Nouns of uncertain gender

Ciamar a chanas mi.... / How do I say...
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akerbeltz
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Nouns of uncertain gender

Unread postby akerbeltz » Sat Jun 24, 2017 2:15 pm

As so often, the answer is much more prosaic than that. Dwelly (and the dictionaries he copied) were quite bad in merging different roots under the same headword. In the Faclair Beag I've done my level best to tease them apart but sometimes one slips through. orc(a) "cramp" is an f-less variant of forc(a), the semantics being that in OIr the loanword forc meant both "fork" and "clutch/grasp" so a cramp was "the clutch", which works quite well semantically. It seems to have been of indeterminate gender in OIr.

To add to the confusion, there was also orc (masc) "young pig" and orc(a) (fem) "calf of the leg".

I'm pretty sure that between those three very similar looking words and their varying genders, we've ended up with a "mess", to use a technical term. I don't think there are deep philosophical considerations here. I note that in Irish, Dineen has forc and orc masc. but orc "calf of the leg" fem. So gender really seems to have gone any which way with these three, understandably so.

I've split and amended the terms in the Faclair Beag, thanks for mentioning it!



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Nouns of uncertain gender

Unread postby Droigheann » Sat Jun 24, 2017 8:58 pm

My pleasure. I see I've overanalysed as usual ... :D

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Nouns of uncertain gender

Unread postby faoileag » Mon Jun 26, 2017 1:28 am

What about uiread?

AFB and Colin Mark say masc.
Essential Gaelic says fem.

Usage seems to veer more to the fem., even in the examples give by by AFB and CM.

an uiread de... / na h-uiread de...

(and I realise that some 'an' are 'their', but not all)

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akerbeltz
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Nouns of uncertain gender

Unread postby akerbeltz » Mon Jun 26, 2017 11:20 am

-ead seem to flit between masc and fem a lot. Because in most of the cases of fem/masc variation there is no way in hell anyone can make data-based conclusions on the most common one (there simply is not sufficient data about these details), the general Faclair Beag editorial policy kicks in that in cases of masc/fem variation, we use the leathann=masc, caol=fem rule of thumb about gender. It is, at the very least, a rational reason that can be memorised by editors without a nosebleed 8-) That's why buidheann and bùth in the Faclair Beag are masc.

Otherwise you end up with bizarre stuff like guirmead, duibhead, gilead, glaisead, uainead being masc in Dwelly but buidhead, deargad fem and bàinead, liathad just s... (just do a search for "degree of"). There is no way native speakers have such a mismatch of genders in their heads, most likely it is regional variation but nobody has anything definitive on what goes on where (it's way beyond the remit of our maps).

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Nouns of uncertain gender

Unread postby faoileag » Tue Jun 27, 2017 2:25 am

That's fair, and logical.

I am a 'feminine' uiread-user, as that's what my instincts/maybe residual memories take me to, but the broad/slender thing is what I generally go for in cases of doubt.

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Nouns of uncertain gender

Unread postby LD Dirker » Mon Aug 21, 2017 1:44 pm

MartinJ wrote:Source of the post The more I think about this the more interesting it gets.

Somebody told me the other night that you've got to go as far east as India to find another language like English without (lost/abandoned/never there?) its gendered nouns. Does anyone know if this is true?

Reflecting on my disappointment that the noun gender in its present form appears to carry no information content (ie, dare I say this? - is a complete waste of time) I consider that there must have been something in somebody's mind when akerbeltz' lost word-endings were being assigned. We don't know what that was (ying/yang - how does that work in practice?) but it can hardly have been arbitrary. Even today when somebody (SMO?) is adding loan-words to Gàidhlig they must be following a scheme of sorts.Anybody know what this is?

Sorry if I'm being tedious, but you must surely know how these things niggle....


I know South Africa isn't close to Europe, but in Afrikaans there are no gender 'categories' for nouns. Japanese language also doesn't have gender categories for nouns. I grew up with languages that don't have any categories as such so I had to adapt to the differences.

I always knew they were present in German, but only discovered recently that many languages have them.

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Nouns of uncertain gender

Unread postby GunChleoc » Mon Aug 21, 2017 2:16 pm

Some African languages have as many as 20 of them, so you're still quite lucky with Gaelic in that department. It does take getting used to though - I still go to the dictionary quite often to double-check that I remembered it right.

I think your best bet is to memorize the genitive forms with the article, because the feminine article becomes "na", which makes it distinctive.
Oileanach chànan chuthachail
Na dealbhan agam