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PostPosted: Mon 10 Oct 2022 12:19 pm 
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I recently read an interesting article by R. A. Breatnach, An Gléas Teaspáinteach (in Éigse, vol. XVI, part 3, 1976) explaining the developments of the copular forms like seo focal le Diarmuid or seo é an fear. Thought I’d share a summary here, as I understood it. :) Maybe others without access to Éigse would be interested (and also I wanted to have a note here myself).

Classical Gaelic had a set of phrases in the form ag so X, ag sin X, ag súd X meaning roughly ‘here is X, there is X’ or ‘this is X, that is X’ (I described those briefly in my WIP notes on Classical Gaelic grammar).

The X in those phrases could be either in nominative (eg. ag sin bean gheal ‘that is / there is a bright woman’) or in accusative (ag sin mhnáoi ngil). In early modern texts the nominative is much more common, but accusative is certainly older (since synchronically it’s not clear why accusative is used here).

The explanation is that this ag continues Old Irish (unattested) *aicc ‘see’ (the imperative of ad·cí ‘sees’) – doublet of classical faic (and modern feic) without the added f-; the phrase must have been something like *aicc síu, *aicc sin ‘see here, see there’ in Old Irish, so the X originally was a direct object of a verb. At some point the literal meaning ‘see’ was removed from the phrase and the verbal stress got weaker, the phrases started to be written with ag, like the preposition (but there are 14th century examples with aig and even an example with ic-seo in the Bk. of Magauran). Both meanings existed in Middle Irish, ‘see, behold, here is’ in ac-so uan Dé translating Latin ecce agnus Dei and ‘this is’ visible in ac-so mo mac dil féin… translating hic est filius meus dilectus… in the Passions and Homilies of An Leabhar Breac.

Then, in the second half of the 16th century the ag part started to be dropped, and it seems leaving ag out was the norm in spoken 17th c. Irish (even though ag so, ag seo, etc. were still written in literary works well into the 18th, even 19th c.). Breatnach suggests it’s then that the construction was fully identified with the copula in meaning: the copular sentence of identification like as é so sgiúrsa as géire do léig Dia chugainn ‘this is the harshest scourge that God let upon us’ and so an sgiúrsa do bhagair Dia ag Esaias ‘this is the scourge that God threatened through Isaiah(?)’ in Scáthán Shacramuinte na hAithridhe – one with full copula expressed (as é so…), the other with copula omitted (so…) – led to identification of the second form with the ag so… expression. This led to classification sentences like seo madra ‘this is a dog’ (from ag seo madra) even though no such copular form as *is é seo madra exists¹ (and the VPS order, (is) madra (é) seo, is required) and generally one doesn’t say things like *capall ainmhí for ‘a horse is an animal’ (though Breatnach notes the similarity to nominal clauses like tosach maith leath na hoibre and bean ar meisce bean in aisce with the predicate and the subject in the “wrong” order, I’d add tír gan teanga tír gan anam to the list).

Then, during 18th–19th century, other forms of the copula started to be added to the (ag-less) phrase: rádhais … gurab súd an bhean; gurab sin an tslí. Also grammars of the time tried to explain the construction as elision of the copula. Peadar Ua Laoghaire in his early texts wrote things like is seo focal le Diarmuid showing this kind of reanalysis of those phrases as containing the copula.

And at that time – by analogy with copular forms with the pronouns: ’sé, ’sí, ’siad – these seo, sin, siúd were reinterpreted as ’s eo, ’s in, ’s iúd – ie. the copula + elements eo, in, iúd – which led to the substitution of the initial /ʃ/ by other copular forms, like b’in í an cheist; nach eo é do mhac? in Munster and Connacht (while in Ulster generally the copula is just added to seo, sin, siúd: ba seo…, ba sin…).

Another article, Some Notes on the Demonstrative-Initial Construction by William J. Mahon (1984) in Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, vol. 4, follows modern (after the loss of ag) developments and gives many more examples of 19th and 20th century usage, including some examples of seo/sin é in classification clauses before an indefinite predicate (sin é casíno mór) – Mahon also gives sin é cleas bhiodh aguinn ’nár ndúthaig, but IMO that’s definite by the virtue of being defined with a relative clause, so I’d say he made a mistake describing it as indefinite.

The article also shows the resistance in Ulster to segment the demonstrative as copula ’s + eo, in and to treat it as copular identification clauses (eg. shows ’sea as a response in “Seo an áit a bhfuil tusa?” ar sise leis. “Sea,” ar seisean in Donegal – explained as agreeing with the whole proposition, instead of the ‘expected’ ’s é mirroring the perceived copula).

Mahon also shows early 19th c. Munster and Connacht identification examples without the pronoun: Siud na diabhail (…); Sin an uair. So an lá.; Nach so an focal (…), etc. Showing that the use of the pronoun before definite (but rarely indefinite too) predicates is a 19th century development.



¹ at least in Ireland, I believe in Scottish Gaelic the reanalysis went a bit further and is e seo cù does exist in Sc. Gaelic


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PostPosted: Mon 10 Oct 2022 5:26 pm 
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Thank you, very interesting.

1) I think you could argue (as I think I did in an article in Éigse on Ó Nualláin) that Irish prefers demonstrative pronouns to be in the predicate. So it doesn't really matter if the equivalent English phrase has the demonstrative in the subject.

This is why in his 1902 An Soísgéal as Leabhar an Aifrinn, Ua Laoghaire has isé seo mo chorp-sa (p37). This is also the traditional translation of that passage from the Last Supper. Uilliam Ó Domhnuill's New Testament - AD 1602 - has a sé so mo chorpsa in Matthew 26:26.

However, in his Studies in Modern Irish: Part 1, Ó Nualláin claimed that this phraseology was incorrect and the only correct form was Is é mo chorp é seo (pp 38-39).

I think Ua Laoghaire's original was right in 1902, because Irish prefers the demonstrative pronouns to be in the predicate. I say prefers, because I think you could alter the normal word order for effect...

2) Nách eo.... I can't remember if I have ever seen this in Muskerry literature. If so, very rarely. I have come across b'in alright, but the "eo" forms are much rarer. How would you pronounce this? /nɑ:x o/ or /nɑ:x jo/?


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PostPosted: Mon 10 Oct 2022 7:01 pm 
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I think it’s true with the preference for demonstratives (and pronouns in general?) to be in the predicate position in identification clauses, but this explanation doesn’t work for classification like in seo madra. I do wonder, though, where this preference comes from, but it apparently was already the case in Old Irish – while to say ‘I am a man’ you’d use amm fer with the conjugated copula, to express ‘I am the king’ with a definite noun you needed is messe in rí ‘the king, it’s me’, or ‘he is me, the king’ or ‘the king is me’ (acc. to Greene), similarly Stifter has is tussu in druí and is sib-si in druid for ‘thou art the druid, ye are the druids’ in his Sengoídelc, but the only actual OIr. example I could find is is tú mo ruiri ‘thou art my great king’ from Félire Óengusso.

As for nach eo – that seems to be used in Connacht, Mahon’s example Nach eo é do mhac? is taken from The Irish of Erris where it’s transcribed as /Nax əu eː də wãk/, the form nach eo is also listed in German version of GnaG.

I’ve no idea if this “short form” is ever used in Munster… Mahon lists some 19th century examples with nach so…, and then in identification there’s the Munster sid é form (sid é…, b’id é…), but I don’t think I’ve ever seen *nách id é, so I don’t know.


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PostPosted: Mon 10 Oct 2022 7:45 pm 
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In the article referred to, I said:
Quote:
O’Nolan’s views on the matter reflected those of Ua Laoghaire in a letter the latter sent to O’Nolan dated September 1st 1913:
Ní cuimhin liom cé’cu dheineamair, nú nár dheineamair, aon chaint i dtaobh na bhfocal—‘Hoc est enim Corpus Meum’. D’fhéadfí an rádh do chur i nGaoluinn i n-a lán slighte—féach:—
1. Is é seo Mo Chorp-sa (.i. ní hé siúd é. Ní hé corp an duine eile é).
2. Is é seo Mo Chorp (.i. ní hé mo cheann é).
3. Is é Mo Chorp é seo (.i. ní harán é).
4. Mo Chorp é seo (.i. ní haon rud eile é).
Ní thaithneann 1. ná 2. liom i n-aon chor. Is é 4. an ceann is fearr liom, ach b’fhéidir nár mhaith le cách gan an copula bheith le feiscint ann. Bíodh do rogha agat-sa dá 3. nú dá 4. [Beatha Dhuine a Thoil, p143.]

Despite the fact that Ua Laoghaire used the traditional word order in 1902, he may have been inclined by O'Nolan's views on the copula later on, and seemed to have changed his view in this letter.


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PostPosted: Wed 12 Oct 2022 8:53 pm 
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silmeth wrote:

As for nach eo – that seems to be used in Connacht, Mahon’s example Nach eo é do mhac? is taken from The Irish of Erris where it’s transcribed as /Nax əu eː də wãk/, the form nach eo is also listed in German version of GnaG


There’s nach ’eo in Learning Irish:
Nach 'eo é an bord? – Is this (thing) here not the table?

There’s nach sheod (silent sh) in The Irish of Iorras Aithneach:
Nach sheod ceathrú lon dubh ... agus nach sheod ... billeog eibheann ...
agus nach sheod barr crann caorthann ... ?


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PostPosted: Mon 13 Mar 2023 4:15 am 
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Is the following helpful or related in any way?

Tomás de Bhaldraithe in "Gaeilge Cois Fhairrge" gives the form "eod" as a demonstative pronoun (forainm taispeánach).

pp. 95-96, Section 202. Examples . . . ab eod é an cáca? ɘb' od e:ŋ kɑ:kɘ

p. 162, Section 349. od eod is ionann agus seosin

p. 163, Section 353. Usáitear eobh, eod, in, iúd, éard i ndiaidh foirmeacha den chopail (ach amháin is), e.g. . . . ab eod é an cáca? ɘb' od e:ŋ kɑ:kɘ


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PostPosted: Sun 25 Jun 2023 1:39 pm 
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The only similar thing I've heard is Nach shid in Kerry.

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PostPosted: Sun 25 Jun 2023 4:07 pm 
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An Lon Dubh wrote:
The only similar thing I've heard is Nach shid in Kerry.

Yes, Ua Laoghaire and Ó Loingsigh had sidé (written at times as one word). But in Ó Dónaill's dictionary this is written "siod". Maybe there was variance between sidé with a slender d and siod é with a broad d.


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PostPosted: Sun 25 Jun 2023 8:59 pm 
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Sidé is very rare now. The only person I ever heard use it had a slender d.

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PostPosted: Sun 25 Jun 2023 9:46 pm 
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Thank you. Interesting.


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