Irish Language Blog

Ag Comhaireamh Turcaithe (Counting Turkeys, in Irish) Posted by on Nov 3, 2011 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Last blog we looked at the phrases for counting pumpkins.  Counting anything in Irish is never just a matter of learning the words for the numbers (aon, dó, trí, or amháin, dhá, trí, etc.).  It also involves possible changes to the beginning of the word for the item you’re counting.  Remember, for “puimcín,” it’s “puimcín amháin,” but “dhá phuimcín” and “seacht bpuimcín.

But for today we’ll practice counting turcaithe, which will again involve séimhiú (lenition) agus urú (eclipsis).  The first step is actually to go back to the singular form “turcaí.”  Remember, the noun stays singular almost all the time when counting things in Irish, so we’re still working off “turcaí” (singular), not “turcaithe” (plural).  Of course, i Meiriceá, people may be working off the turkey after Lá Altaithe (24 Mí na Samhna, i mbliana), but in a more literal way!  Maybe a little “turkey trot” will also help us work off na calraí from na prátaí (go mór mór an brúitín), an súlach, líonadh an turcaí (aka an búiste), an t-arán baile, na pióga and na milseoga eile.

By the way, the good news pronunciation note: the word “turcaí” is pronounced almost the same in Irish as in English.  True, the “r” is slightly “flapped,” but before a consonant (as in “–rc-“), the flap is less noticeable than it is in Irish words like “Nóra” or “móra,” or in some Hiberno-English words like “begorrah.” And just as a reminder, since people often do ask about it, the vowel sound “-aí” is just pronounced like English “-ee.”  In a phrase with one long vowel (here “-í”) and one short vowel (here “-a-“), the long vowel is dominant.

In the plural form, turcaithe, the second “t” is silent and the word is three syllables [TURK-ih-huh], but that won’t show up as we count:

turcaí amháin [TURK-ee uh-WAW-in], one turkey

dhá thurcaí [… HURK-ee], two turkeys (note: the “t” changes to “h,” pronounced like an “h,” all quite standard for lenition)

trí thurcaí

ceithre thurcaí

cúig thurcaí

sé thurcaí [shay …]

Once we hit seven, the rules change and we switch to urú (eclipsis), with the “t” changing to “dt.”  Just the “d” of “dt” is pronounced, not the “t.”

seacht dturcaí [shakht DURK-ee]

ocht dturcaí [okht …]

naoi dturcaí [nee …]

deich dturcaí [djeh, with just a breathy “ch” at the end, because it’s “slender”, not the “broad” (full-throated/guttural) “ch” of words like “seacht,” “ocht,” or German “Buch

Counting in the teens?

aon turcaí dhéag, 11 turkeys [ayn TURK-ee yayg].  Note that “déag” has now changed to “dhéag,” pronounced with the “slender dh” sound, like an English “y.”  Why “dh-” and why a “y” sound?  Because “turcaí” ends with a vowel (as opposed to a consonant) so “déag” changes to “dhéag,” and once it’s “dh” (and slender), there’s no trace of the initial “d” sound.  This slender “dh-” is the same sound as in saying “a Dhiarmaid” (“Diarmaid” in direct address).

dhá thurcaí dhéag, 12 turkeys

seacht dturcaí dhéag, 17 turkeys

But after multiples of ten, no change to the initial letter, as with “fiche puimcín,” etc., that we did last time:

fiche turcaí, tríocha turcaí, daichead turcaí, céad turcaí, míle turcaí, srl.

Anyone wanna bet we’ll be talking a little more “turkey” before the month is out?  Count me in!  SGF, Róislín

Gluais: brúitín, mashed potatoes; búiste, stuffing, filling (in cooking)


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