of the

Thu, Feb 14, 2008

Now that we’ve covered “the”, let’s take a look at how you say “of the” in Gaelic. As you’d expect, this depends on the gender of the noun, either masculine or feminine but it’s useful knowledge to have as there are thousands of “of the” something or other in mountain names. So let’s take a look at how you say “of the”, or the genitive case of definite Gaelic nouns.

Masculine singular nouns

This is weird, or it might be easy, depending how your brain works! Masculine nouns in the genitive case, switch gender and become singular feminine nouns, grammatically speaking. That means they just use the normal rules for “the” that singular feminine nouns use. If you have a quick look at “the”, you’ll see that singular feminine nouns use “an”, “an t-”, or “a’”. Take An t-Òrd as an example. This is a masculine noun. Ord bay (i.e. the bay of Ord) becomes Bàigh an Ùird. Don’t worry about Òrd becoming Ùird, that’s just how the word goes into the genitive. It’s because it’s a “definite noun” i.e. it has “the” in it. A well known example is the genitive of Sneachd (snow), Coire an t-Sneachda. See how it has mutated from An Sneachd (the snow) to An t-Sneachda (of the snow).

Feminine singular nouns

This is simple. In the genitive case, singular feminine nouns act as plural feminine nouns, i.e. they use “na” and “na h-”. Let’s take An t-Sròn as an example. It’s feminine (The Nose) and “of the nose” would be Na Sròine. Again, that mutation is just the genitive case of Sròn. Another one is Sgor na h-Ulaidh.

Plural nouns

Easy as pie! Either maculine or feminine plural nouns use either “nan” or “nam” before B,F,M,P. Examples are Braigh nan Uamhachan and Bidean nam Bian. So wherever you see “nan” or “nam” in a mountain name, you know it’s referring to something plural. In this case “slope of the caves” and “peak of the bens”.

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