Reading big numbers can be very daunting especially in a language you are learning. However if you break it down it can be very manageable. Check out our youtube video for some pointers on how to read big numbers in Gaelic.
The trick is to remember those place value lessons you had in elementary/primary school.
So you've mastered lenition and you are keeping an eye out for broad and slender vowels and you are feeling pretty good when along comes slenderisation!
"What" you exclaim, "I thought I knew about all the ways words change in Gaelic"!
Slenderisation is a change that happens to the end of words (mostly nouns) in Gaelic. It happens in a few places, in the vocative case of male names, in some plurals, in many nouns in the genitive case, and historically in feminine nouns in the dative case*.
"But what is it"?!
Slenderisation is when the vowel before the last consonant in a word is changed to a slender vowel. If a word ends in a vowel or is already slender nothing changes. However, if the vowel before the last consonant is broad it will change.
Here are some examples from each of the categories.
vocative: Seumas ---> a Sheumais (James)
Plural: bodach ---> bodaich (old man)
Genitive: balach ---> balaich (boy)
feminine dative: gainmheach ----> air a' ghainmhich (sand)
As you can see many times you can just stick an i, especially if your word ends in -ach(bodach-->bodaich). If, like gainmheach it ends in -each you just change it to -ich. Likewise if your word ends in -adh it will change to -aidh and eadh will change to idh. However some times it is a bit more complicated.
Here are a few more examples:
cnoc ---> cnuic (plural) (hill)
bòrd ----> bùird (genitive and plural)(table)
ceòl -----> ciùil (genitive)(music)
here you can see that o or ò will change to ui/ùi also noting that the e in ceòl changes to i.
a can change in a lot of ways:
cat ---->cait (genitive and plural)(cat)
ràc ---> ràic (genitive)(rake)
cas ---->cois(dative) (foot)
bas---> bòise(genitive) (palm of hand)
mac ---> mic(genitive and plural) (son)
falt ---->fuilt (genitive) (hair)
However a/à---ai/ài is the most common.
Niall ----> a Nèill (vocative) (Nial)
grian ---> grèin(dative) (sun)
Mìcheal---> a Mhìcheil (vocative) (Michael)
each----> eich (genitive and plural) (horse)
fear----fir(genitive and plural) (man)
eun---> eòin (genitive and plural) (bird)
leug----> lèig(genitive) (gemstone)
feur--->feòir (genitive and plural) (grass)
sìol--->sìl(genitive and plural) (seed)
"Ok, but how do I know what to use?"
So if you are looking for a genitive or a plural you can find them easily enough in a dictionary. If you are trying to figure out the vocative of a masculine name you will have to look at the list above and find which one matches your word best.
The slenderisation of feminine nouns in the dative case seems to be something that a lot of people no longer do. But it does appear in some phrases and in older writen Gaelic. If you want to figure it out, again you'd have to look at the list and find the best match.
There is a nice list of these changes in the Appendices (pg.193/194) of Scottish Gaelic in Three Months by Roibeard O Maolalaigh and Iain MacAonghuis published by Dorling Kindersley (1998 for the version I have) which I consulted in writing this blog post.
Later editions of this book were published with the title of Scottish Gaelic in Twelve Weeks.
We have been talking about some of the stronger characters in the Gaelic alphabet, this week we are going to look a weaker character; the letter F.
F only makes one sound regardless of whether it is broad or slender and that is the F sound we are used to in English.
When it is lenited is looses all its sound, it just gives up and makes no sound at all.
And, it will lenite at the drop of a had. Really f will lenite when no other letter will.
Any word that has a lenited F in the front of it should be treated as if it begins with the letter that follows the lenited F.
For feminine nouns that begin with F the definite article would like to be a' +lenition but when F lenites and the sound goes away that doesn't work anymore because you end up with two vowel sounds together, so the article changes to an + lenition.
We have been talking about some of the strong characters in the Gaelic alphabet and S is another one of these. Though not as strong a lenition resister S will resist lenition is some cases and she is often grouped with T and D. She also will not lenite when she is hanging out with G,P,T (sg,sp,st). When she does lenite she makes a H sound. When combined with the definite article an t- her sound will be overridden by T and he will be broad or slender in relation to the vowel on the other side of the S. When broad she makes the normal S sound and when slender she makes the SH sound.
There is also a tendency in Gaelic to do pairs of words with opposite meanings where the words sound the same but one starts with S and the other with D.
for example: saor=free/inexpensive daor=expensive
As we mentioned last week D is the best friend of T. D is quite a complex character. He hangs out with T when broad but ventures off on his own to make a "J" sound when slender. Like T he is resistant to lenition but when he does he has a different best friend, G. In fact dh and gh make the same sounds both when broad and slender. When broad they make a sound that English it is as if a 'g' were made in the very back of the throat. When slender they act like an English 'y', like the 'y' in yellow at the beginning of a word, like the 'y' in monkey at the end. "idh' as a word ending is more common than 'igh' and is used for borrow words that end in the 'ee' sound and as the ending of independent (positive statement) verbs in the future tense.
Whether you have just begun to learn Gaelic or have been learning for a while, you will have noticed that the Gaelic alphabet works quite differently to the English (or almost any other) alphabet.
I like to think of the letters as people with their own personalities. Once you get to know them you can predict how they are going to behave in different situations.
So with that in mind let me introduce you to a few interesting people:
The letter T has a strong personality, you might even say stubborn. It wants its voice heard so it will resist lenition where possible. When it does lenite it makes an 'H' sound.
It likes to hang out with its best friend D. They are good friends and make sounds that are closer to each other than the English sounds.
When it gets around the slender vowels it makes a 'ch' sound.
One of the best way to go from a Gaelic learner to a Gaelic speaker is to use Gaelic in your everyday life. With yoga becoming very popular all over the world, it can be a great way to use Gaelic as well as being good for your health.
Here are Gaelic names for 5 easy yoga poses.
Cù Sìos: downward dog
Laoch a dhà: warrior 2
faireachdainn (f) = emotions, feeling / émotion, sentiment
faireachdainnean (pl) = emotions, feelings / émotions, sentiments
Tha mi toilichte = I am happy / Je suis heureux
Tha mi brònach = I am sad / Je suis triste
Tha an t-eagal orm = I am scared / J'ai peur
Tha mi feargach = I am angry / Je suis en colère
to go further...
pour aller plus loin...
Tha mi moiteil (à/às) = I am proud (of) / Je suis fier (de)
Tha mi air mo dhòigh = I am pleased / Je suis ravi
Tha mi claoidhte = I am exhausted / Je suis exténué
Tha mi fo spàirn = I am stressed / Je suis stressé
Tha iongnadh orm = I am surprised / Je suis surpris
Tha mi air bhioran = I am excited / Je suis surexcité, enthousiaste
Tha mi coma = I don't care / Ça m'est égal
Tha mi nam ghlòraidh = I am in my element / Je suis dans mon élément
Agus ciamar a tha thu fhèin a' faireachdainn an-dràsta?
an cur seachad (m) = the hobby / le hobby
na cur-seachadan = the hobbies / les hobbies
A bheil cur-seachad agad? = Do you have a hobby? / Est-ce que tu as un hobby?
Dè na cur-seachadan a th' agad? = What are your hobbies? / Quels sont tes hobbies?
Bidh mi a' leughadh = I read / Je lis
Bidh mi a' fighe = I knit / Je tricote
Bidh mi ag èiteachd ri ceòl = I listen to music / J'écoute de la musique
Bidh mi ag ionnsachadh Gàidhlig = I learn Gaelic / J'apprends le gaélique
Bidh mi a' rothaireachd = I cycle / Je fais du vélo
Bidh mi a' snàmh = I swim / Je nage
Bidh mi a' coimhead air an TBh = I watch TV / Je regarde la TV
Bidh mi a' peantadh = I paint / Je peins
Bidh mi a' seinn = I sing / Je chante
Bidh mi a' cluich ball-coise = I play football / Je joue au football
Bidh mi a' cluich giotàr = I play the guitar / Je joue de la guitare
Bidh mi a' gàrradaireachd = I garden / Je jardine
Gach latha = every day / chaque jour
Gach seachdain = every week / chaque semaine
Gach Diluain = every Monday / tous les lundis
Gu tric = often / souvent
Did you notice that to talk about hobbies, we used "Bidh" the future tense of "tha" (verb to be)? It is because in Gaelic, the future tense is also used to talk about habbits or things that one does regularly. Compare these sentences:
As-tu remarqué que pour parler des hobbies, nous avons utilisé "Bidh" le futur de "tha" (verbe être)? C'est parce qu'en gaélique, le futur est aussi utilisé pour parler des habitudes, des choses que l'on fait régulièrement. Compare ces phrases:
Agus dè na cur-seachadan a th' agad fhèin?
Am baile = la ville
An t-ospadal = l’hôpital
An taigh-tasgaidh = le musée
An taigh-òsta = l’hôtel
An taigh-dhealbh = le cinema
An taigh-bìdh = le restaurant
An cafaidh = le café
Am banca = la banque
An oifis a’ phuist = la poste
An eaglais = l’église
An sgoil = l’école
An stèisean = la station, la gare
A’ bhùth = le magasin
Tha mi a’ fuireach ann am meadhan a’ bhaile. = J’habite au centre-ville.
A bheil an oifis a’ phuist fosgailte ? = La poste est-elle ouverte ?
Tha am banca dùinte. = La banque est fermée.
Càite a bheil an stèisean ? = Où est la gare/la station ?
Tha mi a’ dol dhan bhùth. = Je vais au magasin.
Tha e anns an ospadal. = Il est à l’hôpital.
Caroline has been involved with Gaelic for more than 18 years. She has degrees in Celtic Studies and Gaelic Medium Teaching.