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  5. "A bheil mac beag agad?"

"A bheil mac beag agad?"

Translation:Do you have a small son?

March 10, 2020



All right, this has been bugging me for a while now... Is there any raised tone at the end of a question? That trait isnt exclusive to English, so I'm afire with curiosity


I want to know that too. I was thinking about starting a thread in the main Gaelic forum area to ask about it.


I don’t think Gaelic uses different intonation for questions, but the only sources on that I can find right now are:

  • Wikipedia claiming it uses falling intonation for most types of sentences including questions,
  • and the Colloquial Scottish Gaelic book by Katie Graham and Katherine Spadaro claiming that normally, most utterances, including many questions, are said with a falling intonation.

On the other hand, the Gaelic Grammar wiki says that echo questions (which basically are just repeated short statements) do use raising intonation (and I’d guess they’re English influence).

I’ve certainly read somewhere (but cannot recall where) that in older Goidelic languages (Old Irish, Middle Irish) change of intonation was not used for emphasis or questions.


Thank you. It is certainly noticeable that the speaker's intonation seldom gives any clue that a question form of the verb is required, which is a bit disconcerting. I wondered if it was deliberate, to test us, but it seems unlikely that speakers would have been asked to alter their normal speech pattern.

And yet in English you can turn a perfectly straightforward statement into a question just by the way you say it.


I'm looking at this sentence and wondering how one would say "is your son small?" I'm mostly just guessing, but would it be "A bheil beag an mac agad?" I can't decide what the right word order ought to be. Maybe beag goes at the end? Maybe I've got the whole thing wrong.


a bheil do mhac beag?

The subject – do mhac your son – comes first. The predicate – beag small – goes to the end.

Son is your family member and you’d use do. But with some alienable item, like a car, it’d be a bheil an càr agad beag? – again, first the subject, then the predicate.

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