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Omission of the definite article before a role or title

Posted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:35 pm
by MartinJ
Where a Sassanach annoyed by his local council might say something like:

"That object of shame, the Parish Council, has failed once again".

It seems that a Gàidheal would say:

"Tha a' chuis nàire ud, Comhairle Ionadail, air fàilleachadh a-rithist".

See? The Gàidheal while exasperated beyond reason by his local council still appears to respect the dignity of their office by omitting the "The" in front of Comhairle

Or so it seems to me, but I've got a complete cloth ear on this point and consistently fail here. Meanwhile all my mistakes are gleefully identified by native speakers so there must be a rule I can follow. Can anyone state categorically the reason for the omission (I can't find a reference in any of my grammar books and just assume it relates to formal roles and titles) and provide advice on how to remember the convention?

Le meas, MJ

Omission of the definite article before a role or title

Posted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 4:50 pm
by akerbeltz
The reason for omission most likely is tr*nsl*t**n from English I'd say. Cause if anything, Gaelic is much more diligent in using the definite article than English is these days. I'd certainly expect a' chomhairle ionadail

It's a never ending annoyance in software tr*nsl*t**n in particular where English seems to have fully gone over to definite noun phrases being unmarked and only indefinite ones being marked i.e. where in the old days you'd have had:
The file
A file

the pattern, at least in short noun phrases is
File
A file

Omission of the definite article before a role or title

Posted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 6:23 pm
by GunChleoc
Well, if your local council is "Comhairle Ghlaschu", the resolution of the puzzle is that "Comhairle" is not allowed to have an article, because it is followed by another noun. This has nothing to do with tone, it is a hard grammar rule.

Omission of the definite article before a role or title

Posted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:31 pm
by faoileag
Where did you get that sentence from anyway? You imply you have seen or heard it somewhere.

It could be, as was my first assumption (and possibly Gun Chleoc's), that you replaced an actual name with "Ionadail" to save their face, thereby unwittingly changing the grammar from a genitive noun (e.g. Ghlaschu) to an adjective.
It could also be that you just shortened it, e.g. from Comhairle Ionadail Shlèite / CI nan Eilean Siar / CI a' Ghearasdain, with the same grammatical result.

If it originally included a name, as GC says, you would omit the article, and have the name in the genitive form. That is, you would have a so-called "genitive chain", i.e. two or more nouns with the last one in the genitive, whereby in Gaelic all articles except the last one (if there is one) disappear, and all nouns except the last one (which is genitive) are in the nominative.

iuchair doras taigh ministear eaglais a' bhaile. The key of the door of .. etc

Oilthigh Ghlaschu - the University of Glasgow.

Omission of the definite article before a role or title

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:09 am
by MartinJ
Mòran taing, a h-uile duine.

Light dawns! This is a big point and I'd completely missed it.

To answer faoileag first. My example was one I'd made up myself, based on something akin to "Comhairle Ghlaschu", that I'd changed on a whim. I didn't realise when I switched to myn adjectival phrase that I was undermining the whole essence of the issue! Sorry for confusing everybody but you've put me on the right road now and I'm extremely grateful

But now I've got this straight can I follow through with three other queries:

Firstly. The disappearance of the definite article in these compound nouns has a big effect on the "tone" of a Gàidhlig sentence and marks it as something significantly different from the equivalent English. Does anyone know why this structure arises? Or do we just say "this is the way it is".

Secondly.In the (now correctly formed but presented purely for academic purposes and not intended in and way to be libelous) phrase:

"Tha a' chuis nàire ud, Oilthigh Ghlaschu, air fàilleachadh a-rithist",

while the initial subject "chuis nàire" is what I now understand as a genitive chain it /retains/ the definite article. Is this not inconsistent? I'm guessing the difference is that the force of the qualifying "ud" "forces"(?) the article out of the undergrowth.

And finally (sorry if I'm getting tedious but once I start on something like this I'm afraid I find it hard to stop ...). Where there's no definite article it becomes impossible(?) to distinguish between a specific instance and a general instance. So how to distinguish, say, between "the milkman (fear a' bhainne) called today" and "a milkman called today"

Le meas, MartinJ

Omission of the definite article before a role or title

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 12:00 pm
by akerbeltz
Firstly. The disappearance of the definite article in these compound nouns has a big effect on the "tone" of a Gàidhlig sentence and marks it as something significantly different from the equivalent English. Does anyone know why this structure arises? Or do we just say "this is the way it is".
You're thinking English. The definite article hasn't disappeared, it was never there :priob: Come to think of it, it's not there in English either. Hardly any native speaker would judge The London Borough Council grammatical. Even though we can look at two phrases like the local council and Edinburgh Council and say "the article is gone" doesn't mean that that's the way the phrase is constructed, i.e. you don't (most likely not anyway) have a mechanism in your head that builds council » the council » the Glasgow council and then deleted "the". The "the" just isn't there to start with when you build something that is a definite noun anyway (like a placename)

Second, none of these are compound nouns. I'm pointing this out because being a compound noun has serious grammatical ramifications in Gaelic. In English of course it's all a bit wha'eva
while the initial subject "chuis nàire" is what I now understand as a genitive chain it /retains/ the definite article. Is this not inconsistent? I'm guessing the difference is that the force of the qualifying "ud" "forces"(?) the article out of the undergrowth.
What makes you think it's inconsistent? You mean because it's followed by Oilthigh Ghlaschu? That's a separate noun phrase. There are no hard and fast rules about how to easily spot breaks between noun phrases but an intonational comma is usually a good clue.
Where there's no definite article it becomes impossible(?) to distinguish between a specific instance and a general instance. So how to distinguish, say, between "the milkman (fear a' bainne) called today" and "a milkman called today"
fear a bainne is "the man of her milk" or "a man out of of milk". Just saying :priob:

There are some instances where in Gaelic you cannot make a distinction which you can make in English but your example isn't one of them. Thàinig fear a' bhainne an-diugh vs Thàinig fear bainne an-diugh are perfectly normal sentences which carry the distinction you wanted to make.

The kind of nouns phrase where it gets tricky is when (coming from English for a moment) you mix definite and indefinite in the same phrase for example (moving away from milk because it's a bit tricky, being a mass noun): the house of an old man vs a house of the old man. In order to make a distinction here, you have to resort to changing the structure in Gaelic, for example an taigh aig bodach vs taigh a' bhodaich. But cases like that are fairly rare.

Omission of the definite article before a role or title

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 12:41 pm
by MartinJ
Rats. Something about my version of "milkman" was niggling and I thought I'd snuck a swift edit in before anybody noticed. But you were too quick for me!

I take your point about English optionally declining the option of preceding a genitive chain (I'm carefully avoiding my incorrect use of the term "compound noun" - point noted) but I personally would probably put a "the" in front of "University of Glasgow" in my sample sentence, just for emhasis and in a sentence like "Fàilte air bòrd "Eilean Sgalpaigh" an Englishman would /always/ welcome you aboard "the Eilean Sgalpaigh". Interestingly, thought I wouldn't use "the" if I was talking about "Glasgow University".

Back with "a' chuis a' nàire ud" - "that object of shame" I'm thinking that this is another genitive chain, but one that has retained its definite article. Maybe I'm still misunderstanding something?.

Omission of the definite article before a role or title

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 1:25 pm
by akerbeltz
Rats. Something about my version of "milkman" was niggling and I thought I'd snuck a swift edit in before anybody noticed. But you were too quick for me!
Je suis désolée :priob:
I take your point about English optionally declining the option of preceding a genitive chain (I'm carefully avoiding my incorrect use of the term "compound noun" - point noted) but I personally would probably put a "the" in front of "University of Glasgow" in my sample sentence, just for emhasis and in a sentence like "Fàilte air bòrd "Eilean Sgalpaigh" an Englishman would /always/ welcome you aboard "the Eilean Sgalpaigh". Interestingly, thought I wouldn't use "the" if I was talking about "Glasgow University".
Right, sticking "of" in there makes it different. Though used as a what, genitive/possessive particle these days, it's historically a preposition (off). So The University of Glasgow is, in its structure, like The University FROM Glasgow. That's why you can have the the in there. Glasgow University on the other hand is, though you can't see it, Glasgow University, so it's the same noun phrase so you can't stick the word the in there.

Boats are a different kettle of fish, for some reason they always take the article in English (cf The Mary Rose, The Endeavour...). Pass on why, I'm not an expert on English. It's less messy in Gaelic, so perhaps if you tried to avoid coming at this one from English?

[quote]Back with "a' chuis a' nàire ud" - "that object of shame" I'm thinking that this is another genitive chain, but one that has retained its definite article. Maybe I'm still misunderstanding something?.[/quote]
You can't say a' chùis a' nàire ud. Well, you can but it's wrong. It's a' chùis-nàire ud. cùis-nàire is object shame[gen] even though you can't see the genitive inflection of nàire. It's more obvious in cùis-mhagaidh. In any case, cùis-nàire IS a compound noun (hence the hyphen) so the article would, at least in this case, go in front only anyway (don't mention body parts right now).

Omission of the definite article before a role or title

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 1:33 pm
by MartinJ
Well. I'm glad we've got that settled! But I've got a headache now. Feumaidh mi biadh a ghabahail.

Thanks again, MJ

Omission of the definite article before a role or title

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 7:06 pm
by GunChleoc
akerbeltz wrote:Je suis désolée :priob:
Now that final e is a feminine marker - French spelling is another of these fun things :spors:

Omission of the definite article before a role or title

Posted: Wed Nov 22, 2017 7:28 pm
by akerbeltz
I know it is, I hate gender stereotypes :spors:

Omission of the definite article before a role or title

Posted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:20 pm
by GunChleoc
Hm how do you remove the gender, désol? :P

Omission of the definite article before a role or title

Posted: Wed Nov 29, 2017 11:13 pm
by akerbeltz
Oh I don't think we need to reinvent the word but I can subvert its usage 8-)