1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Scottish Gaelic
  4. >
  5. "Who are you, teacher?"

"Who are you, teacher?"

Translation:Cò sibhse, a thidseir?

November 30, 2019



Why is the -se added to sibh in this context?


According to wikitionary, it's an emphatic form of "you". I still don't really understand what it means though?



It's a funny one if you're not used to it.

Think of it like - sibh is you, whereas sibhse is you specifically. You would use the emphatic form if you wanted to avoid any ambiguity. In English, you would achieve it through emphasising the word while speaking.

'Tha bròg agam agus tha càr aige' > 'I have a shoe and he has a car'

That sentence is very matter-of-fact. You wouldn't really say that in Gaelic because it sounds a bit funny. You are just describing the situation.

'Tha bròg agamsa agus tha càr aigesan' > 'I have a shoe and he has a car'

That sentence sounds significantly more natural. You are making it clear that you yourself have a shoe and he himself has a car.


Unless some of the Beurla has crept over Gaelic doesn't use tone emphasis for this sort of thing, the way that English does (like Joanne has done with the italics, in english/Beurla and many languages you put a stress on that word to emphasise it). Gaelic just puts the sa/se/etc.


Tapadh liebh!


I think it's "tapadh leibh" if it is to a superior or someone you respect or multiple people, "tapadh leat" is for an equal, just for reference. :)


And if that sounds really odd--a shoe and a car-- I just remembered those are among the little metal game tokens for the board game Monopoly (referenced also by maskedmallard537). In Monopoly, it makes sense that one person has a shoe, and another person has a car...


I believe these particles are used in three situations:

For emphasis, where you use tone in English or where there is a contrast.

Automatically, in sentences like this one where it clearly refers to you specifically - i.e. it is not really optional here

For disambiguation

A làmh-se 'her hand'
A làmh-san 'his hand'


Would "cò thuse" be acceptable here as well?


It would be cò thusa, but yes, it should accept that too. :)


Though if it were a student speaking they should stick to sibhse because thusa is too informal.


Not to one’s teacher, no. To a friend or neighbor, sure.


Why do we need the "a" in front of teacher?


With father is not necessary to use the a before athair?


The a is dropped when the word starts with a vowel.


For any Irish speakers, note the difference. Don't think you were getting your Irish wrong all this time.


Are all or most of you living in Scotland? I'm in Australia, there's a decent Gaidhlig speaking group in Melbourne but I'm not on their level quite yet.


There's nowhere to get the statistics from. Sometimes you can tell from the comments, especially relating to which English form is correct. It's mostly Americans arguing with English arguing with Scots arguing with Gaels. So you can either keep out or join in the fun and say what would be correct in Australian English.

But apart from that we don't know. Each of us knows where her/himself comes from but that's it.

Having said that I suspect most of the people who know enough Gaelic to answer the questions about Gaelic (as opposed to the questions about English) are Scottish but not all of us stay in Scotland (translation from Scots to English: live). I am actually from what they call 'Down South' (i.e. England) and I don't know if there are any other non-Scots on here who speak Gaelic reasonably well.


I’m not anywhere close to fluent, but my best friend and former Gaelic tutor used to be fairly fluent (a long story, and ancient history, but that’s how we met back in 1981– I was trying to find someone to give me Gaelic lessons in Denver).

She is from Colorado, but took courses in the late 70s at the Gaelic College in Nova Scotia, and then spent a year in Skye working at the woollen mill near Eilean Iarmain, Muilleann Beag a’ Chrotail, run by Iain Noble, who hired only Gaelic speaking workers.


I am from America. There aren't many Gaelic speakers here, but I have had a love for Scotland for quite a while. I have a friend who is from Scotland and he knows a bit of Gaelic (his grandmother speaks it fluently). Hearing the language spoken peaked my interest and I decided I wanted to try to learn it for myself.


Hi Neighbour, I'm from good old New Zealand. I haven't checked to see if there are other Gaelic speakers here or not but it's definitely cool that they have one in Melbourne!


Tha mi a' fuireach ann an Astràlia an Iar, ann am Peairt. Unfortunately the biggest champion for Gaelic studies here got sick about a year ago and died at the end of last year.


I thought sibhse was plural... Shouldn't this be sibh?


Sibh is plural or polite. Sibhse is the emphatic form.


What is the difference between 'thidsear' and 'thidseir'? I think this is the first time I'm seeing 'thidseir'...?


This is something where several examples are in the questions although they do not explain it in the notes.

Very briefly (which is enough at this stage), these words in the vocative (the form of the word when you address someone as here) change the last vowel to an i or a diphthong ending in an i but only for masculine singular nouns and names. The details are more complicated and they have clearly decided not to go into detail until later, so just accept them when you see them for the moment.


Tapadh leat. The explanations help. Since I'm a beginner, I see learning Gàidhlig now like a child learns to read, ie: "See Spot. See Spot run. See Spot run and jump." As I advance, then questions arise like, agus pronounced with a 'y' consonant is only for females to say while the hard 'g' sound in agus is only pronounced by males?


No, the pronunciation is unrelated to the sex of the speaker. It's just a regional variation.


My father's family started in Aberdeen, then ended up in Stirling. Might you know whether the hard 'g' or soft 'y' sound in agus would have been spoken by my family? Also, my mother's side is Welsh and Irish. Do you think Welsh or Irish Gaelic would be best to learn? In your opinion...


I am trying to reply to DaibhidhR who says he knows that Gaelic has not been spoken in Aberdeen for centuries. I live in Aberdeen and can assure you there is a strong Gaelic community here with a Gaelic medium school, Gaelic preschool groups, feìs, adult language classes, Gàidhlig Club Obar Deathain, choirs and probably other that I don’t know about!


I'm sorry, I don't live there, so I wouldn't know. And the second question is something only you can answer, I think. Which language is more useful to you?


The 'y' in agus is pretty rare, and I am pretty certain it is not found in any mainland dialect.

I have never bided in Aberdeen (note the verb used there for where you live) but I know they have not spoken Gaelic there for centuries - and it may never have been common. How far you would have had to have gone into the countryside to hear Gaelic is not known. The local language/dialect is Doric and they are very proud of it. Many centuries ago - no one agrees how many, perhaps 8-12, they would have spoken Brythonic/British, of which modern Welsh is a localised remnant. You only have to do a little bit of the Welsh Duolingo to meet loads of placenames that start Aber, 'mouth of a river', equivalent to inver in names of Gaelic origin. Certainly the modern Aberdonians do not feel that Gaelic is part of their own heritage.

As for Stirling, I do stay near there (note the verb used there for where you live) and I don't think any Gaelic has been spoken in the city/town for at least 200 years. However, you probably had to go only 5 miles NW into the countryside to hear Gaelic in the early 20th century. So many people dropped Gaelic when they learnt English at primary school, and they were taught to be so ashamed of the Gaelic that there are probably people still just alive in Stirlingshire whose first language was Gaelic, even though they have not spoken it for 90 years. This makes it virtually impossible to find them, so the numbers are unknown. But your ancestors - if you go back far enough in Aberdeen, would have spoken something closer to Welsh than to Gaelic.

As for Welsh or Irish, they are both fine languages, but they are not both fine course. The Irish is full of faults, and complaints that are five years old that have not been answered. This means that, particularly for you, you will find the complete lack of anyone prepared to explain the differences between Irish and Gaelic really annoying. In fact some features of Ulster Irish are much more like Gaelic, but they do not explain that so you are left thinking Irish is weirdly different, when in fact it is only the particular dialect they are teaching.

On the other hand, Welsh is well supported, including a lot of work on the different words used in British and American English (which I find interesting, even if you ignore the Welsh). For this reason, I would wholeheartedly recommend the Welsh course. It is not perfect - the way they try to teach all dialects together is really confusing, especially as Welsh shares that property with English that the rules are fairly basic, but it is where you don't follow the rules that is confusing. I just gave up on the Irish course because it was so frustrating. D


Lol Excellent question. Thank you for your time and candor. Happy New Year!


Lesley335616: it is weird when they sometimes allow you to reply a post and sometimes they don't.

Yes. I meant before the modern revival in interest in Gaelic. I worked in Peterhead for a while, and I was pleasantly surprised by the positive attitude to Gaelic. I think many people are now treating Gaelic as part of the heritage of Scotland as a whole, rather than the 'Gaelic wasn't spoken here' attitude that was more prevalent even twenty years ago when I first arrived in Scotland.

I am really please to hear that Gaelic is strong there. As far as I know they have no local dialect to teach so they will be teaching standard southern/mainland Gaelic, with none of the features associated with any of the islands.


DaibhidhR is right, the phrase “Gaelic was never spoken here” isn’t often accurate! I take his point about the variety of Gaelic being taught in Aberdeen today.

But as for whether there was an Aberdeen dialect...research by the University of Aberdeen (where Gaelic has been taught since the 18th C) shows there was a distinct North-East dialect used well into the 20th C. (One example of difference given was the “ach” prefix in place-names had a hard “ack” sound locally.). So it would be interesting to to know, as LynneAnnSe asks, whether the hard g or soft y appeared in agus.

There were pockets of speakers using Aberdeenshire Gaelic as their everyday language as late as the 1950s and the last speaker of Aberdeenshire Gaelic was Mrs Jean Bain, who died at Braemar in 1984.

If anyone hasn’t seen it, a programme covering Gaelic in Aberdeen/shire is available on iplayer “Gàidhlig Obar Dheathain/Aberdeen, Gaelic and the Gaels.”


Lesley335616: I will check out the video you mention and I am pleased to hear that Aberdeen University has done work on the local dialect. However, as I have already pointed out, there can be an enormous difference between town and country, even over a few miles. Hence, whilst there was certainly an Aberdeenshire dialect, this is not the same as an Aberdeen dialect. We would need to know if the OP's ancestors were from the city or if they were farmers. Loss of Gaelic in Stirlingshire was well over 100 years later than in the town/city of Stirling. This is quite clear if you look at house and farm names. There is no sign of Gaelic in Stirling, but loads only a couple of miles away. I was in Banchory last year (population 7,500, 18 miles W of Aberdeen) and I was quite amazed how many house names were Gaelic, but that 18 miles, and the population ratio of about 25 is a whole world in linguistic terms.

As for the pronunciation of agus, I have already said that the y is a rare island variant, and Aberdeen isn't just on the mainland - it is about as far from a Gaelic speaking island as it is possible to get in Scotland. Apparently, the speaker with this pronunciation comes from Benbecula which is 280 miles from Aberdeen by road/boat - see this map.

There is a very fine resource, called the Scottish Gaelic Dialects Survey, done in the 1950s, and it even has a record of Braemar pronunciation. However, there are a few faults in the choice of sample words, and one of those faults is not having words that are so common that they are totally irregular. So I am not clear how we could actually find out where this pronunciation is/was used. All I can say is that I have never heard it. D


How is agus pronounced in the Aberdeen and Stirling areas of Scotland. I heard once that the further north one goes in Scotland the consonants harsher (more guttural?) spoken. With the various people saying words for us to learn, I hear slight differences in pronouncing those words that are spelled the same (because the meaning is the same). How does one know which pronunciation is best?


Cannot apply accents on this unit, so I can not answer this question correctly. And others similar with accents.


Cannot apply accents to these words


Actually, yes, you can. There are three ways— no, I’m wrong, four:

1) On a tablet, phone, or iPad— touch-and-hold on the letter that you want, and all the various accented ones will appear so you can select one;

2) if you’re using Duolingo in the browser, the text-entry field has the accented letters already there underneath so you just click on the one you want;

3) On a Windows laptop or desktop, you can use “Alt codes” to generate letters not on the standard keyboard. There are lists online of the Alt+xxxx codes for different letters and symbols; make a note of the ones you need for Gaelic (I memorized the German Alt codes years ago because I use it so much, but I haven’t memorized the Gaelic ones yet), and then just hold the Alt key while typing the four numbers, (such as Alt+0233, for example).

4) Almost forgot this, but You can also install a supplementary keyboard for various languages. I don’t know if there is a specific one for Gaelic, but French ones have the same vowels with the grave accents.


In general the extended keyboard for windows will work and there's an equivalent for macs. Though they have different keystrokes which makes it difficult for me when switching.


Yes, if you are using a British keyboard, the extended layout is much better than the Gaelic or the Welsh as it contains all the letters you need for all the UK languages and some other useful things as well. For an American keyboard, the US International layout has even more useful things than the UK extended.


This is what I did. Easy peasy.


Oh, yeah— I keep forgetting that the extended keyboards even exist.


It would be nice if, after submitting an answer you could click on the words to hear the pronunciation again please - often once is not enough.


I am merely a beginner, and I never know when to add an "a" as in "a theidsir" above, or following "Tapadh leibh " Help!


Fàilte! This is known as the 'vocative' case, and is used when you are speaking to someone, rather than about someone. When you thank someone you're usually talking to them so the vocative applies. https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/35348994/The-Scottish-Gaelic-course-just-got-its-first-two-tips-and-notes-D has some information on how it works, but in general if the person you are talking to (their title or name) starts with a lenitable consonant, then it lenites, if it is a male person then the word also 'slenderises' which usually means an 'i' gets stuck in just before the end or replaces the last vowel. If the word now does not start with a vowel sound the 'a' gets put in before it as well. So here, 'tidsear' becomes 'a thidseir' You will also come across (if you have not already) a bhalaich when talking to a boy, from balach - boy


Would "Co sibh, thidseir? " be wrong?


Leaving out the -se is possible but not usual. We cannot complain if they do not accept it.

Leaving out the a is not an option and will be marked wrong.


Thank you DaibhidhR. As soon as I posted I realised I forgot the 'a' ! I imagine the 'sibhse' and the 'thusa' is roughly equivalent to 'you, yourself' or similar. (It might not work in the USA, but I'm a Scot and I could see it.)


It's a really good point you make. Although it used to be argued that invaders such as the Norse got rid of the natives, this is increasingly being rejected. Now many people assume that whilst we might have been ruled by various people, most of us can trace our ancestry back to people who spoke either Gaelic or something like Welsh. Either way, there are a lot of Celtic features in Scottish English, just like in Irish English and Welsh English. When they could not be transferred precisely, some equivalent was found, such as yourself for sibhse. Of course there have been different effects at different times, so you will find some things in traditional Scots, some things in the Scots of Glasgow that was heavily influenced by Gaelic immigration in the 19th century, and yet more things in Highland English.


Yes! Like 'pòlis' as the word 'police' is pronounced with the accent firmly on the first syllable. This was a Glaswegian thing, no doubt due to Highland immigration. Now it's spreading to the rest of Scotland, due to TV etc.


Except that we do not know who was the first to say pòlis. It looks like somebody pronounced it the way it is written. After all, we do not put the stress on the second syllable of palace, and it has obvious similarity with policy. But who did this first, and if anyone copied anyone, are not clear. I do accept that the Gaelic love of putting the stress on the first syllable may have helped.

And as of 2017, poileas cars are now marked in Gaelic as well as English. That will give a further boost to the change in pronunciation.

Helicopter inscribed 'Poileas Alba'
(The Herald 20/10/2015)

Learn Scottish Gaelic in just 5 minutes a day. For free.