Looking at the ‘aon’ in ‘aontaithe’ (united)

Posted on 23. Sep, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Well, the Scottish Referendum has come and gone and I find myself wondering what will happen sa todhchaí (in the future).

But meanwhile, it might be useful to look at the Irish word for “united,” since it shows up in many other phrases and terms, aside from “An Ríocht Aontaithe.”

Aontaithe” is based on the number “aon” (one).  This seemingly short and easy word in Irish does have a few interesting features, such as:

1) becoming “a haon” when telling time, reading off numbers, etc. (the so-called “independent” number usage): a haon a chlog, or, for New York’s area code 212: a dó, a haon, a dó

2) also meaning “any” in certain phrases: aon duine (aka “éinne“), any person; aon rud, anything; to say “one person” or “one thing,” we use a different form of the number one: duine amháin, rud amháin

3) similar to point 2, being replaced by “amháin,” in general, for actually counting things: bus amháin, one bus (but “Bus a hAon” is “Bus No. 1)

Related words are:

aontas, union

aontú, to agree or agreeing (An aontaíonn tú leis sin?, etc.)

aontacht, unity, oneness

Aontachtaí, a Unionist

Here are some samples of the word “aontaithe“:

Na Stáit Aontaithe, the United States

Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá, the United States of America; note that the word “na” (“the,” plural) is now dropped because we’ve added “Mheiriceá–and the full explanation will have to be ábhar blag eile

sna Stáit, in the States (usually implies in the United States, at least if capitalized); note the use of “sna,” not “sa” or “na

sna Stáit Aontaithe, in the United States

Uachtarán na Stát Aontaithe, the President of the United States; note the change from “stáit” to “stát” because we’re using “an tuiseal ginideach;” full explanation, again, ábhar blag eile

Uachtarán Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá, the President of the United States of America

Here are a few more uses of “aontaithe

Stáit Aontaithe Mheicsiceo, although the more casual usage would be to just say “Meicsiceo,” just like we often simply say “Meiriceá,” not “Stáit Aontaithe Mheiriceá.”

na Náisiúin Aontaithe, the United Nations.  Note that here we keep the “na” (“the,” plural) because we’re not saying “the United Nations” of [something], just “the United Nations”

There are many subsidiary organizations to “na Náisiúin Aontaithe,” such as this one, abbreviated “CÉINAL”:

Ciste Éigeandála Idirnáisiúnta na Náisiún Aontaithe do Leanaí

An dtuigeann tú é?  Freagra thíos! 

You might have noticed that “náisiúin” has changed to “náisiún” in this phrase.  Why?  Because it’s genitive plural, i.e. we’re saying, literally: international fund (of) emergency (of) the United Nations for children

And one more phrase with “aontaithe,” for now,

Poblacht Aontaithe na Tansáine, the United Republic of Tanzania; again, frequently referred to in its shorter form, “an Tansáin

By the way, regarding the word ‘future,’ as mentioned in the first paragraph of this blog, note that there at least two main words for this in Irish:

todhchaí [TOW-khee], ‘future’ as a noun, in my experience mostly encountered in the phrase “sa todhchaí

fáistíneach [FAWSH-tcheen-yukh], ‘future’ as an adjective, for phrases like “an aimsir fháistíneach’ [un AM-shirzh AWSH-tcheen-yukh], the future tense, when referring to verbs

And then there’s ‘futures’ in the business sense, todhchaíochtaí (singular: todhchaíocht), but I can’t say that was ever much a part of any gnáthchomhráite I ever had sa Ghaeltacht!

For that matter, there’s also ‘ciúb-thodhchaíochas,’ a term which makes perfect sense, but which, again, I haven’t encountered much, even in English, except perhaps in an exhibition catalog.  Which is a clue, since this term pertains to ealaín (art).  It means “cubo-futurism.”  Defining “cubo-futurism” as such, though, I’ll leave to ealaíontóirí ar bith ar an liosta seo, if they’d like to volunteer their opinions.

Bhuel, sin é don bhlag seo.  An chéad Reifreann eile?  SGF — Róislín

Freagra: Ciste Éigeandála Idirnáisiúnta na Náisiún Aontaithe do Leanaí: United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)

Spleáchas vs. Neamhspleáchas Hotting Up in Scotland

Posted on 18. Sep, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

A timely time to look at the Irish word for ‘independence’ as the “vótáil” for the Scottish Referendum comes down the home stretch.

Much like the English word “independence,” the Irish equivalent, “neamhspleáchas,” is also a compound word. Knowing that probably makes it a lot easier to pronounce, and, as it were, digest. Otherwise, for a typical English speaker, looking at a consonant cluster like “-mhspl-” might seem a little baffling.

The “-mh-“ is actually the ending of the prefix “neamh-“ (un-, in-, ir-, il-, im-, non-, sometimes “-less”), pronounced by some as “nyow” and by others as “nyav.” You might recognize it from words like “neamhrialta” (irregular) and “neamh-mheisciúil” (non-alcoholic, non-intoxicating, etc.). In the second example, the hyphen is included so we don’t have two “MHs” in a row (-mhmh-); that is the standard punctuation rule in Modern Irish today.   A double “mh” would be a bit eye-boggling even for those accustomed to Irish consonant clusters. Similarly, we have “drochubh” (and ;-) “drochéan”), but “droch-chuma” or “droch-charr,” with the “chch” separated.

Removing the prefix “neamh-“ leaves us with the core noun, “spleáchas” ([SPLyAW-khuss] dependence, dependency). Examples include: spleáchas ar dhrugaí, spleáchas pH (which I couldn’t define scientifically but I can translate into Irish!), and what must be a fairly new-fangled term in Irish, spleáchas gléis (device dependence – is that just the computers or all us device-dependent carbon-based organisms as well?).

A parallel set of words is:

spleách, dependent, as in – oh, here’s a goody – friotóir solas-spleách (aistriúchán thíos)

neamhspleách – independent

“Imspleáchas” and “idirspleáchas” are additional related words, both meaning “interdependence.”

It’s also intriguing to consider the very root of the word “spleáchas,” since the “-chas” ending is a suffix, usually creating an abstract noun out of something more concrete, though not necessarily tangible (m. sh. Béarlachas, cumannachas, ailbíneachas, srl.). So far, I’ve gotten to the noun “spleá,” which, even without the suffix, also means “dependence.”   It also means “subservience,” and has a secondary set of meanings (obsequiousness, flattery), not very widely used today, at least in my experience. In fact, I’ve rarely ever seen “spleá” as such, mostly just “spleáchas.”   Another topic for a rainy day investigation.  And what words do we see more frequently for obsequiousness and flattery. Cúpla moladh thíos!

It’s also interesting to ponder the difference between “neamhspleáchas” and “saoirse” ([SEER-shuh] freedom, liberty), but mostly I’ll leave that to the fealsúnaithe, the eolaithe polaitíochta, and, well, other interested parties. From a language viewpoint, I’ll simply note that “saoirse” is based on the word “saor, which has many meanings, including, as an adjective, “free,” and as a noun, a free person. It is related to the phrase “ar saoire” (on holiday/vacation). The American Declaration of Independence is “Forógra Saoirse Mheiriceá.”

Spleáchas nó neamhspleáchas?  Tá mise ar bís ag fanacht ar thorthaí an Reifrinn – Róislín

Aistriúchán: friotóir solas-spleách, a light-dependent resistor (LDR), téarma leictreachais agus/nó leictreonaice nár bhain mé úsáid as riamh go dtí seo!

Moltaí chun “obsequiousness” agus “flattery” a rá i nGaeilge:

Obsequiousness: lúitéis, lústar, lútáil. Dare I say it – what a “lulu” of a trio! Is there something about the sound “lú-” here that contributes to the meaning. I wonder!

Flattery: bladar, plámás, béal bán. Overall, I’d say I’ve heard these three much more than the words for obsequiousness.   But then, I’ve probably heard the word “flattery” in English more often than “obsequiousness” as such.   “Obsequiousness will get you nowhere” mar sheanfhocal? Somehow, ní cheapaim!

How To Say ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ in Irish – Let Me Count The Ways

Posted on 15. Sep, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Actually I can’t really count the number of ways. As I mentioned in a recent blog, there are thousands of ways to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in Irish. Remember, almost every verb in Irish can be used to formulate a yes- or no-answer. And the good news is … some of them are used a lot more frequently than others. These include:

Forms of the verb “” (an briathar substainteach): tá, níl, táim, nílim, bhí, ní raibh or its variant “cha rabh/robh,” beidh, ní bheidh, bheadh, ní bheadh, bhíodh, ní bhíodh, srl. (that’s just a sampler)

Forms of the verb “is” (an chopail): ‘sea, ní hea, ‘sé, ní hé, ‘sí, ní hí, ‘siad, ní hiad, b’ea, níorbh ea, b’é, níorbh é, b’í, níorbh í, b’iad, níorbh iad (again, just a sampler)

Samples with “an chopail” plus an “aidiacht”: is maith, ní maith, ba chóir, níor chóir, srl.

And then the wide world of verbs in general, with just the tiniest tip of the iceberg represented here, bouncing around with positive/negative, tenses, persons, number, and mood, in other words, a stream-of-consciousness sampling of verbs that might answer a wide range of questions: éirím, castar (daoine vs. cnoic), nífidh, bhris (the eternal fuinneog question), buaileann (an t-asal bocht!), ní itear (re: that memorable “feoil capaill” comment in the classic textbook, Progress in Irish), agus d’íosfaidís (quoting De Bhaldraithe on the same topic, although he calls it “feoil chapaill,” with lenition).

Tuilleadh samplaí uait?

fuair, ní bhfuair (le hurú; ní shéimhítear é), ní shéimhítear, ní bhfaighidh, ní fhaca, ní dúirt (gan séimhiú, ach séimhítear leagan eile de seo: níor dhúirt, scríofa amanna mar ‘níor ‘úirt), ní fhoghlaimeoidh, rinne, léim, d’imir, d’ith, phéinteáil, agus cheannóinn. And once again, that’s just a random sampling. Well, as random as anyone’s subconscious will allow.

Getting back to the introductory qualification for this blog, why did I say almost every verb in Irish can be used to answer “yes” or “no”?

Well, there’s “arsa” and its variation “ar” (not “ar,” the word meaning “on,” but “ar,” the variation of “arsa”). “Arsa,” which means “says,” “say,” or “said,” is a (so-called) “defective verb,” meaning it doesn’t have full complement of forms for all tenses and moods and persons. The term may not be very PC (de réir na dtuairimí ‘cearta’ poiblí) today, but it still seems to be in use. I remember learning it in Latin, so I guess that gives it some precedence.

Anyway, the point here is “arsa” can’t be used to ask questions or answer them, so it can’t be used for “yes” or “no.” It’s only used for quoting direct speech. Come to think of it, how about “quoth” in English? Defective? We can’t use “quoth” in the present tense or with “will,” etc. Did it just split off from “quote? Is there something about the nature of reporting direct speech that causes us to create specific verbs for just that purpose? Bhuel, sin ábhar machnaimh a deirim, but more than we can deal with here.

There are a handful of other similar (“defective”) verbs in Irish, i.e. verbs that are not fully conjugatable. But that doesn’t change our basic point – there almost as many ways to answer “yes” or “no” in Irish as there are verbs in the language, whether they are down to earth (rinne, íosfaidh) or a little more esoteric (phostaláidigh, mionsaothróidh).

So from this very brief sample, we can see that there are many, many ways to answer “yes” and “no” in Irish. Almost every verb in the language can be used. And with the “yes/no” theme very prominent right now, because of the Scottish Referendum, we can see that not only is the Independence question itself important, but from a Gaelic language viewpoint (Gaeilge and Gàidhlig being very similar in many ways), answering “yes” or “no” gives us a good grammar workout as well.

Ag tnúth leis an nuacht ar lá an Reifrinn. – Róislín

P.S. This blog included a lot of yes/no answers. If any volunteers would like to send in a question or two answerable by some of these “freagraí,” we could have a great practice session for all and discuss the topic further.