"Casan goirt."

Translation:Sore legs.

April 23, 2020



Why isn't it Casan *goirta?

The notes say

Magic elongating adjectives

Adjectives that have only one syllable become longer when attached to a plural:

  • taighean matha - good houses

Is there some rule I have missed? I see the notes don't give any examples with slender final consonant, so I am not sure if it should be goirta or something else.


Chan eil mi cinnteach, but isn't goirt a verb (derived from goirtich) rather than an adjective?


I considered if it could be something like that. It is clearly being used as an adjective here and appears to have been an adjective since Old Irish. Goirtich could not lose the -ich. I suspect that verb actually came from the adjective. I considered if it could be a past participle *goirte but I could not find the verb *goir from which it would have come.

The best shot I found was that it is one possible genitive for gort 'famine, scarcity' (in Dwelly but not AFB) but I don't think that helps much. It is certainly an adjective now and had been for 1000 years.


If so, it should be casan goirte, not *goirta (caol ri caol). Google gives a factor of magnitude more result for casan goirt than casan goirte, though (but still, not many of either). Not sure why…

But then Colin B.D. Mark gives an examples of sgagaidhean beaga goirte small, painful chaps in the entry for sgagadh.

Goirt looks like a regular adjective to me (its Wiktionary entry is definitely broken, it has a noun header at the moment, but then comparative form… will try to fix it – EDIT: fixed).

So I think regularly it should be casan goirte, but maybe real usage differs here from prescriptive grammar?

And Colin B.D. Mark in his dictionary, in Appendix 3: the Gaelic adjective, §1.1.5., p. 657 states:

1.1.5 No inflection in the singular

Some adjectives do not inflect in the singular or show a change in the plural, though they do lenite where necessary.

ceàrr wrong

Singular m. Sg. f. Plural
nom ceàrr cheàrr ceàrr
gen cheàrr ceàrr ceàrr
dat ceàrr cheàrr ceàrr

So maybe, at least for some speakers, goirt is one of such adjectives (but then, Mark did give plural goirte in another entry example)?

EDIT: rearranged my comment, as it became a bit chaotic after a bit editing…


Three points here.

I specifically said *goirta (asterisk now added) because that is what the tips and notes say. But then so does Mark (p.657)

1.1.3 Adjectives which have a slender root vowel

These are inflected in the same way as those in 1.1.1, but, of course, cannot show slenderisation

But §1.1.1 says you add an -a so that implies that broad/slender has nothing to do with it. But he then goes on to give an example glicglice as well as the example you cite elsewhere. So clearly you do add an -e to a slender root, even though the tips and notes, and Mark, forget to mention it.

Ceàrr is, strictly, a different case, since it is indeclinable, unlike goirt, but nevertheless it may give us a clue. Both of these words are longer than math. True they have the same number of syllables but ceàrr and goirt literally take longer to say. I have lost the book that gives me the formal definition of a long syllable in Old Irish, but both of these would be long in Latin because they have a long vowel and/or more than one consonant following. (rr would originally have been longer than r.) Now Mark gives mòr as an example that does add an -a. So perhaps the rule (for real usage) is that it is only or predominantly adjectives with single final consonant that add the vowel. Can you think of any examples for or against?

I do not consider Mark to be prescriptive. I have always understood that he started from nothing and simply tried to codify what he knew of Gaelic. He did pretty well, but his grammar is much better than his logic - which fails in a number of places - and I think he just failed to go through ever single nook and cranny of the language. He did amazingly well and his work is an amazing resource, even if some of his tables are incomprehensible, and his verb trees simply bizarre. D


I thought about it being a difference between heavy vs light syllables too, but I have no source to cite on that, and ceàrr + goirt are definitely too few examples to jump to any conclusions. Especially since Mark himself gives an example of plural goirte (but then, the Wiktionary article mentioned by me used to have a declension table which originally had had goirte as nom.pl. which was later corrected to goirt by a user seemingly competent in Gaelic). So I don’t know. You need someone more familiar with the language than me, I’m just a learner referring to other sources. ;-)

I believe the contributors are native speakers, so unless it’s a typo, then it seems casan goirt is what is being used.


Agreed. I'm not native but I'm fairly experienced and goirt and goirte both sound ok to me.

But you might wish to alter the notes which are wrong in two ways in that case.


At first blush, it really should be, but as noted extensively in this topic, in practice it doesn't, at least for many speakers. Nice catch, though - it didn't occur to me till I saw your comment. Whether that was through subconscious familiarity, or simple oversight, I can't say.

It'd be nice if anyone with some authority in the area could weigh in (I am not a true native speaker either).


It would indeed. The issue is that there is no definitive grammar of modern Gaelic. Some languages, such as English, have extensive descriptive grammars. Others, such as French, Spanish, Portuguese and German, have bodies which have the power to decree what is 'right'. Welsh does not have prescriptive grammar, but it does have official teaching materials, which are entirely descriptive, so they do evolve (and Duolingo tries to keep up as they change).

Mark is absolutely superb in terms of observation, and, since he is at the end of the era where you can actually find Gaelic not contaminated with English, he is of great historical importance. But his logic is lamentable. He fails to notice when he has left bits out (as here) and he fails to notice when his examples are not self-consistent or not consistent with his grammar (as here).

This means, fundamentally, that there is no one with the required authority. I once asked a professor at Glasgow University about a particular feature of Gaelic (how to pronounce the gh in sa gheama) and was surprised by the answer - 'no one knows because no one has done the research yet'.

There is a project at Glasgow University to create a corpus, so in due course that will allow us to see what happens in real written Gaelic, but even that will fail for current spoken Gaelic, which is continuously evolving.

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