Irish Language Blog

Gaolta and the Fifth Posted by on May 27, 2011 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Fifth declension, that is.  So, no, the fifth here is not a cúigiú as in 4/5 of a galún, traditionally filled with uisce beatha, vodca, rum, or other hard liquor, ar ndóigh.

And it’s not the “Fifth” that Americans, at least, might take, demand, or plead, to protect against féin-ionchoiriú, etc.  That’s “an Cúigiú Leasú ar Bhunreacht na Stát Aontaithe,” if we can momentarily consider the Amendments in Irish.  Needless to say, this is completely different from “an Cúigiú Leasú ar Bhunreacht na hÉireann” (the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland), which deals with the role of an Eaglais (the Church).

Today’s “fifth” is the long-awaited discussion of the last of the five declensions in Irish.  .  Or should I call it the “erstwhile fifth declension” the term is no longer much used in discussing Irish grammar.

Why “gaolta” (relationships), other than to catch your eye?

Three nice examples of the fifth declension all concern relationships with people: athair, máthair, and deartháir.  We might think that the word for “sister” (deirfiúr) would also belong here, but no, that one, with its “deirféar” genitive, is considered irregular, together with other irregulars like “bean” or “leaba.”

Anyway, here are “téarmaí an laedon chúigiú díochlaonadh:

1. athair, a father

an t-athair, the father.  Tá an t-athair anseo. (The father is here)

an athar, of the father.  In ainm an Athar … (In the name of the Father …)

aithreacha, fathers

na haithreacha, the fathers.  Tá na haithreacha ag fanacht.  (The fathers are waiting).

na n-aithreacha, of the fathers.  Sin cótaí na n-aithreacha.  (Those are the coats of the fathers).  If capitalized, as in a title, the hyphen is dropped: Lá na nAithreacha (the Day of the Fathers, i.e. Father’s Day, which is singular in English, but, as you can see, plural in Irish; both have the same implication)

2. máthair, mother

an mháthair, the mother

na máthar, of the mother.  Sin cóta na máthar.  (That’s the coat of the mother).

máithreacha, mothers

na máithreacha, the mothers.  Tá na máithreacha ag fanacht.  (The mothers are waiting).

na máithreacha, of the mothers (no change).  Lá na Máithreacha (the Day of the Mothers, Mother’s Day)

3. deartháir, brother

an deartháir, the brother.  Or, perhaps more topical in general conversation, “mo dheartháir” (my brother), “do dheartháir” (your brother).

ainm an dearthár, the name of the brother (ainm mo dhearthár, my brother’s name, etc.)

deartháireacha, brothers

na deartháireacha, the brothers, as in “Is iad Tito agus Ossie na deartháireacha sa scannán Into the West.

na ndeartháireacha, of the brothers, as in “Is iad Tito agus Ossie ainmneacha na ndeartháireacha sa scannán Into the West  (Tito and Ossie are the names of the brothers in the film …).

For the genitive plural indefinite, the word remains “deartháireacha,” (with no “na” and  no eclipsis of “d” to “nd”), as in “an scata beag againn, an scata beag sona againn, sinne atá mar bhanna deartháireacha”.  An aithníonn tú an sliocht beag sin as litríocht na Breataine?  Leid: De chuid Shakespeare atá sé.  M’aistriúchán féin atá ansin; moltaí ag duine ar bith faoi aistriúcháin eile?  Aistriúchán an aistriúcháin (ar ais go Béarla) thíos.

One can also apply these rules to related words like “seanmháthair,”  “sin-seanathair,” and “leasdeartháir.”

Somewhat similarly, we have bráthair, a brother (mostly used in the religious sense these days), friar, and less typically today, a kinsman:  an bráthair, an bhráthar, na bráithre, na mbráithre.  The plural of this word (bráithre) has evolved away from the added “-ach-“ of máithreacha, aithreacha, and deartháireacha. At one time, however, this word had “-ach” as the genitive plural, so the pattern was closer to máthair, athair, and deartháir, though without the final “-a.”  An example would be “cnámha na gcómh-bhráithreach” (the bones of the confreres).  Today, we’d most likely just say “… na gcómh-bhráithre.”

A few other 5th-declension nouns that we can take up later are “beoir,” “cathaoir,” and “cathair,” with genitives “beorach,” “cathaoireach,” and “cathrach,” which establish a sub-pattern with the “ –ach” ending.  And then there’s “comharsa” and “cara,” (two more pionnaí rotha in the topic of “gaolta”), with their beautifully distinct patterns.   Here an “-n,” here a “-d,” everywhere a genitive singular ending!  The irregular nouns make na díochlaontaí rialta look like child’s play.

Gluais: bunreacht, constitution; ionchoiriú, incrimination; leas-, step-; leasú, amendment (also preservation, currying of a horse, seasoning, and fertilizer, ach na cialla eile sin, sin scéal eile); pionna rotha, linchpin; sean-, grand- (lit. “old”)

Aistriúchán:  “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” (Henry V).  One could, of course, also use “buíon” (band) and/or “bráithre,” to really use “brother” in the sense of “comrade” as opposed to “blood-relative.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Keep learning Irish with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

Leave a comment: