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The Daltaí Boards » Archive: 1999-2004 » 2003 (July-September) » Meaning of ná « Previous Next »

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Dawn (66.19.56.35 - 66.19.56.35)
Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2003 - 01:31 am:   Edit Post Print Post

A chairde,

I'm wondering if there is a translation for the word ná. The best I can come up with is "which", "which is", or "that".

Is é an rud a chonaic mé NÁ capall.
The thing WHICH I saw, it is a horse.
WHAT I saw was a horse.

Is é an spórt is fearr liom NÁ peil.
The sport WHICH IS best with me, it is football.
The sport WHICH I like best is football.

My translations (the first ones) seem all twisted around from the Irish, yet I can't figure out any other way that these sentences makes sense.

I appreciate your help,
Dawn

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Jonas (213.243.190.30 - 213.243.190.30)
Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2003 - 04:14 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Very good question, this one can be confusing. You are more or less right, though, so there isn't really much for me to add. The confusing part is that "ná" is normally a negative word (nach = ná in Munster Irish). That can cause confusion, since ná=nach is typical Munster Irish and the use of ná that you're asking about is also typical for Munster Irish. Indeed I would think that both uses are limited to Munster, and there they are standard.

One could say that this use of "ná" isn't needed. Still, it is very common so one should be familiar with it, especially when speaking or reading Munster Irish. In fact, one of the most famous Irish book, Séadna, begins like this:

Bhí fear ann fadó agus is é ainm a bhí air ná Séadna.

This already tells us that the author is from Munster. So there isn't really any translation for it, normally you can leave it out when translating from Irish. It's a dialectal feature that is extremely common in all parts of Munster and very frequent in Munster books.

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Dawn (66.19.56.136 - 66.19.56.136)
Posted on Thursday, September 11, 2003 - 11:39 am:   Edit Post Print Post

"One could say that this use of "ná" isn't needed. "

Are you saying it can be left out then?

Is é an spórt is fearr liom peil. (?)

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Tomás (198.22.236.230 - 198.22.236.230)
Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 01:48 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Dhawn, a chara, -- It would be better to say "Is é peil an spórt is fearr liom." It might be helpful, when considering the construction you originally asked about, to know that a more apt translation of "'Sé an rud a chonaic mé ná capall" would be "The thing I saw is/was BUT a horse." We use this construction in English from time to time when making rhetorical statements. Mar shampla, "Who did I see working as a greeter at the Walmart in Cicero but Elvis himself." One of the meanings of "ná" is "but". To use the great example Jonas cited from An tAthair Peadar Ó Laoghaoire's classic "Séadna". An apt translation of that opening line would be "There was a man a long time ago whose name was but Séadna."
-- Tomás

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Jonas (213.243.178.202 - 213.243.178.202)
Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 02:57 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Absolutety! Go raibh maith agat, a chara, I was just to comment upon the word order but you've saved me that. ;-)

Just as Tomás says, "Is é an spórt is fearr liom peil" sounds strange, the other dialects would front "peil" (or any other noun, of course). If An tAthair Ó Laoghaoire would have been a Connacht-man he would probably have begun with:
"Bhí fear ann fadó agus is é Séadna an t-ainm a bhí air."
To my ears the Munster option is more elegant, but that is of course a highly subjective statement from a biased Munster speaker ;-)
Instead of the normal fronting used in Ulster and Connacht, "ná" has the same effect. It highlights what's important in the sentence. Thinking of "ná" as "but" is a helpful idea. I would be somewhat reluctant to use it in translation into English because there is another construction that is even more connected with "but". Here's an example:

"Cé a chífinn agus mé ag teacht abhaile ach Séadna"
"Whom would I see when I came home but Séadna"

Apart from that, it is certainly helpful to think of "ná" as but. You could also think of it as a dramatic pause.

"Long ago there was a man whose name was [pause] Séadna."
Just a different way to think of it in English, it's still the same thing in Irish.

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Tomás (198.22.236.230 - 198.22.236.230)
Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 03:38 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Dawn, -- Jonas' hits on something that was bugging me after I posted that last message. I said that "ná" means "but". I should not have said "means". I should have said "has the same sense as 'but'" or words to that effect. But I'm not sure that would have been very helpful. As Jonas pointed out earlier in the discussion, "ná" is a negative word. Maybe in the usage we've been discussing a good sense of the word would be "none other than" or "nothing other than". I also like Jonas' thought of it as a dramatic pause. One of the things I love about Irish is that it is such a rythmic and contextual language. You have words that mean nothing except when coupled with other words, and you have articles and words that may be there only to maintain the rythym of the speech. It's things like that that fascinate me about Irish, and make me sad to think about a world in which someday it may no longer be spoken as an everyday language.

Tomás

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Dawn (66.19.56.164 - 66.19.56.164)
Posted on Tuesday, September 16, 2003 - 05:51 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Excellent! Thank you so much. Sometimes it is helpful ,or even necessary, to look at a new concept from half a dozen perspectives to get the right idea, especially when a word, phrase, etc. doesn't translate exactly.

It's a real challenge to remember which rules go with which dialect. I'm still working on those Munster verbs you gave me, Jonas. I really don't know how you can study Irish without being exposed to each dialect, though. Isn't it wonderful the diversity that can exist in such a small space!

Dawn

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Tomás (198.22.236.230 - 198.22.236.230)
Posted on Monday, September 22, 2003 - 01:41 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Dawn, -- I came across this in Mícheál Ó Siadhail's "Modern Irish: Grammatical Structure and Dialectical Variation" (pp. 336, 12.6)regarding use of the "[s]uspensive 'ná'". I thought that both you and Jonas might find it interesting:

"A distinctive trait of Munster dialects is the use of what may be called a suspensive 'ná'. It occurs both in a pseudo-'wh'-question [who, what, where] or cleft:

(134) Cad a raghadh ceangailte im' mhéir ná an dubhán
'What should get stuck in my finger but the hook'

(135) Cé bheadh ar an bhfód ná deirfiúr do.
'Who should be on the scene but a sister of his'

(136) '`Sé an chéad scéal do chuir an bheirt ar bun ná 'An Long Dhóite'
'The first story the two got off on was 'An Long Dhóite'

The suspensive 'ná' merely marks the natural hiatus which follows the build-up of a pseudo-'wh'-question or cleft. There is, however, a difference between the pseudo-'wh'-question and a pseudo-cleft. In the case of pseudo-'wh'-questions the hiatus is never left blank, irrespective of the dialect. In Connacht and Donegal 'ach' "but" is employed. This 'ach' optionally alternates with 'ná' in Munster:

(137) Cad bhuailfeadh chugam ach an gasra céanna ban óg'
'What should be heading for me but the same group of young women'

It may be noted in passing thtat there is in Munster another semantically similar usage of 'ná' "but" before the complementizers 'go/gur' "that" etc.:

(138) Ní raibh aon duine óg ná aosta san oileán so...ná go raibh a fhios aige Tomás Maol cad dob aois é'
'There was nobody young or old on this island...but that Tomás Maol knew what his age was'

(139) Níl gnó agamsa á rá ná gur chailleas féin mo chuid tsuilt...'
'I have no business saying it but that I lost my enjoyment...'"

Tomás

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Dawn (66.19.56.139 - 66.19.56.139)
Posted on Monday, September 22, 2003 - 04:16 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

That's great, Tomás! Thank you.

Dawn

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