Irish Language Blog

Ag Caint faoin Euro (Speaking of the Euro) Posted by on Nov 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

Last blog I suggested that we might discuss cúrsaí airgeadais for a while, given the recent developments with the euro.  Nothing too “teicniúil” or “teibí,” since, maidir leis an eacnamaíocht agus leis an ngeilleagar, ní hiad m’iomaire iad.   But I’ll do my best “an iomaire sin a threabhadh,” anyway. 

Let’s start with one of the most basic terms for discussing the current situation, the euro.  Blog by blog we might get a little more in depth, but for starters, we’ll just deal with the word “euro” itself, and how to count them. 

In the late 90s, as the euro-era approached Ireland, I found myself wondering if this new word would be subject to the usual rules for counting things in Irish.  These rules include lenition, eclipsis, sometimes the h-prefix, and sometimes special endings.  I also wondered whether the word “euro,” once borrowed into Irish, would have the long mark that its pronunciation appeared to suggest. 

As it turned out, in Irish, the word “euro” is exempt from all of these features, including having no long mark.  I’ll do a quick review here of how these features work, using nouns that begin with vowels, as “euro” does.  For contrast, I’ll simply pick a traditional noun like “úll” (apple).  I’ll also show an example of an Irish noun that fits the special “units of measurement” pattern.  There’s only about a dozen of these special units-of-measurement nouns, at least in common use, and fortunately for today’s purpose, at least one, “uair” (hour), also begins with a vowel.  Seeing what can happen to the nouns “úll” and “uair,” when counting, the word “euro” seems much less complicated.  But in some ways, I also think it’s equally challenging to remember not to apply the rules that are ingrained for Irish after years of practice counting apples, hours, and just about anything else under the sun.

For all the examples below, keep in mind that nouns in Irish almost always stay singular after numbers.  It’s as if you’re saying “two apple,” “three hour,” etc.

So here’s how you use numbers 1 to 6 with the words “euro,” ”úll,” and “uair.”  Remember that for “one,” the number comes after the noun (úll amháin), for the other numbers it comes before (dhá úll).  We’ll do more with the numbers from seven to ten in a later blog, since there is a change in the pattern (except for euro, which doesn’t really have a pattern, period):

úll amháin, dhá úll, trí úll, ceithre úll, cúig úll, sé úll

euro amháin, dhá euro, trí euro, ceithre euro, cúig euro, sé euro

Piece o’ cake, so far, right? 

And it’s not really as if what happens with the word “uair” is all that remarkable, given the number of initial mutations and special endings in Irish in general.  It’s just a bit different, and yes, it’s one more pattern to learn.  And here, the new pattern is for a very very widely used word, meaning “hour” or sometimes “time” in phrases like “one time” or “three times.”  So you can’t ignore it.  Counting hours, from one to six, is:

uair amháin (no change yet)

dhá uair (still no change, but ná bí ar neamhaire!)

trí huaire, ceithre huaire, cúig huaire, sé huaire

It’s not really that big a deal.  You just prefix an “h,” as you also do in Irish for a variety of other reasons, and you add an ending, which for this word is “-e.” 

Interestingly, the euro is a unit of measurement, but it doesn’t follow the “unit of measurement” rules in Irish, though other units of currency did, like “pingin” (pence, penny), and in even earlier days, “scilling.

Seven through ten (apple, hour, euro)

seacht n-úll, ocht n-úll, naoi n-úll, deich n-úll (prefix n- before vowels)

seacht n-uaire, ocht n-uaire, naoi n-uaire, deich n-uaire (prefix n- before vowels and add “-e” ending)

seacht euro, ocht euro, naoi euro, deich euro (no changes anywhere)

So, seeing all the possibilities, it makes the word “euro” seem very easy to work with, grammatically. 

By the way, I deliberately stuck with nouns beginning with vowels for this blog since they compare most readily with the word “euro.”  Introducing consonant-initial words would simple introduce a lot more initial changes (like b to bh, or b to mb), which we can save for another day, má tá suim agaibh ann. 

By the way, a dó, the word “euro” does have a plural, euronna.  But, as covered above, you don’t usually use it after numbers (the same as for most regular Irish nouns).  It has no gender, unlike just about every other Irish noun.  To say “the euro,” it’s “an euro,” but this doesn’t imply anything about grammatical gender.  In many cases, you can tell the gender of an Irish noun by what happens after the definite article (“an”) as in “an t-amadáin (a fool, masculine, with t-prefix before vowel) as opposed to “an óinseach” (a female fool, feminine, with no t-prefix before vowel). 

As you might expect, there was some controversy with the advent of the euro about how it would work as an Irish noun.  Some articles were written, proposing that it should behave like a regular Irish noun.  But, for better or for worse, it has it’s own set of rules.  Food for thought?

Gluais: amháin [uh-WAW-in, note stress on the 2nd syllable; the WAW-in part is barely more than one syllable, but breaking the transcript in two helps suggest the slenderness of the final “n”], one; , goose; geilleagar, economy; iomaire, ridge (in a field), but here “forte;” neamhaire, lack of attention; neart, strength, power (“Níl neart agam air” means “I can’t help it”); teibí, abstract; treabhadh, to plow/plough, used figuratively in the expression “an iomaire sin a threabhadh,” to tackle the task facing you.

Fuaimniú: pingin [PING-in, like “singing” but not like “finger,” at least for non-Inis Fada English OR, simply, with no –ng- sound at all just “peen”]; scilling [SHKIL-ing], shilling

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  1. Seanchán:

    So in today’s Transparent Language/Byki Irish Word of the Day sample: “Ní fheiceann sé difríocht mhór idir an dá rothar.” “Rothar” is singular even though the translation is: He does not see a big difference between the two bicycles.”?

    • róislín:

      @Seanchán Yes, that’s the way it works. Most nouns are singular after numbers, so you have “an dá rothar.” The plural would be “rothair.”

      Note also the special form of the number two, “da,” instead of “dhá.” The more-or-less permanent lenition of “dhá” gets undone after the definite article “an,” because of the letter “n.”

      Of course, for that to apply, one has to know that the phrase “the two bicycles” takes the singular form of the definite article!

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