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  5. "A bheil an t-uisge ann?"

"A bheil an t-uisge ann?"

Translation:Is it raining?

December 10, 2019



Why is it 'an' and not 'i' like the other questions? Thanks


an means 'the'.

i means 'she/her'.


Thanks. I was more interested in understanding why the structure of this is different rather than not knowing what those words mean.

Most of the questions on weather follow the same pattern:

A bheil i dorcha : Is it dark? A bheil i fliuch? : Is is wet? A bheil i sgòthach? : Is it cloudy? etc

My question was why is this one different, why doesn't it use the i or e but uses "an" instead: A bheil an t-uisge ann: Is it raining?


Tha X ann is the usual way to say 'There is X', so this translates 'there is the rain/water'. The word order is 'Is the rain/water there'. ann corresponds to 'there' in this situation where it does not refer to a particular place like here or there, but rather the general existence we see in 'there is'.

So the structure is quite a long way from the English but I hope that makes it a bit clearer.


What's with the t in "an t-uisge?" Is this a consonant mutation like in Welsh?


There is confusion and debate about whether you can call it a mutation when you add a consonant to a word beginning with a vowel as it often happens in the same situation as mutations. But let's not go there now.

The origin of the t- is different. It was part of the article (as if it were *sant uisge in Modern Gaelic). It was just lost in most situations and retained in a few. You will discover what happened to the s later in the course.

Note that we use the hyphen in Gaelic to make it easier to read. If you saw an tuisce in Classical Irish you could easily wonder what *tuisce meant, but it is just the Irish form of an t-uisge. The same happens in Modern Welsh. If you saw ei hafal you might wonder what a *hafal was , whereas it is the equivalent of Gaelic a h-ubhal 'her apple'.

Edit: Thanks to Murt_O_Se for pointing out that what I said about Irish did not apply to modern Irish. I have altered it. They have introduced the hyphen for clarity, except when it is not needed before a capital.


Thanks for that excellent reply! Thank you, that makes sense.

I've got another question I'm afraid, about pronunciation. So, with an t-uisce, it seems like we really do just add a t sound. But what about cases like an t-sneachda - does the t replace the s, do they combine just like ts, or does something more funky happen?

Sorry to ask this hear, but it's a little harder to find this phonological information online for Scottish Gaelic than for Welsh, and you sound like you know what you're talking about


There is a lot of confusion about what goes on here, on both sides of the Irish sea. The short answer is that the s is silent, but we can understand better if we look at the history to see what is actually going on.

The t- is inserted before a vowel when you would not expect lenition, i.e. for a masculine nominative. But the s example is when you would expect lenition, e.g. with a feminine noun, or, as in this case, with a masculine genitive. Let's take a simpler example, without the n: an t-sùil (feminine nominative). Historically this would be sant shùil, so there is definitely no s sound. If you try saying this, you will find the sh /h/ is very difficult to hear so the word can be treated as starting with a vowel - that's why you get the an t-. Once the rule had developed it got applied to words beginning with sn, sl and sr, for no good phonological reason. The spelling without the sh seems to have developed because 'what's the point as it's silent anyway'.

Thanks to silmeth for a link to a great Irish website that explains this and gives the supposed Proto-Irish forms on Gramadach na Gaeilge. The Irish is identical to the Gaelic, except that they do not use hyphens. (Also ignore the bit about eclipsis.)

The further problem in Irish is that this is technically eclipsis - where the letter in front 'hides' the letter behind, like an eclipse of the sun. The problem is that Irish people understand eclipsis to mean 'nasal mutation' and so they think this is an example of that. It isn't.


Once the rule had developed it got applied to words beginning with sn, sl and sr, for no good phonological reason.

Well, none of them are stops and all are sonorants, so even though they are consonants they act a bit like vowels. And so they did in Old Irish with regards to lenition: consonants before n, l, r also did get lenited. Notice that sg, sp, st, etc. are never lenited (eg. mo sgeul my story). And that sr does get lenited while str never does, even though most dialects pronounce them the same: sròn a nose /strɔːn/, mo shròn /mə hrɔːn/ vs stràbh a straw /straːv/, mo stràbh.

As for the entire loss of sh into just t – I think it’s common for /h/ to disappear in Goidelic languages after stops. Also notice that originally the article had voiced d, it was originally *sindos, *sindā, *sindī, *sindom etc., and then in Old Irish it became in before most consonants, but in some contexts ind before vowels and sonorants n, l, r, eg. ind ḟir of the man (modern an fhir), ind lám the hand (modern an làmh).

The historical lenited s after it – sounding as /h/ – devoiced the d into t, hence in OIr. int ṡúil /intuːl’/ the eye (modern an t-sùil) and also int ech the horse (modern an t-each), because nom. masc. sg. article came from *sindos probably through a stage with lenited s: *(s)indoh or sth like that, and then a stage with syncopated weak o: *(s)indh, and then into int (modern an t-).

Even in modern Irish /h/, when devoicing the consonant it follows, often disappears entirely, both of the consonants merging into a voiceless new one. Compare eg. modern Irish scríofa written in pre-standardized Irish more etymologically as scríobhtha showing that the f is a result of devoiced bh /v/ by its following th /h/. Or the Irish future tense ending -faidh is typically pronounced /hə(ɡ’)/ but after voiced consonants it tends to devoice them and the /h/ disappears, eg. pógfaidh mé I will kiss being /poːkə m’eː/ as if written póca mé (but then, it also disappears after voiceless stops: tiocfaidh will come /t’ukə(ɡ’)/). Not sure if there are similar examples of the same phenomenon in modern Sc. Gaelic, though.


EDIT: btw I take it that e.g. /g'/ means palatised, not ejective?

Thank you for this detailed reply, it's fascinating AND helpful. I love Duolingo courses, but I really think learning at least a little about a languages history (like this) can help show logic that isn't obvious otherwise.


Thank you for the really interesting detail.

As far as the d/t in the article was concerned, I tried to keep it simple, partly because I didn't want to overcomplicate and partly because I did not know the details about OI, even though I was aware that the d had part-changed into t by then.

As for what stops s from leniting, my point was that vowel-like consonants tend not to lenite and tend not to stop s from leniting, so where is the boundary of 'vowel-like'? It is not surprising that if l and r are on the vowel side by one criterion, they are on the same side by the other criterion. I have found many learners struggle with the list of which stop the lenition, but there is no need to learn a separate list. It is simply those that do not lenite themselves that do not stop s from leniting. Not only does this remove a confusing list from your learning list but it is especially helpful when you learn Irish, meet the word sfèar 'sphere', and think 'I have no idea if sf lenites because they did not cover that on the Gaelic course. But you can use this rule, observe that f lenites and deduce that sf does not lenite.


EDIT: btw I take it that e.g. /g'/ means palatised, not ejective?

Yes. :) It’s a common convention to use an apostrophe or a prime to mark palatalized consonants in phonological transcription of Goidelic languages – or slender consonants as they are called in the context of Goidelic.

Technically they aren’t necessarily always exactly palatalized versions of their broad counterparts, but might be other similar consonants. Eg. depending on the language and dialect /t’/ might mean anything between [tʲ] (in south Ireland) to [t͜ʃ] (in the north and in Scotland), /ɡ’/ is somewhere between [ɡʲ] and [ɟ], and although most often you’ll just see /ʃ/, some people write /s’/ and it always means [ʃ] as that’s the sound of the slender s in all the languages (Irish, Manx, Sc. Gaelic) and has been so for a long time (perhaps already in Old Irish).


It is a very useful convention to be able to indicate a slenderized consonant without being specific. As you demonstrate with you Gaelic examples, slender consonants are much more variable than broad ones and this applies across languages as well. Compare Italian cielo with French ciel. Or see how slender d and t show the same range in Brazilian Portuguese as in Gaelic. Or slender s in English mission is as in Gaelic. The list goes on, but the concept of the 'slender form of a consonant' without being specific about realization is very useful. You will notice I do not use the word 'palatalized' as I agree with you that many of these realizations are not palatalizations as such.


Right. So, let me see if I get this straight: the eclipsis in an t-sneachda means the s isn't pronounced but the t is. Originally this developed from an t-sh examples, as sh /h/ is bloody hard to hear after the nasal in an. There, it spread to words with initial sn, sr, sl; there was no phonological motivation, but it happened (probably some kind of regularisation change as the language developed?).

EDIT: oh, and an t-sùil would be historically/phonologically an t-shùil, but since the sh /h/ would be silent, why not just keep the non-mutated version of the word after the t- since, be it spelt s or sh, it's not pronounced now.


Yes. That is correct. But note where you use the word 'would'. I am not saying this is how it was exactly, because this happened in Old Irish. I have changed the spelling to what it would be in Modern Gaelic to make it comprehensible (and because I cannot remember the correct Old Irish).


GREAT EXPLANATION - why are you not a MOD - I find your text very informative - tapadh leibh a thidseir ?!


Thank you for the flattery :-) If I already knew Gaelic, I'd definitely apply to be a mod. I just hope that anything I say on these threads is useful to other people too, and not just me


For finding information on Scottish Gaelic spelling and pronunciation and sounds variants -- Try googling "Scottish Gaelic orthography and phonology" and you'll get more than you can cope with; there are tables that give all possible variants of each letter combination. I've just been taking notes on the bits that have been puzzling me, and the variants that we've heard, and leaving the rest for later --if ever.


This is a very interesting discussion. One minor correction: Irish does use a hyphen between t and a vowel, except when the vowel is capitalised. Thus "an t-uisce" but "an tUachtarán" (the President).


Thank you. I have altered it from 'Irish' to 'Classical Irish'. I hope it is now correct? It is certainly true that it is still very confusing in Welsh as none of their mutations have visible clues that they are mutations. If for example you saw y gath, and you knew y meant 'the' then you might well wonder what a *gath was, look it up, and fail to find it in a dictionary. In fact this is the Welsh idea of how to lenite a c (which obviously sounds much more like eclipsis to an Irish speaker) because this word cath is feminine and means a 'cat', so y gath means 'the cat'.


Thanks again for the value you keep adding to this discussion. I don't have any knowledge of Classical Irish, but I'd be confident that you are correct. What is certainly true in modern Irish is that unlike Gaelic we don't put a hyphen between t and s. Thus "an tsúil".


Yes. Modern Irish seems to work on the principle of 'would it cause confusion?' Cleary an tsúil would not cause confusion as there are no words that start with ts. The Welsh don't seem to mind us Irish and Scots getting a bit confused.


Hmm, not really – I mean, you could find it, but it wouldn’t be common. If you look at older Irish (including early 17th century) texts (eg. in Corpas Stairiúil na Gaeilge), you’ll find mostly forms with hyphen, there are a lot of an t-uisce (like in modern orthography) and just very few instances of an tuisce, if you look for i n-Éirinn you’ll find more examples than for i nÉirinn (in Éirinn in today orthography), you’ll find similar amount of an t-súil as of an tsúil, similarly for a h-athair and a hathair.

It seems to me that the hyphen was used to separate prothetic t-, h-, and n- for a long time in the history of Gaelic languages (and, well, Sc. Gaelic and Irish share most of their literary tradition). And just such details as whether to write the hyphen before a capital letter or not, or whether to write a hyphen in t-s-, or after h- varied from author to author.

And when standardized, the modern languages went a different path, Gaelic decided to use the hyphen in all the places, Irish to not write it in obvious places (namely: before capital letters: an tAthair but an t-athair, Ár nAthair but ár n-athair, after h as no native words start with h-, so a hathair, and in ts-, so an tsúil).


It thought i was writing english when i had done the gaelic slightly wrong.

I had written" A bheil i an t'uisge ann"


This happened to me too. I just have to type 'no' and allow it to be incorrect. Then hope that its fixed in the next try


No one seems to understand the faulty algorithm that thinks you are writing in English, but it sometimes seems that putting in words that exist in English (of which there are two, a, an, in the correct answer) may be part of the problem. If that happens you could try changing each word that resembles English, as you can change one letter per word and it is still counted as a typo. For this example,

*X bheil ab t-uisge ann?

contains no English words, and would be counted as correct with two typos.


"Is it rainy out?" Should be a viable translation, especially as we've been taught "ann" means out


Have we? It usually means 'there' in the non-specific sense of 'there is', so a more literal translation would be 'Is there the rain?'


Except in English no one EVER says "Is there the rain?" The concept of "a bheil a t-uisge ann?" is expressed in English as "Is it raining out?" Both expressions are somewhat idiomatic, and cannot be accurately translated literally.


Agreed, I was not saying it should be translated like that. Rather I was just saying that was the literal translation to show what the Gaelic words were doing. Actually, to be even more literal, uisge means 'water' not 'rain'.

But what my literal translation shows is there is nothing in the Gaelic to show where the rain is. There is no word that corresponds to out. Ann is used when you are saying something exists, not where it is, so out should be avoided in the translation. I am not aware that ann has been translated as out anywhere in Duolingo or anywhere else.


would "is it raining there" be correct?

I'd ask if "is there rain?" be correct but it doesn't have the verbal noun and doesn't necessarily mean right now. But I am curious about the first one


No - this always causes confusion because the English word there has two meanings and they often occur in the same sentence.

Existential: there is rain (rain exists)
Locative: It is raining there (saying where)

Only the first of these is translated by ann

A bheil an t-uisge ann? Is there the water? Is it raining?

To say where something is, you use an sin

A bheil an cat an sin? Is the cat there?

You don't usually need both in Gaelic, even if you have both in English

A bheil cat an sin? Is there a cat there?

This is what causes the confusion as you would leave the ann out. However I think (but I am not sure), that in this particular expression you would put both in

A bheil an t-uisge ann an sin? Is there the water there? Is it raining there?

For a much longer answer that tries to explain, and certain proves it is complicated, see here. D


Not exactly that meaning of "there." "Is it raining there?" would be more like "A bheil an t-uisge ann an-sin?"


I typed the correct words in Gàidhlig

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