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  5. "Many thanks, Niall."

"Many thanks, Niall."

Translation:Mòran taing, a Nèill.

January 30, 2020



What's up with Niall becoming Nèill in its vocative form? Is this just a strange one that doesn't follow the usual rules for vocatives?


It just follows the rules in its own way. The ending is made slender, it just changes the other vowel as well.

In Irish at least, this is the genitive as well, so those people supposedly descended from or connected with Niall are called Ó Néill.


As far as I know, words in Gaelic only have one slenderized form. So once you know the slender form, it does for the vocative (if masculine), the dative (if feminine), the genitive (with e possibly added in the feminine) and the nom/dat plural (if it pluralizes by slenderization). If I am wrong I would love someone to correct me.


No mention of Nèill being the vocative form of Niall anywhere that I could see. Just sprung on us by Duo. As if Scots Gaelic isn't hard enough!


Indeed. Having searched the notes, it does not explain this i-insertion, although it does give one unexplained example ollaimh.

There are two issues here. One is that they have to choose between lots of explanation and letting you learn by experience. The latter is the ideal way, and the way kids learn. And you have learnt now. Hopefully they gave you a tiles question where there was no other option. If so, you can definitely put it down as a learning experience. Getting used to something first actually makes it easier to take in when they explain it. And of course this discussion page helps as well.

The other issue is that the course has not been finished yet. In the Names section of the notes, it says

In this skill we will look at female names only. We will get to the boys in the next one. The differences aren't huge between them.

So there will be an explanation when they have finished the course! If you can't wait, see my explanation above. I specifically mention that the exact details can be a bit confusing when the word has a diphthong in it, so you have to get used to the various options, and that is a further reason for them introducing this now - they want to introduce them bit by bit, not all at once.


I understand. It's not perfect but it's all we've got and they are trying. But also we're all not linguists so I imagine a lot of this talk about diphthongs, vocative and dative cases and the like is a sure-fire way of turn some people, especially adolescents off. I've formally studied, German, Latin (a looong time ago), and French and have dabbled in Italian. I have no fear of these terms and in fact look forward to reacquainting myself with them. If anyone is 'listening' I wouldn't mind a little bit more explanation about how the pronunciation works though. Using Roman script in French, German and Italian I'm used to things not being pronounced as they would be in English but I'm finding the Gaidhlig especially challenging!


That is a good point. There is always this dilemma as to how much explanation to give. It's actually the adults that have the psychological problem. Kids learn by repeated experience. They don't question, and so they do not get answers involving "vocative" or "dative".

You really have two choices, and both are fine.

  • Accept it without explanation, like you learnt your first language
  • Don't accept it and put up with the technical details.


Both good options and I really do get it. In fact when in my early French and German courses, having battled through Latin, I was often irritated by adult beginners in the class either demanding to know the logic behind some grammatical point or arguing with the teacher that a term/concept was either wrong or if not, stupid. The concept of "that's just the way it is, live with it" was very foreign to them. So I DO get it, but I think there may be a middle ground. Anyway, keep calm and march onward!


So, is it legitimate?


Yes, it is the only correct way to address Niall. See the other discussion on this page, including my answer that I have only just posted.


Thanks yet again. As I do duolingo on my phone I don't often see the responses so I missed the whole discussion untill now. Tioraidh!


When is niall neil and when is it niall


This form of the word is the form used when you are talking so someone and is called the vocative. The rules for when you do this are a bit complicated, so you often see an incomplete version, but here goes:

The i in ill

You make the last vowel an i if

  • the word is masculine singular
  • it ends in a consonant
  • the preceding vowel is broad (a, o or u)

If the vowel is a single vowel, you just add the i:

Marcas, a Mharcais
Àaron, Àaroin
Séamus, a Shéamuis (Irish spelling as I cannot find any Gaelic names with a u!)

But if you have two or more vowels, as here, it is a bit unpredictable and you just have to learn them. The good/bad news is that you will get a lot of practice, as this happens in a lot of other situations apart from the vocative, that have not yet been covered.

Confusion can arise because many feminine and plural words have an i in them anyway, but this is nothing to do with the vocative - it is just the way the word is: màthair ('mother'), Eilidh (a female name), balaich ('boys')

Confusion also arises because this effect often occurs with another effect - where the word gets lenited if it can be. This is a completely separate effect, caused by the particle a, that happens to occur in the vocative as well.

If you are wondering why the rules are so complicated, this is what happens when a rule breaks down. It probably started in some long-forgotten language spoken 5000-10,000 years ago, and may have been quite simple, but in the form we have it, similar to in Latin, it only applies sometimes, so you end up with complicated rules for when to apply it.

And finally, if you are wondering if this is related to the English spelling of Neil, well it could be, but more likely Neil comes from the Irish surname O'Neill 'descendant of Niall' (see the good/bad news above).


Actually modern Irish spelling has changed the ‘u’ in Séamus to ‘a’.


Thank you kindly for destroying my example! I thought I was being clever. Any ideas for a male name with u as the last vowel?


Hi, thanks for your reply which was eye-opening also because I didn't even know there was a grammar page and have been floundering about since Septmber. Anyway, all's clear now and willbecome easier now that I know about the forum and the grammar page. Moran taing.


Wow, Daibhidh! I also learned Latin many, many decades ago! I am having to dig deep into the recesses of my memory - the nominative, vocative, genitive, dative, ablative etc. forms of words I have long since forgotten! I have a smattering of several languages but this is really going to test my old grey cells! Thank you!


Well the really good news is that this knowledge and understanding will come in useful on this course (when they have written the rest of it).

So far you have met the ordinary form of the noun, which is in fact the nominative/accusative (with the differences lost somewhere in the last 1000 years). You have also met the vocative. You have yet to meet the dative (except for special forms like agam) and the genitive. You don't need to worry about the ablative at all.

If you want some really gory detail, there are remnants of the locative case, both in Latin and in Gaelic, surviving in a few place names.

Welsh has identical structures to Gaelic, but with no case marking.


The name itself is Niall. When you are talking directly to Niall, it become ‘a Nèill’.


Omg! That sound pretty omnibus!


Beautiful use of a Latin dative plural there in omnibus.


No idea what I meant by that but I've a feeling it was a t9 type lol.


The Tips for this lesson (Names 2) cover male names in the 'vocative' case:

...including change of 'Niall' (nominative) to 'a Nèill' (vocative).

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