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  5. "An leagann tú an bord?"

"An leagann an bord?"

Translation:Do you set the table?

February 26, 2015



I was coming in with a rather silly question - is it just a coincidence that 'leagann' sounds similar to English 'lay.)'? (I am trying to.fix etymologies in my head to help me remember vocabulary.)


Silly? Not at all! Etymologically, leag comes from Old Norse leggja, and “lay” comes from its Old English cognate lecgan.


Hi scilling, can you recommend a resource for learning Old Norse?


'Lay' the table is not accpeted.


Well, what do I know? It's just the expression we use every day, so it could be Dublinese - except that Collins online dictionary says:

'If you lay the table or lay the places at a table, you arrange the knives, forks, and other things that people need on the table before a meal. [mainly British]'


"Do you lay the table" is accepted now.


An leagann tú... Why no change before the l after an?


<l> can't eclipse or lenite.


I'm sure you know this, but for those reading, L can be lenited in some dialects (i.e. there is a spoken "Lh", but it is never written, except in a few exceptional books from the 1930s by dialect purists).


I'm just now first hearing this. How is "LH" pronounced? Almost like Welsh "LL"? "Leagann" would be hleagann in sound? Just not written? I'm just guessing. What dialects?


Oh, nothing like the Welsh LL.

Also there are two lh sounds, just as there are two l sounds, broad and slender. So really there are four L sounds in total.

Unlenited l is held longer than lenited l, sort of like Italian double consonants, although slender unlenited l is further a bit further back in the mouth.


slender lenited L = like English "limb" slender unlenited L = like English "million"

The broad sounds are hard to convey in English.

Actually all dialects have Lh, it's normal L that has died out in some dialects. In Conamara for example slender L is still present, but broad L has died out (slender L and Lh are still present).

In Mayo all four survive.

In Munster, broad L and slender Lh have survive and the other two have died out.

Similarly there used to be four r sounds (broad/slender r and rh) and four n sounds. Since R,N,L are linked phonetically in Irish, dialects tend to have equivalent surviving versions of each of these three consonants.


Between your description and the Wikipedia article on Irish phonology, I take it that in the four-way contrast of Mayo,

  • broad L = broad fortis L = /l̪ˠ/
  • broad Lh = broad lenis L = /lˠ/
  • slender L = slender fortis L = /l̠ʲ/
  • slender Lh = slender lenis L = /lʲ/

If that’s the case, then Mayo’s broad Lh isn’t hard to convey; it would be the “dark L” of the Englishes of Scotland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and would be frequently heard in the US also (e.g. in words like “wealth” and “feel”).


Sorry scilling, only saw this now. Very interesting, so broad tense L exists in other English dialects.


I'm wondering, for the verbs that can't be lenited, how would you form the past tense? The notes and tips for the past tense skill wasn't very clear...


Take leag, for example. You'd just say the verb again. Leag tú. If you were commanding someone (since the dictionary root is the singular second person imperative), you wouldn't need the .


  • Leag tú an bórd - You sat the table
  • Leag an bórd - Set (one person) the table! (Command)


Thanks, that's a lot more clear now for me.


Thank you, think I am getting to understand this.


Is this 'set the table' as in to lay out knives and forks etc. or is it the other meaning of set?


This “set the table” can mean either “place the dining implements on the table” or “move the table into an intended position”. (The Irish sentence can also mean “Do you knock over the table?”.)


Therefore this has the exact same dual-meaning as it does in English? Such that "setting/laying something (down)" and "setting the table" (NOT laying the table down! Placing cutlery/plates where they belong) use the same verb "set" as in English???

This seems bizarre. I'm not used to different meanings/usages in one language mapping/mirroring so identically onto another. (Because those are different semantics, of the colloquial, idiomatic "setting a table" versus setting something down)


The English verb “set” has many more meanings than just these two. In the case of cutlery placement, “set“ is undoubtedly derived from the “putting down” meaning, as with French mettre and Spanish poner, so Irish using leag in the same way shouldn’t be particularly bizarre.


It's just not very frequent that one comes across separate languages that use differential meanings of one verb in identical ways to the other. I guess the 'mettre' and 'poner' examples make sense (although I hadn't thought of those). It seems notable to me any time different languages don't require separate verbs to capture the concept of one language's several varied definitions.


Just a side note - in modern Russian slang "set the table" (in the sense "put dining implements on the table") is an euphemism for "invite for a drinking party". So for me this sentence makes perfect sense :)

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