Genitive with verbal nouns

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gordonmaloney
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Genitive with verbal nouns

Unread post by gordonmaloney » Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:07 am

Morning folks, an dòchas gu bheil sibh uile gu math!

I have a question about the use of the genitive after verbal nouns - I know you are meant to, especially if the noun is in the definite, but I feel like I hear people not doing it all the time. Am I just mishearing it, or are people making bad and unforgivable mistakes? Would it be bad for learners to learn to form verbal noun constructions without the genitive, and then learn to do them "properly" a little down the line? Does it depend on the genitive?

A few examples - would "a' dèanamh an obair" (Instead of "na h-obrach") sound bad to you? What about "ag òl an deoch" or "ag ithe am biadh"?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts!



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Re: Genitive with verbal nouns

Unread post by GunChleoc » Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:06 am

You should learn them with the genitive. This will not only help you to memorize the genitive, but the gender of the nouns as well.
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gordonmaloney
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Re: Genitive with verbal nouns

Unread post by gordonmaloney » Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:24 am

GunChleoc wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 11:06 am
You should learn them with the genitive. This will not only help you to memorize the genitive, but the gender of the nouns as well.
Sure, and I know them, but that's not really my question!

GunChleoc
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Re: Genitive with verbal nouns

Unread post by GunChleoc » Fri Jul 24, 2020 6:13 pm

Well, this was me answering "yes" to "Would it be bad for learners to learn to form verbal noun constructions without the genitive, and then learn to do them "properly" a little down the line?"

A mistake learned as "correct" is very hard to unlearn later on - that's reason number 3 why it would be bad.

As to whether it will be noticed, I expect that it will be. It is of course not the end of the world if you make a mistake - everybody makes them. So, given the choice of whether not to communicate or to not make a mistake - do make a mistake and do communicate :)
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Iain Sasannach
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Re: Genitive with verbal nouns

Unread post by Iain Sasannach » Fri Jul 24, 2020 10:03 pm

Speaking as a linguist, there is also the argument from failing to use the genitive in these circumstances being a sign of endangerment in the language, with younger speakers failing to exhibit it because it isn't found in English and they're not learning the language as thoroughly, so full revitalisation of the language will necessarily entail the revitalisation of grammatical constructions that have "fallen by the wayside" because of endangerment.

This isn't about conservatism for its own sake so much as it is about the preservation of the diversity of possible structures across languages. In the same way when one learns any Celtic language (not just Gaelic) one should learn to use the mutations "properly" largely because such systems are uncommon in languages of the world and the loss of one such system is the loss of one valuable instantiation thereof. (Apologies if this sounds a bit clinical)

gordonmaloney
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Re: Genitive with verbal nouns

Unread post by gordonmaloney » Fri Jul 24, 2020 10:45 pm

Okay so I'm persuaded that learners should make sure this isn't something left to come back to later, but I feel like I am pretty sure it is something I hear people - including native speakers - dropping fairly frequently. In Michel Byrne's Gràmar na Gàidhlig, he also notes that "not all speakers use the Possessive even with definite nouns, and a search for "a' dèanamh an obair" turns up things that look pretty reputable - like this tweet from Angus Peter Campbell: https://twitter.com/aonghasphadraig/sta ... 35808?s=19

Iain, I hear everything you're saying about the effect of English on this, and agree it's important that learners don't exacerbate things, but there is also an extent to which this could be considered just pretty normal language change, no? If the use of the dative case and the genitive with indefinites in verbal noun structures are considered a little dated, could there not be a similar process going on here?

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Re: Genitive with verbal nouns

Unread post by akerbeltz » Sat Jul 25, 2020 1:36 pm

but there is also an extent to which this could be considered just pretty normal language change,
It's better to err on the side of caution as a learner. Look at it the other way round - if you were coaching someone learning English and they asked you if replacing th with f because some native speakers say fing instead of thing, you'd probably advise them to stick with thing as that's considered "good" by most speakers without getting silly conservative but not to contemplate using fing until much later.

In the same vein, while you might catch out native speakers saying things like a' dèanamh an obair, when asked most would not consider this "good" or indeed what they would consciously aim for. It just sometimes pops out.

Language change exists but learners shouldn't try to accelerate it by always aiming for the lowest denominator :)

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