"The egg is very good."

Translation:Tha an t-ugh glè mhath.

July 26, 2020

This discussion is locked.


Is the addition of t- in front of the ugh a similar thing to the addition of a in front of certain words to allow the mouth to form the sound?


I don’t know what kind of ‘addition of a in front of certain words’ you write about, but not, it has nothing to do with ‘allowing the mouth to form the sound’.

Your mouth is perfectly able to say an ugh without the t, and it is indeed what one would say in certain grammatical contexts, eg. air an ugh for on the egg.

It is just a grammatical rule that in singular nominative after the definite article masculine nouns starting with a vowel get a t- prefixed to them (an t-athair the father, an t-each the horse, an t-ugh the egg, an t-ainm the name), but not eg. in dative (ris an athair with the father) nor in genitive (an athar of the father). Feminine nouns also don’t get the t-, eg. an eala the swan.

The historical reason for the rule is that the masc. definite article comes from Proto-Celtic *sindos which changed to *indoh in early Primitive Irish, and then developed differently before consonants and before vowels. Before consonants the final -h blocked lenition (so masc. words in nominative are not lenited), but it finally lost the unaccented syllable, becoming ind and then in through assimilation of d to the previous n. Before vowels it lost the vowel in the ending, becoming *indh, the h devoiced d turning it into t: *int and that’s the form seen in Old Irish (eg. int ech the horse). Later that t got reanalyzed as part of the noun (and not the article) and started to be written as an t-each (and that is the modern form). You can read a bit more about the development of the definite article at http://nualeargais.ie/gnag/sindos.htm – this is a website about Irish grammar, but the information about history at that page is valid for Sc. Gaelic too.


I have read other comments/explanations on Duolingo that basically says a in front of a word (like charaid and mhàthair which are not lenited without the a) lenites the word and makes it easier to say linguistically within the sentence. That's what I was referring to though I suspect it is much more complicated than that in reality. Not being a native speaker it's hard to understand the rules and it's mostly learn by repetition and memory. Your answer is incredibly complicated and I'll keep trying to learn, my degree was in Zoology not linguistics lol!


The last paragraph is something you don’t need to know, I just provided it to show the reason behind the t-, you don’t need to know the historical development to use the grammar. ;-)

As for the vocative particle (the a going before names) – it has nothing to do with being easy to say either, it’s as easy to pronounce a name without it as it is with it…

Again, it’s just a grammatical rule that a comes before a noun in vocative (be it a name or other word by which you address somebody) and lenites it whenever you directly address somebody, hence a Sheumais (oh) James, a charaid (oh) friend, etc.

The a disappears before vowels – and that’s actually a phenomenon caused by ease of pronunciation – Gaelic avoids two vowels in a row when one of them is unstressed, so the a disappears before nouns starting in a vowel (hence just Anna, or athair (oh) father, or even Fhearghais (oh) Fergus) – although in some older texts it’s written even though not pronounced, so you may find texts with a Anna, a athair, a Fhearghais written down.

And – well, learning anything just takes time and practice. My own degree is in computer science and in automation, not in linguistics either – that I learn on my own. ;-)

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