Words for Gender
Hi there! I'm an agender person, and I was wondering if Irish has any words for nonbinary genders! Thank you!
Do you mean pronouns or just nouns referring to an agendered person?
Well, the normal gender neutral way of referring to somebody in Irish is "an duine".
Dúirt an duine = The person said.
A dhuine = Hello!
Ba dhóigh le duine = One would suppose
Bhí mo dhuine ag caint = The guy was talking.
Using "mo dhuine" usually means you know them, or they're the main character in an anecdote. It's hard to explain, I wouldn't try to use it until you're fairly advanced.
I'll be pleasantly suprised if the answer is "yes", but we are talking here about a language which lacks a theologically neutral way to say "hello".
(Beannú here means salutations)
Conas atá tú.
(Dialectal: Conas taoi, Conas tánn tú)
"Conas atá tú" is "hello" in Irish, just as "How are ya" is hello in Hiberno-English.
Thanks. Conas atá tú or some variant thereof is probably the most natural sounding of the suggestions I've seen.
From a historical perspective, yes, but since the vowel sound has changed it's not something which hits you in the face in the same way Dia duit/Dia daoibh does. I wonder how people would react to heileo. I suspect they would just think I was speaking English, badly.
Dia is also a literary word for “day”, so you could greet people with Dia duit in a non-denominational “A day to you” meaning.
Native speaking atheists say "Dia Dhuit", it has no real religous force, just like "God bless you" in English or "Dar Crom" (By Crom, the Celtic god) in Irish.
Ha, perhaps I talk in an old fashioned way. However I want to emphasise that Dia Dhuit is not at all religous in Irish, virtually everybody would say it.
antspants01, since average non-religious people throughout the “anglosphere” can still say “goodbye” to one another without batting an eyelid today about its religious origin, it shouldn’t be surprising that the same could be the case in the “hibernosphere” with Dia duit.
It is still interesting. I mean, even if it isn't considered religious it is a telling sign of Ireland's past that average non-religious people can still tell each other "God be with you" and "God and Mary be with you" without batting an eyelid in the 21st century.
Actually when I hear an atheist say "God bless you" it causes me a mental double take. I think among the atheists I know "bless you" would probably have the little religious force you refer to and is pretty common (I myself use gesundheit), "God bless you" though... yeah, not so much.
Interesting, atheists I've met myself use God bless you, but that could be an Irish thing. Regardless, in Irish Dia Dhuit and Dar Crom are essentially without religous intent and are said all the time by native speaking atheists.
That's fair. NZ and Ireland do have quite different histories and presents, especially when it comes to Christianity.
antspants01, it could well be old-fashioned, but it’s not at all presumptuous. It’s the use of a subjunctive to express a wish rather than the use of an imperative to express a command: viz “(May) God bless you”, like “(May) God save the Queen”, without a comma — the word “God” isn’t being used vocatively.
True... Well, it was worth a try.
Edit: I did a smidgen of research, but nothing came of it. :(
Well, you could do what English does and use siad. It makes sense to me, and it would hardly be the first thing Irish borrowed form English, anyway.
That would not work. "Siad" refers to multiple people explicitly, it is not a gender neutral pronoun. If you did this people would think you meant multiple people.
Out of curiosity, what do people use for a person of unknown sex/gender in Irish? Do you default to sé?
Wow, thanks for all the replies, peeps! It's super cool to hear all of your thoughts 'n stuff!
Maybe some should be made? Neologisms have to begin somehwhere :D
Apparently éighnéasach is asexual but éigh- means cry out, scream, or complain so not exactly a positive prefix. The grammatical neuter gender is called neamhinscne. In this sense neamh- has nothing to do with heaven, but in- an- un- and non- so it's a much nicer prefix than éigh. Perhaps a new word should be coined like neamhinscnenach, neamhinscneoir, neamhinscnéasach or something.
You’re dividing éighnéasach in the wrong place — it’s éi- + -ghnéasach (gnéasach is “sexual”). Éi- is simply a negating prefix, like the “a-” in “asexual”.
One could follow the Swedish example and alter the vowel in existing pronouns to come up with an agendered version — say, siú and ú to correspond to sé and é and to sí and í, since neither siú nor ú have any alternate meanings. One could then coin the several corresponding prepositional pronouns accordingly, taking care to avoid confusion with their respective third-person plural versions, e.g. aigiu for agendered aige / aici, liu for agendered leis / léi, etc. However, a small irony would be that the new pronouns themselves would need to be assigned grammatical gender, so that their emphatic forms could be coined.
For the possessive adjective a, what word mutation (if any) would apply to something belonging to an agendered person? I suppose that T-prothesis could be used if that something began with a vowel, since that’s not currently being used by any of the existing “his”, “her”, and “their” meanings of a ; but if it began with a consonant, that could be tricky, since eclipsis, lenition, and no mutation are already taken by the existing meanings.
Thanks for that! I've only really been learning Irish for a few weeks so mistakes like that are bound to happen.
I proposed something similar but edited it out for fear of people thinking it was stupid. I thought of só or sú but neither looked right and I had trouble making them not look artificial. Glad that all I needed was another vowel to get to your siú.
Proposing a new pronoun in any language is going to look artificial to most eyes (it took decades in the Swedish case), but as you’d noted before, neologisms have to begin somewhere. An interesting view on neologisms is in Fowler’s The King’s English.
So what if some people might find some aspects of your proposal less than brilliant? If people see places where the proposal could be improved, then I’d hope that they’d offer constructive criticism on how to better it; if their only comments were “that’s stupid”, then of what importance would such a mere insult be?
Re: it could well be old-fashioned, but it’s not at all presumptuous.
This is my opinion, Scilling. If someone said "(May) God bless you" to me I would find that a tad presumptuous. What if I have a different religion and my own god(s) to bless me? What if I'm areligious? Above all, I don't think it's appropriate for when you meet people for the first time.
As for the grammar part? I really don't think the average Joe understands the concepts of vocative case or subjunctive mood so they're not going to check whether it’s in the subjunctive mood versus the imperative. All they're going to hear is God or Mary and perhaps they won't like that. I know, you can't do anything without people taking it the wrong way today, but that’s the global and multicultural world we live in now.
Re: Goodbye vs. Dia dhuit / Dia's Muire dhuit
You're comparing between two different cases though. Goodbye is a contraction and a relic from an earlier form of English (as well as an added o and obsolete ye). The same can't be said for Dia dhuit and dia is Muire dhuit as they both obviously show the unaltered words God and Mary in today's Irish. Personally, I would indeed find it surprising an Irish speaker or learner wouldn't discover their literal meanings very early on because the words are right in front of them. It would be like us being flabbergasted that the full phrase “God be with you” has a religious connotation. Yes, perhaps phrases/words do lose their impact but it's harder to deny or be ignorant of their roots if they are in their uncontracted and modern day forms.
Irish though has "Dar Crom" and "Dar Fia". Its not just Dia Dhuit. Thats three gods from three different religions. They're just common phrases.
What if you did have a different religion with your own gods to bless you, or no religion at all? It doesn’t represent any sort of proselytization effort whatsoever; it’s simply a spoken response to a sneeze. If I were in the Punjab and someone said ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂ (waheguru) in Punjabi to me after I sneezed, why should I possibly be offended? It’s simply a societally appropriate response, and has nothing to do with beliefs I might or might not hold.
I made that grammatical point because you had written “God bless you” (subjunctive) as “God, bless you” (imperative), which are two different statements. The average Joe will simply learn that in Irish, one says Dia duit when greeting somebody, and to respond to it with Dia’s Muire duit. As AnLonDubhBeag noted, it’s said no matter the beliefs (or lack thereöf) of the people who say them.
Since you are aware of the roots of “goodbye”, do you only say it to people whom you know to be monotheists, to avoid the possibility of offending people who also know of its roots, who aren’t monotheists, and who would take umbrage at the word because of its roots?
I really don't think your comparison with goodbye really works. I reckon if you went to the center of a large city and asked a hundred people what goodbye means not a single one would say god be with you, even if they know it, because that's not what it means now.
Also, arguing that a word has certain meanings because of it's etymology is my favourite example of a type of fallacious reasoning called the genetic fallacy. If people do take offense because of it's etymology they need to learn a little more rational debate. ;P
On the other hand it sounds like, and I don't really doubt you, dia duit can just be a general greeting. However, if I've understood correctly, it also has the meaning God be with you and I can understand why that would cause people pause, especially from languages with a non-theologically derived greeting. I can't decide if I mind it or not. :P
The argument of antspants01 was that saying “God bless you” to someone sneezing whom you’ve only just met would be inappropriate. My counterargument was that because it’s never said in an attempt to proselytize someone to monotheism, it isn’t inappropriate, just as “goodbye” is never said in an attempt to proselytize someone to monotheism.
I agree with you that taking offense at a societally accepted word’s etymology would be irrational, which is why I’d offered hesitation over saying “goodbye” to someone you’ve just met as a counterexample; it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to say, no matter the beliefs of the person to whom it’s said.
Yes, Dia duit literally translates as “God to/for you”, but its literal translation is not its primary meaning — its primary meaning is “hello”, and a phrase’s meaning is the proper subject of translation. (The literal translation of an English phrase like “he kicked the bucket” would most likely make no sense in context in the target language — it’s the phrase’s meaning that needs to be translated.)