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  5. "A bheil an cnatan air?"

"A bheil an cnatan air?"

Translation:Does he have the cold?

January 19, 2020



So it's spelled cnatan but pronounced cratan? Or is the scratchy audio making me hear things? :D


Yep! Usually words beginning with 'cn-' in Gaelic are pronounced with a 'cr-'.


The English translation seems contrived to me. If someone is ill, we would ask if they have a cold, not the cold. We have a cold, or the flu, but not the cold, or a flu.


Hi Segwyne. It seems natural to me - it's the construction I grew up with on the east coast of Scotland.


Same here in the west. It is not a Gaelic influenced usage. See here for the distribution of the sentence I've got the cold again: https://scotssyntaxatlas.ac.uk/linguists-atlas/?j=y#6.75/56.304/-5.347/Q46/And/all/1/12345/both/null/point


'A bheil cnatan air?' would be 'Does he have a cold?'. There is a difference between the two in translation.


Hi Joanne, this thread has been insightful, but this specific reply, 'A bheil cnatan air?' v 'A bheil an cnatan air?' I think this is a regional structure like "A bheil Gaidhlig agam". Can you give an example where you might use 'A bheil cnatan air?' v 'A bheil an cnatan air?' or are these functionally the same in conversation?


Arguably, we shouldn't accept "does he have a cold?" here, as the Gaelic specifically says 'an cnatan'. Given that there is little difference in meaning between 'a cold' and 'the cold' in English though, we'll accept both here. You could say either or in Gaelic too. My above comment was just to explain why we went for 'the cold' in the best translation, rather than 'a cold'.


Na gabh dragh. Lapadh leat.


Do you work at Duolingo Joanne?


Nobody in the Gaelic course works for DuoLingo. The authors/maintainers are all volunteers, this isn’t a DL written/maintained course.


Growing up in Scotland, we always said the cold.


Sgoinneil! This course really seems to know which words I currently need... XD Feumaidh mi aodach-sròine...


Thanks for the explanations they do help.


A general spelling question: In this example I hear the "cn" as "cratan" which makes sense to me. Words (places known to me beginning with cnoc "hill") I would also pronounce as croc (cr emphasised). However I'm a little confused. On the LearnGaelic site, the word there for"hill" is pronounced as it's spelled, ie "cnoc". Are they both acceptable? If yes, then how do we distinguish the pronunciation? Is the pronunciation "croc" an older way of saying "cnoc"?


No, I'd say 'cr-' is by far the most common way of pronouncing it. I don't want to say that nobody uses 'cn-', but it sounds very funny to me. Here's some more info on it though: http://www.akerbeltz.org/index.php?title=Why_Santa_is_krocking_at_your_door


Tapadh leibh, a Joanne. That link is really useful, really helpful and backs up my own experience of the "cr" pronunciation. However, it does open up some issues about other "cn" words as given by LearnGaelic. I tested those words given by Akerbeltz and found the LearnGaelic site pronounces them all as "cn". Are these examples of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig trying to standardise the Gaelic?
How would you pronounce those words "cnò, cnap, cnàimh and cnuimh", with a "cr" or, as they are spelled?


Hmm, that is... unusual. I'm not sure why they chose to teach it that way. As I said before, I don't want to say that nobody uses 'cn-', but it really is a funny sounding pronunciation, and not one that sounds natural to me. I would use 'cr-' in all those examples naturally, trying to use 'cn-' instead is uncomfortable.


Thanks Joanne, again backing up my own experience of the "cn" mystery of pronunciation. I too have always known the "cn" pronounced as "cr".
Would it be possible for SMO to clarify what is a really important point on pronunciation and spelling, especially for learners?


This thread has been really informative, love it! I've studied at SMO and the Tayside language centre in Dundee (our teacher was from Stornoway) and both times I've been taught "cn" is the pronunciation as written. I don't know if the awkward formation in sentence is due to how folk pronounce the "cn" but I've found it natural - it's kind of like a hard K sound with an alveolar tap and quite a quick transition - out of curiousity, does that make any difference for you both?


Apologies for late response. Please see my response below. Hope this helps.


I meant to drop a postscript addition months ago, but life....... you know! Anyway, apologies for the tardiness.

For clarification, I contacted the people at LearnGaelic to try establish a fuller understanding of the "cn" debate. The contact there was incredibly helpful and indicated it was purely a matter of geographical dialectal differences, explaining it was more likely to hear "cr" in some of the islands (again, backing up my own experience), while on the mainland you were more likely to hear "cn". Though it must be noted, these were not hard and fast rules.

Further, the voice of the woman on the LearnGaelic Dictionary page was chosen for having the most standard Gaelic accent, and while she pronounces it as "cn", the "sounds" page of LearnGaelic produces the "cr" version to add to the confusion.


I think the bottom line in this discussion is that dialects play a hugely important part in the overall tapestry of Gàidhlig language understanding, and each regional variance probably quite fiercely protective of their own brand of pronunciation.

If it helps, here's the entire LearnGaelic "sounds" page for the most "difficult" pronunciations. These are short videos.


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