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  5. "Mòr-bhùth no bùth bheag?"

"Mòr-bhùth no bùth bheag?"

Translation:A supermarket or a small shop?

December 22, 2019



If bùth is masculine, why is beag lenited (bheag)? Is bùth a feminine noun in some places?


To throw in my two cents, it's one of these things that I think I do interchangeably. As in - sometimes I use it as a feminine noun and sometimes as masculine. It's pretty 50/50 in my experience as to whether people use it as masculine or feminine. Either way, it's something we're fixing in Tree 2. Both ways will be accepted, but (if I remember correctly) we'll be teaching it as masculine :)


I have just realized that it is quite rare in real life (as opposed to the classroom or Duolingo) that it actually matters. This could also have contributed to the confusion. Places (including the shop, the house, Paris, etc.) are most commonly found after common prepositions such as 'to', 'from' and 'in'. Two features unusual to Gaelic

the most common prepositions such as these generally take the dative
you cannot distinguish the genders in the dative

mean that a wee child is likely to have a lot of experience of the word before the gender of bùth becomes apparent.


I have just realized that it is quite rare in real life (as opposed to the classroom or Duolingo) that it actually matters.

a wee child is likely to have a lot of experience of the word before the gender becomes apparent.

I agree. If you're learning as a native speaker, I'd argue that knowing the gender of a word is almost irrelevant.

Speaking anecdotally, I didn't even know Gaelic words had genders until I was in S6, and even then the only reason I found out is because I happened to sit in on an S3 learners class. I managed 16 years of speaking the language fluently without ever having to know a word's gender. Learning a language through immersion means you learn these things contextually, rather than explicitly.

Perhaps if you're learning a new word (as an adult for example), knowing the gender would help, but otherwise not. Also, Gaelic only has two genders, so if you know one way of declension or conjugation is wrong, then obviously the other is right. I imagine it would be more important in languages with multiple genders.


I heard an anecdote that shows that lack of gender awareness can go well beyond S6 if you are a Breton farmer. Someone was interviewing an old Breton, in Breton, for linguistic research. He was trying to find out what the old man understood about gender, but it soon became apparent that he had no vocabulary to describe it. It did not occur to him to use the words he must have known for 'male' and 'female' and in the end resorted to 'le-words' and 'la-words', i.e. using the gendered forms of the French definite article.


As for 3 genders being more difficult, there is a big conspiracy amongst language teachers to make things more difficult. At school I learnt German, Latin and Greek, all with three genders, and later Old Irish and Old Norse. We had to learn all our endings in triplicate. A huge amount of work. They failed to point out that all you need to know (unless you like talking to neuter things (which are almost always inanimate), i.e. using the vocative), is one form in the singular for nominative and accusative, one in the plural (which is the generally same for all neuters) and all the rest is the same as the masculine.

This similarity to the masculine is quite important for Gaelic. It meant that virtually all neuter nouns became masculine, which is the main reason we have so many masculines in Gaelic. Examples:


Muir is a bit confused though.


According to Wiktionary and to The Gaelic-English Dictionary by Colin Mark it’s feminine. On the other hand Am Faclair Beag and Faclair Dwelly both claim it’s masculine.

I’d rather believe Dwelly and Faclair Beag than Wiktionary, but since Colin Mark’s dictionary confirms feminine, I’d guess there is a variation of gender (though, strange that no dictionary mentions the variation and all give just one gender…).


aha! well that explains it. Mòran taing!


I find the second of the three (yes, three) words incomprehensible. It is something like *neopùth (with stress on first syllable). I guessed the right answer as it was the nearest. Does anyone agree


Funny how you can live your life completely unaware of a big controversy. I always thought it was masculine.

So what was it originally? It is thought to come from Old Norse, possibly via Old English. It is F in both languages, as it is in Icelandic, Faroese and German. Other versions of the word are in languages that do not distinguish M and F, or the meaning is different (message N or messenger M). See Wiktionary bōþō and links therein. French boutique F and Spanish bodega F are thought to be related.

So how was the gender re-assigned? Two possibilities. One is that there was confusion because some Gaels did not have enough knowledge of Old Norse or Old English to tell what the gender was, and there is a general tendency to treat imported words as masculine (even pizza which really makes me cringe). The other is that the Irish did not have the word when they brought the language with them. Their word is an siopa (i.e. M) (eDIL does not state how old the word is). Perhaps they carried on with the gender even when they started using the new word?


"a big shop or a wee shop" doesn't cut it, apparently?


No, because

Mòr-bhùth = supermarket
Bùth mhòr = big shop

as discussed at https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/35930827. This does cause quite a lot of confusion on this course as they don't actually point out this suble difference anywhere.


Gender wasn't my problem, but I was hearing "mòr zhu, yup poo bheag." Usually I can figure it out from growing experience, but this one threw me. But I did get two words right!

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