"Droch leabhar."

Translation:A bad book.

July 16, 2020

This discussion is locked.


Is droch another sort of bad, or a bad that only applies to objects?


It’s basically just another word for bad, but it is only used attributively before a noun – it needs something to go after it.

So you can only use it with some objects, like droch leabhar a bad book, droch latha a bad day, etc., but you cannot use it to say it is bad, that was bad, etc. – for such sentences you need a regular adjective like dona.

Similar difference exists for words meaning good – attributively you can use both deagh latha and latha math for a good day, but you have to use math in tha an latha math to say the day is good.


So what is the difference between "droch leabher" and "leabhar dona" that makes both expressions necessary?


Nothing makes both expressions necessary. They are just synonyms, two different adjectives with basically the same meaning. It’s like asking what in English makes both ‘a drink’ and ‘a beverage’ necessary? – well, nothing. They just both tend to stick around in the language and generally mean the same thing. And there might be subtle differences in actual usage, but you could happily live using only one of them.

Such subtle differences exist in Gaelic too. But I’d say it’s something that a beginner shouldn’t worry about, and later learn it by immersion in the language, than trying to really grasp some rules about it.

One is that adjectives going before the noun are used more often in compounds, so I guess you might use droch leabhar as a generic name for some kind of books that are bad, eg. to refer to Necronomicon when translating Lovecraft to Gaelic… While leabhar dona would rather be used to describe a book’s quality as bad (but not to give a name to the kind of books that are somehow bad). But it’s not a hard rule, droch leabhar and leabhar dona in general both mean a bad book.

Other one is that in some expressions the adjectives before nouns put a bit more emphasis on the quality they describe, eg. deagh latha emphasizes more that the day indeed is good than latha math.

Yet another would be that the adjectives-before-nouns might tend to be used more in future or conditional tense to describe subjective opinion (if you did that, it would be a bad book) while adjectives after nouns in a more objective factual statements (I read it and it is a bad book).

There also might be some regional variation in their usage too… If you really want to know what the subtle differences are, you’d probably need to read the linguistics paper Subjectivity and emphasis in Scottish Gaelic preposed adjectives by Veronika Csonka and her PhD thesis on preposed adjectives.


Just to say that another user referred me here, and I wanted to say thank you for your explanation


Thanks for the explanation!


Thanks from me too :)


May I ask how it came to be that we have only some adjectives which come before the word, and why they seem to have the same meaning as adjectives which we already have? Seems a little auxiliary, I just wonder how that developed?

Learn Scottish Gaelic in just 5 minutes a day. For free.