéal ar fud na háite go raibh éigneoir rúndiamhair ag ionsaí ban, ach san am chéanna ní raibh na póilíní in ann é a aithint ná a cheapadh.


stácáil stalking (new loanword; stalcaireacht is an earlier form of the same loanword, but it usually only refers to stalking in hunting contexts)


éignigh!/éigniú to rape; éigneoir rapist


rúndiamhair mysterious


ag ionsaí ban attacking women


ceapadh means not only “to think”, but also “to catch, to capture”


Lá de na laethanta d’iarr na póilíní ar Phól eiseamal a thabhairt uaidh le go gcuirfí i gcomparáid é le iarsmaí ADN an éigneora. Bhí Pól sásta rud a dhéanamh ar na póilíní. Chomh cuidiúil cineálta comhoibritheach is a bhí sé, ba é an tátal a bhain na póilíní as nach bhféadfadh a leithéid ainghníomhartha uafásacha a dhéanamh ar aon nós.


eiseamal sample


ADN (aigéad dí-ocsairibeanúicléasach) DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid 


rud a dhéanamh ar na póilíní to do as the policemen asked


cuidiúil helpful


cineálta kind, nice


comhoibritheach cooperative


ba é an tátal a bhain na póilíní as: Tátal a bhaint as rud means “to draw a conclusion from something”, but in Irish you can say (I have seen it in native literature) that you draw a conclusion from a person, i.e. see how he is behaving and conclude what kind of a person he is.


a leithéid somebody like him


ainghníomh, Pl ainghníomhartha evil deed, crime


Ní raibh Carla míshásta leis an gcaitheamh aimsire seo a bhí ag a grá geal. A mhalairt ar fad bhí sí á ghríosú chuige. Bhí aithne ag Carla ar chailín óg a raibh suim ag Pól inti. Oíche amháin thug sí biotáille di agus druga láidir measctha tríthi. D’éignigh Pól í, agus Carla ag comhoibriú leis. Bhí, fiú, físcheamara aici leis an éigniú a thaifeadadh.


caitheamh aimsire pastime


grá geal beloved one, boy- or girlfriend


gríosaigh!/gríosú to incite, to stir, to urge


biotáille alcohol (in the sense of alcoholic drinks; alcól is better reserved for the chemical stuff)


físcheamara video camera


taifead!/taifeadadh to record


Ní raibh an cailín i dtaithí biotáille, agus mar sin, shíl sí gurbh é an t-alcól a d’fhág gan mhothú í. Níor taibhsíodh di go raibh éigniú déanta uirthi. Bhí sí sásta caidreamh a dhéanamh le Pól agus le Carla i ndiaidh na n-imeachtaí seo féin.


ní raibh…i dtaithí biotáille was not accustomed to alcohol, had no experience of alcohol. Word for word, “was not in the habit of alcohol”. Similarly: chuaigh sé i dtaithí biotáille = he went into the habit of alcohol, i.e. became accustomed to it.


mothú means basically “feeling”, but is also used in the meaning of “consciousness”: chnag an bithiúnach an mothú as an bhfear bocht “the thug knocked the poor man unconscious” (“knocked the feeling out of the poor man”)


taibhsíodh: the verb taibhsigh!/taibhsiú means basically “to loom, to appear”, but it is most commonly used in the autonomous form with the preposition do. Níor taibhsíodh di go raibh éigniú déanta uirthi “it did not appear to her, she did not have any idea, that she had been raped” (“that rape had been done on her”). 


caidreamh means “company, being intimate with someone”. It is the verbal noun of the verb caidrigh!/caidreamh.


Bhí suim ag Pól i ndeirfiúir óg Charla freisin. Theastaigh uaidh a shult a bhaint aisti-se chomh maith. Bhí Carla sásta cead a chinn a fhágáil aige, agus dhrugáil sí an deirfiúir díreach mar a rinne sí lena cara roimhe sin. An turas seo áfach, níor mhúscail an cailín óg a thuilleadh. Mar sin féin níor cuireadh an dlí orthu. Ba é tuairim an chróinéara gur tachtadh an cailín lena hurlacan féin, rud nach annamh a éiríos do dhaoine óga agus iad ag baint an chéad triail as biotáille. 


do shult a bhaint as…to derive your enjoyment from…, to enjoy


cead a chinn a fhágáil aige let him do what he wanted, let him have his way, let him do what he decided upon


níor cuireadh an dlí orthu “the law was not put on them”, i.e. they were not prosecuted, they did not stand trial


cróinéir coroner


tacht!/tachtadh suffocate, smother, tachtadh lena hurlacan í she was suffocated with her own vomit


éirigh/éirí do…to happen to…


Bliain ina dhiaidh sin, tháinig Pól ar chailín ceithre blian déag sa tsráid. D’fhuadaigh sé í agus thug sé abhaile í. Ansin chaith seisean agus Carla oíche ag céasadh is ag éigniú an chailín. Sa deireadh mharaigh siad í agus thriail siad an marbhán a chur i bhfolach, ionas nach bhfaigheadh na póilíní amach faoin dúnmharú. Níor éirigh leo, nó tháinig beiri iascairí ar chorp an chailín i gceann dhá sheachtain.


fuadaigh!/fuadach to kidnap


céas!/céasadh to torture


marbhán dead person, corpse


corp body, corpse


An chéad bhliain eile d’fhuadaigh an lánúin cailín óg eile a bhí díreach ag siúl lena madadh sa chomharsanacht chéanna ina raibh cónaí uirthi féin agus ar a tuismitheoirí. Ba léir go raibh an lánúin ag éirí ní ba dhána ná roimhe sin. Ba é an dóigh a bhí acu leis an gCáisc a chomóradh ná an ghirseach seo a éigniú is a mharú. Nuair a bhí sí maraithe acu chuaigh siad chuig tuismitheoirí Charla le béile na Cásca a chaitheamh.


ina raibh cónaí uirthi féin agus ar a tuismitheoirí where she and her parents lived


comóir!/comóradh to celebrate


Thosaigh ceileatram na lánúine sona ag titim as a chéile faoin am seo, áfach. D’ionsaigh Pól a bhean agus thug sé greadadh di. Thosaigh cairde Charla ag éirí drochamhrasach, agus chuir na póilíní féin suim sa lánúin. Bhí saotharlann na bpóilíní iontach mall ag anailísiú an eiseamail a fuair siad ó Phól, ach sa deireadh d’aithin siad gurbh ionann ADN Phóil agus ADN an éigneora a bhí ag rith damhsa beag beann ar na póilíní, cúpla bliain roimhe sin.


ceileatram disguise, veneer, mask


titim as a chéile falling apart


greadadh a thabhairt do dhuine to give someone a beating


saotharlann lab


ag rith damhsa running wild


beag beann ar na póilíní regardless of the police, unafraid of the police, with no need to take heed of the police


Nuair a chuaigh an dlí ar an mbeirt acu, bhí an-iompairc ag Pól agus Carla an milleán a fhágáil ar an duine eile. Bhí Carla ag margáil pléadála ach go háirithe agus í ag iarraidh téarma gairid príosúin a bhaint amach di féin ar acht is go mbeadh sí sásta fianaise inchoiritheach a thabhairt in aghaidh Phól. Sin rud nár thaitin le gach duine de lucht an tsaineolais féin, gan trácht ar an saol mór, nó ba léir go raibh Carla ag comhoibriú go fonnmhar i gcoireanna a fir chéile.


iompairc jealous rivalry, attempt to leave the responsibility on each other


fianaise inchoiritheach incriminating evidence



Chaith Carla dhá bhliain déag i dtóin an phríosúin, de réir an mhargaidh a shocraigh sí leis an ionchúisitheoir. Maidir le Pól, is é an pionós a gearradh air-sean ná cúig bliana fichead, mar íosmhéid. Ós rud é gur dúnmharfóir dainséarach é, áfach, is dealraitheach nach scaoilfear saor choíche é.


ionchúisitheoir prosecutor


pionós a ghearradh to impose a penalty

Regular Verbs in Irish

Present tense has the following endings:


CAITH:


caithim

caithir/caitheann tú

caitheann sé


caithimid/caitheann muid

caitheann sibh

caithid/caitheann siad


caitear


FAN:


fanaim

fanair/fanann tú

fanann sé


fanaimid/fanann muid

fanann sibh

fanaid/fanann siad


fantar


OSCAIL:


osclaím

osclaír/osclaíonn tú

osclaíonn sé


osclaímid/osclaíonn muid

osclaíonn sibh

osclaíd/osclaíonn siad


osclaítear


LAGAIGH:


lagaím

lagaír/lagaíonn tú

lagaíonn sé


lagaímid/lagaíonn muid

lagaíonn sibh

lagaíd/lagaíonn siad


lagaítear


The form caithim, fanaim, osclaím, lagaím is necessary in the standard language. The second person singular forms caithir, fanair, osclaír, lagaír are very rare these days, but they do find some use in literature – even such a quintessentially Connemara writer as Pádhraic Óg Ó Conaire (not to be confused with the more famous Pádraic Ó Conaire; Pádhraic Óg was a writer of rural prose in a style somewhat reminiscent of the Ulster classic Séamus Ó Grianna) perceived them as the correct literary forms.


The form caithimid, fanaimid, osclaímid, lagaímid is also standard Irish, but for many verbs of the first conjugation this form sounds too much like the corresponding future form. I would prefer caitheann muid, fanann muid, osclaíonn muid, lagaíonn muid. The construction caitheann sinn, fanann sinn, osclaíonn sinn, lagaíonn sinn sounds a little funny to me, because in those varieties that feel most natural to me, there is at least a tendency to distinguish between muid “we” and sinn “us”. However, this is strictly my own gut feeling. I have seen sinn used as subject in some folklore volumes (I think mostly from Northern Mayo), and thus, caitheann sinn, fanann sinn, osclaíonn sinn, lagaíonn sinn have good Gaeltacht pedigree.  


The form caithid, fanaid, osclaíd, lagaíd is strictly Munster Irish, and it can be followed by the pronoun siad; don’t be amazed if you see caithid siad, fanaid siad, osclaíd siad, lagaíd siad in a Munster text.


The direct relative form (see my earlier post about direct relative forms!) chaitheas/chaitheanns, fhanas/fhananns, osclaíos/osclaíonns, lagaíos/lagaíonns is most typical of Connacht and Ulster Irish. It is not entirely unknown to Munster Irish though, where it is used in songs, i.e. perceived to be part of older (oral) literature. The form in -s is the older and historically correct one, the form in -nns smacks more of modern colloquial language. 


The verbal particles used with regular present forms are “not”, go “that”, nach/ná “that…not” and “not?, whether…not?”, an “…?, whether?”, and cha(n)


lenites: ní chaitheann, ní fhanann, ní osclaíonn, ní lagaíonn. Go eclipses: go gcaitheann, go bhfanann, go n-osclaíonn, go lagaíonn. 


Nach eclipses: nach gcaitheann, nach bhfanann, nach n-osclaíonn, nach lagaíonn


, which is used in Munster instead of nach, does not affect consonants, but it adds h- to a vowel: ná caitheann, ná fanann, ná hosclaíonn, ná lagaíonn


An eclipses: an gcaitheann, an bhfanann, an osclaíonn, an lagaíonn


Cha(n) is only used in Ulster, and it adds future sense to present forms; it usually lenites, but it eclipses d and t and does not affect s-: cha chaitheann, chan fhanann, chan osclaíonn (which is chan fhosclaíonn in Ulster!), cha lagaíonn; cha ndíolann, cha dtarcaisníonn, cha samhlaíonn. Note that the -n of cha(n) is only used before vowels, including vowels preceded by the mute fh-.


Future tense has the following endings: 


CAITH:


caithfead/caithfidh mé

caithfir/caithfidh tú

caithfidh sé


caithfeam/caithfimid/caithfidh muid

caithfidh sibh

caithfid/caithfidh siad


caithfear


FAN:


fanfad/fanfaidh mé

fanfair/fanfaidh tú

fanfaidh sé


fanfam/fanfaimid/fanfaidh muid

fanfaidh sibh

fanfaid/fanfaidh siad


fanfar


OSCAIL:


osclód/osclóidh mé

osclóir/osclóidh tú

osclóidh sé


osclóm/osclóimid/osclóidh muid

osclóidh sibh

osclóid/osclóidh siad


osclófar

LAGAIGH:


lagód/lagóidh mé

lagóir/lagóidh tú

lagóidh sé


lagóm/lagóimid/lagóidh muid

lagóidh sibh

lagóid/lagóidh siad


lagófar


As you see, the short verbs (first conjugation) insert a -f-, the long verbs (the second conjugation) insert a long -ó-. How and whether the -f- is pronounced at all, is a question of dialect, but a pronunciation of this -f- as [h] elsewhere and as [f] in the impersonal (autonomous) form (caithfear, fanfar, osclófar, lagófar) is widely accepted. Note that the [h] pronunciation in many verbs amounts to the devoicing of a previous consonant: scríobhfaidh will be pronounced as if written /scríofaidh/.


The final -idh is almost or entirely mute in Connemara, a short [i] in Ulster, and of course an [-ig] in Munster.


The long -ó- is of course written -eo- after a slender consonant, as in the verb saibhrigh:


saibhreod/saibhreoidh mé

saibhreoir/saibhreoidh tú

saibhreoidh sé


saibhreom/saibhreoimid/saibhreoidh muid

saibhreoidh sibh

saibhreoid/saibhreoidh siad


saibhreofar


In Ulster, the forms with the long -ó- have audibly two syllables, so that the -óidh/-eoidh ending is pronounced [axi] or [ahi], which is commonly written as -óchaidh/-eochaidh. Thus, saibhreochaidh, lagóchaidh and so on.


One feature that is not exclusively Ulster Irish although most common in Ulster literature is the intrusive future. Intrusive future forms are possible with syncopated verbs, i.e. those which drop the second syllable of the stem before the endings – such as oscail here, although it is most commonly foscail in Ulster. Anyway, such verbs as foscail can take the two-syllable future forms all right: fosclóchaidh; but it is also possible that the long ó intrudes into the stem: foscólfaidh


Note that in Ulster the long but unstressed o turns into a short but clear a sound (which is also a common way to pronounce the short and stressed o sound), so that the difference between the two future forms is basically very slight: fosclóchaidh is pronounced [fasklahi] but foscólfaidh [faskalhi].


As I noted, the intrusive future is not unique to Ulster, but I first became conscious of it reading Cora Cinniúna, i.e. the short stories of Séamus Ó Grianna. I am sure, though, that there is an instance of tosónfaidh somewhere in Peig. Tosónfaidh is the intrusive future of tosnaigh!/tosnú, which is the Munster dialect form of tosaigh!/tosú.


The verbs ending in -áil such as sábháil, seiceáil are basically first conjugation: sábhálfaidh, seiceálfaidh (note that the consonant becomes broad before the future ending). However, in Ulster ears the -álfaidh part sounds exactly the same as the -ólfaidh of the intrusive future, so that these verbs tend to be perceived as second conjugation. (In fact, in Séamus Ó Grianna’s stories as edited by Niall Ó Donaill, such spellings as sábhólfaidh are used, so as to convey how these verb forms are perceived by a speaker of traditional Ulster Irish.) This then leads to the introduction of such non-intrusive second conjugation forms as sábhlóchaidh and such second-conjugation verbal nouns as sábhailt. Thus, in Ulster the -áil verbs tend to drift into the second conjugation. 


The forms with personal endings are, as usual, most typically used in Munster Irish. The forms caithfead, fanfad, osclód, lagód and caithfir, fanfair, osclóir, lagóir are part of most good speakers’ passive knowledge. On the other hand, while the forms caithfeam, fanfam, osclóm, lagóm are the historically correct forms for first person plural, these days they are very exclusively Munster Irish and are not even understood elsewhere. In fact, I was already quite fluent in the language when I first met these forms.


And as you should remember from my post on relative clauses, there is a direct relative form: chaithfeas, fhanfas, osclós, lagós.


In correct Irish, future is not used after ‘if’, but it is used after nuair ‘when’, when there is a future form in the main clause. The nuair clause is historically a direct relative clause, and can take the relative -s. Thus, the following are correct:


Má thagann sé abhaile, beidh lúcháir orainn.

Nuair a thiocfaidh sé abhaile, beidh lúcháir orainn.

Nuair a thiocfas sé abhaile, beidh lúcháir orainn.


The first example means ‘If he comes home, we’ll be happy’, the two others, ‘When he comes home, we’ll be happy’.


Subjunctive present has the ending -e in first conjugation forms and -í in second conjugation forms:


go gcaithe mé, tú, sé. muid, sibh, siad

go gcaitear


go bhfana mé, tú, sé, muid, sibh, siad

go bhfantar


go n-osclaí mé, tú, sé, muid, sibh, siad

go n-osclaítear


go lagaí mé, tú, sé, muid, sibh, siad

go lagaítear


If personal endings are used with subjunctive present, they are the same as those of future, but without the -f-/-ó-, -eo-; go gcaithead, go bhfanad, go n-osclaíod, go lagaíod for first person singular, go gcaitheam, go bhfanam, go n-osclaíom, go lagaíom for first person plural, for instance. Subjunctive present is used in optative expressions, i.e. wishes: go n-éirí leat “may you be successful”, nár lagaí Dia do lámh “may God not weaken your hand”, i.e. “more power to you”. Note that go eclipses, but nár lenites. Moreover, subjunctive present is used after mura/mara/muna “unless”, sula/sara “before” when the main sentence has future. (However, in modern language, future has mostly ousted this usage of the present subjunctive.)


Past tense, or the punctual past. This corresponds only partly to the English past tense. It has a stronger sense of perfectivity, i.e. the action having been completed, than the English past tense, and can often be used for translating the English perfect or pluperfect tense. Let’s take an example. Right now, there is a news item at Reuters.com that can be expressed in one sentence: “A Texas teenager was found guilty of murdering an Iraqi man who had just arrived in the United States.” As they say, no news is good news, and news tends to be bad news, but if I want to translate this into Irish, I will use the past tense: ciontaíodh déagóir ó Texas i ndúnmharú fir Iarácaigh nár tháinig go dtí na Stáit Aontaithe ach go gairid roimhe sin. (Or, if you prefer so: fuarthas déagóir ó Texas ciontach i ndúnmharú…


So much about usage, but let’s talk about morphology.


CAITH:


chaitheas/chaith mé

chaithis/chaith tú

chaith sé


chaitheamar/chaith muid

chaitheabhair/chaith sibh

chaitheadar/chaith siad


caitheadh


FAN:


d’fhanas/d’fhan mé

d’fhanais/d’fhan tú

d’fhan sé


d’fhanamar/d’fhan muid

d’fhanabhair/d’fhan sibh

d’fhanadar/d’fhan siad


fanadh


OSCAIL:


d’osclaíos/d’oscail mé

d’osclaís/d’oscail tú

d’oscail sé


d’osclaíomar/d’oscail muid

d’osclaíobhair/d’oscail sibh

d’osclaíodar/d’oscail siad

(h)osclaíodh


LAGAIGH:


lagaíos/lagaigh mé

lagaís/lagaigh tú

lagaigh sé


lagaíomar/lagaigh muid

lagaíobhair/lagaigh sibh

lagaíodar/lagaigh siad


lagaíodh


The regular past basically takes the particles níor, ar, gur, nár, char, which lenite. However, the regular past autonomous form resists this lenition: níor fhan, gur fhan, nár fhan, ar fhan, níor chaith, gur chaith, nár chaith, ar chaith, but níor fanadh, gur fanadh, nár fanadh, ar fanadh, níor caitheadh, nár caitheadh, gur caitheadh, ar caitheadh. Only in the dialect of Waterford, the past autonomous form of the regular verb is permanently lenited. I never knew this, before I started to read folklore texts in that particular dialect (you can find them in the yearbook of the Ring of Waterford Gaeltacht, An Linn Bhuí, or in the folklore collections Ar Bóthar Dom and Leabhar Mhaidhc Dháith).


On the other hand, the -r particles are disappearing in Kerry Irish, and you should not be amazed to find such forms as go gcaith sé, go gcaitheas, go gcaitheadar in texts written by Kerry natives – note though that such older writers as Pádraig Ua Maoileoin, while writing in unadulterated Kerry dialect, did use the -r particles in past tense. Maidhc Dainín Ó Sé on the other hand seems to write as he speaks, so his books are full of such forms as go gcaitheas


As usually, the personal endings are typically confined to Munster Irish (although older generation Connacht writers such as Pádhraic Óg Ó Conaire do make use of them too). I could not care less about which are accepted as part of standard language, but my impression is that first person singular forms (chaitheas, d’fhanas, d’osclaíos, lagaíos) and second person singular forms (chaithis, d’fhanais, d’osclaís, lagaís) as well as second person plural forms (chaitheabhair, d’fhanabhair, d’osclaíobhair, lagaiobhair) are strictly Munster Irish these days, while the -amar and -adar suffixes are more mainstream. Note by the way that in Kerry, -amar has the form -amair.


Adding a hiatus h- to the initial vowel of the past autonomous form is not standard, but it is quite widespread.


In Munster, do can be used even where the past tense form begins with a consonant (and in Munster folklore volumes reproducing the exact pronunciation, you should not be surprised to see things like do dh’fhanas). 


Conditional mood. In Irish, conditional mood is the same for present and past: dhéanfainn é means both “I would do it” and “I would have done it”. It has the following forms:


CAITH:


chaithfinn

chaithfeá

chaithfeadh sé


chaithfimis

chaithfeadh sibh

chaithfidís


chaithfí


FAN:


d’fhanfainn

d’fhanfá

d’fhanfadh sé


d’fhanfaimis

d’fhanfadh sibh

d’fhanfaidís


d’fhanfaí


OSCAIL:


d’osclóinn

d’osclófá

d’osclódh sé


d’osclóimis

d’osclódh sibh

d’osclóidís


d’osclófaí


LAGAIGH:


lagóinn

lagófá

lagódh sé


lagóimis

lagódh sibh

lagóidís


lagófaí


As in the past tense, the first consonant is lenited, and a d’ is added to an initial vowel or fh-. However, the -r- particles are never used – you use go, nach (ná), ní, cha(n), an: an bhfanfá? ní fhanfainn! chan fhanfainn! nach bhfanfadh sé? (Munster: ná fanfadh sé?). If you see such a form as *níor fhanfadh, and the writer is a native speaker, you can be sure that he or she is from Munster and unsure about where to use the -r particles correctly. (This is what we call hypercorrection in English and forcheartú in Irish – i.e., extending a rule to where it does not apply, in an attempt to correct your nonstandard language.)


In Ulster, the conditional endings of the second conjugation again have two syllables (in books such as Cora Cinniúna with a dialectal spelling, you will see such examples as lagóchainn, lagóchadh sé; and probably lagóchthá and lagóchthaí instead of lagófá, lagófaí). And of course there are similar tendencies to use intrusive forms (d’fhoscólfá ~ d’fhosclófá).


As regards the pronunciation of the -f-, it is usually a [h], but an audible [f] in second person singular and in the autonomous form. (Note though that this rule does not apply to every dialect.) As in the future tense, if the verb stem ends in a voiced consonant, the [h] fuses with this to yield a devoiced one – thus, scríobhfainn is pronounced as scríofainn, sciobfainn as sciopainn, and so on.


The final -dh is usually pronounced as broad -ch (German “ach!”), but in Ulster it is a short u sound. Before a personal pronoun beginning with s-, i.e. sé, sí, sibh, siad, the -dh is at least in Ulster (but probably even in some other dialects) usually pronounced as -t. Thus, d’fhanfadh Seán is pronounced d’fhanfu Seán, but d’fhanfadh sé is more like d’fhanfait sé.


The personal endings -imis, -idís often take an extra -t: -imist, -idíst. IMHO this is most typically Ulster and Connacht Irish.


Sometimes the autonomous form is delenited under the influence of the past tense forms: fanfaí, caithfí, but I don’t think this is a particularly stable or regular feature in any dialect.


Habitual past. Habitual past, or imperfect, tells what used to happen in the past, often, frequently, repeatedly. It has basically the following forms:


CAITH:


chaithinn

chaiteá

chaitheadh sé


chaithimis

chaitheadh sibh

chaithidís


chaití


FAN:


d’fhanainn

d’fhantá

d’fhanadh sé


d’fhanaimis

d’fhanadh sibh

d’fhanaidís


d’fhantaí


OSCAIL:


d’osclaíonn

d’osclaíteá

d’osclaíodh sé


d’osclaímis

d’osclaíodh sibh

d’osclaídís


d’osclaítí


There is a very worrying tendency to use punctual past instead of habitual past in some elementary textbooks. This must be condemned, because it is quite unambiguously wrong. It is much better to use conditional mood instead of habitual past, because this is how some native dialects do, too.


Habitual past, as conditional mood, lenites initial consonants and takes the d’ before vowels and mute fh’s. However, it takes the r-less particles in negative, interrogative and subordinate contexts: nach bhfanainn/ná fanainn, chan fhanainn, ní fhanainn, go bhfanainn, an bhfanainn


Habitual past forms can be used after dhá “if”, mura/muna/mana “if not” and sula/sara, if there is a conditional mood in the main clause. In this context, the forms of habitual past are not called habitual past, but past subjunctive. Dhá n-osclófá an doras, bheadh cead isteach ag gach cineál feithidí. Or: Dhá n-osclaíteá an doras, bheadh cead isteach ag gach cineál feithidí. ‘If you opened the door, all kinds of insects could get in.’


My impression is that a native writer who uses both habitual past and conditional mood for referring to habitual past actions, there is a slight but perceptible difference between the two:


Thagadh sé ar cuairt chugam agus bheannaíodh sé do na cuairteoirí go léir. D’ólfadh sé braon agus bheadh comhrá aige le duine nó dhó, agus chaithfeadh sé tamall ag imirt chártaí nó ag damhsa. 


In this example, the habitual past forms (bold) refer to what always happened, i.e. this person used to come to visit me and greet everybody. Then we start using the conditional forms, when we refer to what typically happened, what this person typically might do at such an occasion, but did not do it in a particular order or not every time. If I say:


Thagadh sé ar cuairt chugam agus bheannaíodh sé do na cuairteoirí go léir. D’óladh sé braon agus bhíodh comhrá aige le duine nó dhó, agus chaitheadh sé tamall ag imirt chártaí nó ag damhsa.


…the impression conveyed is much more one of a ritual happening always in the same way and in the same order of events.


I confess that this is only my gut feeling, although it is based on a scene somewhere in Conchúr Ó Síocháin’s Gaeltacht autobiography Seanchas Chléire (known in English as The Man from Cape Clear). I will make the relevant fragment available here (with all bibliographical references) as soon as I can (and as soon as I find the book). 


By the way: in County Cork Irish it is common to leave the habitual past autonomous form delenited, which is another thing you will learn reading Ó Síocháin’s book. Thus, caití and fantaí are normal occurrences in that particular dialect.



Comments are welcome.

A short note on “caithfidh” = “must”

As most people learning Irish know, the future of the verb caith!/caitheamh is used in the sense of “must”, and the conditional moood in the sense of “had to”. Many ask me whether it is possible to use the present of the verb in this sense at all.


I answer: yes it is, if it is syntactically required, i.e. after ‘if’. which is followed by present tense if there is a future form in the main clause: Má chaitheann tú an rud áirithe seo a dhéanamh, caithfidh mé é a dhéanamh chomh maith ‘If you must do this particular thing, I must do it too’.


It is nowadays common practice to use caith!/caitheamh in the sense ‘must’ in its all tenses. It is my impression that this is a specifically Munster usage, or was to start with. If you say Chaith mé é a dhéanamh ‘I had to do it’, I can’t dismiss it as out and out wrong, but I wouldn’t use it myself. (And of course, if I was trying to imitate Kerry Irish for artistic purposes, I would say Chaitheas é a dhéanamh.) My preferred practice would be to say B’éigean dom é a dhéanamh


In fact, I would not object to Bhí agam é a dhéanamh, although obviously a loan-translation from English (‘I had to do it’), because this is an established structure in those dialects I am most familiar with. However, it does clash somewhat with the native logic of prepositional usage, because in the sense of obligation, ar rather than ag is the usual preposition – bhí orm é a dhéanamh should thus be preferred.


Note that the impersonal caithfidh sé is preferred when we are speaking of things that it seems must be true: caithfidh sé go bhfuil tú sásta means ‘you must be happy’ in the sense that external circumstances suggest you are happy. (My anonymous commenter says that it feels more natural to omit the , i.e. caithfidh go bhfuil tú sásta, and while I am not sure about “more natural”, I do agree that in this particular expression the subject pronoun can be omitted and often is, and it is absolutely OK to omit it.) If you say caithfidh tú bheith sásta, the sense conveyed is that you must be happy because there is some sort of obligation upon you: caithfidh tú bheith sásta nó cuirfidh mé as oidhreacht thú! ‘you must be happy or I’ll disinherit you!’ (In this sense though, I guess it would be more idiomatic Irish to say caithfidh tú cuma shásta a chur ort nó cuirfidh mé as oidhreacht thú ‘you must put on a happy face [in Irish, ‘you must put a happy expression on yourself’] or I’ll disinherit you’).

Some English clichés in Irish

Speakers of Irish live in a largely English-speaking environment, and a natural consequence is that English clichés tend to infiltrate their speech. This is incidentally why you should read literature by native speakers – sooner or later you will find a good translation there.


Years ago I made this list of better Irish translations for some English expressions which too often are rendered into Irish word for word or which might be found difficult.


* To start with, all in good time. Back in the good old days I proposed glacaimis an gnoithe i ndiaidh a chéile – I am not sure where I found it – it is possible Ciarán Ó Duibhin gave it to me on Gaelic-L, but it is also thinkable that I found it in a folklore volume and have forgotten the exact details. Today, of course, I would write it glacaimis an gnó i ndiaidh a chéile – gnoithe is commonly used for rendering the Ulster pronunciation, but gnó is standard Irish. 


* The second example in my list is better less, but better. To tell the truth, it is not exactly an English cliché, but an English rendition of a Russian phrase relevant to the early history of the Soviet Union. As you know, I studied Russian before Irish, and one of my ambitions has always been to make Russian and East European culture accessible in Irish translation. This particular phrase fascinated me for a long time because it felt so difficult to translate into Irish. One day though I found an idiom that catches the sense exactly: is fearr beagán go maith ná mórán go holc.


* There is an old joke about two men about to be shot by a despotic regime. One of them spits at the firing squad as a last gesture of defiance. The other says to him, shivering with fear: “Please Bill, don’t get us into trouble.” The idiomatic translation for this would be: ná tarraing seantithe anuas orainn. It might be narrowly Ulster Irish, but that is fine for me. (As far as I remember, it is mentioned in several authoritative sources, notably in Leaslaoi Lúcás’s Ros Goill vocabulary.)


* In English, the personification of death is known as the grim reaper, and he is depicted as a skeleton wearing some sort of long robe and carrying a scythe and an hourglass. The only expression for personified death I have found in native literature is an rógaire bás, ‘death, the rogue’, which is what the Islandman, Tomás Ó Criomhthain, used in his autobiography at least once.


* I have often been asked, how you say in Irish have-nots and have-lots. No problem. It’s na daoine ar an ngannchuid agus na daoine ar an anchuid. For na daoine read na daoiní, and for ar an ngannchuid read ar an ghannchuid, if you are from Ulster.


* For help yourself! at the dinner table, I recommend tarraing ort! or if you are speaking to several people, tarraingígí oraibh! Note though that focloir.ie has other recommendations, which may be better.


* When something is in good working order, the best translation in my opinion is i ngléas, although this basically means that it is electrically or mechanically connected. If I was asked to translate into Irish a story about First World War pilots, I would choose – I ngléas? – I ngléas! as the Irish translation for – Contact? – Contact!


* Is Pope Catholic? This is usually translated as An dtuigeann an Pápa Laidin? (“Does Pope understand Latin?”)

* It came true. Well, the word-for-word translation is tháinig sé fíor, and you do see it in the Gaeltacht literature, but I’d prefer to add the word isteach: tháinig sé isteach fíor. This is what Séamus Ó Grianna used, and his word is gospel for me.


* It‘s getting late. It is not wrong to use tá sé ag éirí deireanach, but here are some alternatives from Gaeltacht literature: 

tá sé ag druidim chun deireanais (actually, druidiúint chun deireanais is what I found in Cape Clear Irish, but druidim is the standard form)

tá an deireanaí ag teacht

tá an lá mall

tá sé mall sa lá

tá sé ag dul anonn sa lá

tá sé ag teannadh amach sa lá 


* Let bygones be bygones – that would be fág na seanchairteacha.


* Let sleeping dogs lie is ná bain fuil as seancholm; the thought can also be expressed with is furasta seanaibhleoga a lasadh it is easy to rekindle old embers


* Old Nick, the devil, is an Seanbhuachaill (the old boy) or an Fear Dubh – the black man. Note that dubh usually means black-haired, not black as in Africa. Dark-skinned people are in Irish said to be gorm, i.e. blue.


* Perk up, old pal would be something like breabhsaigh ort, a mhac. Note the verb breabhsaigh/breabhsú.


* Rule out in the sense of excluding a possibility is rud a bhaint as margadh. I don’t know if this is at all found in Ó Dónaill‘s dictionary, but I picked it up from Máirtín Ó Cadhain‘s political book Tone Inné agus Inniu, where the maestro said: Níor bhain de Valera foréigean as margadh mar fhuascailt, i.e. Dev didn’t rule out violence as a solution.


* Still going strong is ar a sheanléim i gcónaí.


* Take your pick (of them) is bain do rogha astu. Thus, “take your choice from among them”.


* Take your time: for this my old notes suggest tabhair do théarma and tabhair do sheal, but I have this vague feeling that better expressions might exist.


* Wham bam thank you mam is an expression, or an idea, which the old hands of the Gaelic-L e-mail list told me to translate with ní searc go scaoileadh.


* Unfortunately, there is not yet an Irish-language version of Lámhleabhar an Réaltra don tSíobshiúlóir, but I have found a concise idiomatic expression for when men were men, women were women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. The little expression is nuair a bhí an saol filiúnta, i.e. when life was poetic. Actually, filiúnta is an Ulster word, and we should probably use fileata in the standard language.

* For wise up! we can use bíodh crothán céille agat or bíodh an trí splaideog céille agat. In the sense “grow up!” you can also use aosaigh suas! or aosaigh ort!

Love is an attitude

It is generally known among learners that emotions and feelings (and illnesses) are in Irish on (ar) the person experiencing them: Tá áthas orm. Tá lúcháir orm. Tá brón orm. Tá fearg orm. 

However, love and hatred are in Irish not perceived as transient emotions, but as attitudes. Those are in Irish something you have, i.e. you use the preposition ag ‘at’. If you use ar with these nouns, it does not refer to the person who does the loving or hating, but to the person or thing loved or hated, although in this sense the preposition do is more common.

The correct construction is, thus:

tá grá ag Seán do/ar Ghobnait ‘Seán loves Gobnait’

tá fuath ag na páistí don scoil/ar an scoil ‘the children hate the school’ (by the way, this can also mean ‘children hate school’, noting that the definite article also can have a generic sense in Irish).

The difference between i and sa

One thing which ligeadóirí agus casadóirí an Chaighdeáin – the makers of standard Irish – got wrong is the treatment of the preposition i. Many learners are confused about what the exact relationship between i and sa is, because sa does not look like i at all. If the caighdeán had kept ins an, ins na instead of introducing the colloquial form sa, sna, I think learners wouldn’t be even half as confused.


So, just as an introduction:


When we take the preposition i and add the definite article an or in plural na, what we get is ins an, ins na. Thus:


i gcathair ‘in a city’ but ins an chathair ‘in the city’

i dteach ‘in a house’ but ins an teach ‘in the house’

in eitleán ‘in an aeroplane’ but ins an eitleán ‘in the aeroplane’

in áit ‘in a place’ but ins an áit ‘in the place’

i gcathracha ‘in cities’ but ins na cathracha ‘in the cities’

i dtithe ‘in houses’ but ins na tithe ‘in the houses’

in eitleáin ‘in aeroplanes’ but ins na heitleáin ‘in the aeroplanes’ 


In the caighdeán we are supposed to use sa, san, sna instead of ins an, ins na:


sa chathair, sa teach, san eitleán, san áit, sna cathracha, sna tithe, sna heitleáin.


This is a common reduction of ins an, ins na in the spoken language, but for a learner, it is not easy to understand why such very different words as i and sa could be related. If you think of every single sa, san, sna as ins an, ins an, ins na, this should help you.


As regards the initial mutation after i and ins an, the preposition when not followed by definite article eclipses the noun. After ins an, the noun is lenited. If it begins with s + vowel, s + l, s + n, s + r, then the standard language supposes that you prefix a t- to the s- instead, if the noun is feminine. In plural, the noun simply adds h- to an initial vowel and does not change an initial consonant at all (i.e. there is no difference between plural noun after ins na and after just na).


In dialects, the rules may be different. So:


* In Ulster, the t- prefixation to a lenitable s happens always after singular ins an. Thus, ins an tsaol, although saol is masculine.

* In Connacht, ins an eclipses rather than lenites. Thus, ins an mbaile, ins an gcathair. But it does not eclipse t- and d-, of course (neither does it lenite them, in other dialects)

* In Munster, ins an generally lenites, but there is a handful of nouns it does not lenite: ins an mbreis, ins an mbliain, ins an méid. At least in some dialects in Munster, there is an additional rule that ins an lenites other initial consonants, but eclipses f-: ins an bhFionlainn rather than ins an Fhionlainn. Many non-Gaeltacht speakers seem to have adopted this particular rule, even though they don’t generally attempt to prefer Munster words and forms.


Now, let’s add another rule. If you now want to stick to the Caighdeán, substitute sa for ins an before consonants, san for ins an before vowels and fh- (ins an fharraige > san fharraige), and sna for ins na. (Note that sa for ins na – such as sa háiteanna, sa heitleáin – is Kerry dialect, not standard language.)