Irish Language Blog

Mutating Turkeys, With ‘Séimhiú’ and ‘Urú’ That Is Posted by on Nov 17, 2015 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

‘Tis the season to “talk turkey,” so let’s go for it.  And by the way, “mutating” here (as in the title of this blog) doesn’t refer to “sócháin” (mutations in genetics:  A thiarcais, sin turcaí a bhfuil trí shnúda air!) but rather to “athruithe gramadaí,” that is, the use of “séimhiú” and “urú” to show changes in how an Irish word works in context.

Let’s start with a quick review of “séimhiú” ([SHAY-voo], lenition) and “urú” ([UR-oo], eclipsis).

Séimhiú” (lit. softening) is a “softening” of the initial consonant of a word, shown in writing by inserting the letter “h” right after the initial consonant.   Among its uses, we see it:

  1. a) to show possession: Séamas but “cóta Shéamais” [KOH-tuh HAY-mish], Séamas’s coat)
  2. b) to show direct address: Séamas becomes “a Shéamais” [uh HAY-mish] when speaking directly to him, or in a salutation in a letter to him (“A Shéamais, a chara …”)
  3. c) following the words “mo” (my), “do” (your), and “a” (his), as in the song title, “An bhfaca tú mo Shéamaisín?” Hypothetically, as an example of “do” (your), we could answer, “Ní fhaca, ní fhaca mé do Shéamaisín?” but I don’t think that line is actually in the song.  An example with “a” (his) would be, “Seo Séamas agus seo a mhadra.”  (Here’s James and here’s his dog) or, for a second example, “Seo Séamas agus seo a mhadra.  An té a bhuailfeadh a mhadra, bhuailfeadh sé Séamas é féin” (the Irish equivalent, not very literal, of “Love Séamas, love his dog;” exact translation sa nóta below)
  4. d) after the number 2 (as in “dhá mhadra” or “dhá bhliain“) and after “beirt” (2 people), as in “beirt bhan” or “beirt mhac“)
  5. e) after the numbers 3 through 6, as in “trí mhadra,” except for 1) certain, but not all, units of measurement, like “trí bliana,” 2) dialects where point “1” just mentioned doesn’t apply (a bit “athluaiteach” but c’est la vie), or 3) when counting people, using the “uimhreacha pearsanta” system, as in “triúr ban” or “triúr mac

There are about a dozen more situations in which lenition (séimhiú) applies, but they don’t pertain as readily to turkeys, so we won’t address them here.

As for “urú” (eclipsis), here’s a quick review of some of the circumstances in which it occurs:

  1. a) after “ár” (our), “bhur” (your, plural), and “a” (their), as in “ár dteach,” “bhur dteach,” and “a dteach”
  2. b) to show possession or a similar “of” concept with plural nouns following the word “the,” as in “díonta na dtithe” (the roofs of the houses) or “Cumann na mBan
  3. c) after the numbers 7 through 10, including the special units of measurement (Yay! The rule is consistent here), as in “ocht dteach” or “ocht mbliana

And again, there are more uses and applications, but, aríst eile, they’re mostly not so relevant to turkeys.

So now let’s get down to the brass tacks and really talk turkey.  In fact, all we have left to do is look at the basic forms of the word for turkey and then mutate the word for different contexts.  Like this:

an turcaí, the turkey (no change)

sprochaille an turcaí, the wattle of the turkey (still no change for this particular word; other pairs would change, like “cailín, cóta an chailín” or “madra, cos an mhadra“)

cearc thurcaí, a turkey-hen, with lenition because “cearc” is feminine

na turcaithe, the turkeys

ar thurcaithe, on turkeys, with lenition after “ar“; Bíonn sprochaillí ar thurcaithe (There are wattles on turkeys)

sprochaillí na dturcaithe, the wattles of the turkeys, with eclipsis for the plural possessive form

And now, let’s mutate some more!

turcaí amháin, no change, because the number (amháin) comes after the noun, so it can’t trigger lenition or eclipsis, which, by definition, come before the noun.

lenition: dhá thurcaí, trí thurcaí, ceithre thurcaí, cúig thurcaí, sé thurcaí, with “thurcaí” pronounced “HERK-ee” (silent t)

eclipsis: seacht dturcaí, ocht dturcaí, naoi dturcaí, deich dturcaí, with “dturcaí” pronounced “DERK-ee” (silent t)

more lenition:

sprochaille mo thurcaí, the wattle of my turkey

sprochaille do thurcaí, the wattle of your turkey

sprochaille a thurcaí, the wattle of his turkey

But note that the word “turcaí” doesn’t change for “her turkey”

sprochaille a turcaí, the wattle of her turkey

more eclipsis:

sprochaillí ár dturcaithe, the wattles of our turkeys

sprochaillí bhur dturcaithe, the wattles of your turkeys

sprochaillí a dturcaithe, the wattles of their turkeys

and, as we saw above (sprochaillí na dturcaithe), when something is “of the turkeys,” we also have eclipsis:

cosa na dturcaithe, the feet/legs of the turkeys

praghasanna na dturcaithe, the prices of the turkeys

gogail fhiánta dheireanacha na dturcaithe roimh Lá an Altaithe, the last frantic gobbles of the turkeys before Thanksgiving

On that note, so much for mutating turkeys.  “Wattle” we do next time? – SGF, Róislín

Nóta: An té a bhuailfeadh a mhadra, bhuailfeadh sé Séamas é féin.  The one who would hit his (i.e. Séamas’) dog would hit Séamas himself.  The standard phrase for “Love me, love me dog” is, An té a bhuailfeadh mo mhadra, bhuailfeadh sé mé féin, lit. The one who would hit my dog would hit me (myself).

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: