Lá na Brataí (Flag Day) i Meiriceá

Posted on 14. Jun, 2010 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Ceiliúrtar Lá na Brataí i Meiriceá ar an 14ú lá de mhí an Mheithimh.  Cad a dhéantar?  Paráidí in áiteanna (is fiú le rá Quincy, MA., Traoi (Troy), NY, agus Fairfield, WA), searmanais, canadh an amhráin náisiúnta, agus na bratacha iad féin curtha ar foluain. 

The Irish word for flag is “bratach.”  In the plural (na Bratacha), it can also mean “the Colors,” (regimental, etc.).  You might have noticed that to say “of the flag,” the ending changes to “-,” giving us “brataí.”  You might also have noticed that we use “na” in the phrase, not “an” for “(of) the.”  Both of these facts are clues that “bratach” is grammatically feminine.

This may be a bit of a surprise since learners of Irish are often told that “-ach” typically signifies a masculine noun (like Éireannach, Meiriceánach, Ceanadach, Oilimpeach, or oileánach).  And that is true.  There are many such masculine nouns, including virtually all nouns indicating nationality.  However, there is a distinct group of feminine nouns that also end in “-ach” and which have a different set of endings.  Besides “bratach,” we have “scornach” (throat) and “deilgneach” (chicken-pox), to name just a couple more examples that are feminine.

These two sets of nouns could also be described in terms of the “declension” (noun category) to which they belong.  “Éireannach” is in the first declension; all first-declension nouns are masculine.  “Bratach” is second declension.  Over 99% of the nouns in the second declension are feminine.  There are three other declensions in Irish (third, fourth, fifth) but going into all of them will have to wait for another blog, in fact, probably another series.  If you’ve noticed all the abbreviations like “m1,” “f2,” or “m4,” used in many dictionaries, they tell you the gender (m/f) and declension (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).  That information then tells you what endings the noun takes when it is used in different functions in the sentence.  Except for the exceptions.  But then, the exceptions make the “riail,” don’t they?

Getting back to “flag,” here are some of the main forms:

an bhratach, the flag (lenition or séimhiú, since it’s feminine singular)

na brataí, of the flag (no lenition, even though feminine, since it’s possessive; possessive ending)

na bratacha, the flags

na mbratach, of the flags (eclipsis or urú, since it’s possessive and plural).

How does this differ from the masculine nouns ending in “-ach?”  Here’s a masculine example, from the first declension, deliberately picked to begin with the same letter as “bratach,” so the mutations are the same:

an Bostúnach, the Bostonian

an Bhostúnaigh, of the Bostonian

na Bostúnaigh, the Bostonians

na mBostúnach, of the Bostonians

And by the way, for those of you up on your Irish insults, no snide comments here on anything connected to “bastún” (angl. “bosthoon”), please.  A reasonably polite translation of “bastún” is “lout.”  It has nothing to do with “Bostún,” the city, except a slight resemblance in pronunciation.

Here are some other flag-related words and phrases:

crann brataí, flagstaff (lit. tree of flag, flag’s tree)

soitheach gan bhratach, flagless vessel

iompróir na brataí, flag-bearer

brateolaí, vexillologist

For a flag referred to as a tricolor, one can say, “bratach trí dhath” or “trídhathach,” or, for a specific reference (as in “The Tricolour”), “an Trídhathach” or “Bratach na dTrí Dhath.”  If one is speaking in Irish, the assumption will probably be that one is referring to “Bratach na hÉireann” (the Flag of Ireland), but, in theory at least, one could be referring to other tricolor flags as well, like those of Russia and India.

Gluais: a chur ar foluain, to fly (a flag, as opposed to “eitilt,” which pertains to birds, planes, etc.); áit, áiteanna, place(s); ar an 14ú lá, abair “ar an gceathrú lá déag” (the –ú after the number stands for the adjectival ending used in creating most ordinal numbers in Irish; likewise, tríú, cúigiú, srl.), canadh [KAHN-uh, silent “d”], singing; ceiliúrtar, is celebrated; dath [dah, silent “t”], color; eolaí, scientist; searmanas, ceremony

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