That over-worked "a"

Ciamar a chanas mi.... / How do I say...
MartinJ
Posts: 44
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2017 1:06 pm
Language Level: Hmmm
Corrections: Please correct my grammar
Location: Cumbria

That over-worked "a"

Unread postby MartinJ » Sun Sep 24, 2017 9:17 am

I've been thinking about the structure of the "inverted nominal", eg:

"an litir a fhreagairt"

and, specifically, about "meaning" of the "a" bit. None of my grammar books gives any clue here - they just concentrate on specifying the effects that the "a" produces on the subsequent verbal noun, viz: lenite wherever possible and then disappear before a vowel (and lenited f+vowel).

I'd previously decided that "a" here must represent "to" (in the sense of "towards") in Beurla and that its effects are due to it being a bit "do" like (just missing the "dh'" element).

But I suddenly realised thaty it makes much more sense to think of it as a possessive - "its" and, specifically,as a masculine possessive:

a chàr
a fhreagairt
fhèoil
athair

Unless I've misunderstood something (which I accept is more than likely), this works perfectly and seems to accord with other similar patterns in Gaidhlig, eg:

"tha mig gad chluinntinn"

My question to you fluent Gaidheal then is this : "do you think in terms of possession when you are using the inverted nominal?" Is "tha mi airson an litir a fhreagairt" forming in your mind as "I want the letter its sending"?

As a follow-up then is there any "meaning" to the "a" in "cuin a" etc? If it's just a phonetic thing why does it produce such massive effects on a subsequent verb? Ah, questions, questions ....

Le meas MartinJ

User avatar
ithinkitsnice
Posts: 90
Joined: Wed Oct 21, 2015 1:51 pm
Language Level: Can hold a conversation
Corrections: Please correct my grammar
Location: Glaschu

That over-worked "a"

Unread postby ithinkitsnice » Sun Sep 24, 2017 10:23 am

I don't think it's either — Akerbeltz calls it "the infinitive particle". (see also)

As far as I understand all this anyway, that's not to say there's an infinitive per se in Gaelic but that this particle creates an 'infinitive like construction' (i.e. something which corresponds to the infinitive in English when you tr*nsl*t* it) when it appears in this context. I think this description came about because this particular 'a' cannot be made to neatly correspond with either the possessive (doesn't change to agree with number/gender) nor 'to' (no expected 'dh'). It's its own thing.

Unless I've misunderstood something (which I accept is more than likely), this works perfectly and seems to accord with other similar patterns in Gaidhlig, eg:

"tha mig gad chluinntinn"


Not 100% sure what you're getting at, but that's a different (progressive) sort of construction. If you want to represent a pronoun direct object in inverting (modal) structures you use the corresponding possessive pronoun, e.g.

Progressive constructions
Tha mi a' cluinntinn sin = I am hearing that / I hear that
Tha mi ga chluinntinn = I am hearing him / I hear him
Tha mi gan cluinntinn = I am hearing them / I hear them

but

Modal (want, need, must etc.) constructions
Tha mi ag iarriadh sin a chluinntinn = I want to see that (feat. the infinitive particle, which lenites)
Tha mi ag iarraidh a chluinntinn = I want to see him (using possessive pronoun before the VN, following usual lenition rules)
Tha mi ag iarraidh an cluinntinn = I want to see them (as above)

Hope there's nothing drastically wrong there, sure I'll be corrected if there is.

User avatar
ithinkitsnice
Posts: 90
Joined: Wed Oct 21, 2015 1:51 pm
Language Level: Can hold a conversation
Corrections: Please correct my grammar
Location: Glaschu

That over-worked "a"

Unread postby ithinkitsnice » Sun Sep 24, 2017 10:35 am

As a follow-up then is there any "meaning" to the "a" in "cuin a" etc?


Missed this, sorry. That 'a' is the relative particle marking a relative clause, which is followed by the independent form of the verb (or relative future in the future tense), e.g.

Bha mi ag iarriadh sin a dhèanamh nuair a bha mi ann = I wanted to do that when I was there (…at the time that I was there)
Bidh mi ag iarriadh sin a dhèanamh nuair a bhios mi ann = I (will) want to do that when I am (will be) there.

MartinJ
Posts: 44
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2017 1:06 pm
Language Level: Hmmm
Corrections: Please correct my grammar
Location: Cumbria

That over-worked "a"

Unread postby MartinJ » Sun Sep 24, 2017 12:36 pm

Hiyah, Ithinkitsnice, and thanks for your quick response.

Just to be clear, when I said I was starting to think of the "a" in the inverted nominal as a possessive I was well aware that it wasn't responding to the case or number of the noun it was qualifying. My implicit suggestion was that, for once, Gaidhlig might simply not be bothering. But I now realise that this is harder to justify in respect of number, where even English responds, with "its" becoming "their".

And when I was dragging in the "tha mi gad chluinntin" type of structure to support my case I was clinging to the idea that Gaidhlig seems quite fond of using the possessive in constructing a sentence.

Anyway, many thanks for the Akerbelz references, which I'm slowly digesting. I'm heartened to find that Albanians have a tough time with their language also.....

Best wishes, MartinJ

User avatar
ithinkitsnice
Posts: 90
Joined: Wed Oct 21, 2015 1:51 pm
Language Level: Can hold a conversation
Corrections: Please correct my grammar
Location: Glaschu

That over-worked "a"

Unread postby ithinkitsnice » Sun Sep 24, 2017 1:01 pm

From first link above:
"Over time, it's conceivable that the pattern of the third person masculine possessive pronoun has resulted in creating some sort of generalized infinitive-like pattern"
[…]
"But, overall, it makes no difference because one just has to learn these patterns the way they are today"


So I take that to mean perhaps the possessive particle is the origin of the infinitive particle, but at some point it stopped behaving like you'd expect, therefore it makes more sense now to see it as it's own thing doing it's own thing.

User avatar
akerbeltz
Rianaire
Posts: 1655
Joined: Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:26 am
Language Level: Barail am broinn baraille
Corrections: Please don't analyse my Gaelic
Location: Glaschu
Contact:

That over-worked "a"

Unread postby akerbeltz » Sun Sep 24, 2017 2:50 pm

No, I'm hedging my bets :priob: I'm saying it's a possibility - even a probability - but that I'm in no position to make an absolute statement, I'm not that much of a scholar of the history of Gaelic.

User avatar
ithinkitsnice
Posts: 90
Joined: Wed Oct 21, 2015 1:51 pm
Language Level: Can hold a conversation
Corrections: Please correct my grammar
Location: Glaschu

That over-worked "a"

Unread postby ithinkitsnice » Sun Sep 24, 2017 3:36 pm

Sure, that's all I was trying to say you were saying, maybe didn't word it the bestest.
Last edited by ithinkitsnice on Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

MartinJ
Posts: 44
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2017 1:06 pm
Language Level: Hmmm
Corrections: Please correct my grammar
Location: Cumbria

That over-worked "a"

Unread postby MartinJ » Sun Sep 24, 2017 3:51 pm

What I'm /really/ interested to know is whether the idea of "possession" is anywhere in your mind when you're using the inverted construction in Gaidhlig.

I'm guessing the answer is "no" and that you'll say it's just a pattern that is recognised as just what it is - an inverted construction. I get these fanciful notions (vide my ramblings on the gender of nouns) and if they're incorrect it's better if they're squashed firmly before they achieve any traction!

User avatar
akerbeltz
Rianaire
Posts: 1655
Joined: Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:26 am
Language Level: Barail am broinn baraille
Corrections: Please don't analyse my Gaelic
Location: Glaschu
Contact:

That over-worked "a"

Unread postby akerbeltz » Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:39 pm

What I'm /really/ interested to know is whether the idea of "possession" is anywhere in your mind when you're using the inverted construction in Gaidhlig.


I can't speak for mental representations but - usually the case - moving out of the third person stuff is often a lot clearer: feumaidh tu mo bhualadh is quite clearly a possessive.


Return to “Gràmar, Fuaimean is Gnàths / Grammar, Sounds and Expressions”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest