1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Scottish Gaelic
  4. >
  5. "You are welcome, grandfather…

"You are welcome, grandfather."

Translation:'S e ur beatha, a sheanair.

December 19, 2019



When would i use do and when would i use ur?


Do is informal and ur is formal.

So if you are being polite or speaking to a group you use ur.


The plan seems to be on this course that they put in something plural, like Iain agus Anndra, or somebody to whom you have to show respect, athair or a thidseir, when they want you to use sibh/ur and a single name or a young person (a bhalaich) when they want you to use thu/do.


would someone be able to give a literal translation here? I'm curious with beatha in there.


Lit. "It is your life, grandfather". I've no idea how it came to be used for "You're welcome"


Wow! The tortuous paths you linguists have to navigate!


Thanks for sharing - I love this resource!


'S e do bheatha, a charaid! ;)


I see what you did there! Math fhein!


So we know that grandfather is seanair/sheanair but why don't we ever hear what grandMOTHER is? I'm very curious...google translate says it's simply seanmhair/sheanmhair. Can anyone confirm or deny this?


Yes it's not very fair. GT is correct in this case but you're better off using a dictionary, such as https://www.faclair.com/ which will give you two columns of information. The left is modern and the right is the best one ever made, from 1911.

Seanair = seann + athair
Seanmhair = seann + màthair

Seann causes lenition m > mh


Ahh thanks you so much for the dictionary! I've been in contact with my grandmother (our family comes from Scotland however I had no idea until recent) who contacted another family member who has access to a physical dictionary so I may get my hands on that eventually but mòran taing for the resource, google translate is not the most reliable and I hate to go to it when I don't have to.


Sadly I have about 20 physical dictionaries for various languages and I regard then all as essentially obsolete. The search capabilities of online ones are simply too good. The one I gave you has sounds like, ignore accents, part of word and more advanced options. AFB (the left column) has also got hidden inflected forms and variant forms and sometimes erroneous forms so it will find the word almost whatever you type. Many dictionaries in different languages have similar good features. One-way dictionaries such as Dwelly (the right column) have now become two-way.


You raise a good point. Who would have thought that physical dictionaries are basically just decorations at this point! Anyways I saved the dictionary you gave to me so I'm very excited for that. Thanks again, I'm hoping to continue exploring my family's history with the surname Urquhart and ancestry.com


What's different with adding an h to bheatha/beatha?


In Gaelic it is almost always specific words or categories of word that cause lenition (i.e. the insertion of the h). It just happens that do is one of those and ur isn't.

If you are interested in the history, it is words that used to end in a vowel more than 1000 years ago that cause lenition. You should not go by whether they happen to end in a vowel now - you just have to learn them. Nevertheless, it quite often happens that related words in other languages retain the vowel/lack of vowel, even if Gaelic doesn't. In this case we see that English works for this as thy ends in a vowel and your doesn't.


@DaibhidhR Hah! Looks like you beat me to responding...


Since you mention feminine words, it is best to look at French to see why feminine nouns and adjectives cause lenition - they often add a e. But for the definite article, it is better to look at Spanish (el - la), Italian (il - la) or German (der - die). French fails for the rather weird reason that le is not actually Indo-European in origin - it is Etruscan. It is not normal for any masculine Indo-European word to end in an e.


So in Gàidhlig they have what's called lenition. This basically just changes the pronunciation of certain words. If you've noticed the change from "caraid" to "a charaid" (friend vs (O') friend) that's because caraid has been lenited by the word a. The letter H is just what they use to lenite their words. Feminine words lenite the following word such as "Màthair MHATH" versus "Athair MATH." It is important to note that if you were trying to say something like "A mother IS good" you would say "Tha màthair MATH" instead of how you would say "A good mother," which as just mentioned, is "Màthair mhath." Hope this helped.


Thanks Jonathan.


Why the apostrophe before the s here? What is the s a contraction of?


'S = Is. 'Is it your life'. In English word order, 'It is your life'.

'S is usually short for Is. This is the only thing it could be at the beginning of a sentence. In the middle of a sentence, 's could also be short for agus 'and'.


True - but can you tell me WHY it is ... 'S e ur beatha" and not ... Is e ur beatha" AND why it is ... Is mise Ryan" and not ... 'S mise Ryan" - or is BOTH possible, in writing and in pronounciation ?!


You can certainly say and write Is mise Ryan.

I've never heard or seen *Is e ur beatha. I think it may be to do with the s. This is broad in 'S mise but slender in 'S e. If you put Is e it would become broad which would sound a bit odd. You can do it if being very formal but this phrase is inherently colloquial as it is not traditional Gaelic. It is a phrase repurposed to translate the American English You're welcome, which, you will notice, would also be strange if written out in full.

It is easy to forget how recent this usage is. An ngram shows it was not very common at all up to 1970, and then suddenly took off, in abbreviated form only, far more in the US then the UK. Imgur

(I was not able to provide a link because of the apostrophes but the search string was this)

You are welcome.:eng_us_2012,
You're welcome.:eng_us_2012,
You are welcome.:eng_gb_2012,
You're welcome.:eng_gb_2012

The Gaelic would appear to be just a copy of that, complete with abbreviation. Older people don't use it in Gaelic and think it's foreign.


... THANK YOU - this is very elaborate (LOVE the "An ngram" !) and helpful - won't be using it ('S e do bheatha) EITHER then - "Older people don't use it in Gaelic and think it's foreign" ... I'm FIFTY now (for merely a WEEK now - so I'd have to say an-dràsta ;)


Very good comment, thanks. I do not like the American thing at all. What would be an alternative? I do not want to talk to people in the US, I want to talk to people on the Hebrides. What would people on the Hebrides say instead?


Traditionally they wouldn't. That's the point. The need to say anything in response to thanks is a modern trend. The usual phrase in modern Lowland Scots is No problem. In the past people in Gaelic speaking areas did not speak Scots - they spoke only native Gaelic and the English they learnt at school. But increasingly, especially because of the increasing availability of Scots in the national media, e.g. Radio Scotland, Hebrideans are using Scots, and No problem is therefore what they use in Skye. I guess they use the same in the Outer Hebrides.

But I am old-fashioned. I do not use anything in Gaelic, Scots or English.


Is this "you are welcome" as in a reply to a "thank you" (thank you for the butter! You are welcome) or "welcome to my home"?


My answer above shows that this phrase has been recently adopted where you would use 'You're welcome' or 'No problem' in other places but it does not mean that literally. It means 'It's you life', so you cannot use it to welcome someone to your home. Fàilte looks like a past participle (since -te is the equivalent of English -ed), just like welcome, but I have never heard it used that way, and there is no evidence of the verb from which it would have come ever existing. It would sound odd if you said *Tha thu fàilte 'You are welcome'. Just say Fàilte do mo thaigh 'Welcome to my house'.


Thanks a lot, really helpful - should have spotted the link to your earlier answer myself, long day, sigh...


Mòran taing! Wow, that was great. So, i) what exactly is "Scots"? ii) 1000 years ago? We have that information? I thought it was not a written language? and iii) is there a way to know which are modern phrases? I'm not a linguist, and just a beginner with Gàidhlig, but i'm interested in how the language reflects how people saw the world, so i would prefer to learn the older way of speaking. It hurts to see "siùcar" etc, (did they have honey? use another sweetener?) Is there another place i could go to learn this?


That's an excellent resource. I've bookmarked it. As for the Scandinavian influence that it mentions, I read it in Scots (highly recommended you look at the Scots even if you don't understand it without the English) and I saw one word that I have learnt on Duolingo Norwegian (forby - forbi in Norwegian) occur twice in in the first two paragraphs.


i) See DougSnell1's excellent link

ii) Some languages have older written records than others. We have records from the first millennium in Old English (which is not that close to Modern English, due to a 'major event' that occurred in 1066), Old Irish (with clear similarities to and differences from Modern Irish and Modern Gaelic) and Old Norse (with clear similarities to modern Scandinavian languages, and pretty well readable if you know Icelandic).

The big problem with all of these (but less so with the last) is that these records are necessarily the language of the literate elite. We have virtually no direct evidence for how the ordinary people of these countries spoke. All we can do is piece the evidence together like a jigsaw. By comparing Gaelic with other Celtic languages (which all have more mutations than Gaelic) and with written Old Irish, and related words and grammar in other languages we can be pretty certain about this claim about the vowels.

This confusion about Scots and Gaelic (which is well explained in DougSnell1's link, including how the meaning of Scots/Scottis changed over time) causes so much confusion to people new to the languages of Scotland. I really think they should explain this clearly at the beginning of the course.

It is easy to see how the confusion arises: if Irish is the Celtic language of Ireland, Manx of the Isle of Mann, Welsh of Wales, Cornish of Cornwall, Breton of Brittany, and even the obsolete Gaulish of Gaul, then you might reasonably think that Scots was the Celtic language of Scotland. It was - 600 hundred years ago, but the meaning has changed, to everyone's confusion.

As for siùcar, this is what some angry people call a 'helicopter word'. They are not complaining at the word, but at the attitude of 'why should we use an English word, rather than a proper Gaelic word for something' - when these words are not English anyway. Helicopter is made from Greek words, but the term was apparently coined by a Frenchman in 1861. Siùcar comes, possibly through English, from French from Persian from Sanskrit. Until people starting using slaves (i.e. free labour) to produce it, it was phenomenally expensive, so the word would not have been in most people's vocabulary. On the other hand, almost all cultures that live where there are flowering plants have had access to honey occasionally, so most languages have probably had a word for honey for tens of thousands of years. The Gaelic word is mil from Proto-Indo-European. This word with descendants in so many languages is taken as evidence than that word - and hence the food - goes back thousands of years in our culture.

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