https://www.duolingo.com/KellyManni3

Genitive case in Irish

I'm panicking slightly about this case. So far I've been able to construct new sentences from words I've been introduced to during the course using some basic rules that people here have patiently explained to me. I think I understand what genitive means, but I am completely lost when applying it. Not with the words we've been given here - I have a fairly good memory and I can do it with those words. But that list of declensions (WUT?) in tips and notes and masculine and feminine nouns etc. It's explained simplest on duolingo and I still don't get it. I can't apply it to a single new word I meet outside of duolingo. Should I focus more on trying to figure out if a word is masculine or feminine, or is the declensions thing better to know?

10 months ago

17 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/patbo
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Instead of guessing the declension (e.g. with the rule of thumb explained at http://nualeargais.ie/foghlaim/nouns.php?teanga=) and then remembering which declension forms the genitive which way, you can often take a shortcut and just work by analogy. The categories of endings you want to consider are the same as in guessing the declension (because that's what you're doing implicitly), but it doesn't really matter whether it's called the first, third or fourth declension as long as you copy the right pattern.

So, for example, if you don't know the genitive form of adhmad, but you know that the genitive of airgead (which also ends in a broad d) is airgid, i.e. the final consonant is made slender, you can guess the genitive form adhmaid (which isn't a form I really knew, but teanglann.ie confirms the guess as right). Or you know that the genitive of Éireannach is Éireannaigh, so you can infer that the genitive of bacach is bacaigh.

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KellyManni3

I think I understand what you're saying. Kind of like what I've been doing with verbs; I haven't learned the tables given in the notes section, just gotten familiar with what some endings look like then applying it to new words with those endings. Is that right? I'm still stumbling through the genitives section so not really able to really see what you mean unless that is right.

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SatharnPHL
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That's basically it. As you become more familiar with the language, certain patterns just begin to "feel right". In the case of verbs, you don't need to memorize the full conjugation of every regular new verb you learn. You don't even have to consciously think "is this a first conjugation verb or a second conjugation verb?", once you learn a new root, the conjugation will just be obvious.

Deliberately memorizing organized tables of information helps some people to lay down a foundation for this type of learning, but not everyone learns the same way, and other people find that hearing and seeing these patterns in use makes them stick.

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KellyManni3

Yes, it seems I'm the second type. It was working OK until I got to the genitive, but I'll continue with it and hope the patterns stick with more practice. I can't express how much encouragement I've had from people in the forum though, I never expected that. I would definitely be struggling more without it.

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/GaztonsofU
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Éireannaigh is plural, Éireannaí is genitive

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SatharnPHL
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In practical terms, if you're hoping to be able to have a basic conversation in Irish, you'll probably want to learn the tuiseal ginideach of words as you encounter them.

A basic familiarity with the declensions will help you spot various patterns as you get more advanced, but until you have quite a bit of experience, you won't be able to apply that sort of analysis quickly enough for practical conversation.

For written exercises, such as helping your kids with their homework, recognizing when the TG is required is the most important skill to develop, because you can always look up the correct form when you are writing Irish, once you know that is needed, but being able to derive the TG isn't a useful skill if you don't know when to apply it. When you are reading Irish, if you can spot that ar nós na gaoithe is a TG construction, you will know that you won't find gaoithe in your paper dictionary, and that will also help you to remember that gaoth is a feminine noun.

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KellyManni3

Hmm.. I will definitely be doing more written stuff with the kids, though we do practice speaking at the dinner table. My neighbours speak Irish, but only when they are kind enough to let me practice and not laugh at my pronunciation! I think I might be able to recognise when it's required, especially with more practice. I couldn't understand in the beginning why I couldn't find most of the words I look up in the dictionary. I will focus on being able to recognise the genitive, masculine and feminine at least and hope it sinks in. Thank you :)

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SatharnPHL
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Using the online version of Ó Dónaill's Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla at teanglann.ie on my phone is usually as quick as trying to use a paper dictionary, and it will usually point me to the root word if I enter a genitive or plural form, or even an eclipsed or lenited form of a word. I'm sure you've already figured out how to look up eclipsed and lenited words, or even figured out what the root form of a verb will probably be if you just encounter the present or paste tense, but sometimes it's not immediately obvious what the right term is if you're relying on a paper dictionary.

If you're still trying even after your neighbours laughed at you, it doesn't sound like they were trying to discourage you! (Memories of the fun we had getting our cousins from London to say focal ar bith).

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KellyManni3

Ahh, no they haven't laughed at me - just grinned at my attempts, but they've been very encouraging and like that I'm learning. They're the best neighbours I've ever had, I love it here. All in good fun, as you say :) I have got better at looking up words in FGB, once I understood words can change so much from their roots.

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/scilling
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There’s no need to panic, even slightly. Like many Indo-European languages, Irish nouns have genitive cases. English personal pronouns still have genitive cases; since you know the difference between “I” and “mine”, “we” and “ours”, etc., you already understand the genitive case. (Ironically, Irish personal pronouns don’t have a genitive case.) English nouns no longer have a distinct genitive form; they either use “of” before a noun, append «’s» to a noun that doesn’t end with “s”, or append «’» to a noun that ends with “s”, to express the genitive. For example, in the phrase “son of a gun”, “gun” is genitive; in “the song’s bridge”, “song’s” is genitive; and in “Lois’ friend”, «Lois’» is genitive. These genitive forms answer “what kind of/whose noun is it?” — what kind of/whose son, bridge, friend it is. There is an analogous choice with Irish nouns; they can either use de before a noun, or use a noun’s genitive form to express what kind of/whose noun it is, e.g. ball de roth (“part of a wheel”), bia cait (“cat food”, literally “food of-a-cat”, using the genitive singular form of cat ), teach Shinéide (“Sinéad’s house”). The genitive form is used more frequently in Irish than the de construction, and in some circumstances the de construction can’t be used, which is why it’s important to learn the genitive forms.

There are three relevant pieces of information about a noun; the noun itself, its genitive singular form, and its declension class. The first two facts need to be known to determine the third one, which is why just learning a new noun by itself is not enough information to know what its genitive singular form is; that’s because nouns from different declension classes take different genitive singular forms. The first two declension classes will reveal the noun’s gender; about half of all Irish nouns are either first declension or second declension. A dictionary such as the Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla (abbreviated as FGB in the discussions here) can be used to find a noun’s genitive singular form.

Irish adjectives that end with a consonant (about 80% of all Irish adjectives) are also declined when used attributively, and they are declined differently in the masculine genitive singular and the feminine genitive singular. Thus, one way to show whether a noun is masculine or feminine is to use it in its genitive singular form with an attributive adjective; for example, the adjective fuar (“cold”) will take the attributive form fhuair for a masculine genitive singular noun and the attributive form fuaire for a feminine genitive singular noun. Memorizing gaoithe fuaire (“of a cold wind”) for gaoth will show that gaoth is feminine, and memorizing lae fhuair (“of a cold day”) for will show that is masculine, because of the forms of fuar that they take; the masculine form is lenited, and the feminine form isn’t. The feminine form is used for regular comparatives and superlatives, e.g. níos fuaire (“colder”), is fuaire (“coldest”), whether the noun is feminine or masculine, genitive or non-genitive. The Grammar Database at teanglann.ie can be used to find the genitive singular forms of Irish adjectives, if you wish to use this method for remembering a noun’s gender.

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KellyManni3

That grammar wizard looks like it'll be handy! Your last paragraph seems like the easiest way for me to learn it. I'm ok with simple rules, but those declensions make my soul shudder. I can only take a couple of grammatical terms at a time, my brain slowing to a stutter over each. With several in one declension and five declensions total, they may as well be written in Irish! Your explanation of the genitive reinforced what I thought of it too, so I just need to be able to recognise when to use it and when I read it. Hopefully practice and exposure will get me there. Thank you so much!

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/scilling
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There are four main situations when the genitive is used:

  • to qualify another noun, like an adjective does (e.g. bia cait above);
  • for the object of a progressive-type verbal noun (e.g. Táim ag glanadh na bróige sin, “I’m cleaning that shoe”);
  • after “quantity” words (e.g. beagán airgid, “a little money”);
  • after certain one-word prepositions and all multi-word prepositions (e.g. timpeall an tí, “around the house”; ar fud na tíre, “throughout the country”).

Practice and exposure will surely get all of us there.

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KellyManni3

I'll just be writing that down now... Thanks again :)

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AnLonDubhBeag

First of all, the genitive is actually dying out in several dialects. Even in Munster where it is strongest, young native speakers often don't use the genitive plural.

Secondly the declensions are basically just this:

  1. Slenderise the end (most masculine nouns)
  2. Slenderise and add e (most feminine nouns)
  3. Broaden and add a (words ending in -eoir mostly, like jobs)
  4. Do nothing (words ending in vowels or -ín)
  5. Add a consonant (either -d,-nn or -ach)

There are also irregular nouns.

I wouldn't bother with the fifth until you know the language quite well. There's a few words where it comes up that you'll probably learn from exposure. The third is a little more complicated than I've said here, if you want to know more just say so. If you don't know what to slenderise means, also let me know.

Examples of 1 - 5:

  1. Leabhar - Leabhair
  2. Fuinneog - Fuinneoige
  3. Feirmeoir - Feirmeora
  4. Hata - Hata, Cailín - Cailín
  5. Fiche - Fichead

So really the difficult ones are 1. and 2., since you have to know if a word is masculine or feminine. Let me know if you know how to do this.

As for when to use it, it's always for possession, i.e. 's in English. It's just that Irish uses possession in places English doesn't.

timpeall an tí - although this is usually translated as "around the house" it literally means "the house's circuit", so it is using the genitive.

In brief the main places it is used are:

  1. Plain possession, The house's door = Doras an tí

  2. The -ing form in English. I am hitting the door = Táim ag bualadh an dorais This is because in Irish you're actually saying "I'm at the door's hitting"

  3. Turning a noun into an adjective. Cat Food = Bia Cait , This is because Irish is basically always doing something like the English "A Man's Hat", so it says "Cat's Foot".

  4. After certain measure words like "Roinnt", "Cuid"

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SatharnPHL
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As for when to use it, it's always for possession, i.e. 's in English. It's just that Irish uses possession in places English doesn't.

It's worth pointing out that it's not just 's - "of" is also a genitive marker in English. While phrases like "the middle of the field" can be recast as "the field's middle" (lár na páirce), and you could say "the page's top" instead of "the top of the page" (barr an leathanaigh), phrases like Mí na Samhna can't really be interpreted as "November's Month", but "the Month of November" is the natural translation of a phrase that requires the genitive.

The names of the months and the days also offer a useful collection of words that demonstrate the sort of patterns for genitive endings that AnLonDubhBeag describes.

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AnLonDubhBeag

Mí na Samhna actually means "The Harvest Festival's Month".

Although I'm more saying for what Samhain means, of course a more natural translation in English might use "of".

Month of the Harvest Festival, being fine as well, whichever is more natural English.

10 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KellyManni3

Thank you for your reply - I find grammatical terms and their definitions really difficult to understand for some reason, so seeing it written out in another way is very useful. Especially such a short list that's free of long words! :D I'll be adding it to my notes, so thanks again.

10 months ago
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