Archive for urú

Cá bhfuil tú i do chónaí?

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth with tags , , , on April 3, 2021 by telescoper

I had another Irish language class on Thursday, in between various other things. I’m finding it a struggle since I don’t get much time in between the classes to revise or practice and also because there is quite a lot to learn that is very different from languages with which I am familiar. I spent a lot of time at school learning Latin and tend to filter new languages through that experience, which works reasonably well for French, Spanish and Italian but isn’t very good for Irish.

Some things in Irish are simpler than Latin: there are effectively only four cases for nouns in Irish as there is no real distinction between nominative and accusative. I mean the two cases are grammatically distinct but there is no difference in the word depending on whether it is subject or object of a verb. The other three cases are vocative (preceded by the particle a), genitive and dative. There is no ablative case; the dative is used instead.

Other things are more complicated. Last week we discovered that there are two versions of the verb “to be”. One is bí (which, as in most other European languages, is irregular in declination); the other is called the copula (“an chopail”)  which is used in limited (but quite common) circumstances such as linking a noun with a predicate clause. Confusingly, the form of the copula used in the present tense is “is” but it’s not part of the verb “to be”.

We learnt about these things when talking discussing the question

Cá bhfuil tú i do chónaí?

which is “where do you live?”, literally “Where are you in your habitation?”.  The way to answer this is something like

Tá mé i mo chónaí i Maigh Nuad. 

these sentences both involve the verb to be in the second person and first person respectively. Instead of Tá mé you could use Táim which is the equivalent of using “I’m” for “I am” in English.

It’s more complicated than that though because some place names have to be modified in this construction using an urú (eclipsis):

Maigh Nuad (Maynooth) begins with an M which is not modified but Doire (Derry) becomes nDoire, etc. The mutation from c to g after the preposition i also happens in Welsh, e.g. in the phrase Croeso i Gymru but in Irish you add the changed letter in front of the original rather than replacing it. For example, if I were living in Cork I would say

Tá mé i mo chónaí i gChorchai. 

The g is understood to replace the C for pronunciation purposes.

That brings us on to Irish place names, which are often very different from their anglicized versions. Here are a few examples:

  • Maigh Nuad (Maynooth)
  • Corcaigh (Cork)
  • Port Láirge (Waterford)
  • Doire (Derry)
  • Tir Eoghain (Tyrone)
  • Aontroim (Antrim)
  • Fear Manach (Fermanagh)
  • Béal Feirste (Belfast)
  • Gaillimh (Galway)
  • Thiobraid Árann (Tipperary)

The last one is not actually a long way from where I am. You can guess most of them but it’s a little confusing that the English versions are often conflations of two Irish words.