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an snèap (an t-snèap?, Food 2 notes)

In Food 2 notes there is an example an snèap ‘the turnip’ as an example of the masculine definite article. Is that correct? If so, dialectal?

Both Wiktionary and Am Faclair Beag claim it’s a feminine word, and there’s biastan na snèap for ‘turnip flea beetle’ in Dwelly with feminine gen. article na (though Dwelly gives only nèip and snèip for nominative, reverse of what is given by Faclair Beag and Wiktionary).

And BBC Bitesize gives an t-snèap the turnip as an example of feminine article.

Is this an error in the notes, or a dialectal variation of the gender of the word?

December 15, 2019



An t-snèap! Gabhaibh mo leisgeul! I'll change it now. It's just an error.


I had a similar question because I've seen the snow written as both 'an sneachd' and 'an t-sneachd.' Does 'dialectical' just mean it varies by dialect?


sneachd (or sneachda) is a masculine word, so in nominative always an sneachd(a). But in dative it’s an t-sneachd(a) (eg. ris an t-sneachd ‘snowig’), or in genitive an t-sneachda (eg. eun-an-t-sneachda ‘snow bunting’, lit. the bird of the snow).

It’s just the thing that mutations are different for different grammatical cases (you should never see an t-sneachd in the nominative or accusative though).

Here the notes suggest an snèap as an example of masculine nominative while other sources claum it’s feminine (and an t-snèap in the nom.), hence my question.

And yes, by dialectal variation I mean difference between dialects – some words may have different grammatical genders in different dialects, especially ones that originally were neuter (which disappeared, and neuter words took either masculine or feminine gender later); I don’t know any Scottish examples, but in Irish ainm is masc. in Connacht and Ulster (so an t-ainm ‘the nname’) but in Muster it’s feminine (an ainm).


Thank you for the detailed response!


I think it is agreed that snèap is feminine but speakers might use it as masculine because there is another word, nèip which Dwelly and AFB say is masculine. Clearly confusable for the reason given below and because the lenited forms shnèip and nèip would be pretty indistinguishable. Add to this the fact that an t-shnèip is not that easy to say, so could easily become an nèip.

As for the èap/èip confusion, p is one of the few letters where you cannot hear the broad/slender distinction, so the two would sound very similar. According to what is normal in Gaelic declension,

  1. We would expect èap to go to èip(e) in the genitive, and
  2. èip would be most unusual in the masculine nominative. (Can anyone actually find a last-vowel èi example?).

However, we find, on the one hand, biastan na snèap that you mention above in the genitive, and, on the other,

snèip s. Turnip — Suth'd in Dwelly, and
snèip 1. dat sing & gen sing respectively of snèap turnip 2. also used as nom in Mark

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