Oh, Man! ‘Fear,’ ‘Fir,’ ‘Fhir,’ and ‘bhFear,’ (How to say ‘man’ and ‘men’ in Irish)

Posted on 09. Jan, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Grúpa fear gan hataí agus fear amháin a bhfuil hata air.  Nach mór é hata an fhir seo!  Níl hataí ar na fir eile.     Cá bhfuil hataí na bhfear sin?

Grúpa fear gan hataí agus fear amháin a bhfuil hata air. Nach mór é hata an fhir seo! Níl hataí ar na fir eile. Cá bhfuil hataí na bhfear sin?

Since Nollaig na mBan on January 6th gave us the opportunity to discuss the Irish word for ‘woman,’ we might as well follow up with the word for ‘man.’

First, let me clarify that this blog will discuss ‘man’ (fear) as opposed to woman (bean), not “man” as opposed to the following:

plants (plandaí)

animals (ainmhithe)

human holograms (holograim dhaonna)

extraterrestrials (eachtardhomhandaigh)

supernatural creatures (neacha osnádúrtha mar abhaic, hobaid, agus leipreacháin) or

other sentient beings (neacha mothaitheacha) such as the hungry crystalline entity (beith chriostalach ocrach) san eipeasóid “Silicon Avatar” (TNG) or the shimmering mass of energy (meall crithlonrach fuinnimh) that rescues the spaceship-wrecked Zefram Cochrane san eipeasóid “Metamorphosis” (TOS) in Star Trek.

‘Man’ in these philosophical and existential contexts would be “duine,” a cousin of the Welsh word “dyn.”

So what are the forms of the word ‘fear‘ (“man,” in the biological sense)?  It’s a first- declension noun, masculine by default, and follows quite a regular pattern:

fear [fær, with a very slight “y” quality to the “f”; the vowel sound is as in “Harry” or “Faraday,” not as in “Mary” or “far,” or the English chance-lookalike, “fear,” as in “fear / fright”], man.  Sampla: Is fear é Tarzan agus is bean í Jane, ach ní síota é Cheeta — is simpeansaí é Cheeta.

an fear, the man.  Sampla: Tá an fear anseo.

fir [firzh, with the buzzy slender “r” not typically found in English but like the “r” of the Czech name “Jiří“], of a man; hata fir, a man’s hat.  Sampla: Nuair a bhí sé sé bliana d’aois, línigh aithriseoir an leabhair An Prionsa Beag nathair a raibh eilifint á díleá aici.  Bhí cuma hata fir ar an nathair sa phictiúr mar bhí an eilifint i mbolg na nathrach — ceann agus ruball na nathrach mar dhuilleog an hata, ceann agus cabhail na heilifinte mar thóin (!) an hata (“crown of the hat” a deirtear i mBéarla).  B’fhéidir gur cuimhin leat an pictiúr clúiteach i leagan éigin den leabhar (an bunleagan: Le Petit Prince agus leaganacha eile: The Little Prince, Der Kleine Prinz, El Principito, Y Tywysog Bach, Ar Priñs Bihan, srl.)

an fhir [un irzh, with the “fh” silent], of the man.  Sampla: Seo hata an fhir.

fir, men.  Sampla: Níl fir ina gcónaí i “Herland,” ainm tíre san úrscéal útóipeach “Herland” a scríobh Charlotte Perkins Gilman i 1915.

na fir, the men.  Sampla: “Sláinte chuig na fir is go maire na mná go deo.” (cuspa sláinte traidisiúnta)

fear, of men.  Sampla: hataí fear, men’s hats

na bhfear [nuh vær], of the men.  Sampla: “Sláinte na bhfear is go maire na mná go deo!”  Another version of the same toast given above, this time using the phrasing “the health of the men” instead of “health to the men.”

And, for good measure, another example of “na bhfear“: “Seomra na bhFear” (Men’s Room, i.e. men’s restroom, “teach an asail,” or call it what you will)

You might also encounter:

i bhfear, in a man

i bhfir, in men, admittedly not real widely used but it did appear in a previous blog in this series, “No, this blog isn’t going to be about toircheas fireann (à la Trip Tucker and the Xyrillians in Star Trek: Enterprise, The Unexpected).  Nor will it be about capaill mhara or snáthaidí mara or the possibilities of toirchis eachtópacha i bhfir as postulated in our homeworld or as speculated about i bhficsean eolaíoch.” (http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/when-is-a-mathair-not-a-mother-literally-that-is/, 7 Bealtaine 2013)

Bhuel, that’s it for equal opportunity noun paradigms for now.  Slán go dtí an chéad uair eile, a fheara agus a mhná! Úúps, sin foirm eile fós: “a fheara” [uh ÆR-uh, silent “fh”]” that’s the traditional vocative plural form, for direct address.  – Róislín

Cúpla nasc shuimiúla:

An Prionsa Beag, ar fáil ó www.readireland.ie/ agus  http://www.litriocht.com/shop/index.php#.UtMDXfRDtrk, and other major online bookdealers.

An Prionsa Beag i nGaeilge, arna aistriú go Gaeilge le Breandán Ó Doibhlin

An Prionsa Beag i nGaeilge, arna aistriú go Gaeilge le Breandán Ó Doibhlin

Seo an méid a deir an t-aithriseoir faoina eispéireas le líníocht: “Thaispeáin mé an sárshaothar seo liom do na daoine móra agus d’fhiafraigh mé díbh ar chuir mo phictiúr eagla orthu.

“D’fhreagair siad: ‘Cén fáth a gcuirfeadh hata [.i. “hata fir” mar atá sa chur síos thuas - Róislín] eagla orm?’  Ní hata a bhí i mo phictiúr.  Pictiúr ab ea é de nathair boa agus eilifint á díleá aici.  Mar sin rinne mé pictiúr den taobh istigh de nathair boa, sa chaoi go bhféadfadh na daoine móra é a thuiscint.  Bíonn míniú de dhíth orthu i gcónaí.  …  Dúirt na daoine móra na pictiúir de nathracha boa, ar oscailt nó dúnta, a fhágáil i leataobh, agus luí isteach ina áit sin le mo cheachtanna tíreolais, stair [sic], uimhríochta agus gramadaí.”  And thereby hangs a tale but one far beyond the scope of this blog.  Maidir le ruball na heilifinte boichte, sin scéal / tale / tail eile ar fad!  É díleáite le fada an lá, is dócha.  Ar aon chaoi, The Little Prince is one of my all-time favorite books, and I was delighted when the Irish version appeared in 1997, republished by Read Ireland in 2007.

Gluaisín beag don athfhriotal: sárshaothar, major work; díleá, digesting; go bhféadfadh, would be able; míniú, explanation; i leataobh, aside

teach an asail: http://www.spailpin.com/en/language-more/gifts/the-donkey-s-house-teach-an-asail-wooden-sign-detail (Yes, you can buy a handmade wooden sign saying “teach an asail,” in a choice of three colors, from “Spailpín,” located in An Spidéal, in the Conamara Gaeltacht.

‘Bean’ or ‘Ban’ or ‘Mná’ or “mBan': How to Say ‘Woman’ (Women) in Irish (just in time for Nollaig na mBan on 6 January)

Posted on 05. Jan, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

As the final day of “dhá lá dhéag na Nollag” (6 Eanáir), we recognize “Nollaig na mBan.”  Many other sites online offer some commentary on the day’s activities, typically with women taking some time off for a relaxing afternoon tea or evening out.  One interesting article, by actress and playwright Sheila Flitton, is at http://www.ireland-fun-facts.com/little-womens-christmas.html.  Today’s blog will mostly look at the forms of the word for “woman” in Irish, including the “mBan” of “Nollaig na mBan” (lit. the Christmas of the Women).

Let’s start with the basics for this word.  We’ll be looking at “bean” [pronounced like the English word “ban” as in “banish,” not like the English word “bean”], “mná,” “ban,” and “mban.”   The word is grammatically feminine, and, as far as categories of nouns go, there is no other word like it, in terms of endings, vowel changes, etc.

bean, woman [/b’æn/, to use the “Irish-modified” IPA pronunciation guide, as found in the incredibly useful Foclóir Póca; it basically rhymes with English words like “van” or “suntan.”

an bhean, the woman [the “bh” is pronounced “v,” so this pronunciation is virtually the same as the English “van.”  Sampla: Tá an bhean anseo — The woman is here.

mná, of a woman.  For pronunciation, this is a bit tricky till you get used to it.  Try thinking “hymnal” but without the initial “hy,” so you’re just left with the “-mnal.”  And the vowel sound is like “awe” or “law.”  So, in a rough transcript, we have “mnaw.’  In some dialects, the “n” is pronounced like an “r,” but I don’t know that that makes it any easier: mraw.  This form does double duty, also serving for some of the plurals, as we’ll see below.  Sampla: hata mná, a woman’s hat

na mná, of the woman; sampla: hata na mná, the hat of the woman

And now for the plurals:

mná, same spelling and pronunciation as we just saw above.  Sampla: Tá “MNÁ” scríofa ar dhoras sheomra na mban agus tá “FIR” scríofa ar dhoras sheomra na bhfear. — “MNÁ” is written on the door of the women’s room (women’s restroom) and “FIR” is written on the door of the men’s room (men’s restroom).

na mná, the women; sampla: Tá na mná ag dul amach ar Nollaig na mBan. — The women are going out on “Women’s Christmas.”

And here’s where I’d say it gets a bit trickier, possessive and plural:

ban, of women [pronounced with an “ah” sound for the vowel, a lot like American English “Bonnie” or “bond”]; sampla: hataí ban, women’s hats

na mban, of the women [pronunciation: the “b” has now become silent because the “m” has “eclipsed” it, so this phrase sounds like “nuh mahn”]; samplaí:

hataí na mban, the hats of the women

Nollaig na mBan, Women’s Christmas, lit. the Christmas of the Women

Cumann na mBan, lit. “The Irishwomen’s Council,” but rarely, in fact, translated.  It was founded in 1914 as part of the Irish Volunteers.

seomra na mban, as mentioned above, the women’s restroom, lit. the room of the women

Sliabh na mBan, anglicized as “Slievenamon,” this is a mountain in Co. Tipperary where, according to folklore, Fionn Mac Cumhail, the legendary warrior/giant, arranged for women to run a race.  He would marry whoever reached the cairn at the top of the mountain first.  And the winner was … Gráinne.   But then there was this little glitch in the plans because of one of Fionn’s warriors, Diarmaid, who had this irresistible “ball seirce” (love spot; its exact nature isn’t specified in any versions of the legend that I’ve read).  And thus began “Tóraíocht Dhiarmada agus Gráinne,” which is a tale unto itself and “i bhfad rófhada” for this blog. 

There are a few more variations, as in:

D’iarr mé ar bhean an tí an dinnéar a réiteach dúinn ag 6:00.  (I asked the woman of the house to prepare dinner for us at 6:00)

beirt bhan, two women [this “bh” is pronounced like a “w” in some dialects, like “v” in others, especially Munster}, but “triúr ban” three women

Tá áthas ar mhná na tíre go bhfuil síocháin ann.  (The women of the land are happy that there is peace, lit. there is happiness on the women of the land that there is peace).

And sometimes one encounters the old direct address form, now mostly abandoned except in some folksongs and traditional texts: a mhnaoi an tí (O woman of the house!)

This form was also used after prepositions: D’iarr mé deoch ar mhnaoi an tí (I asked the woman of the house for a drink, lit. I requested a drink “on,” i.e. “of,” the woman of the house.).  But today, most people would say “ar bhean an tí.”

So, there you are, just in time for Nollaig na mBan, all the typical forms of the word “bean” that you’re likely to encounter.   SGF — Róislín

P.S. Some of this was touched on in an earlier blog that you might like to check out: http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/na-huimhreacha-pearsanta-ar-leanuint/ (10 Eanáir 2011)

How to Say ‘2014’ in Irish

Posted on 31. Dec, 2013 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Dhá mhíle is a ceathair déag.  Piece o’ cake, right?  Well, maybe, but for anyone new to the language, here is a rough pronunciation guide: [γaw VEEL-yuh iss uh KYA-hirzh djayg].  [Pointe léirithe, 4 Eanáir 2014: ní an litir “y” atá i gceist i “γaw” ach an tsiombail teangeolaíochta “γ″ .i. an tsiombail “gamma” a úsáidtear don bhfuaim seo san Aibítir Idirnáisiúnta Foghraíochta; níl aon litir san Aibítir Rómhánach a thaispeánann an fhuaim seo.  Amanna scríobhann daoine “gh” mar threoir gharbh don fhuaim seo.  Tá níos mó eolais faoin bhfuaim sna hailt a leanas.] 

An Bhliain Úr (Public domain image by Lilla Frerichs. Source: publicdomainpictures.net)

An Bhliain Úr (Public domain image by Lilla Frerichs, publicdomainpictures.net, nasc iomlán ag deireadh an bhlag)

Taken word by word, we have:

dhá [γaw], two.  The “gamma” symbol in the pronunciation guide is borrowed from Greek and represents a sound not found in English.  Nor is it in the European languages most typically taught in the US, at least not in the typical high school or freshman university classes.  I’ve discussed this sound in various previous blogs (nasc thíos) and you can hear it on the sound clip at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiced_velar_fricative.  If you listen to that sound clip, be aware that the speaker says the sound twice, first on its own and then with an “uh” sound before it.  So this is our old friend, the voiced velar fricative, the sound you need in Irish to say “two goats” (dhá ghabhar),  “the Irish language” (An Ghaeilge), and “I love you” (Mo ghrá thú), which is literally “you (are) my love.”  You also need it to talk to anyone named Gráinne or Gobnait or Dónal in direct address (a Ghráinne!, a Ghobnait!, a Dhónail!).

The sound does exist in various European languages (Portuguese, Basque, Dutch, West Frisian, etc.) and in some cases, in regional variations of some of “major” ones (Austrian German, and, I’ve been told, Mexican Spanish, with the “guttural” pronunciation of “agua“).  It’s also in a variety of languages around the world, Arabic, Yemenite Hebrew, Swahili, Vietnamese, if that helps.

The sound is similar to the guttural “ch” of “chutzpah,” “challah,” and German “Buch.”  But it’s lower down in the throat and sets up a lot of vibration of the vocal cords.

It may take practice to get the sound, but it is a very fundamental one in Irish.  Basically, every word that normally begins with “da-,” “do-,” or “du-” or “ga-,” “go-,” or “gu-” may have the “dh” or “gh” variant, which has the “voiced velar fricative” pronunciation.

mhíle [VEEL-yuh], lenited form of “míle ” (thousand).  Here the sounds are familiar from English, although the spelling of the “v” sound might be surprising to newcomers.  The “mh” is pronounced “v,” since it is “softened” (lenited).  The long “i” (i-fada) is an “ee” sound, like “beat” or “beet.”  The “l” is slender, approximating the “l” of “million.”  The final “e” is pronounced but unstressed, so it’s basically “uh.”

is [iss, breaking the standing pronunciation rule for “is” as found in “feis” [fesh], for example; here it’s “broad,” so it sounds like the “s” of English “hiss” or “kiss.”]  This “is” isn’t the verb “is.”  It’s a shortened form of “agus” (and), which explains the s-sound.

a [uh], no meaning as such, this is the “numerical particle,” which precedes numbers used “independently”

ceathair [KYA-hirzh], four.  The initial “c,” transcribed as “ky,” is like the “c” in “cute” or the “ky” “Tokyo, ” not like the “c” in “cool” or “coot” (or “bandicoot”).  The “r” sound, indicated by “rzh” has a buzzing, palatalized quality, as might be found in Czech in the name “Jiří.”

déag [djayg], teen, based on the number “deich” (ten).  In Irish, the numbers for the teens consist of two separate words, with “déag” for the “teen” element (a haon déag, a naoi déag, srl.). 

Bhuel, sin é.  Dhá mhíle is a ceathair déag.  And I guess we’ll have that pattern to work with for many years to come.

Though come to think of it, if we try to sing Zager and Evans 1969 hit song, “In The Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus), we could resort to the “twenty-twenty” type of pronunciation: sa bhliain a fiche cúig a fiche cúig.

So, “dhá mhíle is a ceathair déag sona dhuit,” and I hope this blog helped with some of the pronunciation issues.  SGF – Róislín

Nasc: http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/saying-i-love-you-in-irish/ (Saying ‘I Love You’ in Irish and Minding Your Velar Fricatives, posted 9 Deireadh Fómhair 2011

Nasc iomlán don phictiur: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=65942&picture=2014-stars-green25