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CELTIC-L  December 1997

CELTIC-L December 1997

Subject:

Irish: Lesson Six (unaccented)

From:

Neil Alasdair McEwan <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Sun, 14 Dec 1997 01:55:25 -0400

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (233 lines)

LESSON SIX -- CEACHT A SE/



The "Copula"
------------


    In English, forms of the verb "to be" are used both to join a noun
with an adjective ("I was sick", "you're lucky", "it won't be easy" etc.)
and to join a noun with another noun ("He is the King", "we were
volunteers", "I'm Neil", etc.)  But in Irish, only the task of joining a
noun to an adjective is usually assigned to the verb "ta/" and its various
forms.  Most of the time when we want to join a noun to a noun, to say
that Thing A is Thing B, we use a different verb, called a "copula".  A
sentence containing a copula also consists of a subject (Thing A) and a
predicate (Thing B):


    Subject           Copula           Predicate
    -------           ------           ---------

     Liam               is               a man.
       I                am               Neil.
Aoife and Bri/d        are             young girls.
    Cormac             was               a king.
     That               is               a book?   (i.e. "is that a book?")



     There are two fundamental kinds of copula sentence in Irish,
sentences of "classification" which tell you *what* a person or a thing
is ("Sea/n is a poet", "that is a house") and sentences of
"identification" which tell you *who* or *which* a person or thing is
("Sea/n is the doctor", "I am Ma/ire/ad").  Both kinds of sentence use
the same form of the verb, but they have different word order.  At first
there might not seem to be much distinction between "Sea/n is a poet" and
"Sea/n is the doctor", but in the former sentence we are starting with
Sea/n as a topic of conversation and trying to find out more about him
(e.g. *what* he is), and in the latter we are starting with "doctor" and
trying to find out more about this doctor (e.g. *who* he is).
Identification sentences are usually concerned with more *specific* things
than classification sentences are, but in general the distinction is not
always clear-cut and it is mainly used in grammars for convenience.

     The present tense, affirmative form of the copula in Irish is,
coincidentally enough, spelled "is".  Because it is a verb, it always
comes first in a sentence.  When the third-person personal pronouns (se/,
si/, and siad) are used with "is", they drop the "s" and become e/, i/, and
iad respectively.



i) Classification


     The word order in a "classification" is as follows:


Copula  +   Predicate  +  Subject     =    Classification Sentence
------      ---------     -------          -----------------------


Is            fear         Liam.              "Liam is a man".
Is           leabhar      e/ sin.             "That is a book".
Is            peann       e/ seo.             "This is a pen."
Is          caili/n o/g   Ma/ire.             "Mary is a young girl."
Is          E/ireannach     me/.              "I am an Irishman."
Is          mu/inteoir      tu/.              "You are a teacher."
Is          dochtu/ir       e/.               "He is a doctor."
Is        Meiricea/nach     i/.               "She is an American."
Is           ollamh         i/.               "She is a professor." [etc.]


    To make a negative statement, "ni/" is used in the place of "is":


Ni/          leabhar          e/.              "It is not a book."
Ni/           peann        e/ seo.             "This is not a pen."
Ni/         caili/n o/g     Ma/ire.            "Mary is not a young girl."


     To ask a positive question, "is" is replaced by "an".  For a
negative question, "nach" is used:


An          leabhar         e/ sin?              "Is that a book?"
An         mu/inteoir         tu/?               "Are you a teacher?"
Nach        dochtu/ir          e/?               "Isn't he a doctor?"


     The yes answer to a classification question is "Is ea."  The no
answer is "Ni/ hea".


--


ii) Identification


    In identification sentences both the predicate is always a definite
noun (preceded by the article) or a proper name, and the subject is
either a definite noun or a pronoun.


Copula    +  Subject   +   Predicate   =     Identification sentence
------       -------       ---------         -----------------------


  Is            mise         Niall.              "I am Neil."
  Is            tusa        Peadar.            "You are Peter."
  Is            tusa       mo leanna/n.        "You are my sweetheart."
  Is           sinne    Sea/n agus Se/amas.    "We are Sean and Seamas."
  Is          sibhse     Aoife agus Ma/ire.    "You are Aoife and Mary."


    Note that the emphatic form is much more common when the subject is a
first- or second-person pronoun.  (Emphatic pronouns were covered in
Lesson Four).

    In identification sentences using the third person, a personal
pronoun is always inserted after "is", even though there is already a
subject in the sentence.


  Is           e/ Sea/n      an dochtu/ir.         "Sean is the doctor."
  Is           e/ Liam           e/                "He is Liam."
  Is           i/ Si/le          i/.               "She is Sheila."
  Is   iad Liam agus Si/le      iad.            "They are Liam and Sheila."
  Is   e/ an t-uachtara/n  an ceannaire.      "The President is the leader."
  Is              e/         do bheatha.             "It's your life."



    As with classification sentences, negative identification sentences
use "ni/" --


  Ni/           tusa         an duine.          "You are not the man."


-- positive questions begin with "an...?" and negative questions
begin with "nach...?"  When "ni/" comes before a third-person pronoun (e/,
i/, or iad), "h" is added to the pronoun.  For example, answering the
question


  An            e/ sin       an teach?           "Is that the house?"


You can answer "yes" by saying "Is e/" or "no" by saying "Ni/ he/."  If
"teach" were a feminine noun you would answer "yes" by saying "Is i/" and
"no" by saying "Ni/ hi/."

    More direct questions using the identification sentence can be asked
using the word "ce/...?" meaning "who...?", which also puts "h" before a
third-person pronoun:


   Ce/ tusa?  [or]  Ce/ he/ tusa?        Who are you?
   Ce/ he/ an ri/?                       Who is the king?
   Ce/ hi/?                              Who is she?
   Ce/ sibhse? [or] Ce/ hiad sibhse?     Who are you [plural]?
   Ce/ he/ mise?                         Who am I?
   Ce/ hiadsan?                          Who are they?
   Ce/ hi/ an bhean sin?                 Who is that woman?
   CÚ/ he/ sin? [or] Ce/ sin?            Who is that?



iii) Copula with an Adjective


    I said before that "ta/" is for joining a noun to an adjective and
"is" for joining a noun to a noun, and that is generally true.  However,
the copula can be used to join a noun with an adjective in cases where
heavy emphasis is required, or where attention needs to be drawn to the
sentence.  Used in these sentences, the adjectives have a greater
sense of permanency and importance that they would in a "ta/" sentence.
Think of the difference between the straightforward English sentence "the
night is dark", which is merely descriptive (and which would be a "ta/"
sentence in Irish), and the more poetic and forceful "dark is the night"
(which would be a copula sentence in Irish).  Technically these are
classification sentences, except that the noun in the Predicate is
replaced by an adjective:


Copula   +   Predicate    +    Subject      =    Sentence
------       ---------         -------           --------

 Is           dorcha          an oi/che          "The night is dark."
 An            deas              e/?             "Is it nice?"
 Ni/           fi/or             sin.            "That is not true."
Nach           leor              seo?            "Isn't this enough?"


     Some proverbs, and other statements to which you're expected to pay
particular attention, use this form:


"Is            binn        be/al ina thost."    "Sweet is a silent mouth."
"Is            mo/r            an trua."          "It's a great pity."
"Is           bocht           an sce/al."         "It's bad news."
                                                [lit: "it's a poor story"]


     Sometimes a third-person pronoun is added after the subject.  This
pronoun is the same number and gender as the subject:


 Is            brea/          an la/ e/.          "It's a fine day."
 Is            brea/          an oi/che i/.       "It's a fine night."



    To finish up, I'll give a few copula sentences extracted from Brendan
Behan's play "An Giall" -- see if you can translate them.


"An Garda e/?"                  ("Garda" [m.], Irish policeman)
"Nach fear bocht bacach me/?"   ("bacach", lame)
"Nach tusa ata/ spleodrach?"    ("spleodrach", boisterous)
"Is duine uasal e/."            ("uasal", noble, well-born)
"Is e/ sin an Fhraincis."       ("Fraincis" [f.], the French language)
"Is mairg ba/s gan bheannacht." ("mairg" [f.], a sorrow; "ba/s" [m.],
                                    death; "gan", without;
                                    "beannacht" [f.], blessing;
                                     Irish proverb)


--

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