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  5. "She is from Scotland."

"She is from Scotland."

Translation:Tha i à Alba.

January 21, 2020



I mentioned this in another thread, but it's even more pronounced here. We have a string of words with vowels, all together. I thought Gaelic vowels in different words hated each other and you had to put an h or a t or something in to separate them. It's the à Alba bit that I don't understand. Why don't we have to separate the two words with a consonant?


Sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. Letters can only be inserted according to specific rules that are often tied up with mutation rules (even more obvious in Welsh than in Gaelic) and, with the exception of h-, have an obvious source in the history of the language - for example the t- used to be part of the article in Old Irish.

The other solution that is sometimes used is to rearrange the sentence by putting something else between the two vowels, but this generally only used with pronouns. So here you will just have to accept all the vowels together.


To be honest, you do, it is normally às if the next word is a vowel. The rule is normally like so: -

à Muile -> from Mull.

às Uibhist -> from Uist

I think they have simplified this for the course, and, that some speakers, don't bother to always make the distinction, BUT, the old rule is, use the whole preposition às, BUT drop the 's' if followed by a consonant. Lastly, if you read literature you will come across this distinction, even if you do not always find it in speech.


Well I had to think about this quite hard and then go an look it up, as I have always had a couple of confusions with this word.

I did not even think of putting the s in. When I think about it now, it would sound wrong to me with Alba, but OK with Èirinn. Clearly things are in a state of transition, but what is historical?

The word is supposedly descended from PIE *eḱs and related to Latin ex, English exit. If we accept this then it definitely had an s at the end at one time.

The Old Irish is a, á, as, as, assin, asind, as, as, as, as, as, + personal forms 'out of, from' so even by then it was occasionally found without the s. I can't find any evidence it is found without the s in Modern Irish. But in Gaelic, we find

à 'from' (Wiktionary)
Before the definite article the form às is used instead.

á(s) 'from, (out) of' AFB
ás is the indefinite and definite form historically, á is used before a consonant

á, ás (two entries) 'out of, from out' Dwelly
Ás drops the s when followed by a consonant

à, às (two entries) 'off, out, out of' Mark
[às is the] form of the prep à used before a def noun, à being used with indef nouns

So two different opinions. Two dictionaries say it depends on the vowel/consonant, which seems sensible, phonologically, except that there is no obvious reason to lose the s in the first place. But the two others, including Mark who is generally reliable when it comes to 20th-century usage, says that it works like several other non-leniting prepositions, ri(s), le(is), an(ns) in that they put in the s before definite nouns, a feature which can be reliably traced back to the s that used to be part of the definite article and got attached to the preposition. So à(s) has simply got confused with these prepositions. Alternatively it did lose the s and then it regained it before the article for the same reason as the other prepositions.

In conclusion the loss of s is a feature that started more than 1000 years ago, and whilst you may see the s more often before a vowel, there is a body of opinion (and hence a body of users) who would only put the s in before a definite noun. This means that we cannot say that Duolingo 'is not bothering' but rather it is conforming to one common pattern of use (which happens to be the same as my usage).

Now we have to consider what caused the s to be dropped in the first place, and my proposal is as follows: it is notable that the basic meaning is 'out of' and it can only really be used to mean 'from' for things you were in in the first place, such a country - you cannot use it for things like 'away from the chair' or 'away from the person' as you were not in these in the first place. But how did it come to be used, even sometimes, to mean 'from'? Well I had always supposed it was related to Latin a(b) 'from'. This word comes from PIE h₂epó. No one has identified a descendant in any Celtic language, but perhaps there was a word like a, that got confused with Old Irish ass in both form and meaning. The fact that several of the Old Irish forms end in a b lends strong support to this, in my opinion, as there are no other suggestions for where this b came from.

Next, I wondered why às Èirinn sounded better to me than às Alba. I realized that it was not às Èirinn but as Éirinn. It was Irish. This term is usually used by Irish people (for obvious reasons - tá siad as Éirinn, they are from Ireland) and they never drop the s.

Lastly, even if you put the s in, you still have a clash of vowels in i à(s).


Thank you for your reply, my learned friend. Just quickly, the clash of vowels is a whole other kettle of fish, and nothing really to be worked up about; you can't help, tha e ...etc.

The rule to me stands, which is rough and ready, if a following vowel, put the s in, if not drop. It is found in literature and heard. Yes, there may be exceptions to both. As a rule of thumb, drop the 's' before the consonant, works more often than not, if you do not wish to retain it, no harm done, but it is a natural thing to hear and read, for example, thoir e a-mach às a ’bhogsa. You would not want to lose the 's' here.

I am totally in the dark, as to why Duo lingo does not cover this, perhaps it is no longer the case, in most instances. I just do not know. Tha e às Alba -- I would in both writing and speaking use and be understood. I cannot vouch if I have heard any speaker say it, normally it is much more local, tha mi à Loch Aoineach; tha i às Àisgearnais ...

The proof of the pudding is in the speaking, get out to the Outer Hebrides, have a chat, listen to what people use now. Which, I must do again, hence trying to knock the dust off twenty years neglect.

Many thanks for your robust and detailed reply. I enjoyed it.


It's very interesting that you chose the example you did. I said that some people go by the vowel/consonant and others go by whether the noun is definite - and then you give an example where the à(s) is followed by a definite noun phrase starting with a vowel - às a' bhogsa, so that does not show which rule is in operation. It is easy to see how these cases can lead to one rule being misinterpreted as the other.

It is, of course, very difficult to get objective evidence for the more colloquial language, and it is inherently more variable anyway, but it is relatively easy to get it for traditional Gaelic. I put the phrases into DASG and I got the following results

so I don't think we can accuse Duolingo of simplifying anything, as their version agrees with the traditional norm.

(Note the strange search strings were caused by the need to allow the accent to go either way in à(s) / á(s). I could not do an ordinary search ignoring cases as a means something different.)


I don't want to accuse Duo Lingo of anything. I was taught a rule, there is a succinct statement of it in Dwelly, p.48, second column, in short, the prep. loses 's' before a consonant. This is what I have heard. My other books in Gaidhlig are in a box, so little to hand, regards quoting literature or other grammars. Not been in any situation where to the question, Cò às a tha sibh? (note the full preposition here following the rule and as so spoken) Anyone has replied Scotland, it is more, tha mi á Loch nam Madadh, tha mi ás Orasaigh. This is said, it seems to follow this rule; this rule has not been mentioned at all in this course so far, so maybe it is no longer relevant. I, to repeat, have no idea why that is the case. All I can go on is my experiences twenty years ago, if no one says the particular phrase, tha mi ás Alba, that is fine, I shan't be saying it, however, I shall continue to follow the rule as both found in speech and exemplified in literature should I once again be living in a strong Gàidhlig speaking area. That is the language as I found it. What Duo Lingo does is of less interest. What happens with one phrase is offset by the numerous times the contrary has been found. That is all I can say. I am not accusing any institution of any thing. Best of luck.


Whats the difference between "i" and "ise"?


Ise is emphatic

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