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  5. "Tha a' mhuir garbh."

"Tha a' mhuir garbh."

Translation:The sea is rough.

January 13, 2020



Could somebody tell me why lenition is triggered here in "sea"?


It's because you're using the article "a'" to say the sea. If you just said:

tha mara garbh

then you'd be saying "a sea is rough", not "the sea is rough".

We do the same with weather. Weather is "side" but to say "the weather is bad" you'd say, "tha an t-side dona".

Does that help?


Also because "muir" is feminine.


It's actually more complicated than you might expect. Muir is gender fluid. You can say a' mhuir or am muir and in fact the masculine is more common. When I got this question, I was given tiles with muir, mhuir and a but not am so I was forced to use the feminine. D


And here I thought that I knew something for sure. It seems it is never the case with Gaelic.
The song Cearcal a' Chuain by Runrig really seems to hammer home the feminine gender of muir:

" A' mhuir tha i ciùin,
tha i fiadhaich, tha i farsuinn,
tha i àlainn, tha i dìomhair,
tha i gamhlasach is domhainn."

(But at least it is a nice exercise on adjectives.)


That's your prerogative, a cheabhain, but you have to accept both, so if not given the tiles for feminine, you would have to accept masculine.

This word is actually gender fluid across 2-gender languages as it was originally neuter, causing problems when languages lost the neuter. Gaelic is the only language I know of where it is gender-fluid within a language.

There is more discussion on this in this question. D


Well, it is still neuter in German and in several Slavic languages.
So I am not that much surprised, after all.


Unless forced to not do, I will always use the feminine for the sea.


Yes, Uilebheist19, as far as I know it is neuter in all languages that still have a neuter. It's in all the Romance and Celtic languages that lost the neuter where there is a problem, and it varies from language to language (e.g. Gaelic feminine (quite often) but Welsh masculine, French feminine (think Walter de la Mare) but Spanish masculine (think Norman del Mar). D


Unfortunately the vocabulary in the tips section indicates that “muir” is male. Perhaps it should be amended to ‘muir (m/f)’ instead of ‘muir (m)’


News to me that there was this vocab in the tips. Probably something to do with the fact that it says 'updated 2020-11-29'.

You are absolutely right, though. When they actually give the feminine form in this sentence it is difficult to argue that the word is always masculine. There is no direct way to flag a fault in the tips - there should be. Best thing to do is to write a comment on a page that one of the mods has already posted on that contains the word muir, such as this one.


I've seen 'mara' or 'mar' used for sea eleswhere. Is this correct?



Mara is the genitive which has not been taught yet but you use it where you want a possessive. You might have seen muc [na] mara 'sea pig' i.e. 'whale'. And you might have seen the surname MacNamara. It's actually Irish but that doesn't matter. It is from mac [con] na mara, 'son [of the dog] of the sea'. To add to the confusion about gender it is always feminine in the genitive.

Mar is a completely different word that means 'as'.

According to Wiktionary it also means 'sea' in Aragonese, Asturian, Bourguignon, Catalan, Chavacano, Galician, Guinea-Bissau Creole, Icelandic, Interligua, Italian, Kabuverdianu, Occitan, Old Portuguese, Portuguese, Romansch, Spanish and Venetian; and some sort of lake in obsolete English, Norman and West Frisian. So if you know any of these languages you could have got confused. D


West Frisian is a dialect from a region in the Netherlands. Frisian is a very old language spoken in the province of Fryslân, related to the old Scandinavian/Germanic languages. There's also a region in the north of Germany called Ost Fryslan with it's own version of the Frisian language. In Frisian 'lake' is "mar" and 'sea' is "see" :-)


Yes. Mar etc. seems to be basic Indo-European word for a sea, body of water, etc. If you go to the Wiktionary entry and follow down all the descendants it is pretty widespread.

On the other hand, sea etc. is, at least in this sense, restricted to Germanic. Whilst there is speculation about the word's ultimate origin, it is clear that this sense is unique to Germanic. It seems that virtually all Germanic languages have the s-word and the m-word.

My personal guess would be that we (the Germanic speakers) had the s-word before the Indo-Europeans turned up, giving us two words when they loaned us all their vocabulary. I can't see any other reason for having two words. D


That is interesting. I have learned that in German it is almost the other way round. Meer is sea and See is mostly lake, although it also can be sea.


As you say, it is not always clear cut. The North Sea is usually referred to as die Nordsee. The Wikipedia article gives this first, then Westsee and Deutsches Meer. It does then go on to say it is a Schelfmeer.

Its definition of a See, when put through Google Translate is

A lake is a body of still water with or without an inflow and outflow through flowing water that is completely surrounded by a land area. It represents a largely closed ecosystem.

So there is confusion everywhere. What does completely mean? Is the North Sea completely surrounded? What about the Mediterranean Sea? Or the Black Sea? Or the Caspian Sea? Or the Dead Sea? These (except possibly the North Sea) meet the German definition of See, but don't they meet the definition of lake in English too.

It looks to me if the English word sea is basically just a salt-water lake, even though some, such as the North Sea and the Irish Sea, do have fairly substantial connections to the ocean.

It is noticeable that German speakers have traditionally been quite a long way from what we would call an ocean, so they probably was no word for it.

It may also be that when Germanic speakers acquired two words, Meer and See with similar meanings, from different sources, there would be some arbitrariness about what each referred to - they would just have had to split the semantic range in two, and it might have happened differently in different places. D


According to this dictionary

See {m} stands for lake and its synonyms (also loch is mentioned)
See {f} for sea or ocean.

So die Nordsee belongs to the latter category and does not have to fit the definition you mention. And as opposed to muir, the difference in gender attempts to mark a difference in meaning too (although the boundary is perhaps not quite clear-cut).


Intriguing. I do not know of any instances in Gaelic where one word has evolved different meanings in different genders, although they are quite common in German and there is one in Welsh. Gaelic deas (f) means both 'right' and 'south' but does not seem to exists as a noun meaning 'right', but the Welsh form, de exists as a feminine noun meaning 'right' and as a feminine noun meaning 'south'.

The German Wikipedia article does not seem to mention this gender difference explicitly, but now you mention it, it refers to the word as ein See (m) but then mentions die Nordsee. It goes on (translated)

In Low German (and also in Dutch) the word meanings of “See” and “Meer” are interchanged compared to High German.

The mention of loch is interesting as this can refer both to a lake proper (Loch Ness) and to a sea inlet (Loch Long) which is definitely not a lake, a term that only refers to inland bodies of water. D

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