[SOLVED] Scottish Gaelic: Pronouns and Present Tense To Be

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Here are the pronouns in Gaelic:

mi- I
thu-you
e- he/it
i-she/it
sinn- we
sibh- you (plural/polite)
iad- they

The verb "to be" in the present tense:

...is "tha." That's it. No need for conjugation, it looks like. All you need to do is put in the personal pronoun to distinguish the conjugation of the verb.

Example:

Tha Ian òg- John is young
Tha mi sgìth- I am tired
Tha e fuar- he/it is cold
Tha iad an-seo -they are here

In this case, you would just need to put the verb in the beginning of the sentence, followed by the personal pronoun.

It's that easy.

Please share your input/questions/corrections because I'm completely new to this language too!

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That's good and clear and accurate as far as it goes.

But it would probably be better to say "Scottish Gaelic" than just "Gaelic" because Irish Gaelic is slightly different and Manz Gaelic is written with completely different spelling rules.

At some point you will have to add two important things to remember about "Tha":
1. It can't be used to make statements involving negating words like "not", "never", and so on, or to ask questions, only to make statements. So you can't use "Tha" to say something like "John is not young".
2. Only its subject can be a noun, the complement can't be. So you can't use "Tha" to say anything like "A salmon is a fish".
i suspect that most people here will be quite used to having two verbs corresponding to English "be", instead of just one.

Guest

So how would you use "to be" in a negative statement in the present tense?

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"tha" is the independent mode personal mood present tense of the verb "bi". To make a negative statement (or ask a question) you need the dependent mode of the verb, which is "bheil", often contracted to "'eil"; and you need a qualifying particle which tells you whether you are making a negative statement or asking a question.
So you get
Negative statement: Chan 'eil Ian òg - John isn't young.
Question: A' bheil Ian òg? - Is John young?.

Guest

Well, I am already confused Whatchutalkingabout smile Teeth smile

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In French and Spanish and Italian and Germa and English and .... you have "indicative" and "subjunctive". For regular verbs this is no big thing, because they are regular the spelling and pronunciation changes between indicative and subjunctive according to simple rules bringing in simple changes (eg Spanish "yo ando" indicative, "yo ande" subjunctive). For irregular verbs (which are of course the verbs most often used) the changes often don't follow any simple rules, for example in French "je vais" indicative and "j'aille" subjunctive.

In Scottish Gaelic, instead of indicative and subjunctive we have 3 moods: neo-eisimeileach (independent), eisimeileach (dependent), and dàimheach (relative). In tenses other than "future", the relative mode is exactly the same as the independent mode, even for irregular verbs, and in "future" the difference between relative and independent follow extremely simple rules. For regular verbs, the differences between independent and dependent follow simple rules (for example "he sang" is "sheinn e" independent, and "do sheinn e" dependent. For irregular verbs, the changes between independent and dependent often don't follow any simple rules, for example "tha e" (he is) independent and "bheil e" (he is) dependent.

The rule for whether to use independent, dependent, or relative verb mode is very simple: the verb of a relative clause is in relative mode, the verb in a dependent clause is in dependent mode, and the verb in an independent clause is in independent mode. How you tell which sort of clause is which s also very simple: A dependent clause is a clause introduced by a subordinating conjunction, or by a preposition, or by a negating particle, or by a question particle. A relative clause is a clause that is not dependent and is introduced by a relative pronoun or by a non-subordinating conjunction. An independent clause is any clause which is neither dependent nor relative. (This is actually an awful lot simpler than the rules about when to use subjunctive in English or German or French or Spanish).

Irregular verbs are complicated, in any language. So don't let an irreglar verb confuse you.

Guest

That certainly clears it up a bit. Thank you. Regular smile

Guest

I have a question, pertaining to some of the topics I was reading: are there plural nouns in Scottish Gaelic?

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Are there languages without plural nouns? That would be very odd!
Most nouns in gàidhlig have plurals.

Guest

I think I read the section wrong :O It says there are no indefinite articles.

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That's right, no indefinite article.
Definite artcles have gender and number and are also declined for case (nominative, genitive, dative). They are also affected by the sound at the beginning of the next word (is it a vowel, is a a labial consonant, is it an "s", is it a non-labial consonant other than "s"), so definite articles are quite complicated enough on their own without having to cope with indefinite ones too. Regular smile

Guest

So does Scottish Gaelic have cases then?

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Yes.

Nouns have 4 cases (nominative, vocative, genitive and dative). So do definite articles and so do adjectives, because they have to agree with the nouns in gender, case, and number. Of course (technically/pedantically) having a noun in the vocative case makes it definite, so indefinite nouns only have 3 cases, not 4.

Guest

Hello,

I'm back for another mini lesson (very mini because I even get confused) :~

So, in Scottish Gaelic, for the phrase "there is/are" you would put the word "tha" in front of an indefinite noun (ex. a bird rather than the bird, although Gaelic doesn't have an indefinite article) :bigsmile:

Here are some example phrases:

Tha cat an-seo: There is a cat here (lit. a cat is here)

Tha craobh an-sin: There is a tree there (lit. A tree is there)

Tha caistealan an Glaschu: There are castles in Glasgow (lit. Castles are in Glasgow)

And that sums it up... I think.

Please feel free to add corrections or something new about the topic! Teeth smile

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Yes, "Tha X an-sin" and "tha x an-seo" are ok. But "Tha x an-siud" is used too, to say "There's an X there" (an-siud implies far away; an-sin could be far away or quite near).
Also "over there" can be "thall ud" or "ud thall" where "ud" is just a shortened form of "siud".
In some contexts "an-sin" can mean "then" instead of there.

The word for "in" is "ann", usually doubled up to "ann an" before a noun, so "There are castles in Glasgow" is "Tha caistealan ann an Glaschu".

"ann" changes to "anns" before an article, and often forms compounds with articles ('san, 'sam, 'sa, 'sna for anns an, anns am, anns a', and anns na), for example "Tha tri eaglais 'sa bhaile bheag ud thall" ( There are three churches in that town over there). "Tha tri eaglaisen anns a'bhaile bheag ud thall" means the same but usually people say "'sa" rather than "anns a'" (because we are too lazy to say the extra syllable).

Guest

Thanks so much for the clarification! I really appreciate it!

Guest

Tom, I would like to ask you: would you happen to know of any Scottish Gaelic "text-to-speech" sites online? It greatly helps with my pronunciation. I could only find one for Irish Gaelic. :~

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I don't know of an online site like the Irish one, but it's not difficult to get hold of something that will convert Scottish Gaelic text to speech for you

If you have a suitable text-to-voice program/text reader, you just have to acquire a compatible Gaelic voice file. There are a lot of free programmes which are suitable (any that accepts a SAP15 standard voice file should do), for example Balabolka and Microsoft Office Speak. But I only know of one voice file for Scottish Gaelic, and unless you qualify for a free copy (which you won't if you don't both live in Scotland and either have children of school age or are a school teacher) it costs £24.99 to buy (actually the package includes 2 Scottish English voice files as well as the Scottish Gaelic voice file). I don't know how good it is, but as the Scottish government has paid a heap of money to make it free for students in Scottish Schools and Universities and for everyone working in public service in Scotland I imagine it's quite good, and Edinburgh University was involved in the project which is generally a good sign in things Gaelic. Anyway, look at
http://www.callscotland.org.uk/information/text-to-speech
http://www.thescottishvoice.org.uk/text-readers/
and http://www.thescottishvoice.org.uk/home/
if you want to find out more. If you like what you see and want to buy the voice file, they may by now be selling through that website (last I knew the website only allowed downloading it for people who were entitled to a free copy) and if not you can order it by telephone to 44 131 651 6235 (they speak English as well as Gàidhlig).
Incidentally, thinking of Edinburgh University reminds me of something I should recommend to all learners of Gaelic: get a copy of Ronald Black's "Cothrom Ionnsachaidh" which is by far the best available textbook covering Gaelic pronunciation, grammar, and syntax. He wrote originally it for 1st year students taking a degree in Celtic Studies at Edinburgh University, but it leaked from them to others and became extremely popular.

Senior Member
Joined: 30.06.2016
michealt wrote:

Are there languages without plural nouns? That would be very odd!

I think the original question referred to nouns that are used only in the plural, e.g. pants, scissors, or nouns like media and news which are plural in form but not necessarily used with plural conjugation. (E.g. "The media has a huge responsibility in these matters.")

What you were referring to, I assume, are nouns in general and their singular and plural forms. As odd as it may seem, there *are* languages that don't really use the plural form of a noun. In Japanese, for example, the plural form of a noun is -tachi, as in kodomo=child and kodomotachi=children, but Japanese speakers rarely, if ever, feel the need to make a distinction between the two. Korean uses plural forms a lot more than Japanese but it's still quite common to just omit the plural particle. In Hungarian we only use the plural form when there is no indication of number or amount, which is quite rare, so we don't use plurals that much, either. Cf. "There are trees in the yard" vs. "There are some trees in the yard" and "the trees in the yard" vs. "the two trees in the yard". In the case of "some trees" and "two trees" we use the singular form of tree as the words some and two make it clear that it is more than one tree.

So I wouldn't be surprised at all if there were languages that didn't even have plural forms. And, of course, there are languages like Hebrew which have singular, plural and dual forms as well. As far as I know the dual is used in case of things that usually come in pairs, like eyes, ears or legs.

Guest

Thank you very much Tom! I'm definitely going to take a look at that!

And hello PirateBunny! Welcome to the forum! Are you interested in learning Scottish Gaelic?

Senior Member
Joined: 30.06.2016

Hi Rose! Yes, I am, but I'm afraid my current language learning capacity is full so maybe in the future. Regular smile

Guest

I know what you mean; I'm just taking it slow because I have so many languages in focusing on. It's a gradual start but a start none the less Regular smile

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Hi Csilla,
plural nouns: if that's what was meant then yes, there is at least one word like that: "pantaichean" (pants) is a very modern borrowing from American English. But the word for drawers (the garment, not the set of drawers in a chest) is the singular noun "drathais", with plural "drathaisean" and the word for scissors is the singular "siosar" (maybe a borrowing from English, or perhaps from medieval French "cisur") or (singular) "deamhas" - big scissors (not nail-scissors) or shears or hand-held clipper. In fact "pantaichean" is the only word I can think of right now which has plural concordance and singular reference, but it's hard to think of such things so I'm not saying it's the only one in the language.
And we do have three numbers: singular, dual, and plural; but the dual has almost disappeared.

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Just to add to my last comment: "trousers" has plural concordance in English (if it's the subject of a verb the verb takes plural form) but the equivalent gaelic words "trùsair", "triubhsair", "brigis" and "briogais" all have singular concordance (an adjective qualifying them takes singular form) and they all have plurals (and when the adjective qualifies the plural, it takes plural form).

And thinking about concordance for nouns, and why it's about verbs in English and about adjectives in Gaelic, the reason is simple. English verbs in 3rd person are conjugated according to number (eg thinks - singular, think - plural) but Gaelic verbs aren't. Gaelic adjectives are declined for number (and grammatical gender) but English adjectives aren't.

Guest

So, by the declension of adjectives, would you mean that in English we would say, "green shirts" while Scottish Gaelic it would be more like "greens shirts" for a lack of a better example?

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Yes, that's fair enough.
A shirt is "léine", shirts are "léintean"; green is glas (if it's a greyish green, or the colour of unripe wheat, rather than a bright verdant green).
Léine is a feminine noun, so we have:
a green shirt = léine ghlas
green shirts = léintean glasa
(in the nominative case, anyway)

There are complications because there is more than just number, gender, and case to consider. But no-one thinks in terms of 1st declension, 2nd declension and so on the way Latin is taught, but instead about which vowel-consonant combinations get which changes for which case/number/gender/definiteness situations.

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Joined: 22.04.2011

Thank you Tom for such a fresh read! What a fascinating language! Regular smile

I did want to add on to the "plural noun" discussion -- even though labellerose had meant something totally different in her asking.

But you asked if there was a language that had no plural nouns...
I know that in Tongan, there are no plural nouns in the sense that we, in English, use s/es/i. However, the plural sign is mainly found in the articles.

I also wanted to ask you concerning the indefinite article. So you mentioned that there is no indefinite article in Scottish Gaelic (and presumably in Irish?). May I ask -- suppose you were translating an English song into Manx Gaelic -- how would translate the definite article?

I'm also curious that in Scottish Gaelic the pronoun for "it" is used for both the feminine "she" and masculine "he". Is it also the same for possessive cases like "his" / "her"? In the Oceanic languages, there is only one pronoun for "he" "she" and "it" -- so I just thought that was interesting.

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Hi Josh, I hardly know anything about Manx, but maybe the following will help.
There is no indefinite article in any form of Gaelic, whether Irish, Manx or Scottish.
All three languages have the same basic form "an" (spellt "yn" in Manx) for the definite article, but it mutates a lot according to gender, case, number and phonetic context and can cause modification of a following consonant either by lenition or by what is sometimes called "eclipse", sometimes '"revoicing", and sometimes "nasalisation". In Scottish Gaelic it can be any of an, an t-, a', na, na h-, nan, am, nam. I don't think Manx has that many forms of the definite article, the only two I'm sure of are yn and ny but I would be surprised if y and ym are not also possible forms.

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Josh, I was a bit confused by your last paragraph. I meant to come back and comment on it earlier, but I got distracted so it's been a long time.
We don't actually have a word that means "it" but we tend to be sloppy about choosing whether to use the word that means "he" or the word that means "she".
The third person singular pronouns are "e" (English "he") and "i" (English "she"). SInce all nouns have grammatical gender (which is not the same as natural gender - for example the word "boireannach" means "woman" but has masculine grammatical gender) we could simply use the pronouns "e" and "i" according to the grammatical gender of the noun the pronoun stands for, and in some prescriptive theories that's the only correct thing to do; but prescriptive theories are nearly always wrong. In reality it's OK to use the pronoun corresponding to the natural gender (where natural gender exists) because people do it usually; and people often use "e" as the pronoun for anything that doesn't have natural gender (so for anything where English would use "it"); but there is never a case where "e" is used for something which has feminine natural gender unless it has masculine grammatical gender. And there are exceptions.
This is of course complicated by pronouns forming compounds with prepositions that govern the dative case, so we have a large number of prepositional pronouns. Mostly these follow the same rules about gender as the raw pronouns. They too have exceptions: although "bàta" (boat) has masculine grammatical gender I hear "chaidh sinn air bord innte" ("innte" being the prepositional pronoun meaning "in her") and never hear "chaid sinn air bord ann" ("ann meaning "in him"). But even in English we "we went on board her" seems more natural that "we went on board him".
The possessive cases of the 3rd person singular pronouns are
his : a, causing lenition of the initial consonant of the following word (unless the first letter is a vowel, or is part of a nonlenitable cluster)
her : a, not causing lenition before a word beginning with a consonant, a h- before a word beginning with a vowel.
its : whichever of the above fits the grammatical gender of the thing represented by the possessive pronoun. Or maybe fits the natural gender. Or maybe neither (eg "a crainn" - her masts - as above with a prepositional pronound, here a boat gets the feminine possessive pronoun despite having masculine grammatical gender).

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Thank you Tom for the explanation and no worries on the late reply.
Wow, that looks very complex!