"Niall mòr."

Translation:Big Niall.

January 27, 2020



The audio is really unclear on this one. It sounds like "Niall a mòr".


Yes after an l as in Alba and falbh, but I'm not sure before which consonants, m and b obviously but maybe others.


You are referring to the insertion of a sound within a word, which is called epenthesis. A description can be found in the Scottish Gaelic Wiki page titled Epenthesis. However, this is not epenthesis, as it is taking place outside of a word; so I am still left mystified by this speaker's insertion of the /a/ sound between the words. Can anybody answer KennethSut5's question: Is adding [a joining 'a' sound] normal or just this person's dialect?


It happens the same way - if they were separating each word with a space then you wouldn't get it but as the sentence approaches "normal" speed, it tends to happen in the same places you would get the svarabhakti. Very very very generally speaking: native speakers do it more than someone formally taught, it happens more with certain sounds and it happens a lot more as someone is speaking more quickly :) the extra syllable between L and M (and between R/G and L) carries over into a lot of accents (burglar is a good example - I can't say it in two syllables without trying REALLY hard)

Edit: sorry about that, aye, it's common enough I'd call it normal :)


Excellent! Thanks! Buruglar, or burgular? :)


Burgular. I just avoid certain words altogether in daily speech!

Silmeth - if you're following along, do you know what it's called when the syllable happens between words rather than inside them? Or does it really matter since it's letter groupings in general and there's just not a name if it happens between words?


I sometimes see Niall in Gaelic as Niall or Nèill.... has this to do with vocative case or is this a irregularity?


From the below conversation which if honest I'm not quite understanding. I may be saying the same thing but it sound to me like when this speaker says the words, sounds like inserting a joining 'a' between 'Niall' and 'Mor', so sounds like 'Niall a Mor'. It does sound more natural and flowing, is that just her dialect, am I hearing wrong. She does the same in other questions where when speaking the whole sentence the words sound different to when said on there own.

So I suppose my question is, does adding a joining 'a' sound to make it the words flow, is that normal or just this persons dialect.


'a Nèill' is the vocative of 'Niall' :)


Thank you for this information. I didn't see it in the tips or hints so, I found it a bit confusing. I left a question over this on another lesson.


Dbhaidh, if you do the lessons on a computer you can click the tips at the start of a new lesson. Lots of information. I only found the Niall-a Nèill to be quite different...


Thanks Ilse, I check those tips often but the "Niall-a Nèill" I couldn't find anywhere.


Okay, I get you. The ia to èi shift is an example of slenderisation, but not the usual "add an i before the last consonant" kind of slenderisation. I'll see if I can add that as an example to the notes.


It's not explicitly mentioned, but the way to form it is explained :)

The Vocative Case

Gaelic has four cases. The perfect amount for any language. Much of what we have looked at has been in the nominative case - which could be described as the basic way of doing things. Think of it as vanilla flavour.

Here is a sentence in the nominative case:

  • Tha Seumas math.

Gaelic has a special case that we use when addressing people or even things (saying hello, how are you, etc.). This is called the vocative case. Think of it as strawberry flavour.

In the following sentence the word Seumas is in the vocative case:

  • Madainn mhath, a Sheumais.

There are two other cases in Gaelic which we do not explore in detail at this stage - the dative case (pistachio flavour) and the genitive case (chilli flavour).

We will break down below exactly how the vocative case works. It is one of Gaelic's many interesting features.

1. Lenitable Consonants - B, C, D, G, M, P, S, T (but not F for now)


  1. Add an a before the noun. This is known as a vocative particle.

  2. Lenite the word (add an 'h' after the initial consonant) and slenderise (add an 'i' before the last consonant).


  • Calum > Madainn mhath, a Chaluim.

  • Tormod > Madainn mhath, a Thormoid

  • Pàdraig > Halò, a Phàdraig.

  • Seumas > Feasgar math, a Sheumais.


  1. Add vocative particle a.

  2. Lenite the word. Feminine names don't slenderise.


  • Mairead > Halò, a Mhairead

  • Beathag > Madainn mhath, a Bheathag

2. Names that begin with a consonant or comination that does not lenite - L, N, R, SG, SM, ST, SP


  1. Add vocative particle a.

  2. Slenderise when possible.


  • Ruairidh > Halò, a Ruairidh.

N.B. The name Ruairidh is already slenderised and you can't double slenderise or your tongue would fall out, obviously.


  1. Add vocative particle a.


  • Raonaid > Halò, a Raonaid.

  • Leagsaidh > Halò, a Leagsaidh.

3. Names that begin with F

Names that begin with F followed by a consonant follow pattern number 1.


  • Frìseal > Halò, a Fhrìseil.

  • Flòraidh > Halò a Fhlòraidh.

Names that begin with F followed by a vowel follow a slightly different pattern. The vocative particle a is omitted. Masculine names lenite and slenderise. Female names only lenite.


  • Fionnlagh > Halò, Fhionnlaigh.

  • Fearghas > Halò, Fhearghais.

4. Vowels

Vowels in Gaelic hate each other. Specifically, they hate to be seen next to one another. When two vowels appear together in Gaelic, one is often dropped. This makes Gaelic streamlined, like a wet cormorant.

The vocative particle a is dropped before a vowel because of this vowel vendetta. Masculine names beginning with vowels still slenderise.

Aonghas (Angus - a man's name)

BROKE / WRONG - Halò, a Aonghais.

BESPOKE / RIGHT - Halò, Aonghais.

Ealasaid (Elizabeth - a woman's name)

BROKE / WRONG - Halò, a Ealasaid.

BESPOKE / CORRECT - Halò, Ealasaid.

Cultural Context

It would generally be considered rude to translate a French name such as Pierre into Peter in English. The same is not true for Gaelic. Most native Gaelic speakers would be known by their Gaelic name in Gaelic, and its 'translation' in English. Someone known as 'Oighrig' in Gaelic would almost certainly known by its translation 'Effie' in English . We want to show learners what actually happens in Gaelic communities and so we have followed this convention.

Some Gaelic names such as Iain and Mòrag are so common in Scottish English that they are not translated in the course.

It is becoming increasingly common for parents to give children a Gaelic name as their given / recorded name, which is lovely.


Great, thanks Joanne, this will be enormously helpful.


Thanks Joanne but this really doesn't help in this specific case. The relative part of those tips - "2. Names that begin with a consonant or combination that does not lenite - L, N, R, SG, SM, ST, SP.......etc, etc" does not explain why the "ia" of Niall changes to "èi" of Nèill. These are vowel changes that seem irregular (ie not following the normal rules of lenition or slenderising). It is confusing enough that both names are recognised in the English language but when confronted in the Gaelic without a note to explain it, it is misleading.
Is it possible to add "Niall - a Nèill" as an example for future learners?


It is the same as slenderizing other 'ia' words we've learned in the course:

an t-iasg becomes plural na h-èisg, " the fish"

am fiadh becomes plural na fèidh, "the deer"

Niall to Nèill just happens to be slenderization in the vocative case as opposed to common plural.

A list of regular vowel slenderization can be found at the Scottish Gaelic Grammar Wiki page under paragraph Type 1.2 Orthographic Vowel Change.


Why is it that when you do the lessons on a mobile there aren't any tips, yet if you do German on the mobile the tips are there?


I am using a mobile device, but not using the app. Just use the web site and you will get the tips.


Because the German course was done in-house by DL and this course was done by volunteers. Volunteer courses don't get tips in the mobile apps yet.


Thanks for the info!

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