I read a very interesting book on the development of language called "The Unfolding of Language" by Guy Deutscher. In it, he talks about the idea that in virtually every example, these verbs like "to have," which express rather abstract ideas, evolve from common prepositions like this, where physical nearness is associated with ownership.
Arabic has the same construction. "It is to me" or "it is with me" is far more common than a verb like "I possess (such and such)" which is possible, but sounds ridiculous.
That's the beauty of language learning, it destroys your preconceptions about how information has to be ordered, e.g. the idea that "to have" must be expressed verbally. Once you get over your first language biases, learning more is easier.
I am a native Russian speaker and after translating "an apple is at you" word-for-word into Russian I realized that the way we express the idea of ownership is the same in Irish and Russian, minus the fixed word order, which isn't really the case in Russian - we are more likely to put it as "an apple is at you", even though the word order can change. Now it's much easier for me to grasp the idea
I recently came across some academic work that differentiates between "H-Languages", that have a transitive verb for "have", and "B-Languages" that use a construction with the verb "be" for this purpose.
English, German, Spanish, Czech, Mapudungun, and Paraguayan Guaranı ́are "H-Languages". Russian, Latvian, Sakha, Korean, Hungarian, Irish, Peruvian Quechua, and Hindi are "B-languages".
Irish has lots of that kind of thing. The language has a lot of 'prepositional pronouns' where prepositions are conjugated for person. They're mostly pretty predicable in form.
Also, 'bí'/'tá' is often used with prepositional phrases to express various kinds of 'being'. For instance 'tá bron orm' means 'I'm sad' (also, 'I'm sorry'), but literally translates as 'is sadness on-me'. 'tá ... ar rud' typically used to express feelings and other sensations.
Well, "tá" doesn't mean "be", exactly. It's present tense, and means "is" or "are".
Then again, "agat" doesn't mean "have". It means "at you" ("at" is ag and "you" is "tú", but you can't say ag tú - they always have to be combined into agat).
So the sentence means "there is an apple at you". This is the way you say "you have an apple".
For all intents and purposes yes, it means You have an apple, and that's how it should be thought of but it's always helpful to know the true translation when trying to make sense of a new language. Some people were wondering why does tá (to be) have to be in a sentence stating "You have an apple", and the literal translation explains why.
I actually find it very helpful, but different people learn differently. :-) I do have a question about this, though. In Scottish Gaelic the same construction is used to talk about knowing a language. Tha Gàidhlig agam - I know Gaelic (lit. The Gaelic is at me). Is this the same in Irish?
I've heard bilingual Irish people talk about a person 'having' a language when they were speaking English, so the Irish Gaelic idiom seems to have shaped at least some people's use of Irish-dialect English. It was really cool to hear how the expression carried over! :-)
It's far from confined to that example or to bilingual Irish people. Hiberno-Irish, the vernacular language of Ireland, has absorbed so many features of Irish that it's hard to know where to start listing them. This holds even for the majority of Irish people who have next to no Irish.
For a brief intro, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiberno-English#Grammar_and_syntax , though the influence goes beyond grammar and syntax and into phonology
Nor does it have a verb meaning 'to need'. For that, you use 'bí' + 'ó', so if you wanted to say 'I need money', you'd say 'tá airgead uaim'. This is actually a common pattern in langauges: languages that don't have a specific verb meaning 'have' will invariably lack a verb meaning 'need'. Russian, for example, behaves similarly.
If you want to clearly distinguish needing from wanting, you do it periphrastically, much as in the French 'avoir besoin de'. The equivalent of 'besoin' in Irish is 'gá', thus ' tá gá ag (duine) le (rud)', is how you'd express '(somebody) needs (something)', which literally translates as '[there] is need at (person) for/with/by (thing)'.
huh. I'm not disputing what you're saying (actually this is a tangent), but I'm wondering now what the word order is for "Ta" (which I probably read recently in the section tips X) ) otherwise since I think the Irish copula "Is" seems to usually put what English would use as a predicate before what we'd think of as the subject. (usually we say "I am x" or "he is w" while it seems to be "Is x me" and "Is w e")
So, um... V adj S or V S adj here?
On similar line of thought, I would think it means "your apple" but I might be too early in the lessons to say that for sure is same as possessive. I just think of it as similar to in french where one can say "La pomme est à toi" which literally translates as "The apple is at you."
Tá úll agat.
Let's break this down.
Tá is one of the two ways to say "to be" in Irish (roughly similar to Spanish). In some uses such as this one, it can be thought of as "there is".
úll means "apple". Irish does not have the indefinite article (a/an in English).
agat literally means "at you". Irish does not have the verb "to have". Instead of saying "You have X" they say "There is X at you".
Now, I have no reason to learn gaelic, but i wanted to impress my friends and learn something that i might use one day. This is the first lesson and at first "fear" and "bean" i pronounced like I would in english "feer" and "Been" and then i heard the translayor talk and i got so confused.
agat is a prepositional pronoun, a combination of the preposition ag and a 2nd person singular pronoun.
tá úll ag Pól - "Paul has an apple"
tá úll ag an mbuachaill - "the boy has an apple"
tá úll agam - "I have an apple"
tá úll agat - "you have an apple"
tá úll aige - "he has an apple"
tá úll aici - "she has an apple"
tá úll againn - "we have an apple"
tá úll agaibh - "you guys have an apple"
tá úll acu - "they have an apple"