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The Daltaí Boards » Archive: 1999-2004 » 2004 (July-September) » Archive through September 27, 2004 » An Focal "Gaeilge" « Previous Next »

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Fear_na_mbróg
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Username: Fear_na_mbróg

Post Number: 78
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 04:47 am:   Edit Post Print Post

This has been wrecking my head for a while. First thing: What's the name of the Irish language in the Irish language? Is it:

A) Gaeilge
B) An Ghaeilge
C) Both

What's the possessive:

A) Gaeilge
B) na Gaeilge
C) Both

Now, here's the one that's really been wrecking my head!: Is "Gaeilge" a definite, or indefinite noun? For instance, you hear people say:

Bhí rang Gaeilge agam inné.

If "Gaeilge" is definite in the above, then it's:

I had the Irish class yesterday.
I had Irish's class yesterday.

If it's indefinite, then it's:

I had an Irish class yesterday.

Similarly with "Béarla", is it definite or indefinite, eg. "rang Béarla", is that "an English class", or "the English class"?

My first thought was that "Gaeilge" was definite and hence that "an Irish class" would be "rang de Ghaeilge".

Can anyone clue me in?

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Pádraig (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted From: 205.188.116.142
Posted on Thursday, September 09, 2004 - 10:56 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

My first language is English, and I've been reminded many times that English isn't Irish; but despite this, and because I can speak from the English perspective with more confidence and authority -- here goes.

It seems that all names of languages are indefinite, even when they are used as adjectives:

English class

I have never heard anyone say he speaks "the English" or that he has "the" eight o'clock English class.

I suspect this is one of those questions that can be answered by referring to what "sounds" correct, a technique that requires everyday contact with the spoken language. I don't have that expertise in Irish, but I do it all the time in English. The other day I found an eighth grade English grammar that urged students to determine the correct cases of compound personal pronouns by dropping one of the pronouns and reading the sentence aloud. The idea was that the student would be able to hear the correct form.

For example: "John spoke to him and me" vs. "he and I." When I drop the "he" and say "John spoke to I," my ear immediately rejects the "I."

By the way, have y'all noticed how often the little-knowledge-is-a-dangerous-thing folks say "between she and I?" But, language serves people, and if most people say "between she and I," then "she and I" it will be.

Sorry -- it must be that effusive thing James started.

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James
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Username: James

Post Number: 22
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 08:02 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Actually, that is a huge pet peeve of mine. It drives me nuckin' futs when people, esepcially people who are supposed to know better, get the "me vs I" thing wrong!

But, in this case, I think a caveat might be in order. I've heard the Hiberno-english saying "Does he have the Irish?" Or, "Oh my, this Yank has the Irish!" So, it would stand to reason that Gaeilge might just be definite.

Aonghus, Jonas??

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Fear_na_mbróg
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Username: Fear_na_mbróg

Post Number: 90
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 08:25 am:   Edit Post Print Post

While I'm at it:

The Irish for "Ireland" is "Éire", as opposed to "An Éire". Here's two companies in Ireland:

Bus Éireann
Banc na hÉireann

Where the hell does "na hÉireann" come from?!

Similary:

Is maith liom Gailimh.
Is maith liom Muintir na Gaillimhe.

What's the Irish for "Louth"? Is it "Lú" or "An Lú"?

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Aonghus
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Username: Aonghus

Post Number: 121
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 08:47 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Contae Lú!


It's a language. There is more than one way to express the concept.

Banc na hÉireann has been called that for longer than Bus Éireann exists.

Consider:
Bunreacht na hÉireann
Pobal na hÉireann
Rialtas na hÉireann

There is only one of each of these - so my gut feeling is that the "na" is making the first noun definite, not the second. Must read up on this.

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Fear_na_mbróg
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Username: Fear_na_mbróg

Post Number: 92
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 09:52 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Well there's only one Ireland, so "Éire" is definite.

As for the the na making the first noun definite, well there's no choice there:

John's coat

Now, "coat" is definite, it refers to a specific thing.

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Larry
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Username: Larry

Post Number: 6
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 11:28 am:   Edit Post Print Post

A Chairde,

na was covered in a previous question - http://www.daltai.com/discus/messages/12465/11803.html

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Fear_na_mbróg
Member
Username: Fear_na_mbróg

Post Number: 94
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Friday, September 10, 2004 - 02:20 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

That doesn't explain anything.

Seán
Cóta Shéain

Sasana
Rí Shasana

An buachaill
Ainm an bhuachalla

An áit
timpeall na háite

That all makes perfect sense. But then you have:

Gaillimh
Contae na Gaillimhe

Éire
Bus Éireann (makes sense)
Banc na hÉireann (what the hell?)

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Lúcas
Member
Username: Lúcas

Post Number: 6
Registered: 01-2004


Posted on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 11:16 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

FnaB,

I think the answer to your queston is found in semantics and not syntax. Syntax can flag definite nouns, e.g., all nouns with a definite article are definite, as you have already implied. However, while it is sufficent, the definite article is not necessary for a noun to be definite. There are definite nouns that are not found with the definite article. Here are some illustrative cases. Usually,

  • proper nouns are definite, mar shampla, Gaillimh, Seán, Doire, Éire, ...
  • nouns modified by possive adjectives are definite, mar shampla, mo chuid Gaeilge, a mhac, do chlann, ..., and
  • nouns modified by another noun, mar shampla,
    hata Sheáin, fear an tí, Contae na Gaillimhe, Cathair na Gaillimhe, ...


There are exceptions to these rules, like rang Gaeilge. Gaeilge is a definite noun, but when used to modify rang, it becomes an indefinite noun phrase. It should be translated as an Irish class. Translating it as the Irish class syntactically suggests it is a definite noun which means there is only one Irish class in space and time, and it is this one and only class I am referring to. Since that cannot be true, it must be indefinite.

So it is meaning or semantics, not syntax that dictates whether a noun is definite or not. You said so yourself, "Well there's only one Ireland, so 'Éire' is definite." So the question to ask becomes -- Is there only one of these things? Can you distinguish it from all other things? If yes, then it is a definite noun. If no, then it is indefinite. Yes, there is only one Gaeilge and I know it when I see it. Therefore, I am definite that Gaeilge is definite. Definitely! I think. ;-)

(Message edited by lúcas on September 12, 2004)

(Message edited by lúcas on September 12, 2004)

Mise le meas,

Lúcas

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Jonas
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Username: Jonas

Post Number: 431
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 03:47 am:   Edit Post Print Post

To me, at least, Lúcas answer seems very much to the point. A very interesting question, by the way - I never really thought about it before. By the way, Pádraig, who said that "I've been reminded many times that English isn't Irish. You're quite right in saying that. You are quite wrong in saying that "all names of languages are indefinite". Obviously it differs from language to language.

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Fear_na_mbróg
Member
Username: Fear_na_mbróg

Post Number: 103
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 04:50 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I'll summize as smally as possible:

Seán
cóta Sheáin

as opposed to:

cóta an tSeáin

But then you have:

Contae na Gaillimhe
Muintir na hÉireann

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Pádraig
Member
Username: Pádraig

Post Number: 9
Registered: 09-2004
Posted on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 06:55 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

By the way, Pádraig, who said that "I've been reminded many times that English isn't Irish. You're quite right in saying that. You are quite wrong in saying that "all names of languages are indefinite". Obviously it differs from language to language.

I should have made it more clear that I was referring to English only. Sorry.

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Jonas
Member
Username: Jonas

Post Number: 433
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 03:16 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I'm sorry, I misunderstood you - I thought you meant all languages. My mistake, gabh mo leithscéal.



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