Irish Language Blog

Laethanta na Seachtaine (Days of the Week, in Irish, with pronunciation) Posted by on Sep 24, 2011 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

And one more féilire-related topic: laethanta na seachtaine.  Which could also be called “laethe na seachtaine.”  Both plural forms of “lá” are widely used, “laethanta” and “laethe.”

You’ve already noticed the use of “an tuiseal ginideach” in this phrase, right?  That accounts for the “-e” ending to the word “seachtain.”  Since we’re saying “of the week,” not just “the week,” the common form “seachtain” undergoes a change for the genitive case (to “seachtaine”).  The definite article also changes from “an” to “na.”  That last change is quite systematic in Irish, and is also quite separate from the use of “na” for plural forms, which you’ve probably also seen.  Just to hammer that point home, what form of the definite article (“an” or “na”) would you use for the following phrases?  Freagraí thíos (A).

1) Raidió ____ Gaeltachta

2) doras ____ hoifige

3) Mí ____ Nollag

4) ____ Nollaig

5) ____  horduimhreacha

And now to na laethanta iad féin.  There are two main forms for each day, so this theme will take at least two blogs.  The forms in today’s blog are used for sentences like “Today is Monday” or “Monday is the first day of the work week.”  A separate blog will deal with the phrases that start with the word “Dé” as in “Dé Luain,” (on Monday) where an tuiseal ginideach is once again required, even though the phrase appears adverbial. 

As you can see from this list, some of the weekday names are masculine (like An Luan) and some are feminine (marked by lenition, or in the case of Aoine, marked by the lack of a prefixed “t-“).  Starting with Sunday:

An Domhnach [un DOH-nukh, with the “m” silent]

An Luan [un LOO-un]

An Mháirt [un wartch, with the “m” silent]

An Chéadaoin [un HyAY-deen, with the “c” silent and an initial “h” sound as in English “human” or the name Hugh / Huw, in other words, not like the “h” of “hat,” “hall,” or “hello.”]

An Déardaoin [un DjAYR-deen]

An Aoine [un EEN-yuh]

An Satharn [un SAH-hurn, with the “t” silent].

So, could you tell which of these are the feminine nouns, and which are masculine?  Freagraí thíos (B).

Sin é for the “an” forms.  Next time, the “Dé” forms.  But in case you thought this blog was quite short and sweet, you’ll see that the nótaí thíos are about as long as an blag é féin.  Vive la “footnote”!  Or should that be “le footnote”?  Oh, I guess it really should be Vive la note en bas de page!”  But that doesn’t have quite the bilingual panache I was hoping for.  So maybe I should just stick to unadorned Irish.  “Fonótaí abú!”  Sásúil?  SGF, Róislín

Gluais do na freagraí: baininscneach (feminine), firinscneach (masculine)

Freagraí (A): 1) Raidió na Gaeltachta, 2) doras na hoifige, the door of the office, 3) Mí na Nollag, December, lit. the month of (the) Christmas, 4) An Nollaig, (the) Christmas, with the basic form of the definite article, “an,” since for this example, the word “Christmas” stands alone, not embedded in a possessive context like “Daidí na Nollag” or “Mí na Nollag,” 5) na horduimhreacha, the ordinal numbers, with “na” used here because the noun is plural, not because it’s in a possessive relationship to another noun.   

Freagraí (B):

Baininscneach: An Mháirt and An Chéadaoin, marked by lenition, and An Aoine, marked by the absence of a prefixed “t-“ before vowels.  How can something be marked grammatically by the absence of a letter?  Well, I guess it doesn’t happen in English, but remember the following basic nouns in Irish: an t-úll (masculine), an uimhir (feminine),      an t-oráiste (masculine), and an oifig (feminine).  The “t-“ in front of “úll” and “oráiste” marks these words as masculine, and the lack of a prefixed “t-“ in front of “uimhir” and “oifig” marks those words as feminine.  Why does this matter?  As with the Romance languages, adjectives in Irish agree with the noun in gender, so we need to know a noun’s gender in order to pair it up with an adjective.  Of course, in Irish this is mostly indicated by initial consonant change, not by alternate endings like the Spanish “-o” and “-a,” but the concept still applies – masculine noun, masculine adjective form; feminine noun, feminine adjective form. We also need to know a noun’s gender to create the correct possessive form.  And to deal with all of that would take way more than one blog, so for here, it’s just a heads-up for future topics. 

Firinscneach: An Domhnach, An Luan, An Déardaoin, An Satharn

Fonóta faoi na Freagraí: To be a little more beacht and to harken back to the word’s origin, we should remember that “Déardaoin” is actually variable.  Some speakers consider it feminine, which is logical enough, given that it is based on the word “Aoine,” which, as we saw above, is feminine.  “Aoine” is an old word for “fasting,” and “Déardaoin” means “the day between two fasts.”  Normally when various prefixed elements (here, the whole “déard-“ part) are added to a root noun, the noun retains the original gender, but not in this case, at least not by most modern standards.  But the variability of gender here does reflect the fact that the original root of this phrase (aoine) is feminine. 

The good news?  Since this day’s name happens to start with the consonant “d,” which resists lenition after “n,” in most cases it really won’t matter if the word is considered masculine or feminine – you still say “an Déardaoin.”  Gender would normally come into play if you wanted to say something like “Black Thursday,” (referring to October 24, 1929, a seminal day in the fall of Wall Street, which led to the Great Depression of the 1930s).  But even there, the same rule kicks in, “d” resisting lenition after “n” in the preceding word (which is why we say “An Danmhairg,” Denmark, a feminine noun, and “an deacracht,” the difficulty, also feminine, without changing the “d” to “dh”).  So we say “Déardaoin Dubh,” whether we consider the word “Déardaoin” to be masculine or feminine; in other words, we don’t use the usual feminine form, “dhubh”.

There aren’t too many other “Thursday” phrases that would be followed by adjectives, at least not that come readily to mind.  Hmm, how about “Sweet Thursday,” as in the John Steinbeck novel?  Well, Déardaoin Milis, if we stick with the masculine interpretation.  Déardaoin Mhilis, if we consider it feminine, but given that the novel is in English, and there’s no Irish translation, fad m’eolais, it’s a bit of a moot point. 

“Thursday Next,” as in the Jasper Fforde novels, is a character name, so even if we translated Fforde’s works into Irish, the character name would likely stay the same as in English.  Especially since in Irish the idea of “next” (in time) takes three words (an __ seo chugainn), so it would be a bit awkward as a character name (An Déardaoin Seo Chugainn).  A bit like being named “Moon Unit,” perhaps, although she seems to have adjusted just fine. 

Other “next” possibilities?  Equally problematic: An Chéad Déardaoin Eile (next Thursday, in sequence, not in time).  Not likely for a character name, and not really a characteristic usage in Irish.  For normal Irish adverbial use, “an Déardaoin dar gcionn” would be more typical (next, i.e. the following Thursday).  

The next (nearest in distance) Thursday: An Déardaoin Is Neasa, but that is a fairly improbable form, unless the character “Thursday” got cloned and a group of identical Thursdays was standing in line, one being nearest to you.  Bottom line, though, is even if someone wanted to use any of these possible forms, they still wouldn’t clarify the gender issue for “Déardaoin.”  “Seo” doesn’t change for gender and nor would “eile” since it starts with a vowel (not-lenitable).  Nor would “Is Neasa” since it starts with a vowel and the first word of that phrase  is actually a verb (“is”).  And verbs in Irish don’t have gender!  Unless they are ainmfhocail bhriathartha, but that is definitely “scéal eile.”  So, returning to the crux of the issue, “Déardaoin” is considered masculine according to the modern standard, and most other uses in which it would possibly occur are unlikely to shed any further light on the topic because of the chance spellings of the words that would follow.  So we’ll leave it as firinscneach

Anyway, now I’ll have to go hunt up whether Fforde or the Steinbeck novel have been translated into Irish and if a translator has already pondered these issues, but my hunch is “neamhdhóchúil” (unlikely).   Deireadh na nótaí, faoi dheireadh!

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  1. Mise Áine:

    @ “d” resisting lenition after “n” in the preceding word

    An bhfuil an riail sin fíor agus aidiacht ann, a Róislín,, bean dhílis nó bean dílis?

    • róislín:

      @Mise Áine Ceist mhaith! Tá an dá stíl feicthe agam. Mar shampla, tá “móin dhubh” ag Ó Siadhail ina leabhar “Modern Irish” ach tá “slat tirim” ag Dillon agus Ó Cróinín sa seanleagan de Teach Yourself Irish. Cad a úsáideann tusa?

  2. Mise Áine:

    Déanaim iarracht cloí leis an gcaighdeán agus mé ag scríobh, dá bhrí sin cuirim séimhiú ar an aidiacht a thagann ar shála an ainmfhocail baininscní, ach ní hé sin le rá gur mar sin a bhíonn sé ag an gcainteoir dúchais – tá an dá leagan cloiste agus feicthe agam. Ar ndóigh, bíonn eisceachtaí anseo agus ansiúd, mar is eol duit..:-)

  3. Seán:

    Níl mo chuid Gaeilge có maith le Róislín nó Áine. Bhí Gaeilge maith agam nuair a raibh mé ar schoil ach anois tá sé mórán cailte agam. Tá cúpla focail fágtha agam buíochas le dia mar is teanga álainn é i mo thuairim.

  4. Mary:

    Go han-mhaith a chur le chéile.

    • róislín:

      @Mary Go raibh maith agat, a Mháire.

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