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Old Irish Online

Series Introduction

Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel and Jonathan Slocum

Irish is one of the so-called Celtic languages, a sub-family of Indo-European. The Celtic languages documented and in part still spoken in modern times are Irish, Manx, and Scottish-Gaelic (dialects of a previous intermediate linguistic stage known as Goidelic), together with Welsh, Cornish, and Breton (which stem from a different intermediate linguistic stage called Brittonic or Brythonic). All these are usually called Insular Celtic languages because they evolved in the British Isles -- even if they were later carried back to the Continent, as in the case of Breton. To these six, we can add at least three more Celtic languages whose remains are limited to Antiquity, when they were spoken on the Continent; these are often grouped together as Continental Celtic, and were: Ancient Celtic from Italy (including the so-called Lepontic dialect), the Ancient Celtic from Spain (including the so-called Celtiberian dialect), and Gaulish Celtic (including the Galatian dialect).

The First Celtic-Speaking Peoples

Because there are many remarkable archaisms preserved in most of its dialects, Celtic seems to have branched off quite early from the Proto-Indo-European parent language. But the Celtic languages known from the early Middle Ages introduced quite a number of striking innovations, most of which can be accounted for by the colloquial style of everyday spoken language achieving prominence due to a very long period of oral tradition.

In particular, we can nowadays assume that the oldest Celtic was spoken in Central Europe and Northern Italy. The language seems to have then spread to the Iberian Peninsula since Celtic remains found there, in particular the dialect from Celtiberia, are slightly less conservative. A little later, we find in Italy a moderately innovating Celtic variety which includes the dialect known as Lepontic but is still a far cry from the strongly innovating language variety known as Gaulish, and even more so from Brittonic (the most innovative Celtic branch). It seems that, in the period before these last two varieties were fully developed, Old Celtic was taken to Ireland where it gradually turned into Goidelic, sharing quite a few isoglosses with the more innovative Gaulish and Brittonic varieties but at the same time becoming the most archaic variety of Insular, i.e. modern Celtic. (More details and bibliography are found in: Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, "Language and the historiography of Celtic-speaking peoples," in S. Rieckhoff (dir.), Celtes et Gaulois, l'Archéologie face à l'Histoire, I : Celtes et Gaulois dans l'histoire, l'historiographie et l'idéologie moderne, Actes de la table ronde de Leipzig, 16-17 juin 2005, Glux-en-Glenne: Bibracte, centre archéologique européen, 2006, pp. 33-56 [Bibracte; 12/1]; cf. also by the same author "Las lenguas célticas en la investigación: cuatro observaciones metodológicas," Cuadernos de Filología clásica: Estudios griegos e indoeuropeos, 16, 2006, pp. 5-21).

Old Irish between Heritage and Innovation

The reason for presenting Old Irish in this EIEOL series is twofold. First, it is the best known variety among the earliest surfacing stages of the Goidelic branch. Second, it shows not only

  1. the specific linguistic features (isoglosses) of Common Celtic, but also
  2. remarkable archaisms preserved from an early stage of Indo-European (IE), together with
  3. several Goidelo-Gallo-Brittonic innovations,
  4. many characteristic Goidelic isoglosses, and
  5. a few mostly syntactical peculiarities only shared with Brittonic and probably adopted in the early Middle Ages under the influence of its culturally dominant variety (Christianity, writing, and some literal traditions were also imported from/through Britain).

Two examples (a & b, below) will have to suffice for each of the aforesaid characteristics:

  1. (a) OIr. rí 'a king', genitive ríg 'of a king' with Celtic ī (as in Gaulish -rix) from IE *ē as in Latin rēx, rēgis; and (b) OIr. brith 'act of bearing/judging' with Celtic ri (as also in Gaulish and Brittonic, cf. resp. the god Britovios and Welsh bryd 'mind, intent, will') as the vocalized outcome of IE *r sonans as in Sanskrit bhṛtiḥ;
  2. (a) the lack of a synthetic verb for 'to have', for which a periphrasis is used instead; and (b) the lack of verbal infinitives, for which verbal substantives are used instead (at times even derived from different roots than the verb itself);
  3. (a) the reduction of the relative pronoun into an uninflected relative particle; and (b) the introduction of a so-called equative grade of the adjective by prefixing com to an adjective as in OIr. commór 'equally big', to be seen also in the personal names Gaulish Comaros and Old Breton Commor;
  4. (a) OIr. cruth 'form' from IE *kwṛtus via *kwritus (from which also the corresponding Welsh pryd), showing that IE *kw was still a real labiovelar prior to its transformation into Goidelic and Irish c [k], which is why Goidelic is considered one of the so-called q-Celtic varieties; and (b) the lenition of voiceless stops between vowel(s) and/or sonorant(s) into voiceless fricatives;
  5. (a) the transformation of the intermediate basic order S(ubject)-V(erb)-O(bject), into which the older IE order SOV had gradually developed during the joint Goidelo-Gallo-Brittonic period, into the typologically striking VSO, with a resulting general anteposition of the Determinatum to the Determinans; and (b) the usage of a lexical distinctive meaning 'woman' as a gender marker.
Literature and Other Sources in Medieval Irish

Having emerged from the less characterized stages of the so-called proto- and primitive Goidelic, surfacing respectively in the 2nd and in the 5th-7th centuries AD, Old Irish was used from the 8th to the 10th century AD to compose a quite huge variety of textual genres, even if most of the texts were transmitted to us only in much later manuscripts. Also its initial stage, called Archaic Irish and dated to the 6th and 7th century AD, is known only indirectly. In fact almost the only Old Irish documents that were written down at the time they were composed, and thus reached us in their original form, are Irish glosses to Latin religious or grammatical texts that were copied and used by Irish monks in Continental European monasteries: such are e.g. the Würzburg and Milan glosses and, respectively, the Sankt Gall and Karlsruhe glosses.

Poetry, mainly allitterative in the oldest period, is partly found scattered in such manuscripts, partly inserted in larger prose texts which it integrates, or of which it might even have constituted the earliest core. Most of the earlier Irish tales are in fact prosimetra -- mixtures of prose and verse. Their titles usually hint at the literary genre represented: e.g. adventure (echtra), banquet (fled), battle (cath), birth-tale (compert), cattle-raid (táin), death-tale (aided), destruction (togail), elopement (aithed), feast (feis), murder (orgain), tragedy (fingal), vision (aislinge), sea-voyage (immram), wooing (tochmarc).

An important group of stories is centered on the dynasty of the Ulaid in northeastern Ireland, supposed to have been ruled by a king Conchobar residing in the palace of Emain Macha (identified with the archaeological site of Navan Fort near Armagh): Cu Chulainn is the main hero, and this group is usually referred to as the Ulster Cycle. Other tales are centered on supernatural beings with magical powers that have been traced back to old Celtic deities; these fall into what is called the mythological group (or Cycle). Sometimes an historical person, typically a king, is made the hero of a tale that is mostly pure legend; these stories comprise the historical group, although the boundary between history and legend cannot be fixed. A fourth and comparatively later group of stories is centered on the mythical hero Finn mac Cumhaill and his followers, a fraternity of free-lancing warriors whose activities cut across tribal boundaries. Yet other tales are adaptations of Classical texts to the insular vernacular world, and among these we find an Irish Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, Achilleid, Pharsalia, Thebaid, a story of the Minotaur, of Hercules, and of the conquest of Troy.

Beside specifically religious texts such as the Martyrology of Oengus, the Psalter of Quatrains, or the lives of several saints, also didactic literature such as Morann's speculum principis or the maxims attributed to King Aldfrith of Northumbria are represented, together with a great number of law texts, the oldest ones belonging to the juridical corpus called Senchas már 'the big old lore': they encompass injury and other offenses, sometimes in connection with various animals, marriage and other contracts, loans, pledges and sureties, also legal procedure in general, and they refer to various social and professional groups, lunatics included. Genealogical and annalistic literature should also be mentioned, with the Annals of Ulster and Tigernach covering the earlier period.

Lesson Plan

Our text selections contrive to give an idea of the variety and beauty of the literature written in medieval Irish. They range from Archaic and Early Old Irish (sporadically still to be found in Audacht Morainn, Immram Brain, and Compert Con Culainn), through Classical Old Irish, down to Middle Irish (to be found consistently in Lebor Gabála Érenn and Aislinge Meic Con Glinne), but our texts are arranged more according to motifs and difficulty than in chronological sequence.

Starting with a linguistically rather archaic prose text about the birth of the principal Old Irish hero (Compert Con Culainn in Lesson 1), we continue with a classical example of the cattle-raids literary genre in which the same hero, Cu Chulainn, is the protagonist of an encounter with the war-goddess (Táin Bó Regamna in Lessons 2-4): these last three selections encompass descriptive prose, dialogue, and verse, in order to give a better idea of the different styles comprised in an average Old Irish tale. Afterwards, the core parts of a lyrical short tale are presented, whose protagonist is a very gifted medieval poetess (Comrac Liadaine ocus Cuirithir in Lesson 5). Next we encounter a piece of didactic and more archaic poetry aimed at instructing the leader of a community (Audacht Morainn in Lesson 6). The final four lessons begin with another genre of archaic verse, a so-called 'rowing-about' composition with a description of the Goidelic otherworld (Immram Brain in Lesson 7). We then revert to prose -- or perhaps theater -- with an Irish version of the Classical tragedy of Hippolytos and Phaedra (Fingal Rónain in Lesson 8). After taking a pseudohistorical look at the beginning of the colonization of Ireland (Lebor Gabála Érenn in Lesson 9), the panorama closes with a view of the land of Cockayne taken from a late satire on medieval religious life (Aislinge Meic Con Glinne in Lesson 10).

The authors of this series have tried to unify the various spelling policies adopted by the editors of the printed texts into a consistent whole; some hints as to the actual pronounciation are given in the first two lessons.

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Old Irish Online

Lesson 1

Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, Caren Esser, and Jonathan Slocum

This selection is taken from a text called Compert Con Culainn, The Conception of Cú Chulainn, which is one of the preludes (remscéla, or pre-stories) to the tales forming the so-called Ulster Cycle, a collection of lore centered around the heroes of the ancient Irish province of Ulster. Compert Con Culainn narrates the miraculous circumstances of the threefold birth of Cú Chulainn, the main hero of the Ulster saga. According to Irish tradition, the events described took place around the time of the birth of Christ, yet the central topic of the Ulster epic is far older and can be seen as a window on pre-Iron Age Ireland, possibly reflecting the fights of the Indo-European Celtic settlers against the older non-Celtic inhabitants of northwest Ireland.

While the stories contain various mythological elements, the geographical setting is historical: Emain Macha, the seat of the king of Ulster, Conchobar mac Nessa, has been identified with the archaeological site of Navan Fort, to the west of the city of Armagh, and Bruig na Boinne is the Old Irish name of the region surrounding the pre-Celtic hill grave of Newgrange, County Meath.

The text contains remarkable archaisms. Like most of the earlier Irish tales, it cannot be attributed to any specific author, but was passed on as oral lore until being written down by medieval scribes.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The selection is the first part of the account of the conception of Cú Chulainn. It narrates the events that precede the threefold birth of the hero. The first of these takes place in the house where Conchobar and his men seek shelter from the snow, and coincides with the birth of two foals just outside the house. The child is then raised by Conchobar's daughter, Deichtire, but dies in its infancy. Thereafter, Deichtire conceives a child from the elf Lug mac Ethnenn, "Lug son of the Bird," by drinking from a copper cup, and has a vision of Lug telling her that she will be having a son by the name of Setanta. The miraculous conception together with the lack of a father causes a scandal with the Ulidians, so that Conchobar finally marries his daughter off to Sualtaim mac Roich, "Sualtaim son of the Mighty Horse." Ashamed of marrying a man when already bearing another man's child, Deichtire aborts Lug's baby and subsequently becomes pregnant by her husband, eventually giving birth to a boy named Setanta, who later acquires the name Cú Chulainn, "hound of the smith."

Boí Conchuḃur ocus maithi UlaḋN iN nEṁuin.
  • boí -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative of substantive verb <attá> is -- was
  • Conchuḃur -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Conchubur, Conchobar> Conchobar -- Conchobar
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • maithi -- noun; nominative plural masculine, i-stem, of adjective <maith> good -- the nobles
  • UlaḋN -- noun; genitive plural masculine, o-stem, of <Ulaid> Ulidians, Ulstermen -- of the Ulstermen
  • iN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- in
  • nEṁuin -- toponym; nasalized dative singular feminine, i-stem, of <Emain, Emuin> Emain Macha -- Emain Macha

No tathigtis énḟlaith maġ arL Eṁuin.
  • no -- verbal particle; introduces imperfect <no> ... -- ...
  • tathigtis -- verb; 3rd person plural imperfect indicative active, conjunct, of <taithigid> frequents, practices -- used to frequent
  • énḟlaith -- noun; compound of <én> bird + lenited nominative singular feminine, i-stem, of; <flaith> rule; domain; ruler -- a flock of birds
  • maġ -- noun; accusative singular neuter, s-stem, of <mag> plain, field -- the plain
  • arL -- preposition; <arL, airL> before, for, in front of, east of -- east of
  • Eṁuin -- toponym; dative singular feminine, i-stem of <Emain, Emuin> Emain Macha -- Emain Macha

NaL ġelltis conná fácbatis ciḋ mecnu na fér ná lossa iN dalaṁ.
  • naL -- verbal particle; compound form of verbal particle <no> (introduces imperfect) + infixed pronoun 3rd person singular neuter; <aL> it -- it
  • ġelltis -- verb; 3rd person plural imperfect indicative active, conjunct, of <gelid> grazes, devours -- they used to devour
  • conná -- conjunction; compound form of conjunct particle <con, coN> until; so that; and + dependent negative particle; <ná, na> not, nor -- until... not
  • fácbatis -- verb; 3rd person plural imperfect indicative active, prototonic, of <fo°ácaib> leaves -- they left
  • ciḋ -- conjunction; compound form of conjunction <cía> although, even if + suffixed enclitic present subjunctive of copula; <is> is -- even
  • mecnu -- noun; accusative plural masculine, o-stem, of <mecon, mecan> root -- roots
  • na -- dependent negative particle; <ná, na> not, nor -- nor
  • fér -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <fér> grass -- grass
  • ná -- dependent negative particle; <ná, na> not, nor -- nor
  • lossa -- noun; accusative plural masculine, u-stem, of <luss, lus> herb, plant, vegetable -- herbs
  • iN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- on
  • dalaṁ -- noun; nasalized dative singular masculine, n-stem, of <talam> earth, ground -- the ground

BaH tochoṁracht laH hUltu aN naicsiu oc colluḋ aN nírenn.
  • baH -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- was
  • tochoṁracht -- verbal noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <tochomracht> distress, weariness, vexation -- distress(ing)
  • laH -- preposition; <laH> among, by, with -- for
  • hUltu -- proper name; aspirated accusative plural masculine, o-stem, of <Ulaid> Ulidians, Ulstermen -- the Ulstermen
  • aN -- possessive pronoun 3rd person plural; <aN> their -- ...
  • naicsiu -- verbal noun; nasalized nominative singular feminine, n-stem, of <aicsiu> seeing -- to see
  • oc -- preposition; <oc> at, with, by -- ...
  • colluḋ -- verbal noun; dative singular neuter, u-stem/s-stem, of <collud> damaging, destroying -- the destruction
  • aN -- possessive pronoun 3rd person plural; <aN> their -- their
  • nírenn -- noun; nasalized genitive singular feminine, n-stem, of <íriu> land, earth, soil -- of... land

Inlaat noí cairptiu diaN dofunn láaN nand.
  • inlaat -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <in°lá> undertakes, arranges, adjusts -- they yoke
  • noí -- indeclinable numeral; <noí> nine -- nine
  • cairptiu -- noun; accusative plural masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- chariots
  • diaN -- preposition; compound form of preposition <duL, doL> to + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person plural; <aN> their -- to... them
  • dofunn -- verbal noun; nasalized dative singular neuter, o-stem, of <tafann> hunting, pursuing, expelling -- chase... away
  • láaN -- noun; accusative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <láaN, láN> day, daylight -- one day
  • nand -- pronominalized preposition; nasalized 3rd person singular neuter dative of <in, iN> in, into -- then

Ar baH bés leusoṁ foriṁ én.
  • ar -- conjunction; <air, ar> for -- for
  • baH -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- was
  • bés -- noun; nominative singular masculine, u-stem, of <bés> custom, habit -- a custom
  • leusoṁ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person plural accusative of <laH> among, by, with + emphasizing particle 3rd person plural; <seom, som> he, it -- with them
  • foriṁ -- verbal noun; nominative singular neuter, n-stem, of <forim> chase -- the chase
  • én -- noun; genitive plural masculine, o-stem, of <én> bird -- of birds

Conchuḃur dano iN suḋiu innaL charput ocus aL inġen Deichtire os síL ṁacḋacht.
  • Conchuḃur -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Conchubur, Conchobar> Conchobar -- Conchobar
  • dano -- enclitic emphatic particle; <dano, dono> again, now, then -- then
  • iN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- ...
  • suḋiu -- verbal noun; dative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <sude, suide> sitting -- sitting
  • innaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- in his
  • charput -- noun; lenited dative singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- chariot
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • aL -- possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- his
  • inġen -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ingen> daughter -- daughter
  • Deichtire -- proper name feminine; nominative singular of <Deichtire, Deichtine> Deichtire -- Deichtire
  • os -- verb; participle present of copula <is> is -- being
  • síL -- personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine of; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- she
  • ṁacḋacht -- indeclinable; <macdacht> adult -- an adult

Is síL ḃaH harae diaH hathair.
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- it is
  • síL -- personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine of; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- she
  • ḃaH -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative, absolute, syntactically relative, of copula <is> is -- who was
  • harae -- noun; aspirated nominative singular masculine, dental stem, of <are, arae, ara> charioteer -- charioteer
  • diaH -- preposition; compound form of preposition <duL, doL> to + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <aH> her -- to her
  • hathair -- noun; aspirated dative singular masculine, r-stem, of <athir, athair> father -- father

Erriḋ UlaḋN olchenae innaN garptiḃ .i. Conall ocus Lóeġuire ocus cách olchenae.
  • erriḋ -- noun; nominative plural masculine, dental stem, of <eirr, err> chariot-fighter, champion, warrior -- the champions
  • UlaḋN -- noun; genitive plural masculine, o-stem, of <Ulaid> Ulidians, Ulstermen -- of the Ulstermen
  • olchenae -- adverb; <olchenae> besides -- also
  • innaN -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person plural; <aN> their -- in their
  • garptiḃ -- noun; nasalized dative plural masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- chariots
  • .i. -- abbreviation of; <ed-ón> that is -- that is
  • Conall -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Conall> Conall -- Conall
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • Lóeġuire -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Lóegaire, Lóeguire> Loegaire -- Loegaire
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • cách -- pronominal; nominative singular masculine of <cách> everybody, everyone -- everybody
  • olchenae -- adverb; <olchenae> besides -- else

Bricriu dano leu.
  • Bricriu -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Bricriu> Bricriu -- Bricriu
  • dano -- enclitic emphatic particle; <dano, dono> again, now, then -- too
  • leu -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person plural accusative of <laH> among, by, with -- with them

Fosruṁat indL éuin reṁiḃ diaN ndaiṁ tar Slíaḃ Fúait, tar Edṁuinn, tar Breġa.
  • fosruṁat -- verb; variant of 3rd person plural present indicative, deuterotonic, of <for°ruimi> sets, places; goes -- go
  • indL -- article; nominative plural masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • éuin -- noun; nominative plural masculine, o-stem, of <én> bird -- birds
  • reṁiḃ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person plural dative of <reN> before -- before them
  • diaN -- preposition; compound form of preposition <duL, doL> to + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person plural; <aN> their -- to their
  • ndaiṁ -- noun; nasalized dative singular feminine, u-stem, of <dom, dam> house, home -- abode
  • tar -- preposition; <tar> across, over -- over
  • Slíaḃ Fúait -- toponym; accusative singular of <Slíab Fúait> Wooden Hill -- Sliab Fuait
  • tar -- preposition; <tar> across, over -- over
  • Edṁuinn -- toponym; accusative singular of <Edmann> Edmonn, Edmand -- Edmand
  • tar -- preposition; <tar> across, over -- over
  • Breġa -- toponym; accusative singular of <Brega> Brega -- Brega

Ní bíḋ claḋ ná airḃe ná caisel imL thír iN nÉre ind amsir sin acht maiġe réiḋi.
  • ní -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • bíḋ -- verb; 3rd person singular consuetudinal present, absolute, of substantive verb <attá> is -- there would... be
  • claḋ -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <clad> ditch, dyke -- a dyke
  • ná -- dependent negative particle; <ná, na> not, nor -- nor
  • airḃe -- noun; nominative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <airbe> hedge, fence -- a fence
  • ná -- dependent negative particle; <ná, na> not, nor -- or
  • caisel -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <caisel> stone wall, rampart -- a stone wall
  • imL -- preposition; <imbL, immL> around, about; mutually -- around
  • thír -- noun; lenited accusative singular neuter, s-stem, of <tír> earth, territory, land -- the land
  • iN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- in
  • nÉre -- toponym; nasalized dative singular feminine, n-stem, of <Ériu> Ireland -- Ireland
  • ind -- article; accusative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- at
  • amsir -- noun; accusative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <aimser, amsir> time, period, season -- time
  • sin -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; <sin> this, that, those, the aforementioned -- that
  • acht -- preposition; <acht> except, only, save, but -- but
  • maiġe -- noun; accusative plural neuter, s-stem, of <mag> plain, field -- fields
  • réiḋi -- adjective; accusative plural neuter of <réid> smooth, even, level -- even

BaH hálaind ocus baH caín in ténlorg ocus in ténaṁar boíL leu.
  • baH -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- it was
  • hálaind -- adjective; aspirated nominative singular masculine of <álaind> beautiful, lovely -- delightful
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • baH -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- it was
  • caín -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <caín> fine, excellent, beautiful -- beautiful
  • in -- article; nominative singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ténlorg -- noun; compound of <én> bird + nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of; <lorg> trail, path, course -- bird-flight
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • in -- article; nominative singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ténaṁar -- noun; compound of <én> bird + nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of; <amar> singing, song -- bird-song
  • boíL -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative, syntactically relative, of substantive verb <attá> is -- that was
  • leu -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person plural accusative of <laH> among, by, with -- with them

Noí fichit én dóiḃ, rond argit eter cach dáL én.
  • noí -- indeclinable numeral; <noí> nine -- nine
  • fichit -- numeral; nominative plural masculine, nt-stem, of <fiche> twenty -- units of twenty
  • én -- noun; genitive plural masculine, o-stem, of <én> bird -- birds
  • dóiḃ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person plural dative of <duL, doL> to -- to them
  • rond -- noun; nominative singular masculine, u-stem, of <rond, ronn> chain, bond -- a chain
  • argit -- noun; genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <arcat, argat> silver -- of silver
  • eter -- preposition; <eter> between, among -- between
  • cach -- pronominal; nominative singular masculine of <cach, cech> each, every, any -- every
  • dáL -- numeral; accusative dual masculine of <dáL, díL, dáN> two -- two
  • én -- noun; accusative dual masculine, o-stem, of <én> bird -- birds

Cach fiche innaL lurg foL leith, noí luirg dóiḃ.
  • cach -- pronominal; nominative singular masculine of <cach, cech> each, every, any -- each
  • fiche -- numeral; nominative singular masculine, nt-stem, of <fiche> twenty -- unit of twenty
  • innaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- in its
  • lurg -- noun; dative singular masculine, o-stem, of <lorg> trail, path, course -- flight
  • foL -- preposition; <foL> under -- on
  • leith -- noun; dative singular neuter, s-stem, of <leth> side, direction -- a side
  • noí -- indeclinable numeral; <noí> nine -- nine
  • luirg -- noun; nominative plural masculine, o-stem, of <lorg> trail, path, course -- trails
  • dóiḃ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person plural dative of <duL, doL> to -- to them

Saṁlaiḋ dáL én bátar reṁiḃ, cuing argit etarru.
  • saṁlaiḋ -- adverb; <samlaid, amlaid> thus, so, in this way -- thus
  • dáL -- numeral; nominative dual masculine of <dáL, díL, dáN> two -- two
  • én -- noun; nominative dual masculine, o-stem, of <én> bird -- birds
  • bátar -- verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative relative of substantive verb <attá> is -- that were
  • reṁiḃ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person plural dative of <reN> before -- before them
  • cuing -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <cuing> yoke, chain -- a yoke
  • argit -- noun; genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <arcat, argat> silver -- of silver
  • etarru -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person plural accusative of <eter> between, among -- between them

Toscartha tríH héuin díḃ coH haidchi.
  • toscartha -- verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative passive, deuterotonic, of <do°scara> overthrows, ruins -- were separated
  • tríH -- numeral; nominative plural masculine of <trí, tri, teoir> three -- three
  • héuin -- noun; aspirated nominative plural masculine, o-stem, of <én> bird -- birds
  • díḃ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person plural dative of <diL, deL> from, of -- from them
  • coH -- preposition; <coH> to, until -- by
  • haidchi -- noun; aspirated accusative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <adaig> night -- night

Lotir reṁiḃ iN gend inL Ḃroġo.
  • lotir -- verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative of <luith, luid> moves; flies -- they flew
  • reṁiḃ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person plural dative of <reN> before -- before them
  • iN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- to
  • gend -- noun; nasalized accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <cenn> head, front; end -- the end
  • inL -- article; genitive singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- of the
  • Ḃroġo -- toponym; genitive singular masculine, u-stem, of <brug, bruig> region, district -- Brug na Boinne

Is and baH haḋaiġ for feraiḃ UlaḋN.
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- is
  • and -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <in, iN> in, into -- there
  • baH -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative, absolute, syntactically relative, of copula <is> is -- that... was
  • haḋaiġ -- noun; aspirated nominative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <adaig> night -- night
  • for -- preposition; <for> on, over -- on
  • feraiḃ -- noun; dative plural masculine, o-stem, of <fer> man -- the warriors
  • UlaḋN -- noun; genitive plural masculine, o-stem, of <Ulaid> Ulidians, Ulstermen -- of the Ulstermen

Feraiḋ snechtae mór foraiḃ dano.
  • feraiḋ -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, absolute, of <feraid> grants, affords, supplies, gives; performs; pours, sheds -- it pours
  • snechtae -- noun; nominative singular masculine, yo-stem, of <snechtae, snechta> snow -- snow
  • mór -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <már, mór> big, great -- big
  • foraiḃ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person plural dative of <for> on, over -- on them
  • dano -- enclitic emphatic particle; <dano, dono> again, now, then -- then

Asbert Conchuḃur friaL ṁuintir ara scortis aN gairptiu ocus ara cortis cor doL chuindchiḋ tiġe dóiḃ.
  • asbert -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative active, deuterotonic, of <as°beir> says, speaks -- said
  • Conchuḃur -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Conchubur, Conchobar> Conchobar -- Conchobar
  • friaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <frithL, friH> against, towards + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- to his
  • ṁuintir -- noun; accusative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <muinter> family; party, followers; retinue, company -- party
  • ara -- conjunction; <ar-aN> so that, in order that, that -- that
  • scortis -- verb; 3rd person plural past subjunctive active, conjunct, of <scuirid> unyokes -- they should unyoke
  • aN -- possessive pronoun 3rd person plural; <aN> their -- their
  • gairptiu -- noun; nasalized accusative plural masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- chariots
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • ara -- conjunction; <ar-aN> so that, in order that, that -- that
  • cortis -- verb; 3rd person plural past subjunctive active, conjunct, of <fo°cuirethar> puts, throws -- they should put
  • cor -- verbal noun; accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <cor> putting; throwing; letting go -- a delegation
  • doL -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- to
  • chuindchiḋ -- verbal noun; lenited dative singular masculine, i-stem, of <cuingid, cuindchid> seeking, requesting -- the seeking
  • tiġe -- noun; genitive singular neuter, s-stem, of <teg, tech> house, dwelling -- of shelter
  • dóiḃ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person plural dative of <duL, doL> to -- for them

Lesson Text

Boí Conchuḃur ocus maithi UlaḋN iN nEṁuin. No tathigtis énḟlaith maġ arL Eṁuin. NaL ġelltis conná fácbatis ciḋ mecnu na fér ná lossa iN dalaṁ. BaH tochoṁracht laH hUltu aN naicsiu oc colluḋ aN nírenn. Inlaat noí cairptiu diaN dofunn láaN nand. Ar baH bés leusoṁ foriṁ én. Conchuḃur dano iN suḋiu innaL charput ocus aL inġen Deichtire os síL ṁacḋacht. Is síL ḃaH harae diaH hathair. Erriḋ UlaḋN olchenae innaN garptiḃ .i. Conall ocus Lóeġuire ocus cách olchenae. Bricriu dano leu. Fosruṁat indL éuin reṁiḃ diaN ndaiṁ tar Slíaḃ Fúait, tar Edṁuinn, tar Breġa. Ní bíḋ claḋ ná airḃe ná caisel imL thír iN nÉre ind amsir sin acht maiġe réiḋi. BaH hálaind ocus baH caín in ténlorg ocus in ténaṁar boíL leu. Noí fichit én dóiḃ, rond argit eter cach dáL én. Cach fiche innaL lurg foL leith, noí luirg dóiḃ. Saṁlaiḋ dáL én bátar reṁiḃ, cuing argit etarru. Toscartha tríH héuin díḃ coH haidchi. Lotir reṁiḃ iN gend inL Ḃroġo. Is and baH haḋaiġ for feraiḃ UlaḋN. Feraiḋ snechtae mór foraiḃ dano. Asbert Conchuḃur friaL ṁuintir ara scortis aN gairptiu ocus ara cortis cor doL chuindchiḋ tiġe dóiḃ.

Translation

Conchobar and the nobles of the Ulstermen were in Emain Macha. A flock of birds used to frequent the plain east of Emain Macha. They used to devour it until they left nothing on the ground, not even roots or grass or herbs. To see the destruction of their land was distress(ing) for the Ulstermen. One day they yoke nine chariots to chase them away. For the chase of birds was a custom with them. Conchobar then, sitting in his chariot, and his daughter Deichtire, she being an adult. It is she who was charioteer to her father. Also the champions of the Ulstermen in their chariots, that is Conall and Loegaire and everybody else. Bricriu, too, (was) with them.
The birds go before them to their abode, over Sliab Fuait, over Edmand, over Brega. There would not be a dyke, nor a fence or a stone wall around the land in Ireland at that time, but (just) even fields. It was delightful and it was beautiful the flight and the singing of those birds. Nine units of twenty birds to them, a chain of silver between every two birds. Each unit of twenty separated in its flight, nine trails (there were) to them. Thus (it was) two birds that were before them, a yoke of silver between them. Three birds were separated from them by the night. They flew before them to the end of Bruig na Boinne. It is there that night was on the warriors of the Ulstermen. Then it pours big snow on them.
Conchobar said to his party that they should unyoke their chariots and that they should put a delegation to the seeking of shelter for them.

Grammar

1 Spelling and Pronunciation
1.1 The Phonological System and its Orthographical Representations

The phonetic values of the constituents of the Old Irish phonological system can be inferred from their pronunciation in the modern language as well as from textual variants and from secondary sources, such as e.g. Old Norse manuscripts.

The Old Irish phonological system is made up of the following phonemes:

Vowels and Diphthongs

Short vowels   a   e   i   o   u
Long vowels          
Diphthongs   áu, ái (áe)   éu (éo)   íu, ía   oí (óe)   úa, uí

Consonants

        Labial   Dental   Palato-velar
Stops   Voiceless   p   t   k
    Voiced   b   d   g
Fricatives   Voiceless   f   θ   x, h
    Voiced   v, ṽ/β~   ð   ɣ
Nasals       m   n   ŋ
Liquids           r, l    
Sibilants           s    

Depending on their vocalic environment, consonants can have either palatal or non-palatal, that is velar or neutral quality. Palatal quality occurs after the vowels /e/ and /i/, whether short, long, or the second element of a diphthong (though <e> can also indicate a preceding palatal and a following nonpalatal consonant); velar quality occurs after the vowels /o/ and /u/, long and short or as second element of a diphthong; long and short /a/ or diphthongs containing it as the second element cause neutral quality of a following consonant.

The oldest extant written material of Old Irish consists of sepulchral stone inscriptions, carved into rectangular stone pillars according to a peculiar dots and line-system called ogam-alphabet. The distinction between vowels (represented by one to five notches on the central line, which is the edge of the stone pillar) and consonants (represented by one to five strokes cut across the central line), and the classification of the sounds into four sets, roughly according to their type of articulation, point to the fact that the writers were familiar with the Classical grammatical tradition and probably adapted an earlier numeral system to the Latin alphabet.

The Latin alphabet, which was used for all other purposes, had the major disadvantage of possessing a poor inventory of symbols representing fricatives, so that not every Irish sound could be orthographically represented by a specific letter. Therefore, in the manuscripts certain Latin letters denote various Irish phonemes, such as the letters <p t c>, which represent both voiced and voiceless stops [b d g p t k] (in the latter 3 instances they are sometimes written double), because the letters <b d g> are used to indicate voiced fricatives. Voiceless fricatives are indicated by <ph th ch>. The letter <m> stands not only for [m], but also for the voiced nasalized fricatives [β~] and [].

The following table shows the Old Irish consonant system as expressed by the Latin letters, and the phonetic values these represent in Old Irish:

  • p represents [p] and [b]
  • t represents [t] and [d]
  • c represents [k] and [g]
  • b represents [v] and [b]
  • d represents [ð] and [d]
  • g represents [ɣ] and [g]
  • ph represents [f]
  • th represents [θ]
  • ch represents [x]
  • m represents [m], [] and [β~]
  • n represents [n] and [ŋ]
  • r represents [r]
  • l represents [l]
  • s represents [s]
  • represents [h], as a morphophonemic variant of /s/
  • f represents [f]
  • represents lenited f, which is silent
  • h represents [h], as prefixed to vowels (as by the initial mutation called gemination, cf. lesson 2, section 6.3)

The phonetic value of those letters which represent several phonemes is determined by its context. That is to say, whether e.g. /b d g m/ are pronounced as stops or as fricatives depends on their position in the word and in the sentence. Word-internally in intervocalic position or between vowel and sonorant, as well as word-finally in postvocalic position and after vowel+liquid, they undergo so-called lenition, which means they have laxer articulation. The phenomenon also affects /n r l/ in intervocalic and post-vocalic word final position; yet while lenited /b d g m/ in later manuscripts came to be written bh, dh, gh and mh respectively, there is no orthographic indication of this phenomenon with respect to /n r l/ (but they are sometimes written double when they are not lenited).

The same mutation also occurs between syntactically related words, where it has to a great extent developed into a grammatical phenomenon, i.e. beyond the phonetic one it originally was. Initial lenition will be discussed in lesson 2, section 6, together with the two other types of initial mutation, i.e. nasalization and gemination, which cause prefixing of an n- and h-, respectively, to a following vowel (where nasalization takes place, there is also voicing of voiceless stops, yet this is not orthographically indicated in the manuscripts or in the present text). There are many examples for the various mutations in the present text. In the first sentence alone, we find instances of lenited c, b, m and d in Conchuur, nEuin, and UlaN. The dative of the toponym Eṁuin is furthermore nasalized by the preceding nasalizing preposition iN, thus nEṁuin. Sentence four contains an example of gemination, where the preposition laH causes aspiration of the vocalic initial of the following noun Ultu, thus hUltu.

That a word in certain syntactical contexts causes mutation of the initial of the following word is indicated in the present work by L, N or H respectively after the word in question. To facilitate correct pronunciation of the Old Irish texts, lenited consonants are orthographically indicated in the first two lessons, even if these clues are not present in the actual manuscripts.

1.2 Accentuation

As can be inferred from the reduction of unstressed syllables (viz. word-internal syncope and word-final apocope), as well as from the pronunciation in most modern dialects, Old Irish had a strong stress accent, which falls on the first syllable in uncompounded words susceptible of full stress as well as in nominal compounds. Only in verbal compounds does the first preverb not form a close compound with the second element, so that the stress is usually on the second syllable of the compound; this can be either the verbal stem itself or another preverb. Compound verbs following this stress pattern are called deuterotonic. An example from the text is found in sentence three, where naL (i.e. the verbal particle no + pronoun aL) precedes the 3 plural imperfect indicative ġelltis, which bears the accent on the first syllable, thus naLġelltis. If the first position, however, is occupied by certain conjunctions and particles, the stress falls on the first syllable, i.e. on the first preverb of a compound verb. The compound is then said to have prototonic form. In the text, this is illustrated by the verbal form fácbatis in the third sentence, which is preceded by the conjunction conná, consisting of the conjunct particle conN + suffixed negative particle ná. The verbal compound fo°ácaib accordingly has prototonic form, thus fácbatis. Prototonic verbal forms are also required in a few other constructions (cf. lesson 5, section 22.2). Unstressed words, such as the article, prepositions, and many pronouns are attached either to the following or the preceding word as proclitics or enclitics.

2 Word Order
2.1 The Basic Word Order of Old Irish

In Old Irish, nominal as well as verbal predicates stand at the head of the sentence, preceding subjects and objects. Only certain elements like pretonic prepositions, conjunctions, interrogatives, negative particles and infixed personal pronouns can precede the verb; all other elements, when focussed and hence placed left of the verb, require a relative marker. According to typological classification, Old Irish is therefore a language of the VSO type, because its basic word order is Verb-Subject-Object. Sentences like the first two illustrate the VSO word order with initial position of the verb, which in the first sentence is the copula boí, followed by the subject Conchuḃur, and in the second the compound verb form no tathigtis, followed by the subject énḟlaith and the direct object maġ arL Eṁuin. Sentence twelve constitutes an example of the finite verb -- in this instance the copula bíḋ -- being preceded by the negative particle ní.

The VSO order also implies further syntactical as well as certain morphological characteristics and even phonological features. As to syntax, the determinans follows the determinatum, that is to say, nominal modifiers such as genitives, descriptive adjectives and relative constructions follow the noun they modify, complements follow finite verbs etc. The aforementioned constructions can be seen in the text: in the first sentence, the genitive UlaḋN follows the noun it modifies, maithi 'the nobles of the Ulstermen'; the same is true in sentences 4 and 12, where we find colluḋ aN n-írenn 'the destruction of their land', and in imaḋ na treḃ 'the rivalry of the tribes'. In sentence 11, the noun maiġe is followed by its modifier, the adjective réiḋi, thus 'even fields'. A determinatum-determinans relation in form of a relative construction following the noun it modifies can be found in sentence 13, where boí leu 'that was with them' follows the nouns in t-énlorg ocus in t-énaṁar 'the flight of the birds and the singing of the birds'.

2.2 Word Order in Nominal Syntagms and Compounds

In nominal syntagms, the verbal or predicate element is placed at the head of the sentence.

In nominal compounds, such as the determinative compounds énlorg 'flight of the birds' and énaṁar 'singing of the birds', the VSO-specific syntactical order of modifier and modified element appears reversed. Here, we find determinans-determinatum instead of determinatum-determinans, with the logical genitive én 'birds' preceding lorg 'flight' and aṁar 'singing' respectively, which it modifies. The explanation for this lies in the fact that compounds generally tend to preserve archaic patterns and Irish, like all other ancient Indo-European languages, originally belonged to the SOV type but later underwent a typological change.

2.3 Residues of the Older SOV Structure

Apart from the word order in nominal compounds, which were formed according to the older syntactic structure still preserved in the older Goidelic layers, remnants of the original SOV structure can also be found in some of the earliest texts, where verbs may be placed at the end of their clause. In this situation, simple verbs take conjunct forms (see below, section 3.3), while compound verbs take prototonic forms (see above, section 1.2). The phenomenon was identified by Osborn Bergin ("On the Syntax of the Verb in Old Irish," Ériu 12, 1938, 197-214) and is therefore referred to as Bergin's Law. Another type of residual OV construction is to be seen in sentence 3, where the non-compound verb ġelltis is preceded by the object pronoun aL, which is infixed between the verb itself and the imperfect-marker no. Remnants of SVO are also attested, as probably the deuterotonic inlaat (with implicit subject) followed by the direct object noí cairptiu in sentence 5.

3 The Verb
3.1 Sentences without Verb

In Old Irish, the verb is frequently omitted in any type of clause, especially where it would have been a form of the 3rd person indicative, but also in descriptions, peremptory commands, and even replies to questions. Omission of the verb 'to be' is especially common, as in the present text sentences such as 7, 9 and 10 show, which begin with the subject of the clause: Conchuḃur, Erriḋ UlaḋN, and Bricriu, respectively.

3.2 Nominal Forms of the Verb

In Old Irish, verbal action is frequently expressed by nouns, the so-called verbal nouns, whose subject or object is usually in the genitive. In the last sentence of the present text, the verbal noun of con°dieig, cuindchiḋ, which is itself in the dative and is governed by the preposition doL, has the genitive tiġe as its object. Literally translated, the phrase thus means 'for the seeking of shelter', though in English it corresponds to an infinitive construction 'to seek shelter'. Verbal nouns may also occur without an object; in still other constructions the subject or object of the action may be placed before the nominative or accusative of the verbal noun, as the following phrase from Fingail Rónain illustrates: Is mór bríg do mac aithig guin maic ríg, 'It is a much too serious matter for the son of a villain to kill the son of a king' (lit. 'for the son of a villain the killing of the son of a king'), where the logical subject mac aithig 'son of a villain' precedes the verbal noun guin 'killing', and the object maic ríg 'son of a king' follows in the genitive.

Other nominal forms of the verb are the past participle passive, which is inflected like an adjective, and the verbal of necessity, which is not inflected and, used only in predicative constructions, has the same meaning as Latin gerundives such as agenda 'things to be done'.

3.3 Inflected Verbal Forms

In Old Irish, verbs are inflected for voice, mood, tense, number and person.

There are two voices, active and passive. In the active, two inflections are distinguished, active and deponent, the latter of which is in its form similar to the passive but actually based on the Indo-European middle voice, which denotes that an action is carried out with reference or benefit to the subject. In the present selection, only active and passive finite verbal forms occur. There are numerous examples of active forms, e.g. boí 'it was', inlaat 'they prepare', fosruṁat 'they go', lotir 'they flew', etc. A passive form is found e.g. in sentence eighteen, in the 3 plural preterite passive toscartha 'they were separated'.

The passive has a special form for the 3rd person plural only, whereas the form of the 3rd person singular is used for all other persons; in these contexts an infixed pronoun (1st/2nd person singular/plural) must then be added to indicate the subject.

Three moods are distinguished. The indicative is used in declarative statements, the subjunctive indicates uncertainty, in subordinate clauses also volition or expectation, and the imperative serves for commands.

In the indicative, five tenses are distinguished: present, imperfect, preterite, future and secondary future. The present is used for present and universal or indefinite time, and is also very often employed as historical present to make a narration more vivid. This is observed e.g. in sentences five, eleven and twenty-one of the present text. The imperfect denotes repeated or customary action in the past, as illustrated by the verbs in sentences two and three, which describe the habitual behaviour of the birds. The preterite indicates past action or state. As is to be expected in narration, most of the verbal forms of the text are in the preterite. The future indicates future action, also action completed at a point of time in the future. The secondary future indicates an action which, when viewed from a definite point of past time, lay in the future, and also serves as potentialis and irrealis.

The subjunctive mood only differentiates between present and past, whereby the present subjunctive corresponds to the present and future indicative, and the past subjunctive corresponds to the imperfect and preterite indicative, and in some subordinate clauses can also serve as subjunctive of the secondary future.

In order to indicate that an act or state is perfect, completed, the verbal particle ro, which in origin is a preposition, can be combined with nearly all simple and most compound verbs. It gives perfective force to the preterite indicative and the past subjunctive, which otherwise have the meaning of a simple past, and with the imperfect denotes that an action is repeatedly completed in the past. It also has modal function, expressing possibility or ability (e.g. as°ro-ba(i)r 'he can say', from as°beir 'says').

The tenses and moods of the verbs are formed from five different stems:

  • present stem for present and imperfect indicative as well as the imperative (active/deponent and passive forms);
  • subjunctive stem for present and past subjunctive (active/deponent and passive forms);
  • future stem for primary and secondary future indicative (active/deponent and passive forms);
  • active preterite stem for the preterite indicative, active and deponent;
  • passive preterite stem for the passive preterite indicative.

Two main classes of verbs, strong and weak, can be distinguished according to the way in which they form these stems. Strong verbs are without exception primary, never derived, while weak verbs are mainly denominative. The difference between the two classes is most obvious in the 3 singular present indicative active, where a weak verb in the so-called conjunct inflection has the ending -a or -i, while a strong verb has no visible ending.

There are two numbers, singular and plural. Dual subjects take a plural verb. Both numbers distinguish three persons.

Inflection may be either absolute or conjunct. Absolute inflection is employed for simple verbs in absolute sentence-initial position. Conjunct inflection is used after all kinds of preceding elements, such as prepositions, the verbal particles ro and no, the conjunctions and particles usually termed conjunct particles, and in the archaic construction where the verb stands at the end of its clause. An example of conjunct inflection is found in the second and third sentence, where the verbs, viz. notathigtis, naLġelltis, and connáfácbatis, are in the imperfect and therefore necessarily conjunct, since the imperfect has no absolute forms; its forms must therefore be preceded by the semantically void particle no whenever there is no preverb or conjunct particle to introduce them.

Special relative forms of the verb incorporating the pronominal element exist in the absolute inflection for the third person singular and plural, active and passive, and generally also for the first person plural active in the present and future indicative as well as in the present subjunctive (cf. lesson 5, section 21).

Not all paradigms given in the following lessons are complete. This does not necessarily mean that the forms did not exist, but rather that no textual evidence has been found for them yet; forms which are preceded by an asterisk are reconstructions.

3.4 Impersonal Constructions

Impersonal constructions are very common in Old Irish. They are generally used where the emphasis is on the semantic content of the verb, rather than on the logical subject of the action. Many of these constructions involve prepositions, as for example in sentence four, which reads BaH tochoṁracht laH hUltu and would be literally translated as 'it was weariness with the Ulstermen', i.e. 'the Ulstermen were weary', or in sentence six, where we find the construction ḃaH bés leusoṁ, 'it was a custom with them', i.e. 'they had the custom'. Another type of impersonal construction is found in the Irish passive constructions, where the emphasis on the verbal action is even stronger, while the persons involved are of no importance; there are also actual impersonal forms within the Old Irish passive paradigms.

4 The Noun

Old Irish distinguishes three grammatical genders, masculine, feminine, and neuter. In nominal inflection, the three Indo-European numbers, singular, plural and dual -- the latter denoting units of two -- are preserved. Four cases are still differentiated: nominative, accusative, genitive, and dative. They have the following primary functions:

  • The nominative is the case of the grammatical subject.
  • The accusative is the case of the direct object. It is also used with verbs of coming and going to indicate direction, and to indicate time, usually duration, as well as after certain prepositions.
  • The dative is the case of the indirect object. It is also used after certain prepositions.
  • The genitive is the case of the subject of possession. It is used to specify or even to describe another noun (as in e.g. senóir clérigh léith, lit. 'an old man of a grey cleric', i.e. 'an old, grey-haired cleric'). It also indicates the subject or object of a verbal noun.

Old Irish also possesses a vocative, which is strictly speaking not a case but a special grammatical form of address for nouns, which are then preceded by the leniting particle aL, L.

It must be noted that not all cases are formally differentiated by all three genders or in all three numbers, and distinction is furthermore dependent on the stem-class to which a noun belongs. Old Irish distinguishes twelve different stem-classes, six vocalic and six consonantal, according to the sound in which the stem originally ended. These will be discussed in detail in the subsequent lessons.

5 Prepositions

Prepositions introduce prepositional phrases, comparable to those in English, and are very common in VSO languages. They require the accusative (e.g. friL 'against', laH 'with') or the dative (e.g. doL, duL 'to'; diL, deL 'of, from') of the following noun or pronoun, or either the accusative or dative depending on whether they denote direction or location (e.g. iN, in 'in; into'; foL 'under'). They are frequently followed by enclitic personal or possessive pronouns, as in diaN 'to their', from prep. doL 'to' + suffixed possessive pronoun 3 plural aN 'their' in sentence five, innaN 'in their', from prep. inN + suffixed possessive pronoun 3 plural aN 'their' in sentence nine, dóiḃ 'to them', from prep. doL + enclitic personal pronoun -iḃ 'them' in sentences fifteen and sixteen, etc. Due to the frequent occurrence of these combinations of prepositions plus personal pronouns, they are not transparent anymore and therefore treated as inflectional paradigms in the grammars, where they are usually referred to as conjugated prepositions (cf. lesson 7, section 35); here, for the sake of clarity, they are referred to as pronominalized prepositions.

Old Irish Online

Lesson 2

Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, Caren Esser, and Jonathan Slocum

The text passages of this and the following two lessons are taken from the story entitled Táin Bó Regamna "The Cattle Raid of the Important Calf," which, like the text in Lesson 1, forms part of the Ulster Cycle. The story belongs to the Irish literary genre of Tána Bó, meaning "cattle raids," and is a prelude to its most prominent representative, the Táin Bó Cuailnge (TBC) "The Cattle Raid of Cooley," which can be dated to the 8th-11th century AD and relates how the Ulster hero Cú Chulainn wins back the Brown Bull after it had been stolen by Medb, queen of the neighbouring province of Connacht. The practice of raiding cattle was common among Indo-European tribes and represents an archaic feature which must be considered historical, as similar events are also known from ancient Greece. A successful cattle raid was an assertion of the integrity of the tribal community and consequently was of major social importance, though it ceased to be practised in the wake of Christianity with Irish Catholic church law prohibiting such raids.

Táin Bó Regamna is one of the various and sometimes later composed remscéla leading up to the TBC: while being a small Táin Bó of its own right, it also serves as a pretext to anticipate certain events within TBC. It tells of the encounter between the Ulster hero Cú Chulainn and the war-godess Morrígan "Great Queen". The theme of confrontation between a hero and a supernatural being is actually a literary genre in itself, and is characterized by several typical features that are also found in our text: the name of the supernatural being is not explicitly mentioned until the end of the story, but is encoded in a riddle for his/her real name; the description of the supernatural being contains unambiguous hints as to his/her identity; the hero is defeated in one way or the other by the supernatural being; the hero is being foretold disaster.

Táin Bó Regamna has come down to us in two manuscripts, one from the fourteenth century AD, contained in the Yellow Book of Lecan (Y), and the other from the sixteenth century AD (Egerton 1782 (E)), which, albeit younger, contains fewer modernisations and additions. The language of the archetype seems to go back to the ninth century, thus belonging to the Early Middle Irish period and therefore somewhat younger than Compert Con Chulainn, the text of Lesson 1, yet the version used in the present lesson is that prepared and adapted to the Old Irish standard language in J. Corthals' edition of the text.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The following selection relates the events leading up to the encounter between Cú Chulainn and the Morrígan. The hero is woken up by the roaring of cattle. Outside his house he is met by his charioteer Lóeg, and the two follow the sound till they meet up with a highly unusual entourage, consisting of a red-haired woman clad in red, whose chariot is drawn by only one red horse in contrast to the customary two horses -- which moreover has only one leg -- accompanied by a big man who is driving a cow. The symbology points to the identity of the woman as the war-goddess Morrígan, yet her name is not mentioned. Cú Chulainn enters into a dispute with her over the cow.

AN mboí Cú Chulainn iN nDún Iṁriḋ coNgúalae ní, aN ngéim.
  • aN -- conjunction; <aN> as, when -- when
  • mboí -- verb; nasalized 3rd person singular preterite indicative of substantive verb <attá> is -- was
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn
  • iN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- in
  • nDún Iṁriḋ -- toponym; nasalized dative singular of <Dún Imrid> Fort Imrid -- Dun Imrid
  • coNgúalae -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative active, deuterotonic, of <ro°cluinethar> hears -- he heard
  • ní -- indefinite pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <ní> something, anything -- something
  • aN -- article; accusative singular neuter of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ngéim -- verbal noun; nasalized accusative singular neuter, n-stem, of <géim> roaring (of cattle) -- a roaring of... cattle

CoN ndíuchrastar trianaL chotluḋ coniḋ corastar assaL imḋai coN riacht inN nariḋin inaL ṡuiḋiu for lár.
  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle <con, coN> until; so that; and -- and
  • ndíuchrastar -- verb; nasalized 3rd person singular preterite indicative, prototonic, of <do°fíuch(t)ra> wakes up -- he woke up
  • trianaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <triL, treL> through + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- from his
  • chotluḋ -- noun; lenited dative singular masculine, u-stem, of <cotlud> sleeping, sleep -- sleep
  • coniḋ -- conjunction; compound form of conjunction <con, coN> until; so that; and + infixed pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <idL> he -- and... himself
  • corastar -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative active, prototonic, of <fo°ceird> sets, puts; throws -- he threw
  • assaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <essH, asH, aH> out of, from + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- out of his
  • imḋai -- noun; dative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <imdae> bed, couch -- bed
  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle <con, coN> until; so that; and -- so that
  • riacht -- verb; 3rd person singular perfect indicative active, prototonic, of <ro°saig> reaches -- he reached
  • inN -- article; accusative singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • nariḋin -- noun; nasalized accusative singular masculine, n-stem, of <aride, airide> bench -- bench
  • inaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- that was
  • ṡuiḋiu -- verbal noun; lenited dative singular neuter, o-stem, of <sude, suide> sitting -- sitting
  • for -- preposition; <for> on, over -- on
  • lár -- noun; dative singular neuter, o-stem, of <lár> floor, surface; middle -- the floor

ÍarN sin immach doL ṡuiḋiu arL les.
  • íarN -- preposition; <íarN, íarmL-> after -- after
  • sin -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; <sin> this, that, those, the aforementioned -- that
  • immach -- adverb; <immach> out of, out -- outside
  • doL -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- with
  • ṡuiḋiu -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; lenited dative singular masculine of <sude, suide> this one, the aforementioned -- him
  • arL -- preposition; <arL, airL> before, for, in front of, east of -- into
  • les -- noun; accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <les> yard -- the yard

CoN mbu íL, aL ḃen, berthae aL étach ocus aL armm inaL ḋiaiḋ.
  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle <con, coN> until; so that; and -- and
  • mbu -- verb; nasalized 3rd person singular preterite indicative, conjunct, of copula <is> is -- it was
  • L -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular feminine of <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- she
  • aL -- possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- his
  • ḃen -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- wife
  • berthae -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative active, absolute, relative of <berid> carries, brings -- who brought
  • aL -- possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- his
  • étach -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <étach> clothing, garment -- clothing
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • aL -- possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- his
  • armm -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <arm, armm> armour, weapon -- armour
  • inaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- on his
  • ḋiaiḋ -- noun; lenited dative singular neuter, o-stem, of <dead, diad> end -- trail

CoN naccae ní, Lóeg araL chinn inaL charput inneltiu oc Fertai Loíg antúaiḋ.
  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle <con, coN> until; so that; and -- and
  • naccae -- verb; nasalized 3rd person singular preterite indicative active, prototonic, of <ad°cí, at°chí> sees -- he saw
  • ní -- indefinite pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <ní> something, anything -- something
  • Lóeg -- proper name masculine; accusative singular of <Lóeg> Laeg -- Laeg
  • araL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <arL, airL> before, for, in front of, east of + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- in... of him
  • chinn -- noun; lenited dative singular neuter, o-stem, of <cenn> head, front; end -- front
  • inaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- in his
  • charput -- noun; lenited dative singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- war-chariot
  • inneltiu -- adjective; dative singular masculine of preterite indicative passive participle <inneltae> yoked, harnessed -- harnessed
  • oc -- preposition; <oc> at, with, by -- at
  • Fertai Loíg -- toponym; dative singular feminine of <Fertae Loíg> Laeg's tumulus -- Ferta Laeg
  • antúaiḋ -- adverb; <antúaid> from the north -- from the north

"CiḋL dotLucai?" ol Cú Chulainn friH Lóeg.
  • ciḋL -- stressed interrogative pronoun; neuter <cidL, cedL> what; why -- what
  • dotLucai -- verb; 3rd person singular perfect indicative active, deuterotonic, of <do°beir> brings + infixed pronoun 2nd person singular; <totL, tatL, tL> you -- brings you
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn
  • friH -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- to
  • Lóeg -- proper name masculine; accusative singular of <Lóeg> Laeg -- Laeg

"Géiṁ roLchúala issinL ṁaiġ," ol Lóeg.
  • géiṁ -- verbal noun; accusative singular neuter, n-stem, of <géim> roaring (of cattle) -- the roaring of cattle
  • roLchúala -- verb; 1st person singular perfect indicative active, deuterotonic, syntactically relative, of <ro°cluinethar> hears -- that I heard
  • issinL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + dative singular neuter of article; <in, aN, indL> the -- in the
  • ṁaiġ -- noun; dative singular neuter, s-stem, of <mag> plain, field -- plain
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Lóeg -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Lóeg> Laeg -- Laeg

"CiḋL leth?" ol Cú Chulainn.
  • ciḋL -- stressed interrogative pronoun; neuter <cidL, cedL> what; why -- which
  • leth -- noun; nominative singular neuter, s-stem, of <leth> side, direction -- direction
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn

"Aníarthúaiḋ amne," ol Lóeg.
  • aníarthúaiḋ -- adverb; <aníarthúaid> from the north-west, in the north-west -- from the north-west
  • amne -- emphatic particle; <amae, amin, amne> thus, in that way, so, then -- in fact
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Lóeg -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Lóeg> Laeg -- Laeg

"InaN ndiaiḋ," ol Cú Chulainn.
  • inaN -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person plural; <aN> their -- on their
  • ndiaiḋ -- noun; nasalized accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <dead, diad> end -- trail
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn

Tíaġait ass íaruṁ coH hÁth da Ḟerta.
  • tíaġait -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative, absolute, of <téit> goes -- they set
  • ass -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <essH, asH, aH> out of, from -- out
  • íaruṁ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <íarN, íarmL-> after -- after this
  • coH -- preposition; <coH> to, until -- to
  • hÁth da Ḟerta -- toponym; aspirated accusative singular of <Áth da Ḟerta> Ford of the Two Mounds -- Ath da Ferta

InN dan mbátar ann, íaruṁ coNgúalatar culgaire inL charpait iN doíḃ Grellchae Culgairi.
  • inN -- article; accusative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- at the
  • dan -- noun; nasalized accusative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <tan, tain> time -- time
  • mbátar -- verb; nasalized 3rd person plural preterite indicative, syntactically relative, of substantive verb <attá> is -- they were
  • ann -- adverb; <ann> there -- there
  • íaruṁ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <íarN, íarmL-> after -- afterwards
  • coNgúalatar -- verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative active, deuterotonic, of <ro°cluinethar> hears -- they heard
  • culgaire -- noun; accusative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <culgaire> noise, rumble of a chariot -- the rumble
  • inL -- article; genitive singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- of the
  • charpait -- noun; lenited genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- chariot
  • iN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- on
  • doíḃ -- noun; nasalized dative singular masculine, o-stem, of <tóeb> side -- the side
  • Grellchae Culgairi -- toponym; genitive singular of <Grellach Culgairi> Bog of the Chariot-rumble -- of Grellach Culgairi

Tíaġait fóe coN naccatar ní, inN garpat reiṁiḃ.
  • tíaġait -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative, absolute, of <téit> goes -- they go
  • fóe -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <foL> under -- down to it
  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle <con, coN> until; so that; and -- and
  • naccatar -- verb; nasalized 3rd person plural preterite indicative active, prototonic, of <ad°cí, at°chí> sees -- they see
  • ní -- indefinite pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <ní> something, anything -- something
  • inN -- article; accusative singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • garpat -- noun; nasalized accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- chariot
  • reiṁiḃ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person plural dative of <reN> before -- before them

Óenech derg foa ocus óenchoss foL ṡuiḋiu ocus síthḃe inL charpait sethnu indL eich coN ndechuiḋ geinn trít friH fosaḋ aL étain anair.
  • óenech -- noun; compound of <óen-> one, single + nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of; <ech> horse -- a single... horse
  • derg -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <derg> red -- red
  • foa -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine dative of <foL> under -- under it
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • óenchoss -- noun; compound of <óen-> one, single + nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of; <coss, cos> foot, leg -- a single leg
  • foL -- preposition; <foL> under -- under
  • ṡuiḋiu -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; lenited dative singular masculine of <sude, suide> this one, the aforementioned -- the just-mentioned
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • síthḃe -- noun; nominative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <síthbe> pole, shaft -- the shaft
  • inL -- article; genitive singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- of the
  • charpait -- noun; lenited genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- chariot
  • sethnu -- preposition; <sethnu, sethno> through, across -- through
  • indL -- article; genitive singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • eich -- noun; genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <ech> horse -- horse
  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle <con, coN> until; so that; and -- so that
  • ndechuiḋ -- verb; nasalized 3rd person singular perfect indicative, prototonic, of <téit> goes -- went
  • geinn -- noun; nominative singular feminine, dental stem, of <genn, geinn> wedge, block -- a wedge
  • trít -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <triL, treL> through -- through it
  • friH -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- till
  • fosaḋ -- noun; accusative singular masculine/neuter, o-stem, of <fossad, fosad> plain surface -- the surface
  • aL -- possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- of its
  • étain -- noun; genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <étan, édan> front, brow, forehead -- forehead
  • anair -- adverb; <anair> from the front, before -- from the front

Ben derg issinL charput ocus bratt derg impe ocus diL ḃraí ḋerġa lé ocus aH bratt eter diL ḟeirt inL charpait síar coN sliġeḋ lár inaH diaiḋ ocus fer mór iN goṁair inL charpait.
  • ben -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- a... woman
  • derg -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <derg> red -- red
  • issinL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + dative singular neuter of article; <in, aN, indL> the -- in the
  • charput -- noun; lenited dative singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- chariot
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • bratt -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <bratt> cloak, mantle -- a... cloak
  • derg -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <derg> red -- red
  • impe -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular feminine accusative of <imbL, immL> around, about; mutually -- around her
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • diL -- numeral; nominative dual feminine of <dáL, díL, dáN> two -- two
  • ḃraí -- noun; lenited nominative dual feminine, u-stem, of <brú, brá> eyebrow, brow -- eyebrows
  • ḋerġa -- adjective; lenited nominative dual feminine of <derg> red -- red
  • lé -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular feminine accusative of <laH> among, by, with -- on her
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • aH -- possessive pronoun; 3rd person singular feminine <aH> her -- her
  • bratt -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <bratt> cloak, mantle -- cloak
  • eter -- preposition; <eter> between, among -- between
  • diL -- numeral; accusative dual feminine of <dáL, díL, dáN> two -- the two
  • ḟeirt -- noun; lenited accusative dual feminine, ā-stem, of <fert> shaft, pole -- hind-poles
  • inL -- article; genitive singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- of the
  • charpait -- noun; lenited genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- of the chariot
  • síar -- adverb; <síar> backwards, back -- to the back
  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle <con, coN> until; so that; and -- so that
  • sliġeḋ -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative active, conjunct, of <sligid> strikes, slays; clears -- it dragged
  • lár -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <lár> floor, surface; middle -- on the ground
  • inaH -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <aH> her -- on her
  • diaiḋ -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <dead, diad> end -- trail
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • fer -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <fer> man -- a.. man
  • mór -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <már, mór> big, great -- big
  • iN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- in
  • goṁair -- adverb; nasalized <comair> in front of -- front of
  • inL -- article; genitive singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • charpait -- noun; lenited genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- chariot

Fúan forbbtha immi ocus gaḃallorg finnchuill friaL aiss oc immáin naH bó.
  • fúan -- noun; nominative singular neuter, o-stem, of <fúan> tunic -- a tunic
  • forbbtha -- noun; genitive singular feminine, i-stem, of <forbbaid> covering; shroud -- as a covering
  • immi -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <imbL, immL> around, about; mutually -- on him
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • gaḃallorg -- noun; compound of <gabul, gabal> fork + nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of; <lorg> stick, shaft -- forked pole
  • finnchuill -- noun; compound of <find, finn> white, bright + lenited genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of; <coll> hazel-tree -- of white hazel
  • friaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <frithL, friH> against, towards + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- on his
  • aiss -- noun; accusative singular feminine of <aiss, ais> back, hinder part -- back
  • oc -- preposition; <oc> at, with, by -- ...
  • immáin -- verbal noun; dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <immáin> driving; roaming, wandering about -- he was driving
  • naH -- article; genitive singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • bó -- noun; genitive singular feminine, irregular, of <bó> cow, ox -- cow

"Ní fóeliḋ inL ḃó liḃ ocaH himmáin," ol Cú Chulainn.
  • ní -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • fóeliḋ -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <fóelid> happy -- happy
  • inL -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ḃó -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine irregular of <bó> cow, ox -- cow
  • liḃ -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person plural accusative of <laH> among, by, with -- with ye
  • ocaH -- preposition; compound form of preposition <oc> at, with, by + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <aH> her -- at her
  • himmáin -- verbal noun; aspirated dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <immáin> driving; roaming, wandering about -- driving
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn

"Ní dír duit éim aH hetercert naH bó so," ol inL ḃen.
  • ní -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • dír -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <dír> proper, fit, necessary -- fitting
  • duit -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular dative of <duL, doL> to -- for you
  • éim -- emphatic particle; <ém, éim> truly, indeed, then -- indeed
  • aH -- possessive pronoun; 3rd person singular feminine <aH> her -- ...
  • hetercert -- noun; aspirated nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <etercert> interpretation, discussion, judgement, decision -- the judging
  • naH -- article; genitive singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- of
  • bó -- noun; genitive singular feminine, irregular, of <bó> cow, ox -- cow
  • so -- demonstrative pronoun; <so> this, these -- this
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • inL -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ḃen -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman

"Ní bó charat na choicéli duit."
  • ní -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- it is not
  • bó -- noun; nominative singular feminine, irregular, of <bó> cow, ox -- the cow
  • charat -- noun; lenited genitive singular masculine, nt-stem, of <carae> friend -- of a friend
  • na -- dependent negative particle; <ná, na> not, nor -- nor
  • choicéli -- noun; lenited genitive singular masculine, yo-stem, of <coicéle, coicéile> companion, friend; friendship -- of a companion
  • duit -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular dative of <duL, doL> to -- to you

"Is dír daṁsa éim baí UlaḋN nuile," ol Cú Chulainn.
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- it is
  • dír -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <dír> proper, fit, necessary -- fitting
  • daṁsa -- pronominalized preposition; compound form of 1st person singular dative of <duL, doL> to + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- for me
  • éim -- emphatic particle; <ém, éim> truly, indeed, then -- indeed
  • baí -- noun; nominative plural feminine, irregular, of <bó> cow, ox -- the cows
  • UlaḋN -- noun; genitive plural masculine, o-stem, of <Ulaid> Ulidians, Ulstermen -- of the Ulstermen
  • nuile -- adjective; nasalized genitive plural masculine of <uile> all, whole -- of all
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn

"Etercertaisu anba, aL Chú," ol inL ḃen.
  • etercertaisu -- verb; compound form of 2nd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <eter°certa> interprets; decides, determines + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- you judge
  • anba -- noun; accusative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <anba> vast quantity -- a vast quantity
  • aL -- particle; introduces vocative <aL> o -- o
  • Chú -- proper name masculine; lenited vocative singular of <Cú> Hound -- Cu
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • inL -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ḃen -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman

"CiḋL arndiḋ íL, inL ḃen, atomLġláḋathar?" ol Cú Chulainn.
  • ciḋL -- stressed interrogative pronoun; neuter <cidL, cedL> what; why -- why is it
  • arndiḋ -- preposition; compound form of preposition <arL, airL> before, for, in front of, east of + relative particle; <-aN, -saN> that which, what + 3rd person singular present indicative, conjunct, of copula,; <-did> is -- that it is
  • L -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular feminine of <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- her
  • inL -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ḃen -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman
  • atomLġláḋathar -- verb; compound form of 3rd person singular present indicative, deuterotonic, syntactically relative of <ad°gládathar> addresses, speaks to + infixed pronoun 1st person singular; <domL, dumL> I -- who speaks to me
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn

"CiḋL nach é in fer atomLġláḋathar?"
  • ciḋL -- stressed interrogative pronoun; neuter <cidL, cedL> what; why -- why
  • nach -- negative particle; compound form of negative <nad> not + 3rd person singular present indicative, conjunct, of copula; <is> is -- is it not
  • -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine of <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- him
  • in -- article; nominative singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • fer -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <fer> man -- man
  • atomLġláḋathar -- verb; compound form of 3rd person singular present indicative, deuterotonic, syntactically relative of <ad°gládathar> addresses, speaks to + infixed pronoun 1st person singular; <domL, dumL> I -- who speaks to me

Lesson Text

AN mboí Cú Chulainn iN nDún Iṁriḋ coNgúalae ní, aN ngéim. CoN ndíuchrastar trianaL chotluḋ coniḋ corastar assaL imḋai coN riacht inN nariḋin inaL ṡuiḋiu for lár. ÍarN sin immach doL ṡuiḋiu arL les. CoN mbu íL, aL ḃen, berthae aL étach ocus aL armm inaL ḋiaiḋ. CoN naccae ní, Lóeg araL chinn inaL charput inneltiu oc Fertai Loíg antúaiḋ. "CiḋL dotLucai?" ol Cú Chulainn friH Lóeg. "Géiṁ roLchúala issinL ṁaiġ," ol Lóeg. "CiḋL leth?" ol Cú Chulainn. "Aníarthúaiḋ amne," ol Lóeg. "InaN ndiaiḋ," ol Cú Chulainn. Tíaġait ass íaruṁ coH hÁth da Ḟerta. InN dan mbátar ann, íaruṁ coNgúalatar culgaire inL charpait iN doíḃ Grellchae Culgairi. Tíaġait fóe coN naccatar ní, inN garpat reiṁiḃ. Óenech derg foa ocus óenchoss foL ṡuiḋiu ocus síthḃe inL charpait sethnu indL eich coN ndechuiḋ geinn trít friH fosaḋ aL étain anair. Ben derg issinL charput ocus bratt derg impe ocus diL ḃraí ḋerġa lé ocus aH bratt eter diL ḟeirt inL charpait síar coN sliġeḋ lár inaH diaiḋ ocus fer mór iN goṁair inL charpait. Fúan forbbtha immi ocus gaḃallorg finnchuill friaL aiss oc immáin naH bó. "Ní fóeliḋ inL ḃó liḃ ocaH himmáin," ol Cú Chulainn. "Ní dír duit éim aH hetercert naH bó so," ol inL ḃen. "Ní bó charat na choicéli duit." "Is dír daṁsa éim baí UlaḋN nuile," ol Cú Chulainn. "Etercertaisu anba, aL Chú," ol inL ḃen. "CiḋL arndiḋ íL, inL ḃen, atomLġláḋathar?" ol Cú Chulainn. "CiḋL nach é in fer atomLġláḋathar?"

Translation

When Cu Chulainn was in Dun Imrid, he heard something, a roaring of the cattle. And he woke up from his sleep and he threw himself out of his bed so that he reached the bench that was sitting on the floor. After that, outside with him, into the yard. And it was she, his wife, who brought his clothing and his armour on his trail. And he saw something, Laeg, in front of him, in his harnessed war-chariot, at Ferta Laeg, from the north.
"What brings you (here)?" said Cu Chulainn to Laeg.
"A roaring of cattle that I heard in the plain," said Laeg.
"Which direction?" said Cu Chulainn.
"From the north-west, in fact," said Laeg.
"(Let's go) on their trail!" said Cu Chulainn.
After this, they set out to Ath da Ferta. Afterwards, at the time they were there, they heard the rumble of the chariot on the side of Grellach Culgairi. They go down to it and see something, the chariot before them. A single red horse under it, and a single leg under the just-mentioned, and the shaft of the chariot through the horse, so that a wedge went through it till the surface of its forehead from the front. A red woman (was) in the chariot, and a red cloak around her, and two red eyebrows on her, and her cloak to the back between the two hind-poles of the chariot so that it dragged on the ground on her trail, and a big man (was) in front of the chariot. (There was) a tunic as a covering on him, and a forked pole of white hazel on his back; he was driving the cow.
"The cow (is) not happy with ye at her driving," said Cu Chulainn.
"The judging of this cow is indeed not fitting for you," said the woman. "(It is) not the cow of a friend nor of a companion to you."
"It is fitting for me indeed (to judge) the cows of all of the Ulstermen," said Cu Chulainn.
"You judge a great quantity, o Cu," said the woman.
"Why is it that it is her, the woman, who speaks to me?" said Cu Chulainn. "Why is it not him, the man, who speaks to me?"

Grammar

6 Initial Mutations

In Old Irish, a morphophonological phenomenon exists which causes phonological alterations to the initial sounds of words in certain syntactical constructions. Originally of purely phonological character, these changes were caused by the old endings of the preceding forms/words; even though the original endings had already been lost by the Old Irish period, their effects remained, causing the initial sound of a following word or words to be lenited, nasalized or aspirated. However, for a word to suffer initial mutation, the word causing this does not necessarily have to immediately precede it, or can even be completely absent, as is the case with the leniting and nasalizing relative clauses (cf. lesson 4, section 16).

6.1 Lenition

Historically speaking, initial lenition was caused by the final vowel of a syntactically closely connected preceding word. In such a context, the following forms and words cause lenition of a following initial consonant:

A. Declensional forms:

  • dative singular of all genders and stems;
  • nominative and vocative singular of all feminines;
  • genitive, vocative singular and nominative plural of masculine o- and yo- stems;
  • genitive singular of neuter o- and yo- stems;
  • nominative, vocative and accusative plural of all neuters (inconsistently after those ending in -a);
  • nominative, accusative and genitive dual of masculines and feminines;
  • nominative and vocative singular of cú 'hound';
  • the neuters alaill and ced cid 'which?';
  • the possessive pronouns mo m- 'my', do t- 'thy', a 'his, its';
  • the infixed personal pronouns, 1st and 2nd person singular -m and -t, and 3rd person singular neuter -a -(i)d.

B. Verbal forms:

Originally, initial lenition only occurred after the following forms of the copula:

  • absolute relative forms in leniting relative clauses;
  • all forms of the imperative;
  • the 3rd person singular past subjunctive bad, bed;
  • monosyllabic conjunct forms (except 3rd person singular -did -dib -dip and forms that have become monosyllabic by shortening);
  • the forms masu 'if it is', cesu 'though it is', and their plurals matu, cetu ceto.

In later sources the application of lenition spreads and any verb can lenite a following object, subject or attributive, though this is not a general rule.

C. Uninflected words:

  • the prepositions amal, ar, cen, di, do, fiad, fo, im, ó úa and tre tri lenite the initial consonant of the word they govern;
  • the verbal particle ro ru when unstressed after a conjunct particle;
  • the conjunctions acus ocus 'and', no/nó nu/nú 'or', fa/fá ba/bá 'or', ma/má 'if', cía ce 'although', co 'so that', 'since', ama(i)l 'as', except in nasalizing relative clauses;
  • the negatives nicon/nícon, na(d)con;
  • the vocative particle a/á;
  • the emphasizing particle su, so after personal pronouns;
  • the numeral cóic 'five' in all cases except the genitive plural.

Also, the second element of a compound (cf. lesson 9, section 43) is lenited:

  • when the first element is a noun, adjective (including uninflected adjectives prefixed to a noun), or numeral;
  • after the inseparable prefixes so- su- 'good', do- du- 'bad', mí- 'ill-, mis-, wrong' and the negative neb- neph-;
  • after the prepositions aith ath 're-, ex-', air er ir 'before, for', dí de 'of, from', do, du 'to', fo 'under', imb im(m) 'about, mutually', ind 'in, into', 'from, by', rem 'before', ro, ta(i)rm 'across, over', to 'to, towards', in nominal and in close verbal compounds.

Initial lenition affects consonants only, and has basically the same effect as word-internal lenition (cf. lesson 1, section 1), causing spirantization of g, d, b, c, t, p and m to ġ, ḋ, ḃ, ch, th, f and respectively, and causing more lax articulation of n r l, which, however, is not indicated orthographically. It furthermore affects f, which becomes silent, while s turns into either /h/ or f, depending on its origin (e.g. suidiu 'sitting', lenited ṡuidiu -- as in the second sentence, inaL ṡuiḋiu; but siur 'sister', lenited fiur, from *sw- (cf. Goth. swistar)).

There are general exceptions to initial lenition: where the Old Irish final sound and the following initial consonant are homorganic, initial lenition does not occur and the two sounds form an unlenited geminate instead; initial t and d are never lenited after final n, l, s, th, d; the initial consonants of adjectival cach cech 'every', of the emphasizing particles sa, se, su, som etc. (cf. lesson 3, section 15.1), and of the demonstrative particles so, sin are never lenited (though the demonstrative particles are lenited when used as substantives after prepositions and in sunda 'here').

Just like lesson 1, the text of this lesson provides many examples of initial lenition, such as trianaL chotluḋ 'from his sleep' or the abovementioned inaL ṡuiḋiu, lit. 'in his sitting', both lenited by the possessive pronoun, 3rd person singular masculine aL. In the phrase inL charpait the genitive singular of the article lenites the following genitive noun (carpait), while Ní bó charat na choicéli represents an instance of a following genitive (carat, coicéli) being lenited for syntactic reasons. In diL ḃraí 'two eyebrows' lenition is caused by the numeral 'two', and in aL Chú we find lenition of the personal name due to the preceding vocative particle aL.

6.2 Nasalization

This phenomenon is generally caused by the following words and inflectional forms, originally ending in -n (representing both old final -n and -m):

Declensional forms:

  • the accusative singular and genitive plural of all genders;
  • the nominative singular of all neuters;
  • the nominative, vocative, accusative and genitive dual of all neuters;
  • the dative, all genders, of the numeral "two";
  • the infixed personal pronouns 3rd person singular masculine a, d; also, optionally, the 3rd person singular feminine and 3rd person plural s;
  • the plural possessive pronouns ar 'our', far 'your', a 'their'.

Verbal forms:

  • the absolute relative forms of the copula in nasalizing relative clauses
  • (cf. lesson 4, section 16).

Uninflected words:

  • the numerals secht, ocht, noí, deich;
  • the uninflected numerals cóic and sé nasalize the initial sound of a following genitive plural;
  • the relative particle (s)a, and i 'in which';
  • the conjunctions a 'while', ara, dia;
  • the conjunct particle co (but without nasalization when it is spelled con);
  • the interrogative particle in.
  • The prepositions co 'with', i 'in', íar 'after' and re ri ría 'before' nasalize the initial sound of a dependent case.
  • The originally nominal prepositions dochum 'towards', in-degaid 'after' and tar-ési 'instead of' nasalize the initial sound of stressed syllables only.

In certain relative clauses the initial sound of the verb is nasalized (cf. lesson 4, section 16).

Nasalization affects both vowels and consonants. It causes prefixing of n to an initial vowel, and of the homorganic nasal to the mediae g, d, b; the tenues c, t, p are turned into mediae, and f into its voiced counterpart v. Initial r, l, m, n and s are geminated when preceded by a proclitic vowel (see below). In writing, nasalization is clearly indicated only in the case of vowels and mediae; orthographic instances of nasalized c, t, p, f are rare.

There are many instances of nasalization in the lesson text. The first sentence alone presents us with four examples: AN mboí Cú Chulainn, where the conjunction aN nasalizes the initial sound of the following copula; iN nDún Iṁriḋ, with nasalization of the toponym caused by the preposition iN; coNgúalae, again with nasalization of the finite verb (°cúalae) caused by a conjunction (coN) used as a verbal particle; and finally aN ngéim, where the nasalization of the direct object is due to the preceding article (accusative singular neuter). In the phrase InaN ndiaiḋ, for example, we find the nasalizing 3rd person plural of the possessive pronoun a, causing mutation of the following adverb.

6.3 Spirant Mutation

This phenomenon is generally caused by the original final -s of a syntactically related preceding word, which may belong to any of the following categories:

Declensional forms:

  • the genitive singular of all feminines;
  • the accusative plural of all genders;
  • the nominative plural feminine and neuter of the article (also the same case-forms of some other words);
  • the nominative accusative singular neuter of na 'any';
  • the feminine possessive pronoun a 'her';
  • the infixed personal pronouns 3rd person singular feminine and 3rd person plural da, ta, a.
  • The nominative singular ua 'grandson' (a later medieval form of áue) causes prefixation of h- to an initial vowel in the later language.

Verbal forms:

  • the preterital and modal 3rd person singular of the copula ba (except in relative clauses);
  • the negative of the copula ni ní 'is not'.

Uninflected words:

  • the prepositions a 'out of', co, cu 'to', fri 'against' and la 'with, among', before a dependent case;
  • the particle assa between comparatives;
  • the negative na 'nor';
  • the numeral sé 'six', except in the genitive plural;
  • the particle a before abstract numerals.
  • In pretonic position, all prepositions ending in a vowel, as well as the particles ro, no, the interrogatives cía ce and co, and the negatives ni ní, na, when no infixed pronoun is attached to them, geminate the initial consonant of a following verb or verbal compound (except in relative clauses).

Spirant mutation, also known as gemination, causes the doubling of an initial consonant as a consequence of the progressive assimilation of the old final sound of the preceding word. It also affects initial stressed vowels, causing prefixation of h-. Already in decline in the Old Irish period, gemination is only indicated in writing where the two words are written together, as scribes never double the initial consonant of a separate word. Unlike the other two types of mutation, which have become morphophonological phenomena, gemination has never developed beyond a phonetic phenomenon.

Instances of gemination are found in the present lesson, for example in coH hÁth da Ḟerta where the preposition coH causes mutation of the following toponym, or in ocaH himmáin where the aspiration of the verbal noun immáin is due to the possessive pronoun 3rd person singular feminine a, which is here attached to the preposition oc.

7 Tmesis

As mentioned in lesson 1, section 2, whereas Proto-Celtic was an SOV language, the basic word order of Old Irish is verb-initial, so that the finite verb generally stands at the head of its clause. In Old Irish poetry and certain types of prose, however, a more archaic syntax has been preserved, in which the first preposition of a compound verb or the negative particle may stand alone at the head of the clause, separated by other words from the remainder of the verb, which follows later. This feature is known as tmesis. The following example from Audacht Morainn illustrates this: Is tre ḟir flathemoin fo-síd sámi sube soad sádili-sláini "It is through the justice of the ruler that he secures peace, tranquility, joy, ease [and] comfort," where the preposition fo- of the compound verb fo°sláini is separated from the rest of the verb by its objects (síd ... sádili).

8 Verbal Nouns and Their Use

The basics of the verbal noun have already been introduced in lesson 1, section 3.2. This chapter will take a closer look at the more advanced details of verbal nouns and the constructions they are used in.

8.1 Morphology of the Verbal Noun

No uniform rules exist for the formation of verbal nouns. Though with many exceptions, they are formed from the same root as the verb to which they belong. The verbal nouns derived from strong verbs show a great diversity of formations; cf:

  • combag, combach from con°boing 'breaks';
  • tofun(n) from do°seinn 'pursues', in lesson 1;
  • su(i)de from saidid 'sits', in this lesson;
  • brith breth, genitive brithe, from berid 'bears';
  • mrath from marn(a)id, °mairn 'betrays';
  • aicsiu from ad°cí 'sees', in lesson 1;
  • ac(c)aldam from ad°gládathar 'addresses';
  • géim, in the present lesson, from géisid 'shouts, roars';
  • án, áin from agid 'drives';
  • clúas from ro°clu(i)nethar 'hears';
  • gabál from ga(i)bid 'takes'; etc.

The verbal nouns derived from weak verbs (cf. lesson 4, section 17.2) are usually formed from the verbal stem by adding -ad, -ath or -iud, -iuth, -ud, -uth, while weak denominative verbs usually employ the very abstract noun from which they were derived.

8.2 Constructions Involving Verbal Nouns

As noted in lesson 1, section 3.2, verbal noun constructions often correspond to the infinitives of other languages. They may also be used like English infinitives connected by 'for ... to', as in Niba fír ... Cet do rainn na mucce, 'It is not just ... for Cet to divide the pig'; the object is in the genitive, as in most cases, and the verbal noun is related to other nouns by means of do; but other prepositions (cf. lesson 1, section 5) are found, too. Subjects also can be connected to the verbal noun by a preposition, e.g. iN in the sentence Conchuḃur dano iN suḋiu innaL charput 'Conchubur then was sitting in his chariot' (cf. lesson 1, 1st selection), literally 'Conchubur then was in the (act of) sitting in his chariot'.

9 General Synopsis of the Case Endings in Relation to the Noun-Stem Classes

In lesson 1, section 4, the different vocalic and consonantal stem-classes of Old Irish were mentioned. Due to their variety, it is not always clear from the ending of a declensional form which case-form of which stem-class the ending represents. The following table offers a general synopsis of the different possibilities. An [a], [i] or [u] after the C of the consonantal endings refers to its a-, i-, or u-quality (i.e. velar, palatal or neutral -- cf. lesson 1, section 4).

Ending   Singular       Plural    
    Case   Stem   Case   Stem
Ca#   Nom.   O   Gen.   O
    Nom.     Gen.  
    Nom/Acc/Voc. Ntr.   S   Gen.   Cons.
    Gen.   Cons.        
    Acc.   O   Nom/Acc/Voc. Ntr.   O
    Voc. Ntr.   O   Nom/Acc. Ntr.   Cons.
    Voc.          
                 
Ci#   Nom.     Nom.   O
    Nom.   I   Nom.   Cons.
    Gen.   O        
    Dat.   Ā, I, Cons.        
    Acc.   Ā, I, Cons.        
    Voc.   O, I        
                 
Cu#   Nom.   U        
    Dat.   O, U        
    Acc.   U        
    Voc.   U        
                 
a#   Gen.   I   Nom/Acc/Voc.2 Ntr.   O
    Gen.2   U   Nom/Acc/Voc.  
            Nom.   U
            Acc.   Cons.
            Nom/Acc.2 Ntr.   Cons.
                 
e#   Nom.   YO   Gen.   YO
    Nom.   YĀ   Gen.   YĀ/Ī
    Gen.     Gen.   I
    Gen.   YĀ/Ī   Gen. (Cae)   U
    Gen.   S   Gen.   S
    Acc.   YO   Nom/Acc. Ntr.   YO
    Voc.   YĀ   Nom/Acc/Voc. Ntr.   I
            Nom/Acc. Ntr.   S
            Nom. (Cae)   U
                 
i#   Gen.   YO   Nom.   YO
    Dat.   YĀ/Ī   Nom.   YĀ/Ī
    Acc.   YĀ/Ī   Nom.   I
    Voc.   YO   Acc.   YĀ/Ī
            Acc.   I
            Nom. (Cai)   U
                 
o#   Gen.   I, U        
                 
u#           Acc.   O, U
            Voc.   O
                 
(i)u#   Dat.   YO   Acc.   YO
            Voc.   YO
                 
(a)ib#           Dat.   O, Ā, U, Cons.
                 
ib#           Dat.   YO, YĀ/Ī, I, S
10 The Pronoun

Old Irish distinguishes four major groups of pronouns, which are: personal, possessive, interrogative, and demonstrative pronouns. These are divided into several subclasses.

Personal pronouns exist for all three persons, singular and plural, with a distinction of the three grammatical genders in the 3rd person singular. Proclitic and enclitic forms are far more numerous than the stressed ones. The proclitic forms became attached to a pretonic preverb and are therefore considered to be 'infixed' in the verbal form. Three different sets of infixed personal pronouns exist, whose usage depends on phonological and syntactical constraints. The enclitic forms are suffixed either to certain verbal forms or to prepositions, with which they combine to give the so-called 'conjugated prepositions' (cf. lesson 1, section 5). A special type of personal pronoun are the emphasizing particles, or notae augentes, which exist in various forms for each person, with a distinction between masculine/neuter versus feminine in the 3rd person singular. A detailed description of the personal pronoun will follow in lesson 3, section 15.

The possessive pronouns are formally the old genitive forms of the personal pronoun, and are therefore not inflected. Again, stressed and unstressed forms exist, with the stressed ones being used very rarely. The unstressed forms are different for the first and second persons, while the form for the third persons is a in the singular and plural, and the number/gender can only be inferred from the following initial mutation: lenition for the 3rd person singular masculine/neuter, aspiration for the 3rd person singular feminine, and nasalization for the 3rd person plural. Details on the possessive pronoun will be given in lesson 3, section 15.

The interrogative pronoun distinguishes two forms: An unstressed or weakly stressed form ce, ci, cía, invariable in gender and number, as well as a more fully stressed form cía 'who?', neuter cid, ced 'what?', plural citné. For details on the interrogative pronoun see lesson 8, section 40.1.

The adjectival demonstratives known from other IE languages are expressed in Old Irish by a combination of the definite article with adverbs of place, like so, se, sin, etc.; see in this lesson the phrase ÍarN sin immach doL ṡuiḋiu ... 'After that outside with him ...', or in lesson 1 the phrase ind amsir sin 'at that time'. The demonstrative is often emphasized by stressed í (hí), placed before the demonstrative particle, e.g. in fer (h)í-siu 'this man'. Details on the article and on the demonstratives will be given in lesson 6, section 30.

Old Irish Online

Lesson 3

Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, Caren Esser, and Jonathan Slocum

After relating the beginning of the encounter between Cú Chulainn and the still-unnamed Morrígan (see Lesson 2), the text goes on to describe how the hero gets angry with the war-goddess and her companion because whenever he addresses the man the woman answers, and vice versa. Upset by their mockery, Cú Chulainn jumps onto the chariot and threatens the woman with his sword. She tells him that she is a lampooner and got the cow as a reward for a poem. Upon the hero's demand to hear the poem, she chants of how he will be slain during the Táin.

Reading and Textual Analysis

This selection continues the conversation, during which Cú Chulainn realizes the true identity of the woman. The passage includes a dindshenchas, that is, the story of how a place got its name. We hear how the bog formerly known as Grellach Culgairi 'Bog of the Chariot-Rumble' -- the name it still bears in the text of the previous lesson -- comes to be named Grellach Dolluid 'Bog of the Pernicious One'. Though Grellach Dolluid is often identified with Girley, a village south of Kells, it is most likely located in the north of County Louth; this identification is supported by the fact that Cú Chulainn, departing from Dún Imrid in Mag Muirthemne, which is the original name of the plain south of Dundalk in Louth, heads off in north-western direction, towards Áth da Ḟerta -- not towards the south-west where Kells would be. Other identifiable place names in this passage are that of Cúailnge 'Cooley', a mountainous landscape in the north of County Louth and home of the Brown Bull who fathered the calf, which was to be the cause of the cattle-raid of Cúailnge, as well as Crúachu, later Crúachain -- Rathcroghan -- in County Roscommon, seat of the kings of Connacht.

Foceird Cú Chulainn beḋg inaL charpat feissin íaruṁ.
  • foceird -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <fo°ceird> sets, puts; throws -- ...
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn
  • beḋg -- noun; accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <bedg> start, leap -- leaps
  • inaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- onto his
  • charpat -- noun; lenited accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- chariot
  • feissin -- pronominal; 3rd person singular masculine of <féin, feissin> -self, own -- own
  • íaruṁ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <íarN, íarmL-> after -- after this

Naicc ní iN nneoch íaruṁ inN mnaí nach inN garpat nach inN nech nach inN fer nach inN mboin, ocus coNnaccaesiuṁ íaruṁ: baH hénsi duḃ forsinL chroíḃ inaL ḟarraḋ.
  • naicc -- negative particle; <naicc> no, not -- ...
  • ní -- indefinite pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <ní> something, anything -- nothing
  • iN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- ...
  • nneoch -- indefinite pronoun; nasalized dative singular neuter of <ní> something, anything -- anywhere
  • íaruṁ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <íarN, íarmL-> after -- after this
  • inN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- with regard to
  • mnaí -- noun; nasalized accusative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- the woman
  • nach -- negative particle; compound form of negative <nad> not + 3rd person singular present indicative, conjunct, of copula; <is> is -- nor
  • inN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- with regard to
  • garpat -- noun; nasalized accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- the chariot
  • nach -- negative particle; compound form of negative <nad> not + 3rd person singular present indicative, conjunct, of copula; <is> is -- nor
  • inN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- with regard to
  • nech -- noun; nasalized accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <ech> horse -- the horse
  • nach -- negative particle; compound form of negative <nad> not + 3rd person singular present indicative, conjunct, of copula; <is> is -- nor
  • inN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- with regard to
  • fer -- noun; accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <fer> man -- the man
  • nach -- negative particle; compound form of negative <nad> not + 3rd person singular present indicative, conjunct, of copula; <is> is -- nor
  • inN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- with regard to
  • mboin -- noun; nasalized accusative singular feminine, irregular, of <bó> cow, ox -- the cow
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • coNnaccaesiuṁ -- verb; compound form of 3rd person singular preterite indicative active, deuterotonic, of <ad°cí, at°chí> sees + emphasizing particle 3rd person singular masculine; <seom, som> he, it -- he saw it
  • íaruṁ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <íarN, íarmL-> after -- then
  • baH -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- was
  • hénsi -- noun; compound form of aspirated nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <én> bird + emphasizing particle 3rd person singular feminine; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- she... a... bird
  • duḃ -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <dub> black -- black
  • forsinL -- preposition; preposition <for> on, over + dative singular feminine of article; <in, aN, indL> the -- on the
  • chroíḃ -- noun; lenited dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <cróeb, cráeb> branch; tree, bush -- branch
  • inaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- him
  • ḟarraḋ -- adverb; lenited <farrad> beside, along with -- near

"DoltachL ḃen atatLchoṁnaic," ol Cú Chulainn.
  • doltachL -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <doltach> pernicious, hurtful -- pernicious
  • ḃen -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- a... woman
  • atatLchoṁnaic -- verb; compound form of 2nd person singular preterite indicative, deuterotonic, syntactically relative of <ad°cumaing> strikes, cuts; happens, chances + infixed pronoun 2nd person singular; <totL, tatL, tL> you -- that it what you happen to be
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn

"Is Dolluḋ dono bias forsinL ġrellaiġ se coH bráth," ol inL ḃen.
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- it is
  • Dolluḋ -- toponym; nominative singular, o-stem, of <Dollud> distress, damage, havoc -- Dollud
  • dono -- emphatic particle; <dano, dono> again, now, then -- then
  • bias -- verb; 3rd person singular future indicative, absolute, relative, of substantive verb <attá> is -- that... will be
  • forsinL -- preposition; preposition <for> on, over + dative singular feminine of article; <in, aN, indL> the -- ...
  • ġrellaiġ -- noun; lenited dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <grellach> bog, mire -- bog
  • se -- demonstrative pronoun; <se> this, these -- this
  • coH -- preposition; <coH> to, until -- until
  • bráth -- noun; accusative singular masculine, u-stem, of <bráth> Doomsday -- Doomsday
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • inL -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ḃen -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman

Grellach Dolluiḋ íaruṁ aH hainm óL ṡin ille.
  • Grellach Dolluiḋ -- toponym; nominative singular of <Grellach Dolluid> Bog of Distress -- Grellach Dolluid
  • íaruṁ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <íarN, íarmL-> after -- after this
  • aH -- possessive pronoun; 3rd person singular feminine <aH> her -- its
  • hainm -- noun; aspirated nominative singular neuter, n-stem, of <ainm> name -- name
  • L -- preposition; <óL, úaL> from, by -- from... on
  • ṡin -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; lenited <sin> this, that, those, the aforementioned -- that
  • ille -- adverb; <illei, ille> hither; since; moreover -- time

"Acht rofeisind beḋ tú ní saṁlaiḋ noscarfamais," ol Cú Chulainn.
  • acht -- conjunction; <acht> if only, provided that -- if only
  • rofeisind -- verb; variant of 1st person singular preterite subjunctive active, deuterotonic, of <ro°fitir> knows -- I had known
  • beḋ -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite subjunctive, absolute, relative, of copula <is> is -- that it were
  • tú -- personal pronoun; 2nd person singular <tú> you -- you
  • ní -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • saṁlaiḋ -- adverb; <samlaid, amlaid> thus, so, in this way -- like this
  • noscarfamais -- verb; 1st person plural secondary future indicative active, conjunct, syntactically relative, of <scaraid> separates, parts -- we would... have parted
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn

"Ciḋ dorrignis," olsí, "bieith olc de."
  • ciḋ -- conjunction; compound form of conjunction <cía> although, even if + suffixed enclitic present subjunctive of copula; <is> is -- whatever
  • dorrignis -- verb; 2nd person singular perfect indicative active, deuterotonic, syntactically relative, of <do°gní> does; makes -- you would have done
  • olsí -- indeclinable; compound form of indeclinable <ol> says, said + personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- said she
  • bieith -- verb; 3rd person singular future indicative, absolute, of substantive verb <attá> is -- will result
  • olc -- noun; nominative singular neuter, o-stem, of <olc> evil, wrong; misfortune -- misfortune
  • de -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <diL, deL> from, of -- from it

"Ni cuṁgai olc daṁ," ol Cú Chulainn.
  • ni -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • cuṁgai -- verb; 2nd person singular present indicative, prototonic, of <con°icc> can, is able -- you can
  • olc -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <olc> evil, wrong; misfortune -- misfortune
  • daṁ -- pronominalized preposition; 1st person singular dative of <duL, doL> to -- to me
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn

"Cuṁgaiṁ écin," ol inL ḃen.
  • cuṁgaiṁ -- verb; 1st person singular present indicative, prototonic, of <con°icc> can, is able -- I can
  • écin -- adverb; dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of noun <écen> necessity, compulsion -- indeed
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • inL -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ḃen -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman

"Is oc dídin doL ḃáissiu atáusa ocus bia," olsí.
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- is
  • oc -- preposition; <oc> at, with, by -- at
  • dídin -- noun; dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <díden> end -- the final touch(es)
  • doL -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- to
  • ḃáissiu -- noun; compound form of lenited genitive singular neuter, o-stem, of <bás> death + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- your death
  • atáusa -- verb; compound form of 1st person singular present indicative, deuterotonic, syntactically relative, of substantive verb <attá> is + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- what I am
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • bia -- verb; 1st person singular future indicative, absolute, syntactically relative, of substantive verb <attá> is -- what I will be
  • olsí -- indeclinable; compound form of indeclinable <ol> says, said + personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- said she

"Doucussa inN mboin se éim," olsí, "aH síḋ Crúachan conda rodart in Donn Cúailngi leṁ .i. tarḃ Dáiri maic Ḟiachnai ocus is ed aret biasu iN mbethu coN raḃ dartaiḋ in lóeg fil inaH broinn inaH bó so ocus is é consaíḋfea Táin Bó Cúailngi."
  • doucussa -- verb; compound form of 1st person singular perfect indicative active, deuterotonic, of <do°beir> brings -- I have brought
  • inN -- article; accusative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- ...
  • mboin -- noun; nasalized accusative singular feminine, irregular, of <bó> cow, ox -- cow
  • se -- demonstrative pronoun; <se> this, these -- this
  • éim -- emphatic particle; <ém, éim> truly, indeed, then -- ...
  • olsí -- indeclinable; compound form of indeclinable <ol> says, said + personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- said she
  • aH -- preposition; <essH, asH, aH> out of, from -- from
  • síḋ -- noun; dative singular neuter, s-stem, of <síd> fairy fort -- the fairy fort
  • Crúachan -- toponym; genitive singular of <Crúachu, Crúachain> Cruachain -- of Rathcroghan
  • conda -- conjunction; compound form of conjunction <con, coN> until; so that; and + infixed pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <daH> she -- and... her
  • rodart -- verb; 3rd person singular perfect indicative active, conjunct, of <dairid> bulls -- has mounted
  • in -- article; nominative singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • Donn -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <donn> brown -- Brown Bull
  • Cúailngi -- toponym; genitive singular of <Cúailnge> Cuailnge -- of Cuailgne
  • leṁ -- pronominalized preposition; 1st person singular accusative of <laH> among, by, with -- through my intervention
  • .i. -- abbreviation of; <ed-ón> that is -- that is
  • tarḃ -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <tarb> bull -- the bull
  • Dáiri maic Ḟiachnai -- proper name masculine; genitive singular of <Dáire mac Fiachnai> Daire son of Fiachnae -- of Daire mac Fiachnai
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- is
  • ed -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular neuter of <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- such
  • aret -- noun; nominative singular neuter, o-stem, of <aret, airet> length, interval, space (of time) -- the space of time
  • biasu -- verb; compound form of 2nd person singular future indicative, absolute, syntactically relative, of substantive verb <attá> is + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- that you will be
  • iN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- ...
  • mbethu -- noun; dative singular masculine, dental stem, of <bethu> life, existence -- alive
  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle <con, coN> until; so that; and -- until
  • raḃ -- verb; 3rd person singular RO-present subjunctive, conjunct, of copula <is> is -- will have become
  • dartaiḋ -- noun; nominative singular masculine, i-stem, of <dartaid> heifer, bull calf -- a yearling
  • in -- article; nominative singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • lóeg -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <lóeg> calf -- calf
  • fil -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, relative, of substantive verb <attá> is -- which is
  • inaH -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <aH> her -- in
  • broinn -- noun; dative singular feminine, n-stem, of <brú> belly, womb -- the womb
  • inaH -- article; genitive singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- of this
  • bó -- noun; genitive singular feminine, irregular, of <bó> cow, ox -- cow
  • so -- demonstrative pronoun; <so> this, these -- here
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- it is
  • -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine of <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- this
  • consaíḋfea -- verb; 3rd person singular future indicative active, deuterotonic, syntactically relative, of <con°saídi> stirs up, excites -- which will cause
  • Táin Bó Cúailngi -- noun; accusative singular feminine, i-stem, of <Táin Bó Cúailnge> Cattle-Raid of Cuailnge -- the Tain Bo Cuailnge

"Biaṁ airḋirciusa de dinL Táin í sin," ol Cú Chulainn.
  • biaṁ -- verb; 1st person singular future indicative, absolute, of substantive verb <attá> is -- I will be
  • airḋirciusa -- adjective; compound form of comparative of <airdirc> obvious; renowned + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- all the more famous
  • de -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <diL, deL> from, of -- ...
  • dinL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <diL, deL> from, of + dative singular feminine of article; <in, aN, indL> the -- through
  • Táin -- noun; dative singular feminine, i-stem, of <Táin> Tain, cattle-raid -- cattle-raid
  • -- demonstrative particle; <í> this, these, those -- this
  • sin -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; <sin> this, that, those, the aforementioned -- very
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn

"Géna aN nánradu. Brisfea aN mórchathu. Bia tiġḃae naH Táno."
  • géna -- verb; 1st person singular future indicative active, absolute, of <gonaid> slays, kills, wounds -- I will slay
  • aN -- possessive pronoun 3rd person plural; <aN> their -- their
  • nánradu -- noun; nasalized accusative plural masculine, o-stem, of <ánrad> hero, warrior, champion -- warriors
  • brisfea -- verb; 1st person singular future indicative active, absolute, of <brissid> breaks, destroys; defeats -- I will win
  • aN -- possessive pronoun 3rd person plural; <aN> their -- their
  • mórchathu -- noun; compound form of adjective <már, mór> big, great + lenited accusative plural masculine, u-stem, of; <cath> battle, fight -- big battles
  • bia -- verb; 1st person singular future indicative, absolute, of substantive verb <attá> is -- I will be
  • tiġḃae -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <tigbae> surviving -- the survivor
  • naH -- article; genitive singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- of the
  • Táno -- noun; genitive singular feminine, i-stem, of <Táin> Tain, cattle-raid -- Tain

Lesson Text

Foceird Cú Chulainn beḋg inaL charpat feissin íaruṁ. Naicc ní iN nneoch íaruṁ inN mnaí nach inN garpat nach inN nech nach inN fer nach inN mboin, ocus coNnaccaesiuṁ íaruṁ: baH hénsi duḃ forsinL chroíḃ inaL ḟarraḋ. "DoltachL ḃen atatLchoṁnaic," ol Cú Chulainn. "Is Dolluḋ dono bias forsinL ġrellaiġ se coH bráth," ol inL ḃen. Grellach Dolluiḋ íaruṁ aH hainm óL ṡin ille. "Acht rofeisind beḋ tú ní saṁlaiḋ noscarfamais," ol Cú Chulainn. "Ciḋ dorrignis," olsí, "bieith olc de." "Ni cuṁgai olc daṁ," ol Cú Chulainn. "Cuṁgaiṁ écin," ol inL ḃen. "Is oc dídin doL ḃáissiu atáusa ocus bia," olsí. "Doucussa inN mboin se éim," olsí, "aH síḋ Crúachan conda rodart in Donn Cúailngi leṁ .i. tarḃ Dáiri maic Ḟiachnai ocus is ed aret biasu iN mbethu coN raḃ dartaiḋ in lóeg fil inaH broinn inaH bó so ocus is é consaíḋfea Táin Bó Cúailngi." "Biaṁ airḋirciusa de dinL Táin í sin," ol Cú Chulainn. "Géna aN nánradu. Brisfea aN mórchathu. Bia tiġḃae naH Táno."

Translation

Cu Chulainn leaps onto his own chariot after this. Nothing anywhere after this with regard to the woman, nor with regard to the chariot, nor with regard to the horse, nor with regard to the man, nor with regard to the cow, and then he saw it: she was a black bird on the branch near him.
"A pernicious woman, that is what you happen to be," said Cu Chulainn.
"It is Dollud, then, that this bog will be (called) until Doomsday," said the woman.
After this, Grellach Dolluid has been its name from that time on.
"If only I had known that it were you, we would not have parted like this," said Cu Chulainn.
"Whatever you would have done," said she, "misfortune will result from it."
"You cannot cause misfortune to me," said Cu Chulainn.
"Indeed I can," said the woman. "(Putting) the final touch(es) to your death, that is what I am at, and that is what I will be at," said she. "I have brought this cow," said she, "from the fairy fort of Rathcroghan, and through my intervention the Brown Bull of Cuailnge has mounted her, that is, the bull of Daire mac Fiachnai; and such is the space of time that you will be alive, until the calf, which is in the womb of this cow here, will have become a yearling, and it is this (bull calf) which will cause the Tain Bo Cuailnge."
"I will be all the more famous through this very cattle raid," said Cu Chulainn. "I will slay their warriors, I will win their big battles. I will be the survivor of the Tain."

Grammar

11 Syntax: Coordination

Sentences are coordinated by means of different conjunctions. Some of these are in origin prepositions and have the same meaning in both functions, while others are cases of nouns or pronouns and are followed by a dependent clause.

11.1 The Conjunction ocus

The most common copulative conjunction, linking sentences as well as words, is ocus 'and'. In the manuscripts, it is often abbreviated by a symbol resembling a small digit 7. Coordination, specifically the linking of sentences with ocus, has many applications and is often used where in modern European languages other kinds of constructions, such as subordination, are preferred. No conjunction is needed to link adjectives (an example will come up in lesson 4 in the phrase ... fer coṁthrén coṁchrotha coṁchliss coṁḟobaiḋ coṁéscaiḋ coṁchiníuil coṁghaisciḋ comméte friut ... 'A man of the same strength, of the same shape, of the same skill, of the same swiftness, of the same eagerness, of the same descent, of the same prowess, of the same height as you'), except where they are used predicatively and the copula is repeated between them (as in the phrase BaH hálaind ocus baH caín in t-énlorg ... 'It was delightful and it was beautiful the bird-flight' in lesson 1). In that case they are linked by ocus. A number of co-ordinate words which are constituent elements of a larger unit are linked by ocus and governed by the preposition eter iter etir, which precedes the first of them.

11.2 Alternatives to ocus

A special short form os is used when prefixed to the stressed nominative forms of personal pronouns (cf. lesson 1, section 15.1) in the sense of 'and I' (lit. 'I being') etc. (an example is found in lesson 1 in the phrase ... ocus aL inġen Deichtire os síL ṁacḋacht 'And his daughter Deichtire, she being an adult.'); before the pronoun of the 3rd person plural the form ot is used. In early legal texts os sometimes also occurs in other positions, and very early texts still preserve the old IE enclitic -ch 'and', which is usually either infixed after the proclitics ro, to, or suffixed to the copula ba. Early poetry and rhetorical speech also employ the conjunction scéo, scéu. The meaning 'as well ... as' is expressed by the repetition of the particle emid, which by itself means 'nearly, as it were'. Coordination may also be expressed by cenmithá 'besides that', which is followed either by a principal clause or by a nasalizing relative clause (cf. lesson 4, section 16).

11.3 Disjunctive Conjunctions

Separate co-ordinate clauses as well as members of the same clause are usually separated by disjunctive nó no, nú nu, which in the manuscripts is commonly symbolized by a small barred l. In combinations of disjunctive phrases leniting rodbo rodbu robo robu is used; it either introduces the first phrase while the remaining phrases are introduced by nó no, or it may introduce every phrase, or even, in more complex syntagms, it may stand only before the later phrases. Between disjunctive clauses airc, airg(g) is occasionally found in the meaning of 'or'. In disjunctive interrogative clauses of the type 'is it ... or ...?', 'whether ... or ...?' leniting fa, ba is used, while parallel von-verbal words or phrases in negative clauses are linked by geminating ná, na, before proclitics nach. Two parallel clauses may be disjuncted by placing sech before the first clause (e.g. sech níthartsat-som nícomtachtmar-ni 'neither have they given it nor have we sought (it)'); though at times the same construction can have copulative force (as in sech bid día, bid duine 'he will be both God and man').

11.4 Adversative Conjunctions

Adversative force can for example be expressed by noch (optionally reinforced by immurgu 'however' or calléic 'yet, nevertheless'), which can also serve as an emphatic copulative conjunction at the head of a principal clause, or by another conjunction sech, which is different from the copulative/disjunctive sech mentioned before.

12 The Two Paradigms of the Verb 'to be'

Like Spanish and Basque (non-Indo-European), Old Irish distinguishes two forms of the verb 'to be': the copula and the substantive verb. The copula (is) denotes 'to be' when it is used for linking the subject to its predicate and therefore is common in characterizations and descriptions (cf. Span. ser). Syntactically, the copula can also be used to topicalise a particular word, phrase, or even an entire subordinate clause. The substantive verb ((a)tá) has a wider semantic connotation, always denoting existence, be it a presence, a transient state, etc. (cf. Span. estar).

12.1 The Copula

The copula is proclitic and therefore never bears the stress. It immediately precedes the predicate. The forms of the copula go back to two different roots, IE es- and another one with initial bh- (OIr. b-).

Forms exist for the following tenses and moods: 1. Present indicative and subjunctive; 2. Past subjunctive; 3. Preterite and imperfect indicative (formally identical); 4. Future indicative; 5. Secondary Future indicative; 6. Imperative. Except for the imperative, all paradigms distinguish between absolute and conjunct forms; absolute flexion in the past subjunctive is exclusively found with the copula and does not exist for other verbs.

The forms of the copula are as follows:

Present Indicative

    Absolute   Conjunct
1 Sg.   am   °da
2 Sg.   at   °da
3 Sg.   is   °t, °did (°id)
Rel.   as    
         
1 Pl.   ammi   °dan (arch. °dem)
2 Pl.   adib   °dad
3 Pl.   it   °dat
Rel.   ata    

For the 1st person plural absolute no relative form is attested. When combined with negative ni ní, the initial d- of the conjunct forms becomes t-, thus we have 1st and 2nd person singular nita níta, 1st person plural nitan nítan, etc., while the 3rd person singular has no ending and the form is simply ni ní.

Preterite and Imperfect Indicative

    Absolute   Conjunct
1 Sg.   basa   °bsa, °psa, °sa
2 Sg.   basa   *°bsa, °sa
3 Sg.   ba (bá)   °bo, °po, °bu, °pu
Rel.   ba (bá)    
         
1 Pl.   ---   °bommar, °bum(m)ar
2 Pl.   ---   ---
3 Pl.   batir, batar   °btar, °ptar (°tar, °dar)
Rel.   batar    

Future Indicative

    Absolute   Conjunct
1 Sg.   be   ---
2 Sg.   be, ba   °be, °pa
3 Sg.   bid bith   °be °pe, ba °pa
Rel.   bes, bas    
         
1 Pl.   bemmi, bimmi, bami   ---
2 Pl.   ---   °beth
3 Pl.   bit   °bat, °pat
Rel.   beta    

Present Subjunctive

    Absolute   Conjunct
1 Sg.   ba   °ba
2 Sg.   ba (be)   °ba
3 Sg.   ba (bá)   °b, °p, ---, °dib, °dip (°bo, °po, °bu)
Rel.   bes, bas    
         
1 Pl.   ---   °ban
2 Pl.   bede   °bad (°baid)
3 Pl.   ---   °bat, °pat
Rel.   bete, beta, bata    

Past Subjunctive

    Absolute   Conjunct
1 Sg.   ---   °bin, °benn
2 Sg.   ---   °ptha
3 Sg.   bid (bith)   °bad, °pad, °bed
Rel.   bed, bad    
         
1 Pl.   bemmis, bimmis   °bemmis, °bimmis
2 Pl.   ---   ---
3 Pl.   betis, bitis   °bdis, °ptis (°dis, °tis)

For the Secondary Future only forms of the 3rd persons are attested. These are always conjunct, and where they are not preceded by any other conjunct particle, the perfective particle ro- is prefixed to them. The attested forms are ro°bad, ro°pad for the singular and ro°btis ro°ptis for the plural.

Imperative

    Absolute
1 Sg.   ---
2 Sg.   ba
3 Sg.   bad, bed
     
1 Pl.   ban
2 Pl.   bad, bed
3 Pl.   bat
12.2 The Substantive Verb

Unlike the copula the substantive verb is stressed. It is the only verb which has a special set of forms for the so-called consuetudinal present, which has the meaning 'is wont to be, is continually', as opposed to the ordinary present denoting 'is (now)'.

The forms of the substantive verb are as follows:

Ordinary Present Indicative

    Conjunct
1 Sg.   °táu, °tó
2 Sg.   °taí
3 Sg.   °tá
     
1 Pl.   °taam
2 Pl.   °taid, °taaid, °taaith
3 Pl.   °taat

For its relative forms, the suppletive fil(e) is used, which, being a form of an old verb for 'to see', requires the accusative of the semantic subject.

Absolute flexion exists only in the 3rd persons, with attá, atá (i.e. *ad°tá) being the most common form. When conjunct forms are used after a conjunct particle, the preposition ad° is dropped.

A special impersonal form °táthar exists for the 3rd person singular.

Consuetudinal Present

    Absolute   Conjunct
1 Sg.   bíuu   °bíu
2 Sg.   ---   °bí
3 Sg.   biid, biith, bíid   °bí
Rel.   bís    
         
1 Pl.   bímmi   °biam
Rel.   bímme    
3 Pl.   biit, bíit   °biat, °bíat
Rel.   bíte    

Again, special impersonal forms exist for the 3rd person singular; these are bíthir, absolute flexion, and °bíther, enclitic °rubthar, in the conjunct flexion. The relative form of bíthir is bíther.

Preterite Indicative

    Absolute   Conjunct
1 Sg.   bá   °bá
2 Sg.   ---   °bá
3 Sg.   boí baí   °boí °baí
Rel.   boíe    
         
1 Pl.   bámar   °bámmar
2 Pl.   ---   °baid
3 Pl.   bátar, bátir   °bátar
Rel.   bátar    

The absolute forms are used far more rarely than the conjunct forms, and are found only in somewhat later texts.

The impersonal forms are *both(a)e, botha in the absolute flexion, with the relative form being identical (*both(a)e, botha), and °both in the conjunct flexion.

Future Indicative

    Absolute   Conjunct
1 Sg.   bia   ---
2 Sg.   bie   ---
3 Sg.   bieid, bied   °bia, °bía
Rel.   bias    
         
1 Pl.   be(i)mmi   °biam
2 Pl.   bethe   °bieid, °bied
3 Pl.   bieit, biet, bíet   °biat
Rel.   be(i)te    

Secondary Future

    Conjunct
1 Sg.   °beinn
3 Sg.   °biad
     
1 Pl.   °bemmis
3 Pl.   °betis

Present Subjunctive

    Absolute   Conjunct
1 Sg.   beu, beo   °béo
2 Sg.   ---   °bee
3 Sg.   beith beid, beth bed   °bé
Rel.   bes(s)    
         
1 Pl.   be(i)mmi   °bem
2 Pl.   be(i)the   °beith, °beid
3 Pl.   beit   °bet
Rel.   bete    

The impersonal forms for the 3rd person singular are bethir (absolute), its relative form being bether, and bether (conjunct).

Past Subjunctive

    Conjunct
1 Sg.   °beinn
2 Sg.   °betha
3 Sg.   °beth, °bed
     
1 Pl.   °bemmis
2 Pl.   °bethe
3 Pl.   °betis

Some of the abovementioned conjunct forms insert ro° between the conjunct particle and the verbal stem; in that case the verb has a slightly different form, as the following table shows:

    Consuetudinal Present   Perfect Indicative   RO-present Subjunctive   Perfect Subjunctive
3 Sg.   °ru-b(a)i   °rob(a)e °rab(a)e   °roi-b   °ro-bad
1 Pl.   ---   °robammar   °ro-bam   ---
2 Pl.   ---   °robaid   °ro-bith   ---
3 Pl.   °ru-bat   °robatar °rabatar   °ro-bat   °roibtis

The substantive verb has a verbal of necessity, bu(i)thi. The verbal noun is buith, buid, genitive bu(i)the.

13 The Noun: o- and yo-Stems

These are masculine or neuter. As in all ancient Indo-European languages, the neuter only differs from the masculine in the nominative and accusative, which originally shows two distinct forms in the masculine paradigm while both cases are formally identical in the neuter.

The following table shows the inflections of the o-stem fer, masculine, 'man':

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   fer   firL   ferL
Voc.   fir   firu   ferL
Acc.   ferN   firu   ferL
Gen.   firL   ferN   fer
Dat.   fiurL   feraib   feraib

The following table shows the inflections of the o-stem dliged, neuter, 'law':

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   dligedN   dligedL dligeda   dligedN
Voc.   dligedN   dligedL dligeda   dligedN
Acc.   dligedN   dligedL dligeda   dligedN
Gen.   dligidL   dligedN   dliged
Dat.   dligudL   dligedaib   dligedaib

The inflection of yo-stems is represented by céile, masculine, 'fellow':

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   céile   céili   céile
Voc.   céili   céiliu   céile
Acc.   céileN   céiliu   céile
Gen.   céiliL   céileN   céile
Dat.   céiliuL   céilib   céilib

...and by cride, neuter, 'heart':

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   crideN   cride   crideN
Voc.   crideN   cride   crideN
Acc.   crideN   cride   crideN
Gen.   cridiL   crideN   cride
Dat.   cridiuL   cridib   cridib
14 The Syntax of the Adjective

An adjective which is used as predicative nominative is inflected and generally agrees with its subject in gender and number (as in the abovementioned BaH hálaind ocus baH caín in t-énlorg ... 'It was delightful and it was beautiful the bird-flight' in lesson 1), except where a neuter adjective in the singular predicates a plural noun. In attributive use, the adjective follows its noun, with which it agrees in gender, number, and case (e.g. ... baH hén-si duḃ ... 'She was a black bird', in this lesson). However, in prose certain adjectives generally precede their noun; these are the cardinal numerals 2, 3 and 4 (also 5-10, but these remain uninflected), the ordinal numerals, and cach cech 'each', nach 'any', and uile 'all, whole' (cf. Is dír daṁ-sa éim baí UlaḋN n-uile 'It is fitting for me indeed (to judge) the cows of all of the Ulstermen' in lesson 2).

15 Personal and Possessive Pronouns I

It has already been noted in lesson 2, section 10 that the independent forms of the personal and possessive pronouns are more restricted in their use than their dependent counterparts and are mainly employed to highlight the agent, especially where a differenciation between two subjects is desired. All of the forms mentioned below are therefore emphatic, not just the more complex ones termed 'emphatic', which are used to add extra reinforcement.

15.1 Independent Personal Pronouns

The independent personal pronouns are most commonly used predicatively and are just nominatives after the copula and is most commonly used as predicative nominative after the copula, which is then in the 3rd person, and the pronoun agrees with the subject in gender (e.g. in this lesson ... is ed aret ..., lit. 'It is it, the space of time' > 'Such is the space of time', ... is é consaíḋfea Táin Bó Cúailngi, lit. 'It is he who will cause the Tain Bo Cuailnge', or Acht rofeisind beḋ tú ... 'If only I had known that it were you'). The 1st and 2nd person plural of the independent personal pronoun always take a singular form of the copula, even where the subject is plural (e.g. is snisni ata bobes 'It is we who are boues'); but not the 3rd person plural, which always takes the plural form of the copula.

The stressed nominative forms are:

  • 1st person singular: mé, emphatic messe, meisse, mese
  • 2nd person singular: tú, emphatic tussuL, tusuL
  • 3rd person singular: masculine (h)é, emphatic (h)é-som, feminine sí, neuter (h)ed
  • 1st person plural: sní, emphatic snisni, sníni
  • 2nd person plural: sí, sib, emphatic sissi, sisi
  • 3rd person plural, all genders: (h)é, emphatic héssom
15.2 Emphasizing Personal Pronouns

Also termed notae augentes, the emphasizing personal pronouns are used to reinforce the pronominal concept or the personal concept already expressed in the sentence. They are always enclitic and can be suffixed to any pronoun or verb (except the copula, which is proclitic and therefore cannot support other clitics). The forms of the emphasizing personal pronouns are:

  • 1st person singular: se after palatal consonants and -e, -i, otherwise sa
  • 2nd person singular: siu after palatals, otherwise so
  • 3rd person singular: masculine and neuter som, feminine si
  • 1st person plural: ni
  • 2nd person plural: si
  • 3rd person plural, all genders: som.

The initial s is never lenited; but it is sometimes geminated after vowels.

15.3 Possessive Pronouns

The possessive pronoun is formally the old genitive of the personal pronoun and is therefore uninflected. It usually stands in unstressed position before the noun it qualifies, so that the commonest forms are the unstressed ones; they are as follows:

  • 1st person singular: moL muL; but simple mLafter prepositions ending in a vowel, and after the preposition for
  • 2nd person singular: doL duL; but tL after prepositions ending in a vowel, and after the preposition for
  • 3rd person singular: masculine and neuter aL; feminine aH
  • 1st person plural: arN
  • 2nd person plural: farN, forN
  • 3rd person plural: aN.

The stressed forms of the possessive pronoun occur very rarely, because they are only used predicatively; yet in such constructions, where possessive pronouns are used predicatively in other modern Indo-European languages, Old Irish nearly always employs the preposition la or do plus suffixed (i.e. unstressed) personal pronoun instead (e.g. is limm sa 'He is mine').

The following stressed forms are found:

  • 1st person singular: muí, emphatic muisse
  • 2nd person singular: taí
  • 3rd person singular: aí, áe, all genders
  • 1st person plural: nathar (náthar)
  • 2nd person plural: sethar-si
  • 3rd person plural: aí, áe.

Old Irish Online

Lesson 4

Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, Caren Esser, and Jonathan Slocum

The following section constitutes the final part of the Táin Bó Regamna, continuing Lessons 2 and 3. After having been foretold his death, Cú Chulainn enters into a battle of words with the war-goddess, in which he threatens to defeat her in the imminent battle of the Táin Bó Cuailgne, and that she will have to beg his forgiveness. But the war-goddess comes up with a new plot every time, telling him how she will three times take on the shape of a different animal in order to succeed with her plan.

Reading and Textual Analysis

An interesting element of this passage is the wording of Cú Chulainn's oath, which he utters three times altogether, following each of the threats of the war-goddess. The verb employed is tongaid 'swear' (in for-tongu and tongu-sa), and the name of the god is not said, which has its equivalent in the magic formulas of the Gaulish inscription of Chamalières, where we find the figura etymologica toncnaman toncsiiontio 'who will swear the oath', and is also known from Middle Welsh tales such as Kulhwch ac Olwen in the formula tynghaf dynghet. The fact that the decisive battle will take place at a ford is characteristic of Celtic battles and Celtic lore history.

The text ends with the third oath, in which Cú Chulainn once again threatens to harm the war-goddess, this time by a shot from his sling that will break her thigh, so that he will not be killed that day. Finally, he returns home to Dún Imrid, while the red woman, for the first and only time named as Morrígan, continues on with her cow to the fairy-fort of Crúachu.

"Cinnas conicfaesu anní sin", ol inL ḃen.
  • cinnas -- adverb; <cinnas> how -- how
  • conicfaesu -- verb; compound form of 2nd person singular future indicative, deuterotonic, of <con°icc> can, is able + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- will you be able
  • anní -- demonstrative particle; neuter <anní> this, that -- this
  • sin -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; <sin> this, that, those, the aforementioned -- ...
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • inL -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ḃen -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman

"Ar inN dain nombiasu oc coṁruc friH fer coṁthrén coṁchrotha coṁchliss coṁḟobaiḋ coṁéscaiḋ coṁchiníuil coṁghaisciḋ comméte friut bam escongsa ocus foLchichiur curu immotL chossa issindL áth coN mba éccoṁlonn mór."
  • ar -- conjunction; <air, ar> for -- for
  • inN -- article; accusative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- at the
  • dain -- noun; nasalized accusative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <tan, tain> time -- time
  • nombiasu -- verb; 2nd person singular future indicative, conjunct, syntactically relative, of substantive verb <attá> is + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- when you will be
  • oc -- preposition; <oc> at, with, by -- in
  • coṁruc -- noun; dative singular neuter, o-stem, of <comrac> encounter; combat; collision; sexual relation -- combat
  • friH -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- with
  • fer -- noun; accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <fer> man -- a man
  • coṁthrén -- adjective; compound form of preposition <comL, coN> with + lenited adjective; <trén> strong -- of the same strength
  • coṁchrotha -- adjective; compound form of preposition <comL, coN> with + lenited genitive singular masculine, u-stem, of; <cruth> form, appearance -- of the same shape
  • coṁchliss -- adjective; compound form of preposition <comL, coN> with + lenited genitive singular neuter, o-stem, of; <cless> feat, skill -- of the same skill
  • coṁḟobaiḋ -- adjective; compound form of preposition <comL, coN> with + lenited adjective; <fobaid> quick, prompt, active -- of the same swiftness
  • coṁéscaiḋ -- adjective; compound form of preposition <comL, coN> with + adjective; <éscaid> alert, eager; swift -- of the same eagerness
  • coṁchiníuil -- adjective; compound form of preposition <comL, coN> with + genitive singular neuter, o-stem, of; <cenél> race, tribe; descent -- of the same descent
  • coṁghaisciḋ -- adjective; compound form of preposition <comL, coN> with + genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of; <gaisced> weapons, armour; prowess -- of the same prowess
  • comméte -- adjective; compound form of preposition <comL, coN> with + genitive singular feminine, yā-stem, of; <méit> greatness, magnitude, size -- of the same height
  • friut -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards -- as you
  • bam -- verb; 1st person singular future indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- I will be
  • escongsa -- noun; compound form of nominative singular feminine, of <escong> eel + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- an eel
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • foLchichiur -- verb; 1st person singular future indicative active, deuterotonic, of <fo°ceird> sets, puts; throws -- I will throw
  • curu -- verbal noun; accusative plural masculine, o-stem, of <cor> putting; throwing; letting go -- slings
  • immotL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <imbL, immL> around, about; mutually + possessive pronoun 2nd person singular; <doL, tL> your -- around your
  • chossa -- noun; lenited accusative plural feminine, ā-stem, of <coss, cos> foot, leg -- feet
  • issindL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + accusative singular masculine of article; <in, aN, indL> the -- in the
  • áth -- noun; accusative singular masculine, u-stem, of <áth> ford -- ford
  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle <con, coN> until; so that; and -- so that
  • mba -- verb; nasalized 3rd person singular future indicative, conjunct, of copula <is> is -- it will be
  • éccoṁlonn -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <éccomlonn> unequal combat, unfair odds -- a... unequal combat
  • mór -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <már, mór> big, great -- very

"Fortongu doL ḋía toingthe Ulaiḋ", ol Cú Chulainn, "fortatnesaḃsu friH glaisslecca indL átho ocus nicotL ḃia ícc úaimLse de coH bráth manimL ḋergaissu."
  • fortongu -- verb; 1st person singular present indicative, deuterotonic, of <for°toing> swears, attests -- I swear
  • doL -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- by
  • ḋía -- noun; lenited dative singular masculine, o-stem, of <dé, día> god -- the god
  • toingthe -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative, absolute, relative of <tongaid> swears, takes an oath -- by which... swear
  • Ulaiḋ -- proper name; nominative plural masculine, o-stem, of <Ulaid> Ulidians, Ulstermen -- the Ulstermen
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn
  • fortatnesaḃsu -- verb; compound form of 1st person singular future indicative active, deuterotonic, of <for°nesa> strikes, kicks, crushes + infixed pronoun 2nd person singular; <totL, tatL, tL> you + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- I will crush you
  • friH -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- against
  • glaisslecca -- noun; compound form of adjective <glass, glas> greenish, blue, grey + accusative plural feminine, ā-stem, of; <lecc> rock, stone -- the grey stones
  • indL -- article; genitive singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- of the
  • átho -- noun; genitive singular masculine, u-stem, of <áth> ford -- ford
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • nicotL -- independent negative; compound form of negative particle <nícon, nicon> not + infixed pronoun 2nd person singular; <totL, tatL, tL> you -- no... for you
  • ḃia -- verb; 3rd person singular future indicative, conjunct, of substantive verb <attá> is -- there will be
  • ícc -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ícc> cure; solution -- cure
  • úaimLse -- pronominalized preposition; compound form of 1st person singular dative of <óL, úaL> from, by + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- on my part
  • de -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <diL, deL> from, of -- from it
  • coH -- preposition; <coH> to, until -- until
  • bráth -- noun; accusative singular masculine, u-stem, of <bráth> Doomsday -- Doomsday
  • manimL -- conjunction; compound form of negative conjunction <mani> if not + infixed pronoun 1st person singular; <mL, mmL> I -- unless... my
  • ḋergaissu -- verb; 2nd person singular RO-present subjunctive active, prototonic, of <do°guid> entreats, asks pardon + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- you ask... pardon

"Bia soḋsa dono glass duitsiu", olsí, "ocus géḃa bréit dotL ḋóitind deiss conicci doL riġiḋ clí."
  • bia -- verb; 1st person singular future indicative, absolute, of substantive verb <attá> is -- I will be
  • soḋsa -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <sod, sad> bitch, wolf-bitch + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- a... wolf-bitch
  • dono -- emphatic particle; <dano, dono> again, now, then -- then
  • glass -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <glass, glas> greenish, blue, grey -- grey
  • duitsiu -- pronominalized preposition; compound form of 2nd person singular dative of <duL, doL> to + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- against you
  • olsí -- indeclinable; compound form of indeclinable <ol> says, said + personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- said she
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • géḃa -- verb; 1st person singular future indicative active, absolute, of <gaibid> takes; proceeds; recites -- I will take
  • bréit -- noun; accusative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <bréit> strip; cloth; shred -- a strip
  • dotL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <diL, deL> from, of + suffixed possessive pronoun 2nd person singular; <totL, tatL, tL> you -- off... your
  • ḋóitind -- noun; lenited compound form of <dóe> arm + dative singular neuter, o-stem, of; <ind> end -- the end of... arm
  • deiss -- adjective; dative singular feminine of <dess> right, south of -- right
  • conicci -- preposition; <conicci> as far as, up to, to, till -- up to
  • doL -- possessive pronoun; 2nd person singular <doL, tL> your -- your
  • riġiḋ -- noun; accusative singular feminine, dental stem, of <rig> fore-arm -- fore-arm
  • clí -- adjective; accusative singular feminine of <clé> left -- left

"Tongusa doL ḋía toingte Ulaiḋ", ol Cú Chulainn, "notLḃenaḃsu sechaṁ coṁL chleittíniu coN mmeṁa doL ṡúil itL chinn ocus nicotL ḃia ícc úaimLse de coH bráth manimL ḋergaissu."
  • tongusa -- verb; 1st person singular present indicative, absolute, of <tongaid> swears, takes an oath + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- I swear
  • doL -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- by
  • ḋía -- noun; lenited dative singular masculine, o-stem, of <dé, día> god -- the god
  • toingte -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative, absolute, relative of <tongaid> swears, takes an oath -- by which... swear
  • Ulaiḋ -- proper name; nominative plural masculine, o-stem, of <Ulaid> Ulidians, Ulstermen -- the Ulstermen
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn
  • notLḃenaḃsu -- verb; compound form of verbal particle <no> ... + infixed pronoun 2nd person singular; <totL, tatL, tL> you + 1st person singular future indicative active, conjunct, of; <benaid> beats, strikes, slays, wounds + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- I... will strike you
  • sechaṁ -- pronominalized preposition; 1st person singular accusative of <sech> past, beyond -- myself
  • coṁL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <comL, coN> with + suffixed possessive pronoun 1st person singular; <moL, mL> my -- with my
  • chleittíniu -- noun; lenited dative singular masculine, yo-stem, of <cleittíne> javelin, dart -- javelin
  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle <con, coN> until; so that; and -- so that
  • mmeṁa -- verb; 3rd person singular future indicative, conjunct, of <maidid> breaks, bursts -- shall burst
  • doL -- possessive pronoun; 2nd person singular <doL, tL> your -- your
  • ṡúil -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine, i-stem, of <súil> eye -- eye
  • itL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 2nd person singular; <doL, tL> your -- inside your
  • chinn -- noun; lenited dative singular neuter, o-stem, of <cenn> head, front; end -- head
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • nicotL -- independent negative; compound form of negative particle <nícon, nicon> not + infixed pronoun 2nd person singular; <totL, tatL, tL> you -- no... for you
  • ḃia -- verb; 3rd person singular future indicative, conjunct, of substantive verb <attá> is -- there will be
  • ícc -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ícc> cure; solution -- cure
  • úaimLse -- pronominalized preposition; compound form of 1st person singular dative of <óL, úaL> from, by + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- on my part
  • de -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <diL, deL> from, of -- from it
  • coH -- preposition; <coH> to, until -- until
  • bráth -- noun; accusative singular masculine, u-stem, of <bráth> Doomsday -- Doomsday
  • manimL -- conjunction; compound form of negative conjunction <mani> if not + infixed pronoun 1st person singular; <mL, mmL> I -- unless... my
  • ḋergaissu -- verb; 2nd person singular RO-present subjunctive active, prototonic, of <do°guid> entreats, asks pardon + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- you ask... pardon

"Biaṁ saṁaiscse finn áuderg dono", olsissi, "ocus doraġ issinN linn iN fail indL átho inN nattan rombiasu oc coṁruc friH fer busL choiṁchliss duit ocus cétN mbó finnN náuderg imL ḋiaiḋ ocus meṁais ind éit uile imL ḋiaiḋse issinN náth ocus conbiḃsustar fír ferN fortsu aN llá sin ocus géttair doL chenn ditL issindL áth sin."
  • biaṁ -- verb; 1st person singular future indicative, absolute, of substantive verb <attá> is -- I will be
  • saṁaiscse -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ī-stem, of <samaisc> heifer + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- a... heifer
  • finn -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <find, finn> white, bright -- white
  • áuderg -- adjective; compound of <áu> ear + nominative singular feminine of adjective; <derg> red -- red-eared
  • dono -- emphatic particle; <dano, dono> again, now, then -- then
  • olsissi -- indeclinable; compound form of indeclinable <ol> says, said + emphatic personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- said she
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • doraġ -- verb; 1st person singular future indicative, deuterotonic, of <do°tét, do°téit> comes; goes -- I will come
  • issinN -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + accusative singular feminine of article; <in, aN, indL> the -- into the
  • linn -- noun; accusative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <linn> pool, lake, sea -- water
  • iN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- at
  • fail -- noun; dative singular feminine, i-stem, of <fail> place, spot -- a spot
  • indL -- article; genitive singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- of the
  • átho -- noun; genitive singular masculine, u-stem, of <áth> ford -- ford
  • inN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- ...
  • nattan -- noun; nasalized dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <attan, attain> another time -- once again
  • rombiasu -- verb; compound form of nasalized 2nd person singular RO-future indicative, conjunct, syntactically relative, of substantive verb <attá> is + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- when... you will be
  • oc -- preposition; <oc> at, with, by -- in
  • coṁruc -- noun; dative singular neuter, o-stem, of <comrac> encounter; combat; collision; sexual relation -- combat
  • friH -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- against
  • fer -- noun; accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <fer> man -- a man
  • busL -- verb; 3rd person singular future indicative, absolute, relative, of copula <is> is -- who will be
  • choiṁchliss -- adjective; lenited compound form of preposition <comL, coN> with + lenited genitive singular neuter, o-stem, of; <cless> feat, skill -- as skilled
  • duit -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular dative of <duL, doL> to -- as you
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • cétN -- numeral; nominative singular neuter, o-stem, of <cétN> hundred -- a hundred
  • mbó -- noun; nasalized genitive plural feminine, irregular, of <bó> cow, ox -- cows
  • finnN -- adjective; genitive plural feminine of <find, finn> white, bright -- white
  • náuderg -- adjective; nasalized compound of <áu> ear + genitive plural feminine of adjective; <derg> red -- red-eared
  • imL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + possessive pronoun 1st person singular; <moL, mL> my -- me
  • ḋiaiḋ -- noun; lenited accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <dead, diad> end -- after
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • meṁais -- verb; 3rd person singular future indicative, absolute, of <maidid> breaks, bursts -- will charge
  • ind -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • éit -- noun; nominative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <éit> cattle -- cattle
  • uile -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <uile> all, whole -- all
  • imL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + possessive pronoun 1st person singular; <moL, mL> my -- on my
  • ḋiaiḋse -- noun; lenited compound form of accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <dead, diad> end + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- trail
  • issinN -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + accusative singular feminine of article; <in, aN, indL> the -- into the
  • náth -- noun; nasalized accusative singular masculine, u-stem, of <áth> ford -- ford
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • conbiḃsustar -- verb; 3rd person singular future indicative passive, deuterotonic, of <con°boing> breaks; defeats; violates -- will be violated
  • fír -- noun; nominative singular neuter, o-stem, of <fír> truth; right; justice -- the right
  • ferN -- noun; genitive plural masculine, o-stem, of <fer> man -- of men
  • fortsu -- pronominalized preposition; compound form of 2nd person singular dative of preposition <for> on, over + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- against you
  • aN -- article; accusative singular neuter of <in, aN, indL> the -- on that
  • llá -- noun; nasalized accusative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <láaN, láN> day, daylight -- day
  • sin -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; <sin> this, that, those, the aforementioned -- very
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • géttair -- verb; 3rd person singular future indicative passive, absolute, of <gataid> takes away, removes; steals -- will be chopped
  • doL -- possessive pronoun; 2nd person singular <doL, tL> your -- your
  • chenn -- noun; lenited nominative singular neuter, o-stem, of <cenn> head, front; end -- head
  • ditL -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular dative of <diL, deL> from, of -- off you
  • issindL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + dative singular masculine of article; <in, aN, indL> the -- in that
  • áth -- noun; dative singular masculine, u-stem, of <áth> ford -- ford
  • sin -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; <sin> this, that, those, the aforementioned -- very

Lesson Text

"Cinnas conicfaesu anní sin", ol inL ḃen. "Ar inN dain nombiasu oc coṁruc friH fer coṁthrén coṁchrotha coṁchliss coṁḟobaiḋ coṁéscaiḋ coṁchiníuil coṁghaisciḋ comméte friut bam escongsa ocus foLchichiur curu immotL chossa issindL áth coN mba éccoṁlonn mór." "Fortongu doL ḋía toingthe Ulaiḋ", ol Cú Chulainn, "fortatnesaḃsu friH glaisslecca indL átho ocus nicotL ḃia ícc úaimLse de coH bráth manimL ḋergaissu." "Bia soḋsa dono glass duitsiu", olsí, "ocus géḃa bréit dotL ḋóitind deiss conicci doL riġiḋ clí." "Tongusa doL ḋía toingte Ulaiḋ", ol Cú Chulainn, "notLḃenaḃsu sechaṁ coṁL chleittíniu coN mmeṁa doL ṡúil itL chinn ocus nicotL ḃia ícc úaimLse de coH bráth manimL ḋergaissu." "Biaṁ saṁaiscse finn áuderg dono", olsissi, "ocus doraġ issinN linn iN fail indL átho inN nattan rombiasu oc coṁruc friH fer busL choiṁchliss duit ocus cétN mbó finnN náuderg imL ḋiaiḋ ocus meṁais ind éit uile imL ḋiaiḋse issinN náth ocus conbiḃsustar fír ferN fortsu aN llá sin ocus géttair doL chenn ditL issindL áth sin."

Translation

"How will you be able (to do) this?", said the woman. "For at the time when you will be in combat against a man of the same strength, of the same shape, of the same skill, of the same swiftness, of the same eagerness, of the same descent, of the same prowess, of the same height as you, I will be an eel, and I will throw slings around your feet in the ford, so that it will be a very unequal combat."
"I swear by the god by which the Ulstermen swear", said Cu Chulainn, "I will crush you against the grey stones of the ford, and there will be no cure from it for you on my part until Doomsday, unless you ask my pardon."
"I will be a grey wolf-bitch, then, against you", said she, "and I will take a strip off the end of your right arm up to your left fore-arm."
"I swear by the god by which the Ulstermen swear", said Cu Chulainn, "I myself will strike you with my javelin so that your eye shall burst inside your head, and there will be no cure from it for you on my part until Doomsday, unless you ask my pardon."
"I will be a white, red-eared heifer then", said she, "and I will come into the water at a spot of the ford when once again you will be in combat against a man who will be as skilled as you, and a hundred white, red-eared cows after me, and all the cattle will charge into the ford after me, and the right of men will be violated against you on that very day, and your head will be chopped off you in that very ford."

Grammar

16 Relative Clauses
16.1 Types of Relative Clauses

There are basically three types of relative clauses in Old Irish, depending on the relation between the relative clause and the antecedent:

Where the antecedent is the subject of the verb of the relative clause, the leniting relative clause is used. Where the antecedent is the object of the verb of the relative clause, the nasalising relative clause or optionally the leniting relative clause is used. The construction with nasalising relative clause is also employed where the antecedent (a) is the verbal noun of the verb of the relative clause, (b) is semantically the predicative nominative of the relative clause, (c) designates the manner or degree of the contents of the relative clause, or (d) designates the place or time at which the contents of the relative clause take place. Where the relation between relative clause and antecedent is expressed by a preposition, the prepositional relative clause is used.

In all types of relative clauses, the essential marker of relativity is just the lenition or nasalisation showing in the initial consonant of their predicate. In addition, some further relative morphemes may appear in the relative clause:

  • The special relative form of simple verbs, absolute inflection, in the 3rd persons or in the 1st person plural (such as the 3rd person plural toingthe in do día toingthe Ulaid 'by the god by which the Ulstermen swear' in the text of this lesson, or the 3rd person singular bias in is Dollud dono bias forsin grellaig se 'it is Dollud then that this bog will be' in the previous lesson).
  • The semantically void verbal prefix no before all other persons of simple verbs.
  • The special relative forms of the negative: nad/nád, na/ná, before infixed pronouns nach-/nách-.
  • The special relative forms imme/imma and ara of the prototonic prepositions imm and ar (as in ara scortis a cairptiu 'that they should unyoke their chariots' in lesson 1).

In the construction with prepositional relative clause, the preposition stands at the beginning of the relative clause, followed by the enclitic element -aN or -saN, which remains uninflected; the variant used depends on the original final sound of the preposition: after original vowels, the form with s- is used, so that the preposition ar becomes ar-aN, co becomes cosaN, etc.

Furthermore, the infixed personal pronouns have special relative forms, which cause lenition or nasalisation depending on the person, yet their use is not obligatory (for these see lesson 6, section 26).

17 The Verb: Voice and Stem-Classes
17.1 Active vs. Impersonal/Passive

As has been pointed out in lesson 1, section 3.3, Old Irish distinguishes two voices, active and passive. Verbs with active meaning either have active personal forms, or personal forms resembling those of the passive. These latter forms ends in -r (except in the 2nd person plural) and have correspondences in Italic, Hittite and Tocharian; they constitute the so-called deponent inflection and will be discussed in more detail in lesson 9, section 45.2.

All active verbs (including deponents) -- be they transitive or intransitive -- have two additional, impersonal forms, one for the singular and one for the plural, both ending in -r. They are used in impersonal constructions, e.g. of intransitive verbs: tíagar 'let someone/people go' (from téit 'goes'), lit. 'let it be gone'. In lesson 3, section 12.2, examples have been seen from the substantive verb.

Both singular and plural impersonal forms are used to form passive constructions of active verbs. They do not require an added personal pronoun when used for the 3rd person singular (e.g. carthair/°carthar 'he/she/it is loved', 3rd person singular absolute/conjunct, present indicative) or plural (e.g. cartair/°cartar 'they are loved', 3rd person plural absolute/conjunct, present indicative). The 3rd person singular of the impersonal is also used to express the passive of a 1st or 2nd person singular or plural; in this type of construction, an infixed personal pronoun is necessary to indicate the subject: e.g. no-m-charthar 'I am loved', no-t-charthar 'you are loved' (the lenition of the initial c- of the verbal stem is caused by the infixed pronouns), no-n-carthar 'we are loved', no-b-carthar 'ye are loved'. Thus, parallel to the active, also the impersonal/passive distinguishes between absolute and conjunct inflection (also with special relative forms in the absolute inflection).

17.2 The Stem-Classes and their Characteristics

According to the way in which active and deponent verbs form their present stem, eight different stem-classes can be distinguished, three for the weak verbs and five for the strong verbs (on this distinction, cf. lesson 1, section 3.3). The stem-class a verb belongs to can best be seen in the conjunct form of the 3rd person singular present indicative active, where the numbers in brackets refer to their classification according to R. Thurneysen's Grammar of Old Irish (GOI):

A. Stem-classes of weak verbs:

1. 3rd person singular conjunct ending in -a (e.g. °móra, from móraid 'magnifies'), corresponding to weak verbs whose verbal stem ended in -a. 2. 3rd person singular conjunct ending in -i (e.g. °léici, from léicid 'leaves'), corresponding to weak verbs whose verbal stem ended in -i. 3. So- called 'hiatus-verbs' (e.g. °gní, from gníid 'does', or °rá from ráid 'rows'), corresponding to verbal stems from roots ending in a vowel.

B. Stem-classes of strong verbs:

  1. 3rd person singular conjunct showing no ending (e.g. °beir, from berid 'bears'), corresponding mainly to verbs whose present stem originally consisted of the root + thematic vowel; the reflex of the (lost) thematic vowel e/o, depending on the person caused interchange between palatal and neutral quality of the final consonant of the stem. This class also contains certain other types of present-stem formations. Most strong verbs belong to this class, but no deponents.
  2. 3rd person singular conjunct showing no ending (e.g. °gaib, from ga(i)bid 'takes'), corresponding to verbs whose present stem originally consisted of the root + *-ye-/-yo-; the reflex of the old formative *-ye-/-yo- caused the final consonant of the root to be palatalised in all persons.
  3. 3rd person singular conjunct showing no ending (e.g. °boing, from bongid 'breaks, reaps'), corresponding to a small number of verbs who are characterised by an -n-infix before the last consonant of the root, which is always d or g.
  4. 3rd person singular conjunct showing no ending (e.g. °ben, from benaid 'hews, cuts'), corresponding to verbs who are characterised by an -n-suffix after the root, so that the present-stem ends in -n, which was originally always neutral in quality.
  5. 3rd person singular conjunct showing no ending (e.g. ara°chrin 'knows', or do°lin 'flows'), corresponding to a small number of verbs with the same characteristics as B IV, but where the neutral quality of the final -n of the present-stem was not original.
18 The Noun: ā- and yā-Stems

These are all feminine. The following table shows the inflection of the ā-stem túath 'tribe, people':

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   túathL   túatha   túaithL
Voc.   túath   túatha   túaithL
Acc.   túaithL   túatha   túaithL
Gen.   túa(i)the   túathN   túathL
Dat.   túaithL   túath(a)ib   túath(a)ib

There are two types of yā-stems: the ordinary yā-stems and those with old nominative in -ī. The latter only differ from the ordinary yā-stems in the nominative, vocative singular and in the nominative, accusative dual, where they show palatal quality in the final consonant and have no ending. The ordinary yā-stems are represented by soilse 'light' in the following table:

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   soilseL   soilsi   soilsi
Voc.   soilseL   *soilsi   soilsi
Acc.   soilsiN   soilsi   soilsi
Gen.   soilse   soilseN   soilse
Dat.   soilsiL   soilsib   soilsib

The stems with old nominative in -ī are represented by sétig 'female companion, wife':

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   sétigL   séitchi   sétigL
Voc.   sétigL   *séitchi   sétigL
Acc.   séitchiN   séitchi   sétigL
Gen.   séitche   séitcheN   *séitcheL
Dat.   séitchiL   séitchib   *séitchib
19 Numerals
19.1 Cardinals

The cardinal numerals are:

    1   óen       6   séH       20   fiche       70   sechtmogo
    2   da       7   sechtN       30   tricho       80   ochtmogo
    3   tri       8   ochtN       40   cethorcho       90   nocha
    4   ceth(a)ir       9   noiN       50   coíca       100   cét
    5   cóicL       10   deichN       60   sesca       1000   míle

The cardinals cóic and sé nasalize a following genitive plural. Cardinals between 10 and 100 are formed by the digit plus the ten following in the genitive (all decads are masculine and inflect as nt-stems; cf. lesson 7, section 33.4). The noun to which a numeral refers stands immediately after the digit and agrees with it in number (e.g. noí cairptiu 'nine chariots' and dáL én 'two birds' in lesson 1, or di litir fichet '22 letters'). Where the numeral is not defined, it is preceded by the geminating particle aH* (e.g. a dáu 'two', a ocht deac '18'). The decads as well as cét and míle are always substantives and are followed by the genitive of the enumerated objects (e.g. in lesson 1 noí fichit én lit. 'nine twenties of birds').

The cardinal numerals are nominal, except for those from 1 to 10, which are adjectival and are used predicatively (or as substantives when identical things are enumerated). Only 2, 3, and 4 are inflected for case and, unlike in most other IE languages, also distinguish gender.

The cardinal two

2   Masc.   Fem.   Ntr.
Nom.   daL, dáL   diL, díL   daN, dáN
Acc.   daL, dáL   diL, díL   daN, dáN
Gen.   daL, dáL   daL, dáL   daN, dáN
Dat.   dibN, deibN   dibN, deibN   dibN, deibN

The cardinals three and four

3, 4   Masc/Ntr.   Fem.       Masc/Ntr.   Fem.
Nom.   tri   teoir teuir, téora       ceth(a)ir   cethéoir, cethéora
Acc.   tri   téora       cethri   cethéora
Gen.   tri   téora           cethéora
Dat.   trib   téoraib       *cethrib   cethéoraib

Particularly when enumerating different things, special numeral substantives are formed by adding the suffix -de, inflecting as neuter yo-stems. When enumerating persons, special numeral substantives are formed by compounding the cardinals with fer 'man', with the exception of 'two persons', for which dias is used.

19.2 Ordinals

The forms of the ordinals are:

    1st   cétn(a)e       6th   se(i)ssed       20th   fichetmad
    2nd   tán(a)ise       7th   sechtmad       30th   trichatmad
    3rd   tris(s)       8th   ochtmad       100th   cétmad
    4th   cethramad       9th   nómad            
    5th   cóiced       10th   dechmad            

In combination with tens, cétn(a)e is replaced by oínmad, oénmad, and tán(a)ise is replaced by indeclinable alaN, which in turn combines with the article to give indala for all genders and cases.

All ordinals, whether inflected or not (cf. lesson 3, section 14; the forms in -ed -ad are o- and ā-stems), stand before the noun they qualify (with the exception of tán(a)ise 'second', which follows its noun). In combinations of digits with tens and hundreds, only the digit takes the ordinal form, while the tens are expressed by the genitive of the cardinal (see above 19.1), and the hundreds are attached by means of ar; the noun to which the numeral refers stands immediately after the digit. Examples are in chóiced fichet 'the twenty-fifth', indala n-ainmm deac 'the twelfth name', isin fichtetmad blíadain ar chét 'in the one hundred and twentieth year'.

20 Suffixed Pronouns

Unstressed personal pronouns can be added to stressed verbs or prepositions. To verbs, the pronouns can be infixed or suffixed, but to prepositions they can only be suffixed (the infixed pronouns will be discussed in lesson 5, section 25; for details on the combinations of preposition plus personal pronoun -- the pronominalized prepositions -- see lesson 7, section 35). In both cases they can serve as direct or indirect objects. Most commonly, a pronoun of the third person is attached as direct object to the verbal ending of the 3rd singular absolute form of an active verb in the indicative. The forms of the suffixed personal pronouns are:

Singular   Form
1st   -um
2nd   -ut
3rd masc/ntr.   -i (-it)
3rd fem.   -us
     
Plural   Form
1st   -unn
2nd   -uib
3rd   -us

The suffixed pronouns of all persons can be used in combination with the 3rd singular absolute, present indicative, of the substantive verb (*táith) in a dative sense, to denote possession; e.g. táthut (2nd singular) 'there exists for you', i.e. 'you have'.

Apart from the 3rd singular, the only verbal forms capable of taking a suffixed pronouns are 3rd plurals in -it, 1st plurals in -mi, and the 1st singular future indicative in -a. To these, only the pronoun of the 3rd singular masculine or neuter can be attached, which then has the form -it. The pronouns of the 1st and 2nd persons are restricted to the poetic language in their use as direct object, whereas infixed pronouns have to be used in prose.

Old Irish Online

Lesson 5

Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, Caren Esser, and Jonathan Slocum

The story of Liadain agus Cuirithir is a tale consisting -- as usual -- of prose and poetry, which on linguistic grounds can be dated to the ninth or early tenth century, even though it has come down to us only in two late manuscripts. The theme of this romance is the love of a poet and a poetess: after an initial engagement to marry Cuirithir, Liadain -- the Grey Lady -- takes the veil. It is not clear at what point of the transmission of the text this occurred; if early, her act makes the plot a conflict between love and religion, though it might have been different in the original version of the beginning of the story, where Liadain postpones the marriage to Cuirithir because of her professional interests as a travelling poetess.

Reading and Textual Analysis

In the course of the story (i.e. after the first selection, sentences 1-9), the lovers seek the spiritual direction of St. Cummine, who first imposes a light probation upon them but then, challenged by Liadain, allows the couple more freedom. When Cuirithir breaks the vow of chastity (as told in the second part of the selection, sentence 10), he is banished to another monastery by Cummine and has to renounce love, as we see in the third part of the selection (sentences 11-13). As Liadain professes her love for Cuirithir and still seeks him (as narrated in the fourth and fifth part of the selection, sentences 14-22), Cuirithir crosses the sea while Liadain returns to the scene of their penance and his prayers and shortly thereafter dies. Cummine subsequently lays over her grave the stone where Liadain had mourned her love of Cuirithir, and upon which she died.

(N.B. In order to give a better idea of the verse form, Ruth Lehmann's poetic rendering will appear following our more literal translation of the selections for this lesson.)

Comrac Liadaine ocus Cuirithir
  • comrac -- noun; nominative singular masculine/neuter, o-stem, of <comrac> encounter; combat; collision; sexual relation -- the encounter
  • Liadaine -- proper name feminine; genitive singular of <Líadain> Liadain -- of Liadain
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • Cuirithir -- proper name masculine; genitive singular of <Curithir, Cuirithir> Cuirithir -- Cuirithir

Líadain ben do Chorco Duibne .i. banéces.
  • Líadain -- proper name feminine; nominative singular of <Líadain> Liadain -- Liadain
  • ben -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- a woman
  • do -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- of
  • Chorco Duibne -- toponym; lenited dative singular masculine, yo-stem, of <Corco Duibne> Corkaguiney -- Corkaguiney
  • .i. -- abbreviation of; <ed-ón> that is -- that is
  • banéces -- noun; compound of <ben> woman, wife + nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of; <éces, éices> scholar, sage, poet -- a poetess

Luid sí for cúairt hi crích Connacht.
  • luid -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative, absolute, of <téit> goes -- went
  • sí -- personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine of; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- she
  • for -- preposition; <for> on, over -- on
  • cúairt -- noun; dative singular masculine, i-stem, of <cúairt> circle; tour, journey -- a tour
  • hi -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- into
  • crích -- noun; accusative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <crích> boundary, territory -- into the territory
  • Connacht -- toponym; genitive plural feminine, ā-stem, of <Connacht> inhabitant of Connacht -- of the inhabitants of Connacht

Cuirithir mac Doborchon, éces side dno.
  • Cuirithir mac Doborchon -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cuirithir mac Doborchon> Cuirithir son of Doborchu -- Cuirithir son of Doborchu
  • éces -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <éces, éices> scholar, sage, poet -- a poet
  • side -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <sude, suide> this one, the aforementioned -- himself
  • dno -- shortened from enclitic particle; <dano, dono> again, now, then -- as well

Do Chonnachtaib dó.
  • do -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- to
  • Chonnachtaib -- proper name feminine; lenited dative plural of <Connacht> inhabitant of Connacht -- the inhabitants of Connacht
  • dó -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine dative of <duL, doL> to -- that he belonged

Dogníther ón cuirm dísi le Cuirithir.
  • dogníther -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative passive, deuterotonic, of <do°gní> does; makes -- is made
  • ón -- indeclinable; demonstrative pronoun neuter singular <ón> this, that -- this
  • cuirm -- noun; nominative singular neuter, i-stem, of <cuirm> ale, beer; ale-feast, entertainment -- an ale-feast
  • dísi -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular feminine dative of <duL, doL> to + emphasizing particle 3rd person singular feminine; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- for her
  • le -- preposition; <laH> among, by, with -- by
  • Cuirithir -- proper name masculine; accusative singular of <Curithir, Cuirithir> Cuirithir -- Cuirithir

"Cid ná dénaimni óentaid, a Líadain?" ol Cuirithir.
  • cid -- stressed interrogative pronoun; neuter <cidL, cedL> what; why -- why
  • ná -- dependent negative particle; <ná, na> not, nor -- not
  • dénaimni -- verb; 1st person plural present indicative active, prototonic, of <do°gní> does; makes + emphasizing particle 1st person plural; <ni> we -- do we... make
  • óentaid -- noun; accusative singular masculine, dental stem, of <oentu> unity, alliance, sexual union -- a union
  • a -- particle; introduces vocative <aL> o -- o
  • Líadain -- proper name feminine; vocative singular of <Líadain> Liadain -- Liadain
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cuirithir -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Curithir, Cuirithir> Cuirithir -- Cuirithir

"Ropud án ar mac ar ndís".
  • ropud -- verb; 3rd person singular perfect subjunctive, conjunct, of copula <is> is -- would be
  • án -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <án> splendid, brilliant; splendour -- brilliant
  • ar -- possessive pronoun; 1st person plural <arN> our -- our
  • mac -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <macc, mac> son -- son
  • ar -- conjunction; introduces relative <ar-aN> so that, in order that, that -- whom
  • ndís -- verb; nasalized 2nd person singular present subjunctive active, prototonic, of <do°icc, tic(c), tig> approaches; gets; comes -- you would beget

"Ní dénaimni ón", ol sise, "ar ná loiti mo chúairt immum.
  • ní -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • dénaimni -- verb; 1st person plural imperative active, prototonic, of <do°gní> does; makes + emphasizing particle 1st person plural; <ni> we -- let us... do
  • ón -- indeclinable; demonstrative pronoun neuter singular <ón> this, that -- so
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • sise -- emphatic personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- she
  • ar -- conjunction; introduces relative <ar-aN> so that, in order that, that -- so that
  • ná -- dependent negative particle; <ná, na> not, nor -- not
  • loiti -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, conjunct, of <lottid> injures, spoils, destroys -- it does... spoil
  • mo -- possessive pronoun; 1st person singular of <moL, mL> my -- my
  • chúairt -- noun; lenited accusative singular masculine, i-stem, of <cúairt> circle; tour, journey -- tour
  • immum -- pronominalized preposition; 1st person singular accusative of <imbL, immL> around, about; mutually -- for me

Día tís ar mo chend dorísi dom thig, doregsae lat." ...
  • día -- conjunction; <diaN> when; if -- if
  • tís -- verb; 2nd person singular present subjunctive, prototonic, of <do°icc, tic(c), tig> approaches; gets; comes -- you might come
  • ar -- preposition; <arL, airL> before, for, in front of, east of -- for
  • mo -- possessive pronoun; 1st person singular of <moL, mL> my -- ...
  • chend -- noun; lenited accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <cenn> head, front; end -- me
  • dorísi -- adverb; <dorísi, dorís> again, once more -- again
  • dom -- preposition; compound form of preposition <duL, doL> to + suffixed possessive pronoun 1st person singular; <moL, mL> my -- to my
  • thig -- noun; lenited dative singular neuter, s-stem, of <teg, tech> house, dwelling -- house
  • doregsae -- verb; 1st person singular future indicative active, deuterotonic, of <do°tét, do°téit> comes; goes + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- I shall come
  • lat -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular accusative of <laH> among, by, with -- with you

Foit in oidchi sin. ...
  • foit -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative active, absolute, of <foad, foid, foaid> sleeps together -- they sleep together
  • in -- article; accusative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- that
  • oidchi -- noun; accusative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <adaig> night -- night
  • sin -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; <sin> this, that, those, the aforementioned -- very

Rucad som íarum do chill aili.
  • rucad -- verb; 3rd person singular perfect passive, deuterotonic, of <do°beir> brings -- was brought
  • som -- emphasizing particle; 3rd person singular masculine <seom, som> he, it -- he
  • íarum -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <íarN, íarmL-> after -- then
  • do -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- to
  • chill -- noun; lenited dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <cell> cloister, monastic settlement -- monastery
  • aili -- pronominal; dative singular feminine of <aile> other -- another

Is and asbert som:
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- it is
  • and -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <in, iN> in, into -- there
  • asbert -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative active, deuterotonic, syntactically relative, of <as°beir> says, speaks -- that... said
  • som -- emphasizing particle; 3rd person singular masculine <seom, som> he, it -- he

"Di chíanaib
ó roscarus fri Líadain,
sithithir cech lá fri mí,
sithithir mí fri blíadain." ...
  • di -- preposition; <diL, deL> from, of -- of
  • chíanaib -- noun; lenited dative plural feminine, ā-stem, of <cían> long time; period -- late
  • -- conjunction; <ó> since -- since
  • roscarus -- verb; 1st person singular perfect indicative active, conjunct, of <scaraid> separates, parts -- I have parted
  • fri -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- from
  • Líadain -- proper name feminine; accusative singular of <Líadain> Liadain -- Liadain
  • sithithir -- adjective; equative of <síth> long -- as long
  • cech -- pronominal; nominative singular neuter of <cach, cech> each, every, any -- each
  • lá -- noun; nominative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <láaN, láN> day, daylight -- day
  • fri -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- as
  • mí -- noun; accusative singular masculine, s-stem, of <mí> month -- a month
  • sithithir -- adjective; equative of <síth> long -- as long
  • mí -- noun; nominative singular masculine, s-stem, of <mí> month -- a month
  • fri -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- as
  • blíadain -- noun; accusative singular feminine, ī-stem, of <blíadain> year -- a year

Luid sium didu co mboí hi Cill Letrech i tír na nDésse inna ailithri.
  • luid -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative, absolute, of <téit> goes -- went
  • sium -- emphasizing particle; 3rd person singular masculine <seom, som> he, it -- he
  • didu -- particle; <didiu, didu> now, therefore, then -- therefore
  • co -- conjunction; used as verbal particle <con, coN> until; so that; and -- until
  • mboí -- verb; nasalized 3rd person singular preterite indicative of substantive verb <attá> is -- he was
  • hi -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- in
  • Cill Letrech -- toponym; dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <Cell Letrech> Cloister Letrech -- Cell Letrech
  • i -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- in
  • tír -- noun; dative singular neuter, s-stem, of <tír> earth, territory, land -- the land
  • na -- article; genitive plural of <in, aN, indL> the -- of the
  • nDésse -- proper name; nasalized genitive plural masculine, i-stem, of <déis> vassal -- Deisi
  • inna -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aL> his, its -- on his
  • ailithri -- noun; dative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <ailithre> pilgrimage -- pilgrimage

Doluid sí for a íarairsom ocus dixit:
  • doluid -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative, deuterotonic, of <do°tét, do°téit> comes; goes -- went
  • sí -- personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine of; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- she
  • for -- preposition; <for> on, over -- on
  • a -- possessive pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- his
  • íarairsom -- noun; accusative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <íarar, íarair> search + emphasizing particle; 3rd person singular masculine <seom, som> he, it -- search
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • dixit -- Latin; <dixit> said -- said

"Cen áinius
in chaingen dorigenus:
an rocharus rocráidius. ...
  • cen -- preposition; <cenL> without -- without
  • áinius -- noun; accusative singular masculine, u-stem, of <áinius> pleasure -- pleasure
  • in -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • chaingen -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <caingen> deal, bargain -- bargain
  • dorigenus -- verb; 1st person singular perfect indicative active, deuterotonic, syntactically relative, of <do°gní> does; makes -- which I have made
  • an -- relative pronoun; <anL> what, that what -- that what
  • rocharus -- verb; 1st person singular perfect indicative active, conjunct, syntactically relative, of <caraid> loves -- I have loved
  • rocráidius -- verb; 1st person singular perfect indicative active, conjunct, of <cráidid> torments, vexes, afflicts -- I have vexed

Mé Líadain,
rocharussa Cuirithir:
is fírithir adfiadar.
  • mé -- independent personal pronoun; 1st person singular <mé> I -- I
  • Líadain -- proper name feminine; nominative singular of <Líadain> Liadain -- Liadain
  • rocharussa -- verb; 1st person singular perfect indicative active, conjunct, syntactically relative, of <caraid> loves + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- I who have loved
  • Cuirithir -- proper name masculine; accusative singular of <Curithir, Cuirithir> Cuirithir -- Cuirithir
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- it is
  • fírithir -- adjective; equative of <fír> true -- true exactly as
  • adfiadar -- verb; present indicative impersonal singular, deuterotonic, of <ad°fét> tells, relates -- it is told

Gair bása
hi coimthecht mo Chuirithir:
frissom ba maith mo gnássa.
  • gair -- adjective; accusative singular neuter, i-stem, of <gair> short; a short time -- a short time
  • bása -- verb; 1st person singular preterite indicative, absolute, of substantive verb <attá> is + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- I was
  • hi -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- in
  • coimthecht -- noun; dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <coimthecht> company -- the company
  • mo -- possessive pronoun; 1st person singular of <moL, mL> my -- my
  • Chuirithir -- proper name masculine; lenited genitive singular of <Curithir, Cuirithir> Cuirithir -- of... Cuirithir
  • frissom -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards + emphasizing particle 3rd person singular masculine; <seom, som> he, it -- with him
  • ba -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- was
  • maith -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <maith> good -- good
  • mo -- possessive pronoun; 1st person singular of <moL, mL> my -- my
  • gnássa -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <gnás> intercourse + emphasizing particle emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- intercourse

Céol caille
fomchanad la Cuirithir
la fogur fairce flainne.
  • céol -- noun; nominative singular neuter, o-stem, of <céol> music -- the music
  • caille -- noun; genitive singular feminine, ī-stem, of <caill> wood, forest -- of the woods
  • fomchanad -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative active, deuterotonic, of <fo°cain> accompanies with song, sings to, chants + infixed pronoun 1st person singular; <mL, mmL> I -- would sing to me
  • la -- preposition; <laH> among, by, with -- with
  • Cuirithir -- proper name masculine; accusative singular of <Curithir, Cuirithir> Cuirithir -- Cuirithir
  • la -- preposition; <laH> among, by, with -- together with
  • fogur -- noun; accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <fogur> sound -- the voice
  • fairce -- noun; genitive singular feminine, yā-stem, of <fairrge> sea -- of the... sea
  • flainne -- adjective; genitive singular feminine of <flann> blood red -- purple

Doménainn
ní cráidfed frim Chuirithir
do dálaib cacha ndénainn.
  • doménainn -- verb; 1st person singular past subjunctive active, deuterotonic, of <do°moinethar> thinks -- I would have thought
  • ní -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • cráidfed -- verb; 3rd person singular conditional active, conjunct, of <cráidid> torments, vexes, afflicts -- there would... result torment
  • frim -- preposition; compound form of preposition <frithL, friH> against, towards + suffixed possessive pronoun 1st person singular; <moL, mL> my -- to my
  • Chuirithir -- proper name masculine; lenited accusative singular of <Curithir, Cuirithir> Cuirithir -- Cuirithir
  • do -- preposition; variant of <diL, deL> from, of -- from
  • dálaib -- noun; dative plural feminine, ā-stem, of <dál> meeting, encounter -- the encounters
  • cacha -- pronominal; dative plural feminine of <cach, cech> each, every, any -- all
  • ndénainn -- verb; 1st person singular past subjunctive active, prototonic, syntactically relative, of <do°gní> does; makes -- which I might have arranged

Ní chela!
ba hésom mo chrideṡerc,
cía nocharainn cách chenae.
  • ní -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • chela -- verb; lenited 1st person singular subjunctive active, conjunct, of <celid> conceals, hides -- I may... conceal
  • ba -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative, absolute, relative, of copula <is> is -- that it was
  • hésom -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine of <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it + emphasizing particle 3rd person singular masculine; <seom, som> he, it -- him indeed
  • mo -- possessive pronoun; 1st person singular of <moL, mL> my -- my
  • chrideṡerc -- noun; lenited compound of <cride> heart + lenited nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of; <serc> love -- heart's love
  • cía -- conjunction; <cía> although, even if -- even if
  • nocharainn -- verb; 1st person singular past subjunctive active, conjunct, of <caraid> loves -- I might have loved
  • cách -- pronominal; accusative singular masculine of <cách> everybody, everyone -- everybody else
  • chenae -- pronominalized preposition; lenited 3rd person singular neuter accusative of <cenL> without -- besides

Deilm ndegae
rotethainn mo chridesae,
rofess nícon bíad cenae."
  • deilm -- noun; nominative singular neuter, n-stem, of <deilm> loud, rumbling noise -- the roaring
  • ndegae -- noun; nasalized genitive plural feminine, i-stem, of <daig> flame, fire; pang -- of the blaze
  • rotethainn -- verb; 3rd person singular perfect indicative active, conjunct, of <teinnid, tennaid> cuts, cracks, breaks -- has shattered
  • mo -- possessive pronoun; 1st person singular of <moL, mL> my -- my
  • chridesae -- noun; lenited accusative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <cride> heart + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- heart
  • rofess -- verb; perfect impersonal singular, deuterotonic, of <ro°fitir> knows -- it is certain
  • nícon -- independent negative particle; <nícon, nicon> not -- not
  • bíad -- verb; 3rd person singular conditional, conjunct, syntactically relative, of substantive verb <attá> is -- that it might... exist
  • cenae -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <cenL> without -- without him

Lesson Text

Comrac Liadaine ocus Cuirithir Líadain ben do Chorco Duibne .i. banéces. Luid sí for cúairt hi crích Connacht. Cuirithir mac Doborchon, éces side dno. Do Chonnachtaib dó. Dogníther ón cuirm dísi le Cuirithir. "Cid ná dénaimni óentaid, a Líadain?" ol Cuirithir. "Ropud án ar mac ar ndís". "Ní dénaimni ón", ol sise, "ar ná loiti mo chúairt immum. Día tís ar mo chend dorísi dom thig, doregsae lat." ... Foit in oidchi sin. ... Rucad som íarum do chill aili. Is and asbert som: "Di chíanaib
ó roscarus fri Líadain,
sithithir cech lá fri mí,
sithithir mí fri blíadain." ... Luid sium didu co mboí hi Cill Letrech i tír na nDésse inna ailithri. Doluid sí for a íarairsom ocus dixit: "Cen áinius
in chaingen dorigenus:
an rocharus rocráidius. ... Mé Líadain,
rocharussa Cuirithir:
is fírithir adfiadar. Gair bása
hi coimthecht mo Chuirithir:
frissom ba maith mo gnássa. Céol caille
fomchanad la Cuirithir
la fogur fairce flainne. Doménainn
ní cráidfed frim Chuirithir
do dálaib cacha ndénainn. Ní chela!
ba hésom mo chrideṡerc,
cía nocharainn cách chenae. Deilm ndegae
rotethainn mo chridesae,
rofess nícon bíad cenae."

Translation

Liadain, a woman of Corkaguiney, that is, a poetess; she went on a tour into the territory of the inhabitants of Connacht. Cuirithir son of Doborchu, a poet himself as well; (it was) to the inhabitants of Connacht that he belonged. This is made, an ale-feast for her by Cuirithir. "Why do we not make a union, o Liadain?" said Cuirithir. "Brilliant would be our son whom you would beget." "Let us not do so", said she, "so that my tour is not spoiled for me. If you might come for me again, to my house, I shall come with you." [...]
They sleep together that very night. [...]
He was brought then to another monastery. It is there that he said:
"Of late,
since I have parted from Liadain,
each day (is) as long as a month,
a month as long as a year." [...]
He went, therefore, until he was in Cell Letrech, in the land of the Deisi, on his pilgrimage. She went on his search and said:
"Without pleasure
(is) the bargain which I have made:
what I have loved, I have vexed. [...]
"I (am) Liadain,
I who have loved Cuirithir:
it is true exactly as it is told.
A short time (only)
I was in the company of my Cuirithir:
my intercourse with him was good.
The music of the woods
would sing to me (when) with Cuirithir,
together with the voice of the purple sea.
I would have thought
that there would not result torment to my Cuirithir
from all the encounters which I might have arranged.
I may not conceal (it)!
It was him indeed (who was) my heart's love,
even if I might have loved everybody else besides.
The roaring of the blaze
has shattered my heart:
it is certain that it might not exist without him."
(N.B. Ruth Lehmann's rendering, which follows, is intended to convey the poetical devices employed by the Irish author but not the literal content of the verses; also, our selection includes verses not included by her selection and excludes, with [...], verses included by her "Nachdichtung" because these are, in the primary lesson author's opinion, later Christian additions to the original pagan text.)
No pleasure
in deed done to loving-one;
tormenting without measure.
What madness
not to give him happiness,
though fear of God feed sadness.
No ruin,
his affair desirable
through pain heaven pursuing.
Cause slender
through me troubled Cuirithir,
though I was gentle, tender.
I'm Liadan;
it is I loved Cuirithir;
truly, though said by heathen.
Brief hour
together with Cuirithir;
our closeness then a dower.
Woods singing
to me beside Cuirithir
with somber sea-sounds dinning.
I wonder
it would trouble Cuirithir,
any deal made asunder.
No hiding:
he was my heart's true lover,
though I loved all beside him.
Flames flowing
burst my heart, now desperate, dead without him - this knowing. No.

Grammar

21 Relative Clauses: Special Verb Forms

It has been mentioned in lesson 4, section 16.1, that simple verbs in absolute inflection have special relative forms for the 3rd persons and generally also for the 1st person plural. The endings of these relative forms were originally characterised by a final -e, which goes back to a petrified form of the old relative pronoun *yo-. This -e has generally been preserved in the following relative forms:

  • in the 1st person plural active of all tenses, ending in -me (deponent -mer);
  • in the 3rd person plural active of all tenses, ending in -te (deponent and impersonal/passive -tar), as in the present indicative active toingthe, toingte in lesson 4;
  • in the 3rd person singular present indicative active of the irregular verb téit 'goes' (téte) and of the substantive verb attá 'is' (file);
  • in the 3rd person singular indicative active of the t-preterite, ending in -t-e, as in berthae in lesson 2;
  • in the 3rd person singular indicative active of the suffixless preterite, ending in -e;
  • in the 3rd person preterite impersonal/passive, ending in -th(a)e.

Otherwise, the relative form of 3rd person singular active ends in -s(s), i.e. in the present indicative of all verbs other than téit and attá, in the ā-subjunctive, as well as in the f-future, in the normal reduplicated future, and in the future formations of certain other verbs.

22 The Verb: Absolute and Conjunct

In most tenses and moods, all personal forms of finite verbs can have either absolute or conjunct inflection, that is, they have two different sets of endings. Thus, a weak verb such as 'leaves' has the 3rd person singular present indicative active lécid in the absolute inflection vs. léci in the conjunct inflection, with corresponding impersonal/passive forms léicthir and léicther; for the strong verb 'bears, carries', the absolute and conjunct forms are berid and be(i)r in the active vs. ber(a)ir and berar in the passive, and similarly the deponent verb 'places' has the absolute and conjunct forms su(i)digidir and suidigedar in the active vs. suidigthir and suidigther in the impersonal/passive. Whether a personal form takes absolute or conjunct inflection is determined by the form of the verb itself (simple or compound) and by the element preceding it, as the following subparagraphs will show.

22.1 Absolute vs. Simple Conjunct

The absolute forms are used where the verb is neither compounded with any preposition or verbal particle (ro, no), nor preceded by a so-called conjunct particle (see below). Instances of personal verbal forms in absolute inflection from this lesson include the 3rd person preterite indicative active luid, the 3rd person plural present indicative active foit, the 3rd person present indicative active is, the 3rd person singular conditional active cráidfed, etc.

Conjunct forms, on the other hand, are used where the verb is either compounded with a preposition or a verbal particle (ro, no), or is preceded by a conjunct particle. These particles are called conjunct particles because they demand the conjunct form of a following verb (simple or compound). The conjunct particles are:

  1. the negative particles ní/ni, nícon/nicon, ná/na, nád, nacon and their compounds;
  2. the interrogative particle in, and sometimes also the interrogative pronoun cía;
  3. prepositions in combination with the relative particle (s)aN (cf. lesson 4, section 16.1);
  4. the nasalising preposition iN, hiN in relative use ('in which');
  5. the nasalising conjunctions araN 'in order that', diaN 'if, when', coN, conN 'so that'.

Three different types of conjunct forms can be distinguished: simple conjunct, conjunct deuterotonic and conjunct prototonic. Their use depends on the element preceding them. Simple conjunct forms occur with non-compounded verbs only. They are employed:

  1. where a simple (i.e. non-compounded) verb follows a conjunct particle (instances from this lesson include the 3rd person singular present indicative active loiti after ná, the 1st person singular present subjunctive active chela after ní, and the 3rd person singular conditional bíad after nícon); and
  2. where a simple verb is preceded by the verbal particle ro or no (as e.g. in the 3rd person singular past subjunctive ropud, the 3rd person singular perfect indicative passive rucad, the 1st person singular perfect indicative active roscarus, and the 1st person singular past subjunctive active nocharainn in this lesson).
22.2 Conjunct Deuterotonic vs. Conjunct Prototonic

Compound verbs (i.e. verbs compounded with a preposition) have either deuterotonic or prototonic form (the difference in accentuation between deuterotonic and prototonic forms has already been explained in lesson 1, section 1.2).

Deuterotonic means that the stress falls on the second element of the compound, so that verbs compounded with one preposition bear the stress on the first syllable of the verbal root (e.g. the 3rd person present indicative passive dogníther from do°gní, or the 3rd person preterite indicative active asbert from as°beir in this lesson), while verbs compounded with two or more prepositions bear the stress on the second preposition.

Prototonic means that the stress falls on the first element of the compound, which is invariably the first preposition, thus implying important phonological changes in the verbal compound. Prototonic form is required:

  1. After the conjunct particles mentioned in 22.1 (cf. in this lesson the 1st person plural present indicative active dénaim from do°gní, or the 2nd person singular present subjunctive active tís from do°icc)
  2. In the imperative (cf. the 1st person plural imperative active dénaim, from do°gní, in this lesson)
  3. Occasionally where the verb introduces a relative clause (cf. the nasalised 1st person singular past subjunctive active relative ndénainn, from do°gní, in this lesson)
  4. In the archaic construction where the verb stands at the end of its clause (on this phenomenon cf. lesson 1, section 2.3).
23 The Noun: u-, i-, and ī-Stems

The inflection of u-stems corresponds to that of the i-stems: both are characterised by the Irish ending -o -a in the genitive singular and dual; the nominative, vocative, accusative and dative singular, and the nominative, accusative dual have no ending, from a descriptive point of view, while the final consonant of these cases is neutral in the u-stems and palatal in the i-stems; the dative plural and dual of both stems end in -ib, the genitive plural ends in -e. Both stems differ in the plural, however, where the masculine u-stems end in -e, -a or -i and the neuters either show u-quality in the final consonant or have the ending -a while the i-stems show the ending -i in the nominative, vocative and accusative masculine and -e in the neuter.

23.1 u-Stems

These comprise masculines and neuters; they are represented, first, by the masculine mug 'serf':

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   mug   mog(a)e, moga   mug
        mog(a)i    
Voc.   mug   (*mugu)   mug
Acc.   mug   mugu   mug
Gen.   mogo, -a   mog(a)e   mogo, -a
Dat.   mug   mog(a)ib   mog(a)ib

...and u-Stems are represented, second, by the neuter dorus 'door':

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   dorus   dorus, doirsea   dorus
Voc.   dorus   doirsea   dorus
Acc.   dorus   dorus, doirsea   dorus
Gen.   doirseo, -ea   doirse   *doirseo,-ea
Dat.   dorus   doirsib   *doirsib

Instances of u-stems in this lesson include the accusative singular masculine áinius and the compound genitive singular masculine coṁchrotha; in lesson 4, the dative singular masculine áth; in lesson 3, the compound accusative plural masculine mórchathu; in lesson 1, a neuter form in the dative singular collud.

23.2 i-Stems

All three genders are found, though neuters are rare. As masculines and feminines of this declension are inflected alike, the following will suffice.

For example, the feminine súil 'eye':

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   súil   sú(i)li   súil
Voc.   súil   sú(i)li   súil
Acc.   súil   sú(i)li   súil
Gen.   súlo, -a   sú(i)le   súlo, -a
Dat.   súil   sú(i)lib   sú(i)lib

For example, the neuter muir 'sea':

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   muir   mu(i)re   muir
Voc.   muir       muir
Acc.   muir   mu(i)re   muir
Gen.   moro, -a   mu(i)re   moro, -a
Dat.   muir   mu(i)rib   mu(i)rib

Instances are found in this lesson in the dative singular masculine cúairt, in the nominative singular neuter cuirm, in the accusative singular neuter of the substantivized adjective gair, and in the nasalised genitive singular feminine ndegae.

23.3 ī-Stems

These are feminine only. The inflection of ī-stems is basically like that of the yā-stems (cf. lesson 4, section 18); it differs however both in the nominative and vocative singular and in the nominative and accusative dual, where the ī-stems have no apparent ending and show palatal quality in the final consonant. The inflection of ī-stems is exemplified by the noun setig 'female companion, wife':

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   sétigL   séitchi   sétigL
Voc.   sétigL   *séitchi   sétigL
Acc.   séitchiN   séitchi   sétigL
Gen.   séitche   séitcheN   *séitcheL
Dat.   séitchiL   séitchib   *séitchib

The present lesson provides two examples: the accusative singular blíadain, and the genitive singular caille.

24 The Adjective: Declensions of the Adjective

It has already been mentioned in lesson 3, section 14, that adjectives are inflected in certain syntactic positions. Five different classes of adjectival declensions can be distinguished:

  1. o- and ā-stems;
  2. yo- and yā-stems;
  3. i-stems;
  4. u-stems;
  5. consonantal stems.

The distribution of genders corresponds to that of the substantives, so that classes 3-5 contain all three genders (in the u-stem adjectives, the feminine inflection survived, whereas original Indo-European feminine u-stem nouns were incorporated into the ā-stems), while masculine and neuter adjectives belonging to classes 1 or 2 inflect as o- or yo-stems and the corresponding female forms inflect as ā- or yā-stems. Classes 1-3 contain numerous adjectives, while those belonging to class 4 are less common, and of class 5 only few remnants exist.

The declensions are the following:

24.1 o- and ā-stems

For example, bec(c) 'small':

Singular   Masc.   Fem.   Ntr.
Nom.   becc   becc   becc
Voc.   bicc   becc   becc
Acc.   becc   bicc   becc
Gen.   bicc   bicce   bicc
Dat.   biucc   bicc   biucc
             
Plural   Masc.   Fem/Ntr.
Nom.   bicc   becca
Voc.   biccu   becca
Acc.   biccu, becca   becca
Gen.   becc   becc
Dat.   becc(a)ib   becc(a)ib

Examples of adjectives following this declension are the masculine nominative singular án and the feminine genitive singular flainn in this lesson, the compound comtrén, the masculine nominative singular mór, the feminine nominatives singular of the colour adjectives glass, finn and derg (in the compound áuderg) and the feminine dative singular deiss in lesson 4, the feminine nominative singular doltach and the masculine nominative singular of the colour adjective donn in lesson 3.

24.2 yo- and yā-stems

For example, u(i)le 'all, whole':

Singular   Masc.   Fem.   Ntr.
Nom.   u(i)le   u(i)le   u(i)le
Voc.   u(i)li   u(i)le   u(i)le
Acc.   u(i)le   u(i)li   u(i)le
Gen.   u(i)li   u(i)le   u(i)li
Dat.   u(i)liu   u(i)li   u(i)liu
             
Plural   Masc/Fem/Ntr.
Nom.   u(i)li
Voc.   u(i)li
Acc.   u(i)li
Gen.   u(i)le
Dat.   u(i)lib

Examples of yo-/yā-stem adjectives are found in the feminine accusative singular clí and in the feminine nominative singular uile in lesson 4, as well as in the masculine dative singular inneltiu in lesson 2.

24.3 i-stems

For example, maith 'good':

Singular   Masc/Ntr.   Fem.
Nom.   maith   maith
Voc.   maith   maith
Acc.   maith   maith
Gen.   maith   ma(i)the
Dat.   maith   maith
         
Plural   Masc/Fem/Ntr.
Nom.   ma(i)thi
Voc.   ma(i)thi
Acc.   ma(i)thi
Gen.   ma(i)the, maith
Dat.   ma(i)thib

Examples of adjectives following this declension are the neuter accusative singular gair and the feminine nominative singular maith in this lesson, the compounds comfobaid and coméscaid in lesson 4, as well as the neuter accusative plural réidi and the masculine nominatives singular hálaind and caín in lesson 1.

24.4 u-stems

For example, dub 'black':

Singular   Masc/Ntr.   Fem.
Nom.   dub   dub
Acc.   dub   duib
Gen.   duib   dub(a)e
Dat.   dub   duib
         
Plural   Masc/Fem/Ntr.
Nom.   dub(a)i
Acc.   dub(a)i
Gen.   dub
Dat.   dub(a)ib

An example of an adjective following this declension is found in the masculine nominative singular dub in lesson 3.

As adjectives following the consonantal declension are very rare, and since only single forms exist, no paradigm is given here.

The declension according to which an adjective inflects depends on its stem formation. New adjectives can be formed:

  1. by composition of nouns or adjectives, without adding a suffix (as in lesson 3 in adjectival compounds of the type comtrén 'of the same strength' (prefix 'same' + adjective 'strong'), comchrotha 'of the same shape' (masculine genitive singular of comchruth, preposition 'same' + noun 'shape'), etc., or in the feminine nominative singular áuderg 'red-eared' (noun 'ear' + adjective 'red') in lesson 4);
  2. by derivation from nouns or adjectives by means of the suffix -d(a)e, inflecting as yo- and yā-stems;
  3. by derivation from nouns or adjectives by means of the suffix -ach, inflecting as o- and ā-stems (as in the feminine nominative singular doltach 'pernicious' from dolud 'distress, loss, damage' in lesson 3);
  4. by derivation from transitive verbs by means of the suffix -the (-te -de -se), serving as past participle passive (as in inneltiu in lesson 2, masculine dative singular of inneltae, from the verb in°lá 'arranges, adjusts').
25 Infixed Pronouns

The difference between independent and dependent personal pronouns has already been mentioned in lesson 2, section 10 (the independent forms having been discussed in detail in lesson 3, section 15.1). The proclitic dependent forms of the personal pronoun are used with verbs and, being attached to a pretonic preverb, are considered to be infixed in the verbal form.

The exact position of the infixed pronoun depends on the pretonic element(s) preceding the verb, which cause the infixed pronoun to be integrated into the verb in one of the following manners:

  1. Where the verb (compounded or not) is preceded by one or more conjunct particles (cf. above, 22.1), the pronoun is generally attached to the last of these, and the stress falls on the immediately following element (as in nicotL ḃia in lesson 4, where the infixed pronoun tL of the 2nd person singular is attached to the negative particle nicon, or in conda rodart in lesson 3, where the infixed pronoun daH of the 3rd person singular feminine is attached to the conjunction con and precedes the verb dairid; the same conjunction is found with attached infixed pronoun idL of the 3rd person singular masculine in the form conidcorastar in lesson 2, where the verb is fo°ceird).
  2. If the verb is not preceded by any conjunct particles but is compounded with a preposition or a verbal particle, the pronoun is generally attached to the first of these (as in fomchanad, where the infixed pronoun mL of the 1st person singular is attached to the preverb fo of the compound verb fo°cain, in this lesson, or in fortatnesabsu, where the infixed pronoun tatL of the 2nd person singular is attached to the preverb for of for°nesa).
  3. If the verb is neither preceded by a conjunct particle nor compounded, the semantically void verbal particle no is prefixed to the verb, and the pronoun is attached to this particle (as in notLbenabsu, in lesson 4, where the infixed pronoun tL of the 2nd person singular is attached to the verbal particle no in order to serve as infixed pronoun with the simple verb benaid).

Infixed personal pronouns may serve the following syntactic purposes:

  1. They express the direct object when attached to active or deponent forms of transitive verbs (e.g. dotLucai 'brings you' in lesson 3, where the infixed pronoun tL of the 2nd person singular serves as direct object of the verb do°beir 'brings', or similarly in condarodart in lesson 3, where the direct object of dairid is represented by the infixed pronoun daH of the 3rd person singular feminine).
  2. They express the indirect object when attached to forms of the verb 'to be' (e.g. nicotLḃia in lesson 4, where the infixed pronoun tL of the 2nd person singular serves as indirect object of the substantive verb attá).
  3. The infixed pronouns of the 1st and 2nd persons indicate the subject when attached to passive forms.

Formally, the infixed pronouns fall into three different classes, termed A, B and C in traditional grammar. Since the use of class C infixed pronouns is determined by syntactical rather than phonological aspects -- as in the case of classes A and B -- they will be discussed separately, in lesson 6, section 26.

25.1 'Class A' Infixed Pronouns

These are used after all particles and most prepositions which originally ended in a vowel, i.e. ro, no, do, di, fo, ar, im(m) and the negative particle ní/ni (also after cetu, cita 'first'). Their forms are:

1 Sg.       mL, mmL
2 Sg.       tL
3 Sg.   masc.   aN (-N)
    fem.   sN, s
    ntr.   aL (-L)
1 Pl.       n, nn
2 Pl.       b, f
3 Pl.       sN, s

After the negative particle ní/ni, which itself causes spirant mutation (cf. lesson 2, section 6.3), the a of the 3rd person singular masculine and neuter is regularly ommited; the presence and form of an infixed pronoun can therefore only be determined by the effect ní/ni has on a following initial (spirant mutation meaning ní/ni without attached pronoun, lenition meaning ní/ni + infixed pronoun 3rd person singular masculine, and nasalisation meaning ní/ni + infixed pronoun 3rd person singular neuter).

Instances of verbs with class A infixed pronouns include manimLdergaissu and notLbenabsu in lesson 4.

25.2 'Class B' Infixed Pronouns

These are characterised by an initial d- in all forms, which is never lenited (hence often written t). They are used after prepositions originally ending in a consonant, i.e. for and etar, also frith- and com- (which combine with the initial d- of the infixed pronoun to give frit- and cot-), and ad-, aith-, ess-, in-/ind-, oss-, all of which combine with the initial d- to give at- (occasionally written ad-, add-, atd-). Their forms are:

1 Sg.       domL, dumL, tomL, tumL, dam(m)L, tam(m)L
2 Sg.       totL, tatL, tL
3 Sg.   masc.   tN, taN
    fem.   daH, taH
    ntr.   tL
1 Pl.       don, ton, tan(n)
2 Pl.       dob, dub, tob (tof), tab
3 Pl.       daH, taH

Instances of verbs with class B infixed pronouns include atomLgládathar, from ad°gládathar, in lesson 2, as well as atatLchoṁnaic, from ad°cumaing, and condaHrodart, from dairid, in lesson 3.

Old Irish Online

Lesson 6

Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, Caren Esser, and Jonathan Slocum

The text selections of this lesson are taken from Audacht Morainn 'The Testament of Morann' in the edition of Fergus Kelly. It belongs to the literary genre of Speculum principum or 'Mirror of Princes', texts which give advice to a king, though it is not certain if they ever really formed part of the inauguration ceremonies of kings. Five compositions of this genre are known from Old Irish, Audacht Morainn being the oldest. Though the first paragraph of the text attributes the work to the wise judge Morann, who addressed it to his foster-son Neire, it is probable that Morann and the other characters are merely mythical figures, the author of the text being, as usual, unknown. On orthographical and syntactic grounds, a compilation date of approximately 700 A.D. has been assumed, even if major parts of the text will probably have existed before that, in oral or even written form.

The text has come down to us in three recensions represented by various manuscripts, the most accurate and complete of them being Royal Irish Academy manuscript 23. N.10, which, albeit transcribed in 1575, faithfully preserves the archaic spelling of the Early Old Irish original with only few Middle Irish orthographical modernisations.

The most important archaic linguistic features of Audacht Morainn found in our selections are the following:

  • archaic forms and spellings, such as final historical -th instead of -d (cf. ardosécath in sentence 3), the older spelling már 'great' (cf. Gaul. -maros, W. mawr) for later mór (e.g. in sentence 7), the preverbs to- and di- for later do- (cf. to-léci 'yields' in sentences 12 and 54), and the archaic infixed pronoun -de(n)- of the 3rd person singular feminine (cf. inde cluinethar 'when he hears it' and inden aici 'when he sees it');
  • archaic syntax, such as the verb-final constructions tmesis (cf. ní ... imderga 'he may not redden') and Bergins' Law (no example of this construction is contained in our selection, but cf. § 12 mortlithi márlochet di doínib dingbatar, 'plagues [and] great lightnings are kept from the people', with the verb being the prototonic form of di-ingaib, or § 21 clanda caini cain-tussimter ... 'fair children are well begotten', the verb being the prototonic form of to-fuissim), the absence of the definite article (cf. do ḟlaith 'for the ruler' in sentence 7), and the general absence of the copulative conjunction ocus 'and' (as in ... asa daingni deni dlúmaicdib 'by its firmness [and] strength in shiny artefacts' in sentence 9);
  • stylistic archaisms, such as parallelism (cf. the first two lines of our selection, where the verbs con-oí and ocaib respectively appear in the imperative in the first part of the syntagm and are repeated in the future form in the second part) and alliteration (cf. ... co foill na forráin fonnath fodrethat in sentence 5);
  • lexical archaisms (cf. the literary meaning 'runs under' of fo-reith in sentence 5, which later exclusively means 'helps'); the text is also characterised by a very low count of Latin loan-words and shows no influence of specifically Christian notions.

As usual, the author of the text is unknown. Though the first paragraph of the text attributes the work to the wise judge Morann, who supposedly composed it on his death-bed and addressed it to his foster-son Neire, it is probable that Morann and the other characters mentioned are merely mythical figures, and the paragraph in question is a later addition to the original text. Irrespective of authorship, Audacht Morainn provides us with valuable information about the role of the king in pre-Christian Irish society, which seems to be valid also for the early Christian period. Pre-Christian Irish society is generally regarded as rather violent and warlike, yet the present text paints a different picture by adopting a generally unmilitaristic attitude: the central idea is that the welfare of the king and his tribe depends on the king's justice (fír flathemon), which protects them from misfortune and ensures prosperity.

Reading and Textual Analysis

Various short passages have been selected (§ 6, 8, 22/2-5, 24, 29, 39-42, 54/a-b-c,e-f,k-m, 59, 61), which best give an impression of the whole. In the first selection the future king, who is compared to the charioteer of an old wagon, is exhorted to be just and merciful by caring for his people and avoiding violence; the second stresses the importance of the king's capacity in judging the quality of metals, first of all iron (iarn), in the production of which the Celts excelled -- so much so that their word for it was taken over by the Germanic languages, cf. German Eisen and English iron -- whereas gold is named last and as a foreign (allmar) product. The third selection gives an idea of Old Irish proverbs meant to exalt moral qualities, such as generosity and truth, while the fourth distinguishes the good from the unsuccessful leaders, who try to occupy foreign countries.

Comath fírinni, cotnofathar. [...]
  • comath -- verb; 3rd person singular imperative active, prototonic, of <con°oí> keeps, preserves -- let him preserve
  • fírinni -- noun; accusative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <fírinne> truth -- justice
  • cotnofathar -- verb; compound form of 3rd person singular future indicative active, deuterotonic, of <con°oí> keeps, preserves + infixed pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <tN> he -- it will preserve him

Ocbath trócairi, cotnocéba. [...]
  • ocbath -- verb; 3rd person singular imperative active, prototonic, of <ocaib> raises, exalts -- let him exalt
  • trócairi -- noun; accusative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <trócaire> mercy -- mercy
  • cotnocéba -- verb; compound form of 3rd person singular future indicative active, deuterotonic, of <con°ocaib> truly raises, truly exalts + infixed pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <tN> he -- it will truly exalt him

Aranécath arid sencharpait.
  • aranécath -- verb; compound form of 3rd person singular imperative active, prototonic, of <*ar°éci> observes + infixed pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <aN> he -- let him observe him
  • arid -- noun; accusative singular masculine, dental stem, of <are, arae, ara> charioteer -- the driver
  • sencharpait -- noun; compound form of <sen> old + lenited genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of; <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- of an old chariot

Ar nícon chotli are senḟonnith.
  • ar -- conjunction; <air, ar> for -- for
  • nícon -- independent negative particle; <nícon, nicon> not -- not
  • chotli -- verb; lenited 3rd person singular present indicative, prototonic, of <con°tuili> sleeps -- does... sleep
  • are -- noun; nominative singular masculine, dental stem, of <are, arae, ara> charioteer -- the driver
  • senḟonnith -- noun; compound form of <sen> old + lenited genitive singular neuter, o-stem, of; <fonnat> wheel-rim -- of an old wheel-rim

Remi déci, íarmo déci, tair sceo desiul sceo túaithbiul.
  • remi -- adverb; <remi> ahead -- ahead
  • déci -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, prototonic, of <de°éci, do°écai> looks -- he looks
  • íarmo -- adverb; <íarmo> behind -- behind
  • déci -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, prototonic, of <de°éci, do°écai> looks -- he looks
  • tair -- adverb; <tair> in front -- in front
  • sceo -- conjunction; <sceo> and -- and
  • desiul -- noun; dative singular masculine, o-stem, of <desel, deisel> right-hand side -- to the right
  • sceo -- conjunction; <sceo> and -- and
  • túaithbiul -- noun; dative singular masculine, o-stem, of <túaithbel> left-hand side -- to the left

Deéci, imdích, imdídnathar, arna bó
co foill na forráin fonnath fodrethat. [...]
  • deéci -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <de°éci, do°écai> looks -- he looks out
  • imdích -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <im(m)°dích> defends, protects -- he defends
  • imdídnathar -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <im(m)°dídnathar> protects, releases, exempts -- he protects
  • arna -- negative; compound form of <ar-aN> so that, in order that, that + dependent negative particle; <ná, na> not, nor -- so that... not
  • bó -- verb; 3rd person singular present subjunctive active, conjunct, of <bongid> breaks -- he may... break
  • co -- preposition; <comL, coN> with -- with
  • foill -- noun; dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <foll, faill> neglect -- neglect
  • na -- dependent negative particle; <ná, na> not, nor -- nor
  • forráin -- noun; dative singular feminine ā-stem, of <forrán> violence -- violence
  • fonnath -- noun; accusative plural neuter, o-stem, of <fonnat> wheel-rim -- the wheel-rims
  • fodrethat -- verb; compound form of 3rd person plural present indicative, deuterotonic, syntactically relative, of <fo°reith> runs under + infixed pronoun 3rd person singular masculine; <idN, dN, -N> he -- which run under him

Is tre ḟir flathemon rosaig cech dán mochtide mind suíthi. [...]
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- it is
  • tre -- preposition; <triL, treL> through -- through
  • ḟir -- noun; lenited accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <fír> truth; right; justice -- the justice
  • flathemon -- noun; nasalized genitive singular masculine, n-stem, of <flathem, flaithem> ruler -- of the ruler
  • rosaig -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, perfective, conjunct, syntactically relative, of <saigid> seeks, obtains -- that... attains
  • cech -- pronominal; nominative singular masculine of <cach, cech> each, every, any -- each
  • dán -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <dán> craftsman, man of art -- man of art
  • mochtide -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <mochtide> great, mighty -- great
  • mind -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <mind> crown, diadem, summit -- the summit
  • suíthi -- noun; genitive singular masculine, yo-stem, of <suíthe> wisdom, knowledge -- of knowledge

Apair fris, ní már nairlise nimderga, ar is dortuth cecha flatho folam la foscath ó ḟini do ḟlaith fuiliche. [...]
  • apair -- verb; 2nd person singular imperative active, prototonic, of <as°beir> says, speaks -- say
  • fris -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine dative of <frithL, friH> against, towards -- to him
  • ní -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • már -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <már, mór> big, great -- a great number
  • nairlise -- noun; nasalized genitive plural feminine, yā-stem, of <airlise> forecourt, enclosure -- of fore-courts
  • nimderga -- verb; nasalized 3rd person singular present subjunctive active, prototonic, nasalizing relative, of <im(m)°derga> reddens -- that he may... redden
  • ar -- conjunction; <air, ar> for -- for
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- is
  • dortuth -- noun; nominative singular masculine, u-stem, of <dortuth, dórtad> pouring out; destruction -- the... destruction
  • cecha -- pronominal; genitive singular feminine of <cach, cech> each, every, any -- of all
  • flatho -- noun; genitive singular feminine, i-stem, of <flaith> rule; domain; ruler -- rule
  • folam -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <folam> empty, vain -- vain
  • la -- preposition; <laH> among, by, with -- and
  • foscath -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <foscath, foscad> shade, protection -- of the protection
  • -- preposition; <óL, úaL> from, by -- from
  • ḟini -- noun; lenited dative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <fine> kin -- the kin
  • do -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- for
  • ḟlaith -- noun; lenited dative singular feminine, i-stem, of <flaith> rule; domain; ruler -- the ruler
  • fuiliche -- noun; nominative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <fuiliche> bloodiness, bloodshed -- bloodshed

Admestar iarn asa thoichib túath tacarthaib.
  • admestar -- verb; 3rd person singular present subjunctive active, deuterotonic, of <ad°midethar> estimates, evaluates -- let him estimate
  • iarn -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <iarn> iron -- iron
  • asa -- preposition; compound form of <essH, asH, aH> out of, from + possessive pronoun 3rd person singular neuter; <aL> his, its -- by its
  • thoichib -- noun; lenited dative plural neuter of <toich> natural, proper -- properties
  • túath -- noun; genitive plural feminine, ā-stem, of <tóth, túath> tribe, people -- of tribes
  • tacarthaib -- noun; dative plural neuter, yo-stem, of <tacre, tacrae> pleading, declaration, dispute -- at disputes

Admestar hume asa daingni deni dlúmaicdib.
  • admestar -- verb; 3rd person singular present subjunctive active, deuterotonic, of <ad°midethar> estimates, evaluates -- let him estimate
  • hume -- noun; accusative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <(h)ume, (h)umae> copper -- copper
  • asa -- preposition; compound form of <essH, asH, aH> out of, from + possessive pronoun 3rd person singular neuter; <aL> his, its -- by its
  • daingni -- noun; dative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <daingne> firmness -- firmness
  • deni -- noun; dative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <dene, deine> strength -- strength
  • dlúmaicdib -- noun; compound of <dlúm> mass, density + dative plural feminine, yā-stem, of; <aicde> artefact, article -- in solid artefacts

Admestar arcat asa bethu bríg bánaicdib.
  • admestar -- verb; 3rd person singular present subjunctive active, deuterotonic, of <ad°midethar> estimates, evaluates -- let him estimate
  • arcat -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <arcat, argat> silver -- silver
  • asa -- preposition; compound form of <essH, asH, aH> out of, from + possessive pronoun 3rd person singular neuter; <aL> his, its -- by its
  • bethu -- noun; dative singular masculine, dental stem, of <bethu> life, existence -- durability
  • bríg -- noun; dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <bríg> strength, value -- value
  • bánaicdib -- noun; compound of <bán> white, shiny + dative plural feminine, yā-stem, of; <aicde> artefact, article -- in shiny artefacts

Admestar ór asa ḟorníamaib allmaraib adamraib. [...]
  • admestar -- verb; 3rd person singular present subjunctive active, deuterotonic, of <ad°midethar> estimates, evaluates -- let him estimate
  • ór -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <ór> gold -- gold
  • asa -- preposition; compound form of <essH, asH, aH> out of, from + possessive pronoun 3rd person singular neuter; <aL> his, its -- by its
  • ḟorníamaib -- noun; lenited dative plural feminine, ā-stem, of <forníam> ornament, decoration -- ornaments
  • allmaraib -- adjective; dative plural feminine of <allmar> foreign -- foreign
  • adamraib -- adjective; dative plural feminine of <adamrae> very wonderful -- very wonderful

Toléci dorche do ṡorchi.
  • toléci -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <do°léici> yields -- yields
  • dorche -- noun; nominative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <dorche, dorchae> darkness -- darkness
  • do -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- to
  • ṡorchi -- noun; lenited dative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <sorche, sorchae> light, brightness -- light

Toléci brón do ḟáilti.
  • toléci -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <do°léici> yields -- yields
  • brón -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <brón> sorrow -- sorrow
  • do -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- to
  • ḟáilti -- noun; lenited dative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <fáilte> joy, happiness -- joy

Toléci borb do ecnu. [...]
  • toléci -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <do°léici> yields -- yields
  • borb -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <borb> oaf -- an oaf
  • do -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- to
  • ecnu -- adjective; dative singular masculine, yo-stem, of <ecne, ecnae> wise -- a sage

Toléci dóer do ṡóer.
  • toléci -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <do°léici> yields -- yields
  • dóer -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <dóer> unfree person -- a serf
  • do -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- to
  • ṡóer -- noun; lenited dative singular masculine, o-stem, of <sóer> free man -- a freeman

Toléci dochell do chlothaib. [...]
  • toléci -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <do°léici> yields -- yields
  • dochell -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <dochell> niggardliness, inhospitality -- niggardliness
  • do -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- to
  • chlothaib -- noun; lenited dative plural masculine, o-stem, of <cloth> fame, reputation -- generosity

Toléci anflaith do ḟírḟlaith.
  • toléci -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <do°léici> yields -- yields
  • anflaith -- noun; compound of <an-> non- + lenited nominative singular feminine, i-stem, of; <flaith> rule; domain; ruler -- anarchy
  • do -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- to
  • ḟírḟlaith -- noun; compound of lenited <fír> truth; right; justice + lenited dative singular feminine, i-stem, of; <flaith> rule; domain; ruler -- proper rule

Toléci debuith do chóri.
  • toléci -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <do°léici> yields -- yields
  • debuith -- noun; nominative singular feminine, i-stem, of <debuith> conflict -- conflict
  • do -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- to
  • chóri -- noun; lenited dative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <córe, córae> peace -- peace

Toléci gó do ḟír. [...]
  • toléci -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <do°léici> yields -- yields
  • gó -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, <gáu, gó> falsehood, false judgement -- falsehood
  • do -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- to
  • ḟír -- noun; lenited dative singular neuter, o-stem, of <fír> truth; right; justice -- truth

Fírḟlaith cétamus,
luithir side fri cach fó,
fristibi fírinni inde cluinethar,
cotenocaib inden aici.
[...]
  • fírḟlaith -- noun; compound of <fír> truth; right; justice + lenited dative singular feminine, i-stem, of; <flaith> rule; domain; ruler -- the true ruler
  • cétamus -- adverb; <cétamus> firstly -- in the first place
  • luithir -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative passive, absolute, of <luith, luid> moves; flies -- he is moved
  • side -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <sude, suide> this one, the aforementioned -- this one
  • fri -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- toward
  • cach -- pronominal; accusative singular neuter of <cach, cech> each, every, any -- every
  • fó -- noun; accusative singular neuter of <fó> good -- good thing
  • fristibi -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, deuterotonic, of <fris°tibi> smiles on -- he smiles on
  • fírinni -- noun; accusative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <fírinne> truth -- the truth
  • inde -- conjunction; compound form of conjunction <in, iN> when + archaic infixed pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <deH, den> she -- when... it
  • cluinethar -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, conjunct, of <ro°cluinethar> hears -- he hears
  • cotenocaib -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <con°ocaib> truly raises, truly exalts + archaic infixed pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <deH, den> she -- he truly exalts it
  • inden -- conjunction; compound form of conjunction <in, iN> when + archaic infixed pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <deH, den> she -- when... it
  • aici -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, prototonic, of <ad°cí, at°chí> sees -- he sees

Flaith congbále co slógaib díanechtair;
insoet a ṡlóig side,
insnádat a aidilcni,
air ní soí soithcedach sechtair.
  • flaith -- noun; nominative singular feminine, i-stem, of <flaith> rule; domain; ruler -- the ruler
  • congbále -- noun; genitive singular feminine, yā-stem, of <congbál> occupation, holding -- of occupation
  • co -- preposition; <comL, coN> with -- with
  • slógaib -- noun; dative plural masculine, o-stem, of <slóg, slúag> troop, host, army -- hosts
  • díanechtair -- adverb; <díanechtair> from outside -- from outside
  • insoet -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <in°soí> turns, returns -- turn away
  • a -- possessive pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- his
  • ṡlóig -- noun; nominative plural masculine, o-stem, of <slóg, slúag> troop, host, army -- hosts
  • side -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <sude, suide> this one, the aforementioned -- own
  • insnádat -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <in°snádi> defers, puts off -- they put off
  • a -- possessive pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- his
  • aidilcni -- noun; accusative plural feminine, yā-stem, of <aidilcne> necessity, need -- needs
  • air -- preposition; <arL, airL> before, for, in front of, east of -- for
  • ní -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • soí -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, conjunct, of <soith> turns -- does... turn
  • soithcedach -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <soithcedach> prosperous, fortunate -- a prosperous man
  • sechtair -- adverb; <sechtair> outside -- outside

Lesson Text

Comath fírinni, cotnofathar. [...] Ocbath trócairi, cotnocéba. [...] Aranécath arid sencharpait. Ar nícon chotli are senḟonnith. Remi déci, íarmo déci, tair sceo desiul sceo túaithbiul. Deéci, imdích, imdídnathar, arna bó
co foill na forráin fonnath fodrethat. [...] Is tre ḟir flathemon rosaig cech dán mochtide mind suíthi. [...] Apair fris, ní már nairlise nimderga, ar is dortuth cecha flatho folam la foscath ó ḟini do ḟlaith fuiliche. [...] Admestar iarn asa thoichib túath tacarthaib. Admestar hume asa daingni deni dlúmaicdib. Admestar arcat asa bethu bríg bánaicdib. Admestar ór asa ḟorníamaib allmaraib adamraib. [...] Toléci dorche do ṡorchi. Toléci brón do ḟáilti. Toléci borb do ecnu. [...] Toléci dóer do ṡóer. Toléci dochell do chlothaib. [...] Toléci anflaith do ḟírḟlaith. Toléci debuith do chóri. Toléci gó do ḟír. [...] Fírḟlaith cétamus,
luithir side fri cach fó,
fristibi fírinni inde cluinethar,
cotenocaib inden aici.
[...] Flaith congbále co slógaib díanechtair;
insoet a ṡlóig side,
insnádat a aidilcni,
air ní soí soithcedach sechtair.

Translation

Let him preserve justice, it will preserve him. [...]
Let him exalt mercy, it will truly exalt him. [...]
Let him observe him, the driver of an old chariot.
For the driver of an old wheel-rim (= chariot) does not sleep:
He looks ahead, he looks behind, in front and to the right and to the left;
he looks out, he defends, he protects, so that he may not break
with neglect or violence the wheel-rims which run under him. [...]
It is through the justice of the ruler that each great man of art attains the summit of knowledge. [...]
Say to him that he may not redden a great number of fore-courts, for bloodshed is the vain destruction of all rule and of the protection from the kin for the ruler. [...]
Let him estimate iron by its properties at disputes of tribes.
Let him estimate copper by its firmness, [i.e.] strength in solid artefacts.
Let him estimate silver by its durability, [and] strength in shiny artefacts.
Let him estimate gold by its very wonderful foreign ornaments. [...]
Darkness yields to light,
Sorrow yields to joy.
An oaf yields to a sage, [...]
A serf yields to a freeman.
Niggardliness yields to generosity, [...].
Anarchy yields to proper rule,
Conflict yields to peace,
Falsehood yields to truth. [...]
The true ruler, in the first place,
He is moved, this one, toward every good thing:
He smiles on the truth when he hears it,
He truly exalts it when he sees it.
[...]
The ruler of occupation with hosts from outside:
His own hosts turn away,
They put off his needs,
For a prosperous man does not turn outside.

Grammar

26 Relative Clauses: Special Pronominal Forms

Infixed pronouns in relative clauses normally show the forms of the so-called 'class C'. These are:

1 Sg.       domL, dumL, dam(m)L
2 Sg.       datL, ditL
3 Sg.   masc.   idN (didN), dN, -N, (seldom daN)
    fem.   daH
    ntr.   idL (didL), dL, -L
1 Pl.       don, dun (din), dan(n)
2 Pl.       dob, dub (dib), dab
3 Pl.       daH

They are also used after the interrogative particle in and the conjunctions diaN 'if', araN 'in order that', coN/con 'so that'.

The relative marker n is always inserted immediately before the originally lenited d- which is then delenited.

Examples are in ben atomgladathar 'the woman who speaks to me' and in fer atomgladathar 'the man who speaks to me' in Lesson 2, dianom berthasa 'even if I myself were thrown' and dianat chluine Mael Fothartaig 'if Mael Fothartaig should hear you' in Lesson 8, conda rodart in Donn Cúailngi 'so that the Brown Bull of Cuailgne has mounted her' in Lesson 3.

27 The Verb: Past Tenses of the Indicative
27.1 Different Forms for Different Functions

The iterative preterite is expressed by the imperfect (hence normally denoting repeated or customary actions, and at times used in descriptive passages or for simultaneous actions), as opposed to past actions or states which are not characterized as repeated and hence expressed by the simple preterite.

The above-mentioned uses of the imperfect can be appreciated in no tathigtis 'they used to frequent', na gelltis 'they used to devour it', °fácbatis 'they used to leave' (all in Lesson 5), coN sliged 'so that it dragged', and fo-m-chanad 'would sing to me' (in Lessons 2 and 5).

To underline the result of a past action or state, the verbal particle ro is inserted into the simple preterite to form a new Celtic (i.e. post-Indo-European) perfect. Its semantic content is thus opposed to that of the narrative preterite. Although its position seems to vary depending on the structure of the specific sentence, ro is always placed immediately before the first stressed syllable, be it the verbal root itself or a preverb, although in the older instances it appears petrified before the verbal root.

Examples of preterites with inserted ro, i.e. of ro-perfects, are i.a. ro°cúala 'I have heard' (Lesson 2), ro°carus 'I have loved', ro°cráidius 'I have vexed', ro°scarus 'I have parted', do°ri°genus 'I have made' (all in Lesson 5), ro°gabais 'you have taken' (Lesson 8), ro°dart 'has mounted' and ro°tethainn 'has shattered' (Lessons 3 and 5).

Note, however, that some verbs express their perfect by means of different preverbs (e.g. tongid 'swears' with to and com as in du°cuitig 'has sworn' or, in Lesson 9, do°roich 'reaches' with the preverb oss/uss in the perfect con-us°toracht 'until he had come to them' in Lesson 9); or by means of altogether different verbal roots (e.g. beirid 'carries' uses ro°uc(c)- and do°beir 'brings' to°uc(c)-, cf. r°ucad 'he had been brought' and do°ucus 'I have brought' in Lesson 5 and 3; téit 'goes' and do°tét 'comes' use di°cued and to°di°cued, cf. co n-dechuid 'so that had gone' in Lesson 2; fo°ceird and °cuirethar 'puts, throws' use ro°lá- etc).

27.2 Morphology of the Imperfect

The imperfect indicative has no special inflection forms for deponent verbs nor for the so-called absolute inflection: even if its very forms may appear in poetry without any introducing preverb whatsoever, in prose at least the preverb no is preposed to the forms of the imperfect.

móraid 'magnifies', suidigedar 'sets', berid 'bears':

Active   A I   A II   B I
1 Sg.   mór(a)in(n)   suidigin(n)   berin(n)
2 Sg.   *mórtha   suidigthea   ---
3 Sg.   mórad, -ath   suidiged, -eth   bered (berad)
             
1 Pl.   mórm(a)is   suidigmis   beirmis
2 Pl.   *mórth(a)e   *suidigthe   ---
3 Pl.   mórt(a)is   suidigtis   beirtis (bertis)
             
Passive            
General Form   mórth(a)e   suidigthe   berthe
3 Pl.   mórt(a)is   suidigtis   beirtis (bertis)
27.3 Morphology of the Preterites

Apart from those preterites which are built from a completely different verbal root (such as the suppletive preterites at°bath 'he died' to at°baill, luid 'he went' and do°luid 'she came' to téit and do°tét in Lessons 9 and 5), there are preterites which go back to Indo-European aorist formations and preterites which go back to IE perfect formations.

From a descriptive point of view, some preterites are formed by adding a new morpheme, others by reduplicating the verbal root, and others again by lengthening the root vowel or inserting a new one.

To the first group belong the so-called s- and t-preterites: both continue an IE sigmatic aorist and their name depends on the shape assumed by the original sigmatic aorist in combination with the various Celtic roots. Their formation is reserved to weak verbs (s-preterite) and to strong verbs in l/-r and sometimes -m/-g (t-preterite), as in the following paradigms of the verbs móraid 'magnifies', léicid 'leaves', suidigedar 'sets', beirid 'bears':

Active Conjunct   A I   A II (act. & dep.)   B I
1 Sg.   mórus   léicius, suidigsiur   biurt
2 Sg.   mór(a)is   lécis, suidigser   birt
3 Sg.   mór   léic, suidigestar   bert
             
1 Pl.   mórsam   léicsem, suidigsemmar   bertam(m)ar
2 Pl.   mórs(a)id   léicsid, suidigsid   ---
3 Pl.   mórsat   léicset, suidigsetar   bertar, bertatar

As for the active absolute inflection, it seems to have mostly existed in the 3rd person (cf. mór(a)is 'he magnified', eissistir 'he besought', birt 'he carried', berte 'who carried', cars(a)it 'they loved', cretsit 'they believed', tuilsitir 'they slept', geltatar 'they fed', berta(ta)r 'who carried'), even if a few other persons are attested for the s-preterite of active verbs.

The other strong verbs are rather unpredictable with regard to their preterite formation: in those verbs which neither adopt the t-preterite nor show root reduplication, the root vowel -i- is mostly replaced by long -í-, whereas either long -í- or long -á- replace a root vowel -e-. An example of the different types is given in the following (verbs ro°clu(i)nethar 'hears', con°rig 'binds', gu(i)did 'prays', midithir 'judges'), but for more details one will have to look up the complete lists in the handbooks (cf. Lesson 10, point 50).

Active Conjunct   A I   A II   B I
1 Sg.   cúala, rerag   gád   mídar
2 Sg.   cúala, rerag   gád   ---
3 Sg.   cúal(a)e, rer(a)ig   gáid   míd(a)ir
             
1 Pl.   cúalammar, rergammar   gádammar   ---
2 Pl.   cúal(a)id, *rerg(a)id   *gádid   ---
3 Pl.   cúalatar, rergatar   gádatar   mídatar

Also for the suffixless preterite, almost no specific absolute flexion is attested; only in the 1st and 3rd there are some forms in -ir alternating with those in -ar (e.g. lotir 'they moved, they flew' as in Lesson 1, which was emended by a later hand into the more usual lotar). Noteworthy is the existence of a 3rd singular relative form in -e (gáde 'who prayed').

No distinctions are made in the passive, whose forms, albeit felt as verbs, go back to the Indo-European verbal adjective in *-to-/tā (cf. also Lesson 1, point 3.4).

Passive Absolute            
3 Sg. & Rel.   mórth(a)e   léicthe   breth(a)e
3 Pl.   mórth(a)i ?   léicthi ?   ---
             
Passive Conjunct            
General Form   °mórad, -ath   °léced, -eth   °breth
3 Pl.   °mórtha   °léicthea   °bretha
28 The Noun: s-Stems

This class of inherited neuter nouns is preserved quite well in Old Irish, where it is also often adopted by landscape terms. To it belong leth 'side, direction' (in Lessons 1 and 2), mag 'plain, field' (in Lessons 1, 2, 7, 9 and 10), síd 'fairy fort' (in Lesson 3), teg/tech 'house, dwelling' (in Lessons 1, 5 and 10), tír 'earth, territory, land' (in Lessons 1, 5, 7).

For the inflection cf. glenn 'valley':

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom/Acc.   glenn   glinne   glenn
Voc.   glenn        
Gen.   glinne   glinne   glinne
Dat.   glinn   glinnib   glinnib

Note that the dative singular of mag is maig/muig whereas leth has genitive singular le(i)the and dative singular leith; for teg/tech, forms with -ai- are attested together with those with regular -i-: genitive singular taige, dative singular taig, nominative plural taige.

29 Comparison of the Adjective: the Comparative Grade
29.1 The Regular Formation

The normal comparative suffix is -(i)u with palatalization of all Old Irish palatalizable environments, since it goes back to IE *yōs; cf. airdirciu 'more famous' from airdirc 'renowned' in Lesson 3, together with siniu from sen 'old', déniu from dían 'swift', and ardu from ard 'high'.

29.2 Irregular Formations

Some adjectives have a comparative in -a (i.a. letha from lethan 'broad', sía from sír 'long', tressa from trén 'strong'); others use altogether different roots and formations, such as ferr 'better' (in Lesson 8) as opposed to maith 'good' or messa 'worse' as opposed to olc 'bad'.

29.3 Syntax

Both regular and irregular forms show no traces of inflection. They are used in nominative constructions, but not as attributes, and relative sentences are used instead of substantivized forms (such as intí as siniu 'he who is older' for 'the older').

30 Demonstrative Pronouns and Pronominals; the Article
30.1 Demonstrative Pronouns

The demonstrative adjectives of other languages are expressed in Old Irish by postponing to a substantive with its article some adverbs of place or, rather, locative particles. Hence:

    'this'   =   article + substantive + so/sa
            (se/seo/sea after palatal consonant)
    'the above mentioned'   =   article + substantive + sin
            (Note that in both cases the s- is always unlenited)
    'that near you, the yonder'   =   article + substantive + ucut
    'that, the yonder'   =   article + substantive + tall

Examples of the first type are (i)na bó so 'of this cow' in Lessons 2 and 3 as opposed to the palatalized in mboin se 'this cow (acc.sing.)' and forsin grellaig se 'on this bog' (both in Lesson 3).

Examples of the second type are ind amsir sin 'at that time', a llá sin 'on that day', in oidchi sin 'that night' (Lessons 1, 4, and 5), issind áth sin 'in that ford' (Lesson 4), and ba hiat sin 'it was them indeed' (Lesson 10).

For the third type cf. in fer ucut 'that yonder man, that man near you' in Lesson 8.

Emphasized forms are obtained by placing stressed -í (hí) before the enclitic locative particle, cf. din Tháin í sin 'through this very cattle-raid' in Lesson 3. In such cases, -siu replaces -so as in in fer (h)í-siu 'this very man'.

For the demonstrative pronouns, the sequences with but without substantive are used, e.g. int-í-siu or ind-í-siu 'this one', as°beir-som anísiu 'he says this', int-í-sin or int-í-thall 'the above'. Cf. also cinnas conicfaesu anní sin? 'how will you be able to do this?' in Lesson 4.

After prepositions, se is used for the accusative, siu for the dative, and sin with those prepositions which admit both accusative and dative (cf. íar sin 'after that' in Lesson 2).

A frequent anaphoric pronoun is su(i)de (yo-/-yā-stem) with the neuter sod(a)in and side, neuter són in the enclitic forms. Cf. ol-ṡu(i)de 'said he' and as°bert side 'the latter said', together with ocus óenchoss fo suidiu 'and a single leg under the just mentioned', immach do suidiu 'outside with him' (both in Lesson 2), Cuirithir mac Doborchon, éces side dno 'Cuirithir son of Doborchu, a poet himself as well' (Lesson 5), firḟlaith cétamus: luithir side fri cach fó 'the true ruler in the first place: he is moved, this one, toward every good thing', insoet a ṡlóig side 'his own (i.e. of the aforementioned) hosts turn away' (both in Lesson 6).

30.2 Other Demonstrative Elements

The deictic stressed can also be used enclitically after the forms of the article, to express the antecedent of a following relative clause, as e.g. in frecre dondí as°robrad 'an answer to what has been said'.

30.3 The Article

Old Irish has no indefinite article. From recently discovered Gaulish texts, it appears that the creation of a definite article is an innovation isogloss shared by Goidelic with Gaulish and Brittonic, even if the use of the definite article is still avoided in the oldest Irish language and in poetry. It is also avoided whenever a substantive is determined otherwise: by its semantic content (e.g. talam 'the earth', as in i dalam 'on the earth' or in for aislingi fer talman 'upon the vision of all the men of the earth', Lessons 1 and 10), by a possessive pronoun (cf. mo chúairt 'my tour' and ar mac 'our son' in Lesson 5 or com chleittíniu 'with my javelin' in Lesson 4), or by a genitive (as can be appreciated first of all in story titles such as Compert Con Culainn 'The Conception of Cu Chulainn', Táin Bó Regamna 'The Cattle Raid of the Important Calf', Comrac Liadaine ocus Cuirithir 'The Encounter of Liadain and Cuirithir').

In Irish, its forms are suppletive: while nominative and accusative singular of the neuter retain an older demonstrative saN, all other cases and genders are based on a new compound stem sindo-, albeit more or less reduced due to its proclitic position. Note that final -d# always becomes t before #s.

Singular   Masculine   Feminine   Neuter
Nom.   in(t)   indL   aN
Acc.   (-s)inN   (-s)inN   (-s)aN
Gen.   in(d)L   (in)naH   in(d)L
Dat.   -(s)in(d)L   -(s)in(d)L   -(s)in(d)L
             
Plural   Masculine   Feminine   Neuter
Nom.   in(d)L   (in)naH   (in)naH
Acc.   (in)naH, -snaH   (in)naH, -snaH   (in)naH, -snaH
Gen.   (in)naN   (in)naN   (in)naN
Dat.   -(s)naib   -(s)naib   -(s)naib

The nominative and accusative singular neuter may still be used as an antecedens with the meaning 'that (which), what' before a leniting relative clause, cf. an ro°scribus 'what I have written' and nebchretem a n-ad°ḟíadar 'not to believe what is declared'.

Old Irish Online

Lesson 7

Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, Caren Esser, and Jonathan Slocum

The selection of this lesson is taken from Immram Brain, 'Bran's Voyage', which tells of Bran's journey to the Land of the Women. This short tale, consisting as in most cases of prose and verse, has come down to us in various manuscripts from the 11th to the 16th century A.D., but on linguistic grounds it can be dated to the early 8th century A.D., being therefore the earliest representative of the Old Irish genre of immrama or sea-voyages. The author is, as usual, unknown. The present text is based on the edition of Séamus Mac Mathúna, who attempts to reconstruct the lost archetype out of the evidence of the different manuscripts.

The term immram (lit. 'rowing about') denotes in Irish literature sea-voyages to miraculous islands beyond the inhabited world, motivated by religious reasons (cf. e.g. the Latin Navigatio Sancti Brendani) either of penitential nature or simply to come closer to God by leaving one's country and family behind. Their central aspect, however, is the rowing about between the various islands, each of them with its own characteristics and clearly distinct from the others. They represent a kind of Golden Age where the mortal inhabitants live in blissful harmony and free of sorrows, awaiting Doomsday.

A closely related genre is that of the echtrae, which also relate voyages to and subsequent adventures in the Otherworld, a miraculous place beyond the inhabited world, often located under the sea, inside the Earth, or within the boundaries of a magic mist. In the voyages of the echtrae type, there are no religious motives involved, the place is usually just one instead of several, and the inhabitants are immortals of supernatural qualities.

The version of Immram Brain as we know it contains elements of both genres, and combines pre-Christian Irish beliefs with Christian ideas. However, as Bran's voyage is referred to as an immram in the text itself, it is classified as belonging to the first genre.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The text relates how a mysterious woman appearing in the fort of the protagonist, Bran son of Febal, tells him about a magic apple-tree on the island of Emain Ablach, a terrestrial paradise far away to the west of Ireland and abode of the sea-god Manannán mac Lir, which she describes as a place

    Cen brón, cen dubai, cen bás,
    cen nach galar, cen indgas [...]
    'Without sorrow, without grief, without death,
    without any sickness, without debility from wounds' [...]

Subsequently, Bran sets out to find this island with three times nine companions: on their way they encounter the sea-god, who directs them to an island inhabited by laughing people, after which they reach a different island inhabited exclusively by women. There, Bran and his retinue spend many blissful years, not noticing the passing of time. When finally Nechtan, one of Bran's companions, is overcome by homesickness, they decide to return to Ireland but are warned by the queen of the island not to set foot on Irish soil. Upon their arrival, Nechtan disregards the warning and immediately crumbles to dust, as they had spent so many years on the magic island that they were well past their dying age; Bran on the contrary remains on the boat and, after telling their adventures to some onlookers on the shore, sets out again for new adventures.

Our selection from Immram Brain consists of several verses with which the mysterious woman describes Emain Ablach to Bran (§ 4-8).

Fil inis i netarcéin
  • fil -- verb; Middle Irish present impersonal singular, absolute, of substantive verb <attá> is -- there is
  • inis -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ī-stem, of <inis> island -- an island
  • i -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- in
  • netarcéin -- noun; nasalized dative singular neuter of <etercían> far, distant, remote -- the far distance

imme taitnet gabra réin,
  • imme -- preposition; compound form of preposition <imbL, immL> around, about; mutually + suffixed relative particle; <-e> who, which -- around which
  • taitnet -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative, prototonic, of <do°aitni> shines, is refulgent -- glisten
  • gabra -- noun; nominative plural feminine, ā-stem, of <gabor> (white) horse, mare -- horses
  • réin -- noun; genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <rían> course, route; sea, ocean -- sea-

rith find friss toíbgel tonnat,
  • rith -- noun; nominative singular masculine, u-stem, of <rith> run, course -- as a... course
  • find -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <find, finn> white, bright -- white
  • friss -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular accusative neuter of <frithL, friH> against, towards -- against it
  • toíbgel -- adjective; compound of <toíb> side + nominative singular masculine of; <gel> fair, white, bright -- white-rimmed
  • tonnat -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative active, prototonic, of <do°sná> swims -- they swim

cetheoir cossa foslongat
  • cetheoir -- numeral; nominative feminine of <ceth(a)ir, cethéoir> four -- four
  • cossa -- noun; nominative plural feminine, ā-stem, of <coss, cos> foot, leg -- legs
  • foslongat -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <fo°loing> supports, sustains + infixed pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <sN, s> she -- hold it up

Is lí súile, sreth íar mbúaid,
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- it is
  • lí -- noun; nominative singular feminine, guttural stem, of <lí> beauty, lustre, glory; colour -- a delight
  • súile -- noun; genitive plural feminine, i-stem, of <súil> eye -- to the eyes
  • sreth -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <sreth> strewing; arrangement -- an arrangement
  • íar -- preposition; <íarN, íarmL-> after -- beyond
  • mbúaid -- noun; nasalized dative singular neuter, i-stem, of <boid, búaid> victory; excellence, special quality; advantage -- excellence

a mmag for clechtat in tṡlúaig;
  • a -- article; nominative singular neuter of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • mmag -- noun; nasalized nominative singular neuter, s-stem, of <mag> plain, field -- plain
  • for -- preposition; <for> on, over -- upon which
  • clechtat -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative, conjunct, syntactically relative, of <clechtaid> practices -- exercise
  • in -- article; nominative plural masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • tṡlúaig -- noun; lenited nominative plural masculine, o-stem, of <slóg, slúag> troop, host, army -- hosts

consna curach fri carpat
  • consna -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, deuterotonic, of <con°sní> contends, competes -- competes
  • curach -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <curach> coracle, skiff, boat -- the coracle
  • fri -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- against
  • carpat -- noun; accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- the chariot

isin maig des Findarcat.
  • isin -- preposition; compound form of <in, iN> in, into + dative singular neuter of article; <in, aN, indL> the -- in the
  • maig -- noun; dative singular neuter, s-stem, of <mag> plain, field -- plain
  • des -- preposition; <dess> right, south of -- south of
  • Findarcat -- toponym; dative singular of <Findarcat> White Silver -- Findargad

Cossa findruine foë;
  • cossa -- noun; nominative plural feminine, ā-stem, of <coss, cos> foot, leg -- legs
  • findruine -- noun; compound of <find, finn> white, bright + genitive singular feminine, yā-stem, of; <druine> skill in craftmanship, manual dexterity -- of fair craftmanship
  • foë -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular feminine accusative of <foL> under -- under it

taitni tre bithu gnóë;
  • taitni -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, prototonic, of <do°aitni> shines, is refulgent -- it shines
  • tre -- preposition; <triL, treL> through -- through
  • bithu -- noun; accusative plural masculine, u-stem, of <bith> world; life; age, period -- ages
  • gnóë -- noun; genitive singular feminine, yā-stem, of <gnóe> beauty -- of beauty

caín tír tre bithu batha
  • caín -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <caín> fine, excellent, beautiful -- beautiful
  • tír -- noun; nominative singular neuter, s-stem, of <tír> earth, territory, land -- a... country
  • tre -- preposition; <triL, treL> through -- throughout
  • bithu -- noun; accusative plural masculine, u-stem, of <bith> world; life; age, period -- the ages
  • batha -- noun; genitive singular neuter, u-stem, of <bath> sea, ocean -- of the sea

for snig inna hilblátha.
  • for -- preposition; <for> on, over -- on which
  • snig -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, conjunct, syntactically relative, of <snigid> pours down, flows, drops -- drops
  • inna -- article; variant of nominative plural masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • hilblátha -- noun; compound of aspirated <il> many, numerous + nominative plural masculine, u-stem, of; <bláth> flower, blossom; bloom -- multitude of blossoms

Fil and bile co mbláthaib
  • fil -- verb; Middle Irish present impersonal singular, absolute, of substantive verb <attá> is -- there is
  • and -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <in, iN> in, into -- there
  • bile -- noun; accusative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <bile> (ancient and venerated) tree -- an ancient and venerated tree
  • co -- preposition; <comL, coN> with -- with
  • mbláthaib -- noun; nasalized dative plural masculine, u-stem, of <bláth> flower, blossom; bloom -- blossoms

fors ngairet éoin do thráthaib,
  • fors -- preposition; compound form of <for> on, over + infixed pronoun 3rd person plural of; <sN, s> she -- on which
  • ngairet -- verb; nasalized 3rd person plural present indicative active, conjunct, syntactically relative, of <gairid> calls -- call
  • éoin -- noun; nominative plural masculine, o-stem, of <én> bird -- the birds
  • do -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- to
  • thráthaib -- noun; lenited dative plural neuter, u-stem, of <tráth> period of time, (canonical) hour -- the hours

is tre choicetal is gnáth
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- it is
  • tre -- preposition; <triL, treL> through -- through
  • choicetal -- noun; lenited accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <co(i)cetal> harmonious music -- harmonious music
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, syntactically relative, of copula <is> is -- that it is
  • gnáth -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <gnáth> usual, customary; known -- usual

congairet uili cach tráth.
  • congairet -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative active, deuterotonic, syntactically relative, of <con°gair> calls together -- that they... call together
  • uili -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <uile> all, whole -- all
  • cach -- pronominal; accusative singular neuter of <cach, cech> each, every, any -- every
  • tráth -- noun; accusative singular neuter, u-stem, of <tráth> period of time, (canonical) hour -- hour

Taitnet líga cach datha
  • taitnet -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative, prototonic, of <do°aitni> shines, is refulgent -- shine
  • líga -- noun; nominative plural feminine, guttural stem, of <lí> beauty, lustre, glory; colour -- colours
  • cach -- pronominal; genitive singular neuter of <cach, cech> each, every, any -- every
  • datha -- noun; genitive singular neuter, u-stem, of <dath> colour; hue, tint -- of... hue

tresna maige moíthgnatha;
  • tresna -- article; compound form of <triL, treL> through + accusative plural neuter of; <in, aN, indL> the -- throughout the
  • maige -- noun; accusative plural neuter, s-stem, of <mag> plain, field -- plains
  • moíthgnatha -- adjective; compound form of <moíth> gentle, tender + accusative plural neuter, o-stem, of; <gnáth> usual, customary; known -- famously smooth

is gnáth sube, sreth imm chéul,
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- is
  • gnáth -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <gnáth> usual, customary; known -- continuous
  • sube -- noun; nominative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <subae> joy, pleasure, happiness -- joy
  • sreth -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <sreth> strewing; arrangement -- a display
  • imm -- preposition; <imbL, immL> around, about; mutually -- with
  • chéul -- noun; lenited dative singular neuter, o-stem, of <céol> music -- music

isin maig des Arcatnéul.
  • isin -- preposition; compound form of <in, iN> in, into + dative singular neuter of article; <in, aN, indL> the -- in the
  • maig -- noun; dative singular neuter, s-stem, of <mag> plain, field -- plain
  • des -- preposition; <dess> right, south of -- south of
  • Arcatnéul -- toponym; dative singular of <Arcatnél> Silver Cloud -- Argadnel

Lesson Text

Fil inis i netarcéin imme taitnet gabra réin, rith find friss toíbgel tonnat, cetheoir cossa foslongat Is lí súile, sreth íar mbúaid, a mmag for clechtat in tṡlúaig; consna curach fri carpat isin maig des Findarcat. Cossa findruine foë; taitni tre bithu gnóë; caín tír tre bithu batha for snig inna hilblátha. Fil and bile co mbláthaib fors ngairet éoin do thráthaib, is tre choicetal is gnáth congairet uili cach tráth. Taitnet líga cach datha tresna maige moíthgnatha; is gnáth sube, sreth imm chéul, isin maig des Arcatnéul.

Translation

There is an island in the far distance
Around which sea-horses glisten:
As a fair, white-rimmed course they swim against it,
Four legs hold it up.
It is a delight to the eyes, an arrangement beyond excellence,
The plain upon which the hosts exercise:
The coracle competes against the chariot
In the plain south of Findargad.
Legs of fair craftmanship under it,
It shines through ages of beauty:
A beautiful country throughout the ages of the sea,
On which the multitude of blossoms drops.
There is an ancient and venerated tree with blossoms there,
On which the birds call to the hours:
It is through harmonious music that it is usual
That they all call together every hour.
Colours of every hue shine
Throughout the famously smooth plains:
Joy is continuous, a display with music,
In the plain south of Argadnel.

Grammar

31 Negative Sentences

Negative sentences are introduced by:

  • nícon(L)/nicon(L), a somewhat emphatic negative particle only used in principal clauses: cf. nícon ḃíad 'I might not exist [at all]', nícon chotli 'he does [indeed] not sleep', nico-t ḃia ícc 'there will be no cure [whatsoever] for you' in Lessons 5, 6, and 4;
  • ní/ni, the unmarked negative particle used in principal sentences (such as ni cumgai 'you cannot' and ní ... noscarfamais 'we would not have parted' in Lesson 3, ní chomraicfind 'I would not meet' in Lesson 8, ní chéla 'I may not conceal' and ní dénaim 'let us not do' in Lesson 5) and also in some types of subordinate clauses (such as air ní soí 'for he does not turn', ní ... nimderga 'that he may not redden', and ní cráidfed 'that there would not result torment' in Lessons 6 and 5). Quite often it introduces a focussed element of the sentence to which the rest is then attached by means of a relative clause: cf. ní dam ass áil 'not with me that there is desire' in Lesson 8, meaning 'it is not me who desires';
  • ná/na, nád/nad, nách-/nach-, allomorphs of the specifically secondary negative particle: they are used before the imperative (ná hapair 'don't tell!' in Lesson 8) or after the conjunctions araN 'in order that'(ar ná loiti 'so that it does not spoil' in Lesson 5), coN 'so that' (con-ná facbatis 'until they left nothing' in Lesson 1), aN 'when, while', and, respectively, in relative and interrogative clauses (cid na dénaim 'why don't we make?' in Lesson 5) and before infixed pronouns; for nach cf. also cid nach é 'why it is not him?' and úair nach dénaim 'since it is not that I do' in Lessons 2 and 9. The secondary negative particle is also employed to introduce a negative disjunctive: e.g. ... na fer ná lossa '... nor grass nor herbs', ní bid clad ná airbe 'there would not be a dyke nor a fence', ní bó charat na choicéli 'it is not the cow of a friend nor of a companion', ar-na bó co foill na forráin 'so that he may not break with neglect or violence', nach in n-ech 'not with regard to the horse' in Lessons 1, 2, 6, 3.

Finite verbal forms always apppear in their conjunct inflections. Copula and the substantive verb are either implicit in the negative particles (ní dír '[it is] not fitting', ní fóelid '[it is] not happy', ní sechbaid '[it is] not wrong' in Lessons 2 and 8) or use special forms. In particular, the substantive verb is mostly supplied by fil and related forms, which govern the accusative of the logical subject since they correspond to W. gwelet 'to see' (see Lesson 3, point 12.2); cf. ni-s-fil 'they are not' as opposed to ni-s-tá 'they have not'.

One of the expressions used for the autonomous negative is naicc as in Lesson 3: naicc ní i n-neoch 'nothing anywhere'.

32 The Verb: Present Indicative

Apart from the usages of the present indicative most commonly known from other Indo-European languages, Old Irish employs it as a narrative tense (praesens historicum), cf. Inlaat noí cairptiu [] láa n-and 'One day then they yoke nine chariots' and Fo-s-rumat ind euin remib 'The birds go before them' in Lesson 1 or Tíagait ass árum 'They set out after this' in Lesson 2.

The present indicative can also be preceded by the preverb ro- in order to indicate either an action already completed at the time another action takes place, or a more general perfective present as in Lesson 6 is tre ḟir [...] ro-saig [...] mind 'it is through justice that he attains the summit'. The preverb ro can also convey the meaning of possibility, althought this is more often achieved by prefixing it to a subjunctive (see point 37 in Lesson 8).

móraid 'magnifies':

A I   Active Absolute   Active Conjunct   Passive Absolute   Passive Conjunct
1 Sg.   mór(a)im(m)   °mór(a)im(m)        
2 Sg.   mór(a)i   °mór(a)i        
3 Sg.   mór(a)id/-(a)ith   °móra   mórth(a)ir    
Rel.   móras(s)       mórthar    
General Form               °mórthar
1 Pl.   mórm(a)i   °móram        
Rel.   mórm(a)e            
2 Pl.   mórth(a)e   °mór(a)id/-(a)ith        
3 Pl.   mór(a)it   °mórat   mór(a)itir/mórt(a)ir   °móratar/°mórtar
Rel.   móraite/-ate/-ite       móratar/mórtar    

lécid 'leaves':

A II   Active Absolute   Active Conjunct   Passive Absolute   Passive Conjunct
1 Sg.   lécim(m)   °lécim(m)        
2 Sg.   léci   °léci        
3 Sg.   lécid/-ith   °léci   léicthir    
Rel.   léces(s)       léicther    
General Form               °léicther
1 Pl.   léicmi   °lécem        
Rel.   léicme            
2 Pl.   léicthe   °lecid/-ith        
3 Pl.   lécit   °lécet   [other verbs with ending -itir are attested]   °lécetar/(°air-léicter)
Rel.   léicde/léicte/lécite       *lécetar/léicter    

suidigedar 'sets':

A II   Deponent Absolute   Deponent Conjunct   Passive Absolute   Passive Conjunct
1 Sg.   [other verbs with ending -iur are attested]   °suidigur        
2 Sg.   suidigther   °suidigther        
3 Sg.   suidigidir   °suidigedar   suidigthir    
Rel.   suidigedar       suidigther    
General Form               °suidigther
1 Pl.   suidigmir   °suidigmer        
Rel.   suidigmer            
2 Pl.   suidigthe   °suidigid/-ith        
3 Pl.   suidigitir   °suidigetar/-eddar   suidigtir   °suidigter
Rel.   suidigetar/-eddar       suidigter    

berid 'bears':

B I   Active Absolute   Active Conjunct   Passive Absolute   Passive Conjunct
1 Sg.   biru   °biur        
2 Sg.   biri   °bir        
3 Sg.   berid/-ith   °beir   ber(a)ir    
Rel.   beres(s)       berar    
General Form               °berar
1 Pl.   berm(a)i   °beram        
Rel.   berm(a)e            
2 Pl.   *beirthe   °berid/-ith        
3 Pl.   ber(a)it   °berat   bert(a)ir   °bertar
Rel.   berd(a)e/bert(a)e       bertar    
33 The Noun: Consonantal Stems

Roughly the same Indo-European consonantal-stem inflection is shared by Old Irish:

  • r-stems (a few nouns, masculine or feminine, indicating family members, such as athir 'father', bráthir 'brother', máthir 'mother', i.a. in Lesson 8);
  • n-stems (numerous nouns, of all three genders, belonging to historically different subgroups, some of them productive; cf. ainm 'name', aride 'bench', brú 'belly', deilm 'loud noise', Ériu 'Ireland', flathem 'ruler', forim 'chase', géim 'roaring', im 'butter', íriu 'land', talam 'earth', ursa 'door-post' in Lessons 3, 2, 3, 5, 1 and 9, 6, 1, 2, 10, 1, 1 and 10, 10);
  • nt-stems (lexicalized participles such as carae 'friend' and a few other words such as fiche 'twenty', respectively in Lesson 2 and 1; mostly masculine and neuter, since the old feminines showed Common Celtic *-ntī);
  • dental stems (masculine and feminine: agentive nouns such as are 'charioteer', eirr 'chariot-fighter', genn 'wedge', tene 'fire', tuga 'thatch' in Lessons 1 and 6, 1, 2, 8, 10, together with some derivatives with productive suffixes such as bethu 'life' in Lessons 3 and 6);
  • guttural stems (masculine and feminine: originally just some extant Indo-European root-nouns, such as lí 'beauty' or rig 'fore-arm' in Lessons 7 and 4 and rí 'king', from which the inflection analogically expanded to other stems).

For the inflection cf. respectively ath(a)ir 'father', brithem (masc.) 'judge' and ainm (ntr.) 'name', car(a)e 'friend', teng(a)e 'tongue', rí 'king':

Singular   'father'   'judge'   'name'   'friend'   'tongue'   'king'
Nom.   ath(a)ir   brithem   ainm   car(a)e   teng(a)e   rí
Voc.   ath(a)ir   brithem   ainm   car(a)e   teng(a)e   rí
Acc.   ath(a)ir   brithem(o)in/-main   ainm   car(a)it   teng(a)id   ríg
Gen.   athar   brithemon/-man   anm(a)e   carat   tengad   ríg
Dat.   ath(a)ir   brithem(o)in/-main   anmaimm/ainm   car(a)it   teng(a)id   ríg
                         
Plural   'father'   'judge'   'name'   'friend'   'tongue'   'king'
Nom.   a(i)thir   brithemoin/-main   anman(n)   carait   teng(a)id   ríg
Voc.   *aithrea   brithemna       cairtea/-dea        
Acc.   aithrea/athra   brithemna   anman(n)   cairtea/-dea   tengtha   ríg
Gen.   aithre/athr(a)e   brithemon/-man   anman(n)   carat   tengad   ríg
Dat.   aithrib/athr(a)ib   brithemn(a)ib   anman(na)ib   cairtib/-dib   tength(a)ib   ríg(a)ib
                         
Dual   'father'   'judge'   'name'   'friend'   'tongue'   'king'
Nom/Acc.   *athir   brithemoin/-main   ainm   car(a)it   teng(a)id   ríg
Gen.   athar   brithemon/-man       carat   tengad   ríg
Dat.   aithrib/athr(a)ib   brithemn(a)ib   anman(na)ib   cairtib/-dib   tength(a)ib   ríg(a)ib
34 Comparison of the Adjective: the Equative Grade
34.1 The Regular Formation

The equative is a special grade of comparison which developed from an old Indo-European comparative and came to signify that a person or thing has a quality in the same grade as another one.

The normal equative suffix is -ithir, used after monosyllabic stems, whereas polysyllables take -idir.

Cf. suthainidir from suthain 'lasting' as opposed to sithithir ... fri 'as long as' and to fírithir 'as true', both in lesson 5.

34.2 Other Formations

Apart from a few irregular equatives like lir 'as many' and móir 'as big' to il and, respectively, már/mór, an older type of equative is found, which Irish shares with Gaulish and Brittonic: this is a compound formation, obtained by prefixing com- to the genitive of a substantive and later on also to the nominative of an adjective; cf. coimchliss ... friut 'as skilled as you' (lit. 'of the same skill [cless] to you') and, respectively, comthrén friut 'as strong [trén] as you', together with many others in Lesson 4.

34.3 Syntax

None of these forms shows any traces of inflection. Like the other comparison grades, the equatives are also used only in nominative constructions and not as attributes.

35 Pronouns Suffixed to Prepositions

Pronouns coalesce with prepositions in a way that makes the former almost completely unrecognizable. While the traditional handbooks call the result "conjugated prepositions," we prefer to speak, for the sake of clarity, of "pronominalized prepositions." They are very frequent since, apart form introducing the subject of verbal nouns (dóib 'with them' in Lesson 9) and the agent as well as all kind of indirect objects (such as dam 'to me' and 'for me', duit and fort 'against you', fri(u)t 'to you', immum 'for me' in Lessons 3, 2, 4, 8, 5) and other complements (i.a. airi and de 'from it', cenae 'without him', dib 'from them' and 'of them', dit 'off you', etarru 'between them', foa 'under it', fris 'with him', leu 'with them', re(i)mib 'before them', trít 'through it' in Lessons 8, 3 and 4, 5, 1 and 9, 4, 1, 2, 5, 1, 1 and 2, 2), they are also used as adverbs (cf. i.a. and 'there' and 'then' in Lessons 5, 7, 1, 8, ass 'out' in Lesson 2, iarum/íarum 'afterwards' and 'then', but originally 'after it' in Lessons 2, 3, 5, 8) and even help to substitute the missing verb 'to have' (e.g. immi 'on him' and impe 'around her' in Lesson 2, dam 'with me', duit 'with you' and dóib 'to them' in Lessons 8 and 1, leu 'with them' and lé 'on her' in Lesson 1 and 2). In other cases they can substitute a possessive pronoun (duit 'to you' in Lesson 2) or introduce the second element of comparison after an equative (duit 'as you' in Lesson 4). Cf. also lem 'with me' and let 'with you' meaning 'in my/your opinion' in Lesson 8, lem 'by me' meaning 'through my intervention' and úaim 'from me' meaning 'on my part' in Lesson 3 and 4, or dó 'to him' meaning 'that he belonged' in Lesson 5.

The inflection may be differentiated according to the case governed by the preposition; in the following, la 'with' is given as an example of preposition governing the accusative, di 'from' of those governing the dative, and for 'on' of those which can govern both dative and accusative:

Singular   'with'   'from'   'on'
1st   lem(m)/lim(m)/leim/lium(m)   dím   form
2nd   lat(t)   dít   fort
3rd masc.   leiss/les(s)/lais(s)   de   for vs. foir/fair
3rd fem.   lee   di   fuiri vs. forrae
3rd ntr.   leiss/les(s)/lais(s)   de   for vs. foir/fair
             
Plural   'with'   'from'   'on'
1st   linn/leinn/lenn   dín(n)   fornn
2nd   lib   díb   fuirib/fo(i)rib
3rd   leu   diib/díib/díb   for(a)ib vs. forru

Old Irish Online

Lesson 8

Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, Caren Esser, and Jonathan Slocum

The present selection is taken from the Early Middle Irish Fingal Rónaín, 'The Kin-slaying of Ronan'. Preserved in two manuscripts, one transcribed around 1160 and the other from ca. 1500 A.D., the original seems to date back to the early 10th century A.D. on account of linguistic evidence. Although the Irish author is, as usual, unknown, we have shown the tale, which in the indigenous literary tradition is also described as a well-known (irdairc) tragedy (Aided Maelfothartaig maic Rónaín 'The tragedy of Maelfothartaig son of Ronan'), to go back to the Classical story of Phaedra and Hippolytus, in the versions both by Euripides and Seneca, the latter one being the more similar of the two. As is usual with medieval Irish "translations" from Classical works, the Irish scholar extracts his materials from more than one source (this time including Vergil and possibly even Apuleius), adapting the general setting to early medieval Ireland and even attempting to characterize both the old king and the father of his second young bride with two indigenous kings, albeit the time gap between the two historical kings was ca. 200 years.

Beside no less than seventeen coincidences in the plot, also the names are meaningful, given that an equivalent of the onomastic element Greek Hippo- appears in the name Echaid (from ech 'horse') of the father of the evil queen, who is herself nameless and always referred to as ingen Echdach 'the daugther of Eochaid (i.e. Horseman)'. Moreover, the name Aedán, 'Son of Aed' of the killer of the prince reveals him to be just a literary alter ego of king Rónán mac Aeda, 'Ronan son of Aed', surely because the Irish scholar had to operate without the god Neptunus, who in the Classical plot is the king's father and the prince's punisher.

Even if the extant and very short Fingal Rónaín is told in the usual ancient Irish manner as a mixture of verse (94 lines) with prose and dialogues (176 lines on the whole), its structure still bears witness of the original five acts, of which it seems to have been a kind of abridged version used for theatrical improvisation. The 1st act contains an introduction where the young prince is described as a mighty hunter and the sweetheart of all young women; in the following four or perhaps even five scenes, the king seeks a new bride, the bride is introduced to his son, and a maid is sent by the new queen to arrange a date with the stepson. In the five scenes corresponding to the 2nd act, the maid goes to the prince, but only speaks to Congal, one of his foster-brothers, who is shocked and offers to arrange a sexual encounter between Mael Fotharthaig and the maid instead; the queen, to whom this is reported, at first decides to accept the offer, as it will give the maid a chance to communicate the queen's desire to her stepson personally, but afterwards grows impatient and threatens to kill the maid unless she acts on her behalf; at her next encounter with the prince, the maid tells him about the queen's desire and threats, while Mael Fotharthaig is horrified and decides to leave the country. In the six scenes corresponding to the 3rd act, the prince is asked back by his own people, visits the father of his stepmother, dates the maid, and arranges with his stepbrothers a system to avoid meeting the queen, while she is eager to meet him. The next group of five scenes, corresponding to the 4th act, shows Congal chasing the queen away from the mock meeting-point, then the queen accusing the stepson of attempted rape, which is allegedly proved with the help of a riddle recited partly by Mael Fothartaig and partly by the queen, and subsequently the killing of the prince by a warrior called Aedán as ordered by king Rónán; before dying, the prince declares his innocence, accuses the queen, and tells the wounded jester to mind the laughing audience. Only four scenes form the 5th act, where the parents of the queen are killed, Rónán laments his son's death, the queen is rueful and kills herself, and Mael Fothartaig is finally avenged by one of his sons (by the name of Aed!) killing his murderer.

N.B. To give an idea of the dramatic fourth act of the tragedy, we quote here both halves of the riddle together with the lament by king Ronan and the queen in the poetic rendering of Ruth Lehmann (An Introduction to Old Irish, with Winfred P. Lehmann: The Modern Language Association of America, New York, 1975). Note that her rendering, which follows, is intended to convey the poetical devices employed by the Irish author but not the literal content of the verses.

    Mael Fothartaig:   Cold in the whirlwind girding
        for Aife's cattle herding.
    Eochaid's daughter:   Vain herding: no cows coming
        nor anyone for loving.

Ronan and Eochaid's daughter after the prince's death --

    Ronan:   Cold the wind
        past the warrior's house skimmed;
        dear the warriors I would find
        between me and winds that whined.
         
        Sleep now, daughter of Eochaid,
        bitterly winds are stinging;
        woe is me, Mael Fothartaig
        slain for a woman's sinning.
         
        Sleep now, daughter of Eochaid,
        I rest not till thou'rt sleeping,
        looking on Mael Fothartaig
        in his shirt of blood steeping.
         
    Eochaid's daughter:   Woe is me, corpse laid yonder
        toward whom all eyes would wander;
        what we committed of sin
        was thy pain, since rejecting.
         
    Ronan:   Sleep now, daughter of Eochaid,
        mad men might take thy scheming,
        though thy damp cloak thou smearest,
        not my dearest thou'rt keening.

Reading and Textual Analysis

Our selected passage corresponds to the last four scenes of the 2nd act. Note that the words of Mael Fotharthaig when he gives gives vent to his indignation about the proposal of his stepmother are very similar to those of Hippolytos in Seneca's Phaedra (more details in P. de Bernardo Stempel, "Phaedra und Hippolytos in irischem Gewand," Nachleben der Antike - Formen ihrer Aneignung: Festschrift Klaus Ley, ed. B. Bosold DasGupta et al., Berlin: Weidler 2006, pp. 237-266).

Ní dam ass áil, or sí, acht do ingin Echdach rop áil Mael Fothartaig na cardess.
  • ní -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • dam -- pronominalized preposition; 1st person singular dative of <duL, doL> to -- with me
  • ass -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, relative of copula <is> is -- that is
  • áil -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <áil> desire -- desire
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • sí -- personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine of; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- she
  • acht -- preposition; <acht> except, only, save, but -- but
  • do -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- with
  • ingin -- noun; dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ingen> daughter -- the daughter
  • Echdach -- proper name masculine; genitive singular of <Echaid> Echaid -- of Echaid
  • rop -- verb; 3rd person singular RO-present subjunctive, syntactically relative, of copula <is> is -- that would be
  • áil -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <áil> desire -- desire
  • Mael Fothartaig -- proper name masculine; accusative singular masculine of <Mael Fothartaig> Mael Fothartaig -- for Mael Fothartaig
  • na -- article; genitive plural of <in, aN, indL> the -- of the
  • cardess -- noun; genitive plural masculine, u-stem, of <cardess, cairdes> friendship, love, cohabitation -- sexual encounters

Ná hapair, a ben!, or Congal.
  • ná -- dependent negative particle; <ná, na> not, nor -- not
  • hapair -- verb; aspirated 2nd person singular imperative active, prototonic, of <as°beir> says, speaks -- do... say
  • a -- particle; introduces vocative <aL> o -- ...
  • ben -- noun; vocative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • Congal -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Congal> Congal -- Congal

Bia marb dianat chluine Mael Fothartaig!
  • bia -- verb; variant of 2nd person singular future indicative, absolute, of substantive verb <attá> is -- you will be
  • marb -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <marb> dead -- dead
  • dianat -- conjunction; compound form of conjunction <diaN> when; if + infixed pronoun 2nd person singular; <datL> you -- if... you
  • chluine -- verb; lenited 3rd person singular present subjunctive active, conjunct, of <ro°cluinethar> hears -- should hear
  • Mael Fothartaig -- proper name masculine; nominative singular masculine of <Mael Fothartaig> Mael Fothartaig -- Mael Fothartaig

Dogénsa do lessu féin frisseom chena, mad áil duit.
  • dogénsa -- verb; compound form of 1st person singular future indicative active, absolute, of <do°gní> does; makes + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- indeed I shall do
  • do -- possessive pronoun 2nd person singular; <doL, tL> your -- your
  • lessu -- noun; compound form of accusative singular masculine, u-stem, of <les> remedy; advantage + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- bidding
  • féin -- pronominal; <féin, feissin> -self, own -- own
  • frisseom -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards + emphasizing particle 3rd person singular masculine; <seom, som> he, it -- in respect to him
  • chena -- adverb; <chena> besides -- though
  • mad -- verb; compound form of adverb <má, ma> if + 3rd person singular present subjunctive of copula; <is> is -- if it should be
  • áil -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <áil> desire -- a desire
  • duit -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular dative of <duL, doL> to -- with you

Atbeir ind ócben friesi.
  • atbeir -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <as°beir> says, speaks + infixed pronoun 3rd person singular neuter; <tL> this -- communicates this
  • ind -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ócben -- noun; compound of adjective <oac, óc> young + nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of; <ben> woman, wife -- maid
  • friesi -- pronominalized preposition; compound form of 3rd person singular feminine accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards + emphasizing particle 3rd person singular feminine; <si> she -- to her

Is maith lem, or sisi, ar rolémasu a rád ind aithisc acht co comrís féin fris; ocus déna mo lessa iarum friss.
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- it is
  • maith -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <maith> good -- very well
  • lem -- pronominalized preposition; 1st person singular accusative of <laH> among, by, with -- with me
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • sisi -- emphatic personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- she
  • ar -- conjunction; <air, ar> for -- since
  • rolémasu -- verb; 2nd person singular future indicative, deuterotonic, of <ro°laimethar> dares + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- you will dare
  • a -- possessive pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- to him
  • rád -- verbal noun; accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <ráidid> saying, uttering, speaking -- communicating
  • ind -- article; genitive singular neuter of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • aithisc -- noun; genitive singular neuter, o-stem, of <aithesc> message -- message
  • acht -- preposition; <acht> except, only, save, but -- provided
  • co -- conjunction; used as verbal particle <con, coN> until; so that; and -- that
  • comrís -- verb; 2nd person singular present subjunctive active, prototonic, of <con°ricc> meets, encounters -- you should meet
  • féin -- pronominal; <féin, feissin> -self, own -- yourself
  • fris -- preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards -- with him
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • déna -- verb; 2nd person singular imperative active, prototonic, of <do°gní> does; makes -- you shall do
  • mo -- possessive pronoun; 1st person singular of <moL, mL> my -- my
  • lessa -- noun; compound form of accusative singular masculine, u-stem, of <les> remedy; advantage + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- own bidding
  • iarum -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <íarN, íarmL-> after -- afterwards
  • friss -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards -- to him

Dogníther.
  • dogníther -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative passive, deuterotonic, of <do°gní> does; makes -- is done

Foid ind ócben leis .i. la Mael Fothartaig.
  • foid -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, absolute, of <foad, foid, foaid> sleeps together -- sleeps with
  • ind -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ócben -- noun; compound of adjective <oac, óc> young + nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of; <ben> woman, wife -- maid
  • leis -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <laH> among, by, with -- with him
  • .i. -- abbreviation of; <ed-ón> that is -- that is
  • la -- preposition; <laH> among, by, with -- with
  • Mael Fothartaig -- proper name masculine; accusative singular masculine of <Mael Fothartaig> Mael Fothartaig -- Mael Fothartaig

Maith tra, or sí, ní dingnesu mo lessa a fechtsa?
  • maith -- adjective; used as adverb <maith> good -- well
  • tra -- adverb; <trá, tra> then, well, so, indeed, moreover -- then
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • sí -- personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine of; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- she
  • ní -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • dingnesu -- verb; compound form of 2nd person singular future indicative active, prototonic, of <do°gní> does; makes + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- will you indeed... do
  • mo -- possessive pronoun; 1st person singular of <moL, mL> my -- my
  • lessa -- noun; compound form of accusative singular masculine, u-stem, of <les> remedy; advantage + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- own bidding
  • a -- article; accusative singular neuter of <in, aN, indL> the -- this
  • fechtsa -- noun; compound form of accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <fecht> course, journey; time, occasion + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- time

Is ferr let in fer ucut t' oenur?
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- is it
  • ferr -- adjective; comparative of <maith> good -- better
  • let -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular accusative of <laH> among, by, with -- with you
  • in -- article; nominative singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • fer -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <fer> man -- man
  • ucut -- adverb; <ucut> yonder -- yonder
  • t' -- possessive pronoun; 2nd person singular of <doL, tL> your -- yours
  • oenur -- noun; dative singular masculine, o-stem, of <oenar> one person, one alone -- alone

Bet marbso dano limsa!
  • bet -- verb; variant of 2nd person singular future indicative of copula <is> is -- you will be
  • marbso -- adjective; compound form of nominative singular feminine of <marb> dead + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- dead
  • dano -- enclitic emphatic particle; <dano, dono> again, now, then -- then
  • limsa -- pronominalized preposition; 1st person singular accusative of <laH> among, by, with + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- through myself

Feccaid in ben laa nand ic coí fri Mael Fothartaig.
  • feccaid -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active, absolute, of <feccaid> begins -- starts
  • in -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ben -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman
  • laa -- noun; accusative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <láaN, láN> day, daylight -- one day
  • nand -- pronominalized preposition; nasalized 3rd person singular neuter dative of <in, iN> in, into -- then
  • ic -- preposition; variant of <oc> at, with, by -- to
  • coí -- verbal noun; dative singular feminine of <caí> weeping -- cry
  • fri -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- in front of
  • Mael Fothartaig -- proper name masculine; accusative singular masculine of <Mael Fothartaig> Mael Fothartaig -- Mael Fothartaig

Cid daí, a ben? or sé.
  • cid -- stressed interrogative pronoun; neuter <cidL, cedL> what; why -- why
  • daí -- verb; 2nd person singular present indicative, conjunct, of substantive verb <attá> is -- are you vexed
  • a -- particle; introduces vocative <aL> o -- ...
  • ben -- noun; vocative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • sé -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- he

Ingen Echdach oc báig mo marbtha frim, olsi, uair nach dénaim a lles fritso, co comairsed frit.
  • ingen -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ingen> daughter -- the daughter
  • Echdach -- proper name masculine; genitive singular of <Echaid> Echaid -- of Echaid
  • oc -- preposition; <oc> at, with, by -- at
  • báig -- verbal noun; dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <bág> threat -- threatening
  • mo -- possessive pronoun; 1st person singular of <moL, mL> my -- my
  • marbtha -- verbal noun; genitive singular masculine, u-stem, of <marbad> killing, slaying -- killing
  • frim -- pronominalized preposition; 1st person singular accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards -- to me
  • olsi -- indeclinable; compound form of indeclinable <ol> says, said + personal pronoun 3rd person singular feminine; <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- said she
  • uair -- conjunction; <úair, uair> since -- since
  • nach -- negative particle; compound form of negative <nad> not + 3rd person singular present indicative, conjunct, of copula; <is> is -- it is not
  • dénaim -- verb; 1st person singular present indicative active, prototonic, syntactically relative, of <do°gní> does; makes -- that I do
  • a -- possessive pronoun; 3rd person singular feminine <aH> her -- her
  • lles -- noun; accusative singular masculine, u-stem, of <les> remedy; advantage -- bidding
  • fritso -- pronominalized preposition; compound form of 2nd person singular accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular; <siu, so, su> you -- to you
  • co -- conjunction; used as verbal particle <con, coN> until; so that; and -- so that
  • comairsed -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite subjunctive active, prototonic, of <con°ricc> meets, encounters -- she could meet
  • frit -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular accusative of <frithL, friH> against, towards -- with you

Dóich dano, or sé.
  • dóich -- adverb; <doích> likely -- likely
  • dano -- enclitic emphatic particle; <dano, dono> again, now, then -- then
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • sé -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- he

Ní sechbaid duit, or sé, rogabais chommairchi.
  • ní -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • sechbaid -- noun; nominative singular, i-stem, of <sechbaid> excess; error -- wrong
  • duit -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular dative of <duL, doL> to -- of you
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • sé -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- he
  • rogabais -- verb; 2nd person singular perfect indicative active, absolute, of <gaibid> takes; proceeds; recites -- you took
  • chommairchi -- noun; lenited accusative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <commairche> protection, refuge -- protection

Dianom berthasa, a ben, or sé, i cualchlais tened fo thrí co ndernad min ocus luaith dím, ní chomraicfind fri mnaí Rónáin, cid ed nommainsed airi sin uile.
  • dianom -- conjunction; compound form of <diaN> when; if + infixed pronoun 1st person singular; <domL, dumL> I -- even if I
  • berthasa -- verb; compound form of 3rd person singular past subjunctive passive, conjunct, of <berid> carries, brings + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- myself were thrown
  • a -- particle; introduces vocative <aL> o -- ...
  • ben -- noun; vocative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • sé -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- he
  • i -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- into
  • cualchlais -- noun; compound of <cúal> faggot + lenited accusative singular feminine, ā-stem, of; <clas, class> ditch, furrow; pit -- a faggot-pit
  • tened -- noun; genitive singular feminine, dental stem, of <tene, teine> fire -- of fire
  • fo -- preposition; <foL> under -- times
  • thrí -- numeral; lenited accusative singular masculine of <trí, tri, teoir> three -- three
  • co -- conjunction; used as verbal particle <con, coN> until; so that; and -- and
  • ndernad -- verb; nasalized 3rd person singular perfect subjunctive, prototonic, of <do°gní> does; makes -- were made
  • min -- noun; nominative singular feminine of <men, min> powder, dust -- dust
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • luaith -- noun; nominative singular feminine, i-stem, of <lúaith> ashes -- ashes
  • dím -- pronominalized preposition; 1st person singular dative of <diL, deL> from, of -- of me
  • ní -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • chomraicfind -- verb; variant of 1st person singular secondary future, prototonic, of <con°ricc> meets, encounters -- I would... meet
  • fri -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- with
  • mnaí -- noun; accusative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- the wife
  • Rónáin -- proper name masculine; genitive singular of <Rónán> Ronan -- of Ronan
  • cid -- conjunction; compound form of conjunction <cía> although, even if + enclitic present subjunctive of copula; <is> is -- though it be
  • ed -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular neuter of <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- it
  • nommainsed -- verb; compound form of 3rd person singular past subjunctive active, conjunct, syntactically relative, of <aingid> protects + infixed pronoun 1st person singular; <mL, mmL> I -- that might save me
  • airi -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter accusative <arL, airL> before, for, in front of, east of -- from
  • sin -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; <sin> this, that, those, the aforementioned -- that
  • uile -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <uile> all, whole -- all

Regatsa dano, or sé, for a himgabáil.
  • regatsa -- verb; compound form of 1st person singular future indicative, absolute, of <téit> goes + emphasizing particle 1st person singular; <se, sa> I -- I shall go
  • dano -- enclitic emphatic particle; <dano, dono> again, now, then -- then
  • or -- indeclinable; variant of <ol> says, said -- said
  • sé -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- he
  • for -- preposition; <for> on, over -- in order to
  • a -- possessive pronoun; 3rd person singular feminine <aH> her -- her
  • himgabáil -- verbal noun; aspirated dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <imgabál, imgabáil> avoiding; evasion -- avoid

Lesson Text

Ní dam ass áil, or sí, acht do ingin Echdach rop áil Mael Fothartaig na cardess. Ná hapair, a ben!, or Congal. Bia marb dianat chluine Mael Fothartaig! Dogénsa do lessu féin frisseom chena, mad áil duit. Atbeir ind ócben friesi. Is maith lem, or sisi, ar rolémasu a rád ind aithisc acht co comrís féin fris; ocus déna mo lessa iarum friss. Dogníther. Foid ind ócben leis .i. la Mael Fothartaig. Maith tra, or sí, ní dingnesu mo lessa a fechtsa? Is ferr let in fer ucut t' oenur? Bet marbso dano limsa! Feccaid in ben laa nand ic coí fri Mael Fothartaig. Cid daí, a ben? or sé. Ingen Echdach oc báig mo marbtha frim, olsi, uair nach dénaim a lles fritso, co comairsed frit. Dóich dano, or sé. Ní sechbaid duit, or sé, rogabais chommairchi. Dianom berthasa, a ben, or sé, i cualchlais tened fo thrí co ndernad min ocus luaith dím, ní chomraicfind fri mnaí Rónáin, cid ed nommainsed airi sin uile. Regatsa dano, or sé, for a himgabáil.

Translation

"[It is] not with me that [there] is desire," said she, "but with the daughter of Echaid that [there] would be desire for Mael Fothartaig, of the(ir) sexual encounters."
"Do not say [this], woman!" said Congal. "You will be dead if Mael Fothartaig should hear you! Indeed I shall do your own bidding in respect to him, though, if it should be a desire with you."
The maid communicates this to her (i.e. to her mistress).
"It is very well with me," said she, "since you will dare communicating the message to him, provided that you yourself should meet with him, and you shall do my own bidding to him afterwards."
[It] is done [then].
The maid sleeps with him, that is, with Mael Fothartaig.
"Well then," she said, "will you indeed not do my own bidding this time? Is it better with you [that] the man yonder [be] yours alone? You will be dead then through myself!"
One day then the woman starts to cry in front of Mael Fothartaig.
"Why are you vexed, woman?" said he.
"The daughter of Echaid at threatening my killing to me," said she, "since it is not that I do her bidding to you so that she could meet with you."
"Likely then," said he. "[It was] not wrong of you," said he, "you took protection." "Woman," said he, "even if I myself were thrown into a faggot-pit of fire three times, and dust and ashes were made of me, I would not meet with the wife of Ronan, though it be it that might save me from all that [burning]." "I shall go then," he said, "in order to avoid her."

Grammar

36 Subordination
36.1 Temporal Clauses

In our selections, we find temporal clauses with

  • 'since' and the perfect indicative (ó ro°scarus 'since I have parted' in Lesson 5);
  • in 'when' and the present indicative (in-de cluinethar 'when he hears it' and in-den aici 'when he sees it' in Lesson 6);
  • aN 'when' and the preterite indicative (a m-boí 'when he was' in Lesson 2);
  • in da(i)n 'at the time' and the preterite indicative (in dan m-bátar ann 'when they were there' in Lesson 2) or the future indicative (in dain no-m-bia-su oc comruc 'at the time when you will be in combat' in Lesson 4, where it is also repeated as in n-attan ro-m-bia-su oc comruc 'another time when you will be in combat'). In Middle Irish this conjunction is shortened to tan and used with the past indicative, cf. tan tánuc 'when I came' in Lesson 10;
  • coN 'until' and the preterite indicative (co m-boí hi 'until he was' in Lesson 5) or the perfect (co-n-us°toracht 'until he came' in Lesson 9). With the perfective present subjunctive (i.e. the present subjunctive prefixed with ro) it expresses an action to be completed in the future, as in Lesson 3: coN rab dartaid in lóeg 'until the calf ... will have become a yearling'.
36.2 Causal Clauses

In our selections, causal clauses are introduced by ar and by uair, both with the indicative:

  • ar 'for' is attested with the present indicative in Lesson 6 (ar nícon chotli 'for he does not sleep' and ar is dortuth fuiliche 'for bloodshed is the destruction...'), with the preterite indicative in Lesson 1 (ar ba bes 'for it was custom'), and with the future in Lesson 4 (ar bam escong-sa ocus fo chichiur 'for ... I will be an eel and I will throw ...') and Lesson 8 (ar ro°lema-su 'since you will dare').
  • uair 'since' as in Lesson 8 (uair nach dénaim 'since it is not that I do'), where it is followed by a negated and hence prototonic present indicative, was originally a temporal conjunction, being derived from the loanword corresponding to Latin hora 'hour'.
36.3 Concessive Clauses

Concessive clauses are usually introduced by cíaL/céL 'although, even if', which appears as ci before initial vowels and coalesces with the negative particle into cení/ceni or cini.

In Lesson 5, the past subjunctive of the subordinate clause is linked to a preterite indicative of the principal clause: ba he-som mo chrideserc cia no°charainn 'it was him my heart's love, even if I might have loved ...' In Lesson 9, the irreality expressed by both subordinate clauses in the past subjunctive (dia-nom bertha co n-dernad min ocus luaith 'even if I were thrown ... and dust and ashes were made') is mirrored by the use of the secondary future as a conditional in the principal clause: ní chomraicfind 'I would not meet'.

Cia with the present subjunctive of the copula coalesces into cid, as in Lesson 3 where the present subjunctive of the subordinate clause is governed by a future indicative in the principal clause: cid dorrignis bieith olc de 'whatever [it be that] you may do ..., misfortune will result'. It is also often found in the sense of 'even' as in Lesson 1: conná facbatis cid mecnu 'until they left not even roots' (lit. 'until they left nothing, although it be roots').

37 The Verb: The Subjunctive

As already stated (Lesson 1, point 3.3), the stem of the subjunctive, from which the present and the past subjunctive are formed, is independent from the present stem.

This stem mostly takes the shape of a so-called a-subjunctive, but those strong verbs whose root ends in a dental or guttural stop or spirant, or whose present or preterite indicative has a geminated nn, show an s-subjunctive.

The inflection of the past subjunctive shows no special forms for deponentia and is practically always used as a conjunct form.

The different formations are confronted in the following table (móraid 'magnifies', lécid 'leaves', suidigedar 'sets', berid 'bears', téit 'goes' and guidid 'prays'):

Present Subjunctive Active Absolute

    A I   A II (Act., Dep.)   Strong Verbs
1 Sg.   móra   lécea, *suidiger   bera, tíasu
2 Sg.   mór(a)e   léce, suidigther   ber(a)e, tési
3 Sg.   mór(a)id/-(a)ith   lécid/-ith, suidigidir   ber(a)id/-(a)ith, téis
Rel.   móras(s)   léces(s), suidigedar   beras(s), tías
             
1 Pl.   mórm(a)i/-(a)immi   léicmi, suidigmir   berm(a)i, tíasm(a)i
Rel.   mórm(a)e   léicme, suidigmer   berm(a)e, tíasm(a)e
2 Pl.   mórth(a)e   léicthe, suidigthe   berth(a)e, *téiste
3 Pl.   mór(a)it   lécit, suidigitir   ber(a)it, tías(a)it
Rel.   mórd(a)e/-t(a)e/   lé(i)cde/-te/   berd(a)e/-t(a)e, tíast(a)e
    mór(a)ite   lécite, suidigetar    

Present Subjunctive Active Conjunct

    A I   A II (Act., Dep.)   Strong Verbs
1 Sg.   °mór   °léic, °suidiger   °ber, °tías
2 Sg.   °mór(a)e   °léce, °suidigther   °ber(a)e, °téis
3 Sg.   °móra   °lécea, °suidigedar   °bera, °téi/°té
             
1 Pl.   °móram   °lécem, °suidigmer   °beram, °tíasam
2 Pl.   °mór(a)id/-aith   °lécid/-ith, °suidigid/-ith   °ber(a)id/-(a)ith, °tésid
3 Pl.   °mórat   °lécet, °suidigetar   °berat, °tíasat

Present Subjunctive Passive Absolute

    A I   A II (Act. = Dep.)   Strong Verbs
3 Sg.   mórth(a)ir   suidigthir   berth(a)ir, gessair
Rel.   mórthar   suidigther   berthar, gessar
3 Pl.   mórt(a)ir/mór(a)itir   suidigtir   bert(a)ir, ----
Rel.   mórtar/móratar   suidigter   bertar, ----

Present Subjunctive Passive Conjunct

    A I   A II (Act. = Dep.)   Strong Verbs
General Form   °mórthar   °suidigther   °berthar, °gessar
3 Pl.   °mórtar/°móratar   °suidigter   °bertar, °gessatar

Past Subjunctive Active

    A I   A II (Act. = Dep.)   Strong Verbs
1 Sg.   mór(a)in(n)   suidigin(n)   ber(a)in(n), gessin(n)
2 Sg.   mórtha   suidigthea   bertha, gesta
3 Sg.   mórad/-ath   suidiged/-eth   berad/-ath, gessed
             
1 Pl.   mórm(a)is   suidigmis   berm(a)is, gesm(a)is
2 Pl.   mórth(a)e   suidigthe   berth(a)e, gest(a)e
3 Pl.   mórt(a)is   suidigtis   bert(a)is, gest(a)is

Past Subjunctive Passive

    A I   A II (Act. = Dep.)   Strong Verbs
General Form   mórth(a)e   suidigthe   berth(a)e, gest(a)e
3 Pl.   mórt(a)is   suidigtis   bert(a)is, gest(a)is

The addition of ro to the subjunctive either strenghtens the semantic component of possibility or ability (as in rop áil 'that would be desire' in Lesson 8 and in ropud án 'he would be brilliant' in Lesson 5) or expresses completion of the performed action (as in the coN rab dartaid 'until it will have become' of Lesson 3 discussed here under point 36.1).

38 Irregular Nouns

To the nouns with irregular declension belong the feminine bó 'cow' (in Lessons 2 to 4) and the masculine mí 'month' (in Lesson 5):

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   bó 'cow'   baí   baí
Acc.   boin   bú   ---
Gen.   bou/báu/báo/bó   bou/báu/báo/bó   bou/báu/báo/bó
Dat.   boin   buaib   buaib
             
    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom.   mí 'month'   mís   mí
Acc.   mís   mísa   mí
Gen.   mís   mís   ---
Dat.   mís   ---   ---

Further substantives that may appear irregular at first sight, even if they are quite regular from a historical point of view, are the ā-stem ben 'woman' (in Lessons 2 to 5, 8 and 9) and the neuter láa/lá 'day, daylight' (in Lessons 1, 4, 5, 9), which is actually a short form of the neuter yo-stem la(i)the:

    Singular   Plural   Dual
Nom/Voc.   ben   mná   mnaí
Acc.   bein/mnaí   mná   mnaí
Gen.   mná   ban   ban
Dat.   mnaí   mnáib   mnáib
             
    Singular   Plural
Nom/Acc.   lae/laa/láa   lae/lá
Gen.   lai   lae/lá
Dat.   láu/láo/ló/lóu   laïb
39 Comparison of the Adjective: the Superlative Grade
39.1 The Regular Formation

The normal superlative suffix is em, which palatalizes the preceding consonant whereas am appears after consonants resisting palatalization: cf. sinem 'oldest' from sen 'old' as opposed to ardam 'highest' from ard 'high'.

39.2 Irregular Formations

The superlative of some adjectives is formed from the same root as the positive but without its suffix (i.a. máam and moam from már/mór 'great', síam from sír 'long', tressam from trén 'strong'), while for other superlatives altogether different roots and formations are used, such as messam 'worst' as opposed to olc 'bad' or dech/deg 'best' as opposed to maith 'good'.

One should also not forget superlative compounds such as ad-amrae 'very wonderful' and for-lán 'very full' in Lessons 6 and 10.

39.3 Syntax

None of these forms shows any traces of inflection. Like the other comparison grades, the superlatives are only used in nominative constructions and not as attributes.

40 Interrogative Pronouns and Sentences

Both direct and indirect interrogative clauses can be introduced:

  • by an unstressed pronoun nom/acc. ce/ci/cía 'who or what?' (cich if there is an infixed pronoun) with gen. coich 'whose?': it is invariant in gender and number and requires the conjunct form of a full verb as in cía°beir 'who carries?' and cía°acca 'whom didst thou see?'. When the subjunctive is used, this pronoun supplies an indefinite pronoun. Cf. also cía° tíasam 'wherever we go';
  • by its stressed allomorphs cía 'who?', with ntr. cidL/cedL 'what?' and plural citné 'who/what (is it) that they are?': these are mostly used with the relative form of a verb (as in cía rannas dúib 'who [is it that] divides for you?' or cid as dénti 'what is [that is] to be done?') or precede a substantive, in which case a feminine requires cesíL and the 3rd person singular of the copula is implicit, cf. cid leth 'which direction?' in Lesson 2. Cf. also cid do-t-ucai 'what brings you?', cid arndid í 'why [is it] that it is her?', cid nach é 'why is it not him?', cid ná dénaim-ni óentaid 'why don't we make a union?' and cid dai 'why are you vexed?' in Lessons 2, 5 and 8.
  • by coH 'how or (of) what sort?', with the conjunct form of the verb as in co°acci in slúag 'how seest thou the host?', or by its equivalent cinnas 'how?' < cindas < cía indas 'which manner or kind?', as in Lesson 4: cinnas conicfae-su 'how will you be able?';
  • by the interrogative particle iN, also requiring the conjunct form of the verb: cf. in°n-aci 'seest thou?' or as°rubart i°m-boí 'he said, i.e. asked, whether there was'. A double interrogative is introduced by in faL/fáL/baL and a negative interrogative by in nád as in in-nád °n-accai 'seest thou not?', whereas an interrogative expecting a positive answer is introduced by cani.

Dús introduces indirect interrogative clauses with the meaning of 'to know, to ascertain if'.

Old Irish Online

Lesson 9

Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, Caren Esser, and Jonathan Slocum

The text selection for this lesson is taken from Lebor Gabála Érenn, 'The Book of the Taking of Ireland', in the edition of Stewart Macalister. Also known as 'The Book of Invasions', it is a collection of poems and prose relating the mythical origin of the Irish people and the history of Ireland through the successive waves of invasions. This fictitious, pseudo-historical work was compiled in the 11th century and exists in over a dozen manuscripts, representing five different recensions. The author is unknown, but the work can be regarded as the result of the efforts of the medieval Irish clerics to link pre-Christian history with Biblical accounts, so that we find elements of Christian literature beside old Irish lore, whose heroes are portrayed as historical persons of the remote past. This notwithstanding, up to the 17th century Lebor Gabála Érenn was often regarded as authoritative by Irish annalists and historians.

Lebor Gabála Érenn begins with the creation of the world and continues with the history of Ireland down to the time of its compilation. In its present form, in all the principal redactions, the book falls into ten separate and independent sections: I. From the Creation to the Dispersal of the Nations; II. The Ancestors of the Gaedil; III-VII. The successive invasions of Cessair, Partholón, Nemed, the Fir Bolg, and the Túatha Dé Danann; VIII. The invasion of the sons of Míl, i.e. of the Gaedil; IX. The Roll of the Kings before Christianity; X. The Roll of the Kings after Christianity.

The first invasion mentioned is that of Cessair, a granddaughter of the Biblical Noah who arrived with only three men and a multitude of women forty days before the Flood but perished soon after together with all her followers except for Fintan mac Bóchra, who survived the centuries in the shape of various animals and witnessed the whole of Irish history. Also represented as a descendant of Noah, Partholón came to Ireland from Sicily threehundred years after the Flood, via Greece, Cappadocia, Gothia and Spain, landing at Inber Scéne (identified with Kenmare in South Kerry); his followers, five thousand men and four tousand women, were killed by a plague hundred and twenty years later and are supposed to be buried in a mass grave at Tamlachta 'Pit of Tears' (Tallaght near Dublin?), their only survivor being Tuan, Partholón's nephew, who also underwent a series of animal transformations until he was finally reborn as son of a chieftain named Cairill and as such (i.e. Tuan mac Cairill) told the story of his people. Thirty years after their extintion arrived Nemed, great-grandson of a brother of Partholón's, but he and his followers were attacked and in the end subjugated by the Fomoire, a warlike group of prehistoric demons who had succesfully been fought by the Partholonians; the Nemedians were eventually wiped out by a big flood, except for thirty warriors who managed to escape by ship and were scattered to different corners of the world. From the group who managed to escape to Greece descended the Fir Bolg, who arrived twohundred and thirty years later, divided Ireland into five provinces and installed a king. From those Nemedians who had escaped to far North descended the Túatha Dé Danann, a people with magic powers who arrived thirtyseven years after the former and defeated first the Fir Bolg and later the Fomoire, prior to being defeated themselves by the next and last invaders, the sons of Míl, at Tailtiu onehundred and fifty years later and subsequently retiring to live underground in the síde or fairy mounds. The newcomers had been living in Scythia and later in Egypt before going to Spain, from where the uncle of Míl , Íth , saw Ireland: enticed by her beauty, he decided to go and live there, but was killed soon after his arrival, and his death was avenged by the Milesians, who set out to conquer the island.

Reading and Textual Analysis

Our selection is taken out of section IV and is concerned with the invasions of the Fomoire, twohundred men and six hundred women led by Cicul Gricen-choss, who spent twohundred years 'at fishing and fowling', and of Partholón, who defeated them and cleared four fields.

While many of the accounts of the invasions seem entirely fanciful, others may reflect at least an historical core. Thus, while the Fomoire are said to have lived on fish and fowl, the Partholonians are supposed to have brought with them important agricultural devices and techniques, such as ploughs, oxen, husbandry, dairy farming, etc. Since the Partolonians furthermore buried their dead in long graves made of stone heaps, they might be identified with the Neolithic farmers as opposed to the hunters-gatherers of the Mesolithic.

Furthermore, while the name of Partholón is not Irish and has been probably influenced by the Christian Batholomaeus, Íth as in the existing several plains called Mag Ítha, 'The field of Ith', mirrors the Old Celtic deity Itunos/Ituna and goes back to IE *pi-tu and *pi-tu-s as in Oir. ith 'corn, grain' and, respectively, Skt. pitú- 'food'.

The first of the plains by the name of Mag Ítha mentioned in our selection, where the mythical Cicul Gricen choss was killed, is supposed to refer to the plain between Lough Foyle, Lough Swilly and the river Finn in Counties Donegal and Derry, while the second one mentioned has been identified with the plain south of Arklow, in Leinster. Mag nEthrige is supposed to be identical with Mag Tuired, anglicised as 'Moytura', near Cong in Co. Mayo, and Mag Lí to have bordered on the west bank of the river Bann, Co. Derry, given that the territory of the Ui mic Úais between Bir (the Moyola river) and Camus (Macosquin) was situated between Counties Derry and Donegal. Mag Latharna in Dál Araide has been identified with the low maritime plain near Larne, Co. Antrim, and Inber Domnand with Malahide Bay north of Dublin.

Is sund atfedar sechtgabáil, .i. gabáil rogab la Ciccul Gricenchoss an Inbiur Domnand:
  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- it is
  • sund -- adverb; <sund> here -- here
  • atfedar -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative passive, deuterotonic, syntactically relative, of <ad°fét> tells, relates -- that... is told
  • sechtgabáil -- noun; compound of <sechtN> seven + nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of; <gabál, gabáil> taking, conquest -- the Taking of the Seven
  • .i. -- abbreviation of; <ed-ón> that is -- that is
  • gabáil -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <gabál, gabáil> taking, conquest -- the taking
  • rogab -- verb; 3rd person singular perfect indicative active, conjunct, syntactically relative, of <gaibid> takes; proceeds; recites