1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Scottish Gaelic
  4. >
  5. "Bha mi anns a' Phòlainn."

"Bha mi anns a' Phòlainn."

Translation:I was in Poland.

August 10, 2020



Why use anns instead of ann an?


Because, for some weird reason, ann an means 'in' in recent Gaelic, where they used to say just an.

Anns is the form of an used before the definite article, so anns a' means 'in the'. You will find that most simple prepositions that do not cause lenition add the s before the definite article.


Are there rules for when to place an accent over a letter? For instance, in Spanish, most words are stressed on the next to the last syllable, the exceptions (most of them) are accented to actually help with pronunciation. Is it this way in Scottish Gaelic? I am having a number of senior moments with these. Thanks!


First, the grave accent over a letter in Gaelic marks vowel length, not stress. But in Gaelic long vowels are always stressed so if you see one then that vowel is long and stressed. But short vowels (without the grave mark) may also be stressed.

The stress pattern is simple – basically all words in Scottish Gaelic are stressed on the first syllable.

The exceptions are compound words when the second part is stressed (eg. a-riamh /əˈrʲiəv/; in compounds the stress might also alter the meaning, eg. taigh-beag pronounced /təˈbeɡ/ is a toilet but taigh beag /ˈtɤj ˈbeɡ/ with both parts stressed is a small house).

There also are short words that are never stressed – some prepositions, the article an ‘the’ /ən/, etc.

Since long vowels are always stressed, you’ll see the grave accent basically only on first syllable vowels, and if not, that probably means it is a compound word and the vowel with the grave accent is the stressed one.


Is there a reason why some countries are "the" country and some are not?


That's a very good question, and not one I have ever seen an answer to, either on Duolingo or elsewhere. So if anyone does have a reference to an answer, please post. Until then I am going to guess.

I was taught that most countries in Europe (which I think is actually mainland western Europe) have an article. The home countries are a bit erratic, and countries further afield generally do not have an article unless they do in English (The US, The UAE etc.)

I think what is really going on is that countries that Gaels would have heard of centuries ago had an article. This generally means places not too far away, and in those days a separate Gaelic word generally arose, not coming via English. So I think it is a pretty good bet that any country that has different names in Gaelic and English will be an old name and have an article. An example would be A' Phòlainn. On the other hand, Argentina is clearly borrowed from English, or even Spanish, and does not have an article. Even if somewhere is a long way away, if it is big enough, old enough and famous enough (in Scotland) to have been given its own name (which we can assume happened centuries ago) then it seems to have an article – I am thinking of An t-Sìn 'China'. I am not going to go through every country checking this, but if anyone thinks this is almost right, or has any counter-examples to discuss we may be able to refine the algorithm.

As I said, the home countries (Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England) seem to be irregular, so if anyone has any thoughts on those, that would be useful too.

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