An Tuiseal Ginideach---feminine genitive forms being lost?

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An Tuiseal Ginideach---feminine genitive forms being lost?

Unread post by Tha_Mi_Sgìth » Mon Jan 06, 2020 4:11 pm

I've noticed that some feminine genitive forms seem to be falling out of use:

Nollaige has mostly been replaced by Nollaig (e.g. Bodach na Nollaig, Fèil Nollaig, etc.)
Also: uinneige is often uinneig, caileige is sometimes caileig
Such that retaining the 'secondary slenderisation' (+e) seems conservative (to me).
Or are these genitive forms without the final 'e' established and correct in certain dialects?

But "sgoile" is firmly in use, e.g. leabhar na sgoile.
Is that because sgoil is monosyllabic?
Almost all feminine genitives are at least disyllabic, hence sgoile.
Exception: bà---but I think there are very few like that.

But generally, are the "+e" endings on feminine genitives being lost?
Would it be good practice to try to retain these?



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Re: An Tuiseal Ginideach---feminine genitive forms being lost?

Unread post by akerbeltz » Mon Jan 06, 2020 5:45 pm

Bear in mind that in speech, final /ə/ before another vowel and at the end of a phrase or sentence has been routinely dropped for a long time. Something like Bha iad thall an-siud, aig doras na h-eaglaise has been /egLɪʃ/ without the final /ə/ for a very long time in speech. I think the main difference is that people feel more relaxed these days about writing it. But there is an element of case marking being lost too.

Unless I'm writing something exceedingly colloquial, I tend to write them all but drop them in speech as per the usual sound rules of spoken Gaelic.

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Re: An Tuiseal Ginideach---feminine genitive forms being lost?

Unread post by Tha_Mi_Sgìth » Mon Jan 06, 2020 11:26 pm

I realise that, but I'm referring to written forms I've seen often.

For example, there's a children's song "Tha Bodach na Nollaige a' tighinn a-nochd", and when sung, the "-e" in Nollaige is run into the "a" of "a' tighinn", but in the written form "Bodach na Nollaige" has only 1,190 Google hits and its own Uicipeid page, with text "Nuair a chaidh Bodach na Nollaig a stucach shuas an t-similear, thoisich e ag èigheachd." (note "Nollaig"), whereas "Bodach na Nollaig" has 3,910 Google hits and is even the title of a song by Mairi MacInnes.

So, my observation is that Nollaig is far more prevalent that Nollaige. I think it is probably the case that a great many feminine nouns are losing the final -e in the genitive in both the written and spoken form, but I don't know if this is a regional change, or happening everywhere, or whether it's recent or well-established.

Still, dropping the final -e in an assessment at SMO will cost a mark...

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Re: An Tuiseal Ginideach---feminine genitive forms being lost?

Unread post by Tha_Mi_Sgìth » Mon Jan 06, 2020 11:36 pm

...and on BBC Alba "Saoghal Bodach na Nollaig"...

But it seems "sgoile" is resisting the loss of the final e: " na sgoile " ~ 75,000 hits, but " na sgoil " ~ 10,000.

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Re: An Tuiseal Ginideach---feminine genitive forms being lost?

Unread post by faoileag » Fri Jan 10, 2020 12:32 am

You mentioned number of syllables. There is something in this.

Single-syllable nouns are more likely to keep the -e, in speech and in writing, probably because the two-syllable strong-weak/high-low "melody" is a very comfortable one in Gaelic, and seems to round off a phrase less abruptly - maighstir-sgoile vs. maighstir-sgoil.

Polysyllables like Nollaige, uinneige etc have the -e as an extra to that two-syllable pattern, and humans are lazy. In the situations Akerbeltz describes, we tend to drop them in speech.
(We drop lots of other things too, especially with vowel-on-vowel, like the relative pronoun "a", e.g. Nach tu tha gòrach! - I suspect even SMO would accept that. Or in inversions: Feumaidh tu fhaicinn - you have to see him /it - and here it is official, i.e. wrong if you put the "a" in. )

In English too we abbreviate in speech, and in non-formal writing. Speech takes a while to influence writing, but it does in the end, and nowadays, in both English and Gaelic (and other languages), what was once considered colloquial or bad grammar is acceptable in written situations, or at least in ones that are not clearly formal, official etc.

I would continue to use the final -e in non-colloquial writing at least, both to preserve the case-marker, as Akerbeltz says, and because i like the genitive case and will resist its erosion. ;-)

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Re: An Tuiseal Ginideach---feminine genitive forms being lost?

Unread post by Níall Beag » Fri Jan 10, 2020 12:58 pm

Tha_Mi_Sgìth wrote:
Mon Jan 06, 2020 4:11 pm
But generally, are the "+e" endings on feminine genitives being lost?
Would it be good practice to try to retain these?
Two principles that I apply when choosing between two forms in a language I'm learning seem relevant here:

1) As a learner, it is not my place to be an agent of change. As such, I generally tend towards learning conservative forms.

2) Where one form is more like English, I make a point of learning the other one first. Learning the "hard" form takes more conscious effort than learning the "easy" one, so when you're learning consciously, learn the hard one -- you can the easy one up later just by hearing it. Or in other words, it's easy to go from complex to simple, but hard to go from simple to complex, so start with the complex.

In Gaelic, these two rules almost always point the same way, as the "new" form is normally the "easy" and "English-like" as the natural tendency in Gaelic is towards English.

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Re: An Tuiseal Ginideach---feminine genitive forms being lost?

Unread post by Tha_Mi_Sgìth » Mon Jan 13, 2020 5:35 pm

I wonder if the new generations of FtMG students and SMO graduates might act to slow or reverse some of the erosion of the language which seems to have occurred when there was little or no formal education in the language, or indeed oppression, and when there was very little literature available. Listening to some programmes on Rèidio nan Gàidheal for a few minutes and you'll hear a string of English "loanwords" being used when it would seem to me, as a new speaker, there are good Gaelic alternatives. For example, I heard these in about 10 minutes recently: Excited, Nervous, Really, Snack, Tongue twister, Jokes, Audience, Innuendo, Swap, Convention, Grotesque, Step-mother, Actors.

It's not just vocabulary that is, I would say, not as strong as it could be. There is grammatical erosion too, such as the dropping of the final -e slenderisation in the feminine genitive. But also I recently had some L1 speakers tell me that "a' faicinn a' ghrian buidhe" seemed quite natural to them. They didn't complain about either the nominative noun, or the fact it was being followed by an unlenited adjective.

Yes, language changes/evolves, and minority languages with small populations more so. However, I think this is a different process to the change that happens in world languages like English, and a language like Gaelic is more vulnerable to rapid change. More like revolution than evolution.

A particular concern of mine is what is being delivered to kids in GME/FtMG. Should this process deliver the language "as it is now", with the typical injections of loanwords above (e.g. "really" is often used by kids on the radio show Aileag), or should GME schools aim to deliver a strong vocabulary (e.g. fuaradair/reòthadair in place of frids/freezer) and conservative grammar?

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Re: An Tuiseal Ginideach---feminine genitive forms being lost?

Unread post by Níall Beag » Wed Jan 15, 2020 1:49 am

Tha_Mi_Sgìth wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 5:35 pm
I wonder if the new generations of FtMG students and SMO graduates might act to slow or reverse some of the erosion of the language which seems to have occurred when there was little or no formal education in the language,
That would presuppose that GME teachers have good Gaelic themselves, and this is not always the case.

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Re: An Tuiseal Ginideach---feminine genitive forms being lost?

Unread post by Tha_Mi_Sgìth » Wed Jan 15, 2020 12:54 pm

Yes Níall, you are quite right. I have noticed that too. I don't want to elaborate on that here, but I'll give one example of something that has perplexed me from the beginning of my involvement with GME. This is the use of "snack" (sometimes rendered snac). I would have through grèimeag/grèimeag bìdh/grèim bìdh/blasad bìdh would all be good Gaelic versions of the concept---both blasad bìdh and grèim bìdh are in Colin Mark's dictionary. But in my local GME school they choose "snack" and the plural used is, of course "snacks" (rather than using a Gaelic plural, grèimeannan bìdh, for example): "A bheil do snacks agad?". I find this is a missed opportunity for language acquisition, albeit a small one, and it grates on me. Blasad bìdh, and grèim bìdh, both involve genitives, proper Gaelic plurals, and extend vocabulary beyond the immediate situation. Snack is a dead end word that doesn't enhance language acquisition at all!

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Re: An Tuiseal Ginideach---feminine genitive forms being lost?

Unread post by Níall Beag » Fri Jan 17, 2020 2:03 pm

Tha_Mi_Sgìth wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 12:54 pm
I find this is a missed opportunity for language acquisition, albeit a small one, and it grates on me. Blasad bìdh, and grèim bìdh, both involve genitives, proper Gaelic plurals, and extend vocabulary beyond the immediate situation. Snack is a dead end word that doesn't enhance language acquisition at all!
This actually goes to the heart of the problem with immersive language teaching. Having taught English through English, I know it's almost impossible to present a good language model, because you're always forced to "grade" your language in order to be understood.

"Grading" means "making it easier to fit the learner's level", which is just a euphemism for mangling it. Kids learn the language that they're presented with, so if you're presenting them with a simplified form that borrows words and/or phrasing from their native language, that's the language they'll learn.

I am happy that GME is gaining traction in the Western Isles, but I wish for everyone's sake that we'd use proper bilingual education in areas with no community Gaelic. If we stopped forcing kids to attempt to do everything in a language they don't know yet, we wouldn't be forcing them into learning mistakes.

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