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  5. "Thit an choinneal agus thosa…

"Thit an choinneal agus thosaigh tine."

Translation:The candle fell and a fire started.

October 5, 2014



From a purely English perspective, “a fire started” in this sentence is passive in meaning — it really means “a fire was started” (i.e. by the candle having fallen). Is the meaning of thosaigh tine properly active in Irish? (I know that its phrasing is active.) Is the sense of, say, bhí tine ar tosú implied?


I've been taught to call this sort of construction "middle voice" in English:


No idea whether it's acceptable in Irish or not.


The way that I see it, “A fire started.” would be in the English middle voice only if the fire started itself, to reflect both its agency and its patiency. My view is that the sentence implies that the falling of the candle was the agent for the starting of the fire, so I see the fire as being only a patient. In the case of my musing on “an eclipse started” elsewhere in this discussion, I’d see that as being in the middle voice.


A better, more precise term in this case might be 'mediopassive voice'. 'A fire started' would be mesiopassive voice (no actual agent mentioned), while 'the eclipse started' would middle voice (same agent and patient).


Wouldn’t it depend upon how one interprets the full sentence? That is, if the falling of the candle was understood to be the cause of the fire, then that would be where the agent for starting the fire was mentioned.


For what it's worth, the system took "The candle fell and started a fire," which (if DL is correct in accepting that interpretation) is a point in favor of the candle as agent, and of the mediopassivity of tosaigh.

[deactivated user]

    I was wondering if "Thit an choinneal agus d'adhnadh tine" or "Thit an choinneal agus d'adhain sí tine" would be more appropriate than "thosaigh tine"?

    See http://www.teanglann.ie/en/fgb/adhain


    It’s fine for tosaigh and tine to be used together — see the NEID entry for “start” as “set in progress”.

    [deactivated user]

      In spite of tosaigh being given in other dictionaries Ó Dónaill in the entry for "tine" does not mention "tosaigh" in relation to it. Instead he gives beoigh, tóg (11d), adhain, fadaigh. For initiating a fire unintentionally I think tóg is the more likely candidate - Thit an choinneal agus thóg tine.

      I am looking at it from the point of view of what would native speakers have used in times gone by before they became over-influenced by English. Just because "start" is used in English doesn't mean that the translation of "start" has to be used in Irish even though there is a temptation to do so.


      Fair enough. Note that de Bhaldraithe’s 1959 definition gives only tine a adhaint for “to start a fire”, if you would prefer 18 fewer years of English influence to Ó Dónaill’s definitions of 1977.

      For unintentional fires, McKenna’s 1922 examples of “it went on, took fire” are {@style=font-family: 'Bunchlo Arsa GC', 'BunchloArsaGC', serif; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; font-size: 12pt}do ċuaiḋ sé trí ṫeiniḋ, do ġlac sé teine.


      it's not yet known how the fire started - ní fios go fóill conas a thosaigh an tine (focloir.ie)

      The fire originated under the floor faoin urlár a thosaigh an tine. (FGB, under originate).

      So, it seems it can be used that way.


      I was thinking about the sentence above earlier today, wondering if the two statements in the sentence were intended to be cause and effect or not — if my response would have been the same if the sentence were, say, “The candle fell and an eclipse started.” instead. I think that your reply has clarified that it was the choice of the English verb “started” that got me to open this discussion, since the “originated” example from the FGB seems to better exemplify the lack of an agent.


      After reading your musings, I'd point out that "The fire started" is not really mediopassive. Compare the Wikipedia example : "The book reads well," where the book is the natural object of a transitive verb. By contrast, "start" can be analysed as intransitive in this case, as in "the rain started" and as in galaxyrocker's examples.


      Tosaigh can be transitive as well, right? Would Thit an choinneal agus thosaigh tine be "The candle fell and it started a fire"?


      Is there any reason why "... and a fire began" would be an incorrect translation for "... agus thosaigh tine"? (Duolingo does not accept this, but I was under the impression that "tosaigh" could be translated as either "start" or "begin.")


      When we used to burn coal, we bought fire starters, not fire beginners. I'm not sure if you can say "and a fire began", without a further qualifier like "burning" or "smouldering", or "in the corner", even though "begin" and "start" are usually synonyms.

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