Chinese New Year in Irish: Cén tAinmhí (which animal) do 2015? Posted by on Feb 18, 2015 in Irish Language

Reithe? Caora? Gabhar? Leathreithe?  Leathchaora? Leathghabhar?  Leathdhaonnaí?  Dealbh i Waikoloa, Haváí (Grianghraf: By Geoffrey.landis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Reithe? Caora? Gabhar? Leathreithe? Leathchaora? Leathghabhar? Leathdhaonnaí? Dealbh i Waikoloa, Haváí (Grianghraf: By Geoffrey.landis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

(le Róislín)

Bliain Nua na Síneach agus Parthas na nGramadóirí.  Chinese New Year and this year, 2015, a grammarian’s paradise.

Cén fáth?  Why?

Because unlike previous years, 2015 offers us two, perhaps even three, animals as the symbol for the year.

But choosing between animals would mostly be vocabulary, not grammar, right?  Like “sheep” vs. “goat”?

True, but grammar comes into play when we want to say “of the,” as in “Year of the … .”

Since English doesn’t have grammatical gender, except for pronouns and a handful of inanimate objects (like ships), there’s no difference in the “of the” part of expressions like “the hat of the man” and the “hat of the woman.”

But in Irish, for these Chinese New Year animal symbols, we need to know the grammatical gender of the animal involved.  Biological gender (ermm, sheep vs. ram) isn’t an issue here.

I’ve seen three different translation of this year’s Chinese New Year animal: goat, sheep, ram.

The original Chinese is  (pinyinyáng) which apparently refers to both sheep and goats.  As for why “ram” is sometimes specified, and other times “sheep,”  I don’t know, but if there’s anyone on this list who also knows Sínis, perhaps you could help us out.  A Yu Ming (aka Daniel Wu), cá bhfuil tú (when we need you)?

Anyway, here’s some of the basic vocab for all three animals.  I’m saving the “tuiseal ginideach” as a challenge for the fill-in-the-blank part.

gabhar, a goat

an gabhar, the goat

caora, a sheep

an chaora, the sheep

reithe, a ram

an reithe, the ram

It does seem like this is a real translator’s dilemma.  Which to pick, since the Chinese usage itself seems to vary?

But let’s go ahead and try all three (The Year of the Goat, The Year of the Sheep, The Year of the Ram).   The phrases below include the exact number of letters needed so watch out for any inserted letters or added endings.  Freagraí thíos, mar is gnách.  I’ve also added slightly more space between the words, just to make the layout clearer.

  1. Bliain   __ __    G__ __ __ __ __ __ r  (The Year of the Goat)
  2. Bliain   __ __    C __ __ __ __ __ __   (The Year of the Sheep)
  3. Bliain   __ __    R __ __ __ __ __  (The Year of the Ram)

Now, to go above and beyond the call of duty, and just for practice, let’s put the animals in the plural.  And that will take us to the Irish “tuiseal ginideach, iolra.”  Here we go!

  1. bliain   __ __    __g__ __ __ __ __  (the year of the goats)
  2. bliain   __ __    __c __ __ __ __ __ __ (the year of the sheep, plural sheep, that is–confound English with its lack of a plural form for this word, or, for that matter, for “deer”)
  3. bliain   __ __    r__ __ __ __ __  (the year of the rams)

I’ve lower-cased these last three because they wouldn’t come up in the Chinese calendar as proper nouns, fad m’eolais at any rate.  My understanding of the tradition is that it’s always one animal per year.

Bhuel, tá súil agam gur bhain tú sult as sin.  Tá na freagraí thíos.  SGF agus Bliain Nua na Síneach faoi shéan agus mhaise duit! – Róislín

  1. Bliain an Ghabhair
  2. Bliain na Caorach
  3. Bliain an Reithe
  4. bliain na ngabhar
  5. bliain na gcaorach
  6. bliain na reithí
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  1. Matthew Tran-Adams:

    Tá beagan Sinís agam. In order to distinguish between goat and sheep in Chinese you need a descriptor. In front of yáng (羊)you need to put either mián ( 绵羊)which describes a sheep with “cotton” or put shān (山羊)which describes a goat with “mountain.”

    I hope that helps! Go raibh maith agat!
    新年快乐 (Happy New Year!)

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