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  5. "Chan eil cù òg."

"Chan eil òg."

Translation:A dog is not young.

January 17, 2020



ok, all dogs are born old :D


I translated "Chan eil cù òg." as "It is not a young dog", but was marked wrong with the 'correct' answer being "A dog is not young." which sounds a bit strange as some dogs are young, some old, some middling, etc. If I wanted to say "It is not a young dog" would I need to use "Chan eil cù seo òg"?

In real life I'd likely point at the dog and say "chan eil cù òg".


I agree that this sentence does not make any sense. It is not a generalization you can make, so it is quite natural to try something else. Unfortunately it doesn't mean anything else so you could not use it in the situation you suggest. You would also need to use the definite article for the seo sentence you suggest. I'm afraid the only solution is for this sentence to be removed.

It is most unusual on any language course I have been on to spend so long on sentences with indefinite nouns - it is simply not normal. The only reason I can think of for their methodology is that it will help you later when you learn about possessives, since this is the structure you will use:

Chan eil cù Anndra òg 'Andrew's dog is not young'


I was going to ask if the distinction was that a dog (cù) must be old because a "puppy" [I can't remember the Gaelc for this] is a young dog. It is not axiomatic that a dog ceases to be a puppy at the same age in all languages.


That is an ingenious idea, but I am not aware of an ungendered word for 'dog' in any language that cannot be applied to young dogs. We often have gendered terms that are age-restricted (like woman, man) but person is not. The word adult is different as you only use this term when you which to specify that the person is not young.

You are correct that boundaries are different in different languages. That is why Gaelic colours do no match up with English ones and why cas 'leg' includes 'foot', but you could not use it for 'leg' if the meaning were really 'thigh'.


Sorry to sidetrack, but you have aroused my curiosity. Do Gaelic colours match those in classical Greek, by any chance?


Not more than you would expect. That may sound flippant but I have actually studied colours in quite a lot of detail. I thoroughly endorse the work of Berlin and Kay, as amended slightly by later researchers. They first defined basic colours using a set of criteria. These are the colours that we use when distinguishing things of widely differing colour, such as a red apple and a green apple. They are not the myriad of words that we use when choosing clothes or painting a picture or anything else when a large number of similar colours have to be distinguished. They are also, as an obvious consequence, the colours that a child learns first and the colours that are typically taught on a course such as this.

Everything that I say below refers to these basic colours.

They deduced from evidence of modern languages that all languages develop a colour system in the same basic order, with some variation allowed

Stage I: Dark-cool and light-warm (this covers a larger set of colors than English "black" and "white".)
Stage II: Red
Stage III: Either green or yellow
Stage IV: Both green and yellow
Stage V: Blue
Stage VI: Brown
Stage VII: Purple, pink, orange, or gray

The first thing is that no languages went beyond stage IV/V colours 2000 years ago. The number has gradually grown to the modern 11 (most), 12 (a few including Gaelic), although Breton is stuck on 5.

Sadly B&K did not do much research on historic languages, and there is not much good literature on the Classical Greek system.

So we can all agree that 'black', 'white' and 'red' come first. But next a language has a choice of some colour in the 'cool' part of the spectrum. This both leads to variation, and has big consequences, as the following two colours tend to fill in the gaps, so the fourth choice affects the fifth and sixth a lot. I have found good arguments for χλωρός {palish-yellowish-greenish') being the fourth colour. Indeed I think there were still only four colours when John wrote about the four horsemen - one of each colour.

On the other hand, Proto-Celtic went for glas ('palish-greenish-bluish').


Daibhidh's excursion into colour and languages is quite something, and new to me - tapadh leat, a Dhaibhidh. As a learner and hillwalker, I'll add that many colours in Gaelic look to be drawn from the Highland landscape and only translate roughly to English, such as odhar (dun brown), glas (greyish-greenish), ruadh (rust brown), and liath (grey). Any OS map of the Highlands will have scads of features with such colours (eg Glas Bheinn, Monadh Ruadh)


Yes, FredRiley, having re-read my post I see there was something important missing, and I have now edited my post to make it clear that I was referring to basic colours as defined by B&K, rather than the myriad of terms, usually metaphors, that can be used when you need to make a fine distinction. However this gives me an opportunity to discuss your comments and colours in Breton in a bit more detail, and maybe get a bit more information from you.

I have it on good authority that there 'are' only five basic colours - from a professor in a university in Brittany. One issue is that there is now virtually no one around who is monolingual Breton-speaking. This means that people will simply fill in the gaps in the French colour system. If they are not given a word that means rose they will find one. And similarly for each colour that exists in French and not in Breton. Welsh and Irish have already gone down this path, effectively redefining their own words to match the 11 English colours. There now a bit of a fight-back, especially in relation to glas. Gaelic is slightly different as we have managed, largely, to stick to our meanings, as we already had enough to cover the whole English palette, even if they do not match up exactly. So I suspect that any 5-colour system that existed - and still exists in theory and in textbooks - is essentially obsolete.

The other thing is that several of the colours you mention do not meet the criteria for a basic colour. There was no reason why they should as I had not clarified what I meant but they are still worth examining. The list you mention for 'brown' shows that these are not basic colours. It has been argued that 'brown' in French is currently splitting into two to form the 12th French colour. Marron (which almost translates kistin) and brun (which has clearly been borrowed into Breton) but the 4 are clearly shades, as you say. Looking on the internet suggests there is no agreement for the word for 'purple' as limestra and mouk can be used and that limestra could mean 'violet' (not a basic colour). Both issues suggest that limestra is not yet accepted as a basic colour. Similarly, 'orange' can be either orañjez (clearly borrowed) or melen-ruz (which does not count as it is a compound).

I would be interested in your comments on any of this, and if you have any idea where limestra comes from that would be a bonus.


Yes, it is generally the case that the colours used for places, as well as birds and animals, tend to be the older ones, up to stage IV/V on the list. Later colours (that generally came in after modern dyes were invented) tend to be used only where a lot of precision is required (such as different varieties of a species). Odhar is an exception since it is common in place names but not on the list of basic colours at all. It is usually translated as dun which is not a standard colour either, and its used is generally restricted to place names and skin/hide. The word appears to have meant dark/shady/dappled, so may not have been a colour when it was applied to places.


DaibhidhR, despite his erudition, seems to think that Breton has only five colours, which I don't quite agree with. Actually, with "gwen" (white), "du" (black), "gris"/"loued" (grey), "ruz" (red), "melen" (yellow), "glas" (blue/natural green), "gwer" (green), "roz" (pink), "limestra" (purple), "orañjez" (orange) and "gell"/"brun"/"rous"/"kistin" (various shades of brown), it makes definitely more than five, does it not?


I'd agree your translation is wrong. The problem is that your translation identifies it as an old dog as opposed to describing it as an old dog.

It is not an old dog to me would be chan e cù òg a th' ann


A subtle but clear difference in meaning. Thanks.


Who would ever say this in English?


Ultimately it's irrelevant if anyone ever would. DL isn't a phrase book, the sentences can be complete nonsense as long as they are otherwise correct and you understand how to use and build on the general structure.


On the one hand you are right. But when people meet something that sounds odd they are always wondering 'Is there some subtlety I have missed here?' and they tend to get distracted and possibly confused. Sometimes the problem is caused by a subtlety in the Gaelic that they do need to pay attention to, but which the given answer has failed to clarify. I repeat what I said elsewhere on this page:

Of course it's confusing in this sentence, simply because it sounds unnatural so you are tempted to make it sound better. They are constrained by the limited amount you have learnt so far.


This is the first time I've seen "òg" used for young on this app. Generally it's"ùr". Anyone know the difference?


That's odd because I searched for ùr young in the discussion pages and got no relevant discussions, and I searched for ùr and opened the first dozen sentences and it was always translated as new. I would generally use

òg = young
ùr = new

although clearly there is a bit of overlap. Can you give an example of a sentence where ùr is translated as young?


How do ylu know when to say "the" and when to say "a" As in A dog is not young vs the dog is not young


The basic answer is that there is no word for a in Gaelic so you have to decide when to add the word when translating into English.

But there is a word for the in Gaelic - an, an, a' (+some other words that probably haven't been introduced) so you put in the when you see one of these words.

That should be enough for now. Later on you will meet various exceptions, such as irregularities and different meanings for these words.

Of course it's confusing in this sentence, simply because it sounds unnatural so you are tempted to make it sound better. They are constrained by the limited amount you have learnt so far.


From the dog's perspective you are an ancient being

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