"Dúntar an doras mór."
Translation:The big door is closed.
Note that this form describes an action, not the state of the door being closed (Ta an doras mor dunta).
This form of the verb is not really the passive - it's technically the impersonal form. It tells us that someone closes the big door, but it's either not known or not important who does it. The focus in on the action of the door being closed.
The real head wrecker for an English speaker is that:
Dúntar an doras
Bíonn an doras á dhúnadh
Bíonn an doras ar dúnadh
Bíonn an doras dúnta
all have different meaning.
The third is rare nowadays though.
it really seems to me that there's a possible passive reading of the English sentence and I feel like it's exactly what you've described (demotion/optionality of the agent argument)? How does it differ from an English-like passive construction?
A closer English translation of the Irish sentence is “One closes the big door”. The Irish analogue to the English passive would be Tá an doras mór dúnta.
'Tá an doras mór dúnta' describes the state of the door. This is not the sense of a passive verb. The English sentence 'the door is closed' can convey either sense, depending on context, but as a translation of the passive sense 'dúntar an doras mór' is closer.
Thanks, Scilling. That reference appears to support my contention that the bí + subject + verbal adjective construction has a perfect, not present meaning.
Tá an doras mór dúnta can be either stative (e.g. the big door is currently not open) or eventive (e.g. it’s closed by an unidentified closer). The stative meaning is active; the eventive meaning is passive.
I have never heard that construction used in that way (present passive event), and I can't see how such a use would make sense.
'Tá an doras dúnta' = the door is in a closed state (now), therefore it has been closed (completed event in the past). Hence the common perfect passive construction with 'ag' plus agent. How then can the same sentence be used to describe a present event?
However, the briathar saor certainly is commonly used where we would use a passive in English, e.g. 'rugadh agus tógadh mé' - 'I was born and raised'; 'deirtear go' - it is said that, etc.
Yes, my use of “it’s” above was ambiguous on this point. The present passive in both English and Irish have a perfect aspect, which is why I’d made the analogue comparison in my first comment above.
I don't think that is correct. In English the present passive does not always have a perfect aspect. Certainly, a description of a present state does imply a past event: it is (in a) closed (state), therefore it has been closed; and the same relationship obtains between a past state and an anterior event, for which the pluperfect tense would be used: it was (in a) closed (state), therefore it had been closed. But these are descriptions of states in the present and direct past, respectively, not events.
Contrast this with the use of the present passive, where an event is described as it is happening: the whistle is blown; the ball is kicked; a goal is scored. There is no more a perfect aspect here than if the relevant actions were described in the active voice. Of course, the English sentence 'the door is closed' could describe either a state or an event, but only the latter is an example of the present passive. It seems to me that this has less to do with particular languages than with the logic of temporal sequence.
Consider “all men are created equal” as an example of a present passive which does not describe creation as it is happening. Similarly, your examples “the whistle is blown”, “the ball is kicked”, and “a goal is scored” all refer to events that are completed and have current relevance, which to my understanding meets the definition of the perfect aspect.
I suppose that 'all men are created equal', as a general statement defining an attribute of humanity, refers equally to men of the future as of the past. So although it is an instance of a present passive tense, it is not actually a temporal statement at all, any more than 'orange is produced by mixing red and yellow'.
For the other examples, I am not so sure: were our hypothetical commentator to use the active voice, the actions described would still have to have taken place already in order for him to see them and describe them: 'The referee blows the whistle. Murphy kicks the ball. It's a goal!' But by this reckoning, the present inevitably disappears or collapses into the perfect aspect, since the event in question must always precede the perception and description of it. However, this does not reflect the distinction between the present and perfect tenses as we use them in ordinary language.
To my mind, 'X blows the whistle' and 'the whistle is blown by X' have exactly the same temporal meaning; it is merely the emphasis or viewpoint that is different. But, since we are getting rather far from our Irish studies, perhaps we should agree to disagree.
I think that we’d agree that “All men were created equal” and “All men will be created equal” are temporal. In the case of “All men are created equal”, it could be understood as either a passive gnomic present (in which case it would not be temporal, like your orange example) or as a passive agnomic present, in which case it would be temporal.
Our hypothetical commentator could use the present progressive to describe events in the moment, e.g. “The referee is blowing the whistle. Murphy is kicking the ball. It's a goal!”, but commentators prefer the terser simple present so that events in rapid succession can be described as quickly as possible.
Agreeing to disagree is a viable method of peacefully coëxisting. ;*)
Thank goodness! That is what I thought it meant. At least I know I am not totally useless.
In this sentence it seems to have a similar meaning to the intransitive form of the verb, 'the door closes'.
To avoid ambiguity in the English translation it would be better if the Irish sentence had more context, e.g.
Dúntar an doras mór gach oíche.
Would 'the door closes' be a more accurate translation? as in 'the door closes behind me'? I'm not sure.
No, see the above discussion. A scenario where it would be used is when you tell your friends to be on time because the concert starts at eight o'clock and the doors are closed promptly.
Bígí in am mar cuirtear an ceolchoirm ar siúl ar a hocht a chlog agus dúntar na doirse go beo.