"that", surely, rather than "which", as it has no pronominal meaning.
"Conas atá sé" = "How that he is?", meaning "How is it that he is?"
This is a bit similar to the French construction "Est-ce que...?"/"Qu'est-ce que...?"
Consider "Qu'est-ce que c'est?" means "What is it?" but is literally "What is it that it is?"
Well it's not really "well defined", and my objection wasn't well expressed.
"Which" often (but not always) has a pronominal sense: eg "...and then I was granted the freedom of the city. Which was nice."
It is most common in this sort of "non-defining" clause, and "that"/zero-conjunction is more common in "defining" clauses. "the house that Jack built".
"Which", then, is potentially misleading when used in an artificial construction in English
My two cents: typically, when "which" leads a dependent clause in English, it means that the information in the clause is not essential to the intended meaning of the sentence. You can almost imagine it as a parenthetical aside. Leading the same phrase with "that" implies that you are distinguishing something in particular.
To extend an example used above:
"The house that Jack built is still standing." (Unlike all the other houses, which fell down, Jack's house is still intact.)
"The house, which Jack built, is still standing." (The house is still standing. By the way, Jack built it! Doesn't he do great work?)
While unfamiliar with the linguistic terms, I can share a tip from a copy editing class: The Comma Witch (or which, rather. It goes much better verbally).
The general rule being you use 'which' only when you are also using a comma, and you use 'that' when you are not. It was a fun learning device, as my professor drew a comma on the board and gave it a hat and broom.
Haha, well I guess we're going to begin early with the brain hurting for this language ;)
You've answered what it literally means, but it doesn't really, at least from the perspective of a native English speaker, make it any clearer why we use ‘atá’ and not simply ‘tá’. Is there any kind of explanation you can give to clarify in which situations either form applies?
Thanks in advance! :)
Conas is contraction of three words which originally meant "What state", so very literally it is:
What state which you are?
The only real explanation for it I can think of that might work is that Irish will not break VSO word order. So if some kind of question word like "Conas" comes first, the language will use "atá" so that the verb still comes first in a given clause.
I am fairly new to Irish, so correct me if I am wrong, but from my studies whenever you have a question you need to add the particle "a" before the verb - this is the same particle for introducing relative clauses. Normally that particle is separate and causes lenition, but for "tá" it has been shortened to "atá". And if the copula "is" is implied, "a" can be left out too. For example, "Cad é sin?" = "What is that?"
"How's it going?" is a greeting, like "How are things?" or even "What's up?". The equivalents in Irish range from cén chaoi a bhfuil cúrsaí?, conas atá agat? to aon scéal?
Conas atá sé? is asking about someone or something specific, rather than things in general - "How is he?".