Fáilte (Welcome) › Forums › General Discussion (Irish and English) › Negative Copula in Positive Idioms
- This topic has 12 replies, 1 voice, and was last updated 10 years, 5 months ago by Aislingeach.
June 26, 2012 at 10:54 pm #36306
The first time I ran across one of these it totally threw me.
From Ó Siadhail: Ní foláir do Cháit imeacht. “Cait must go off.”
From Wong: An té nach bhfuil láidir, ní mór dó bheith glic. “The person who isn’t strong must be clever.”
Wong writes it up as: ‘Negative Copula + Adjective or Substantive + (do + Indirect Object) or (Prepositional Pronoun) + SUBJECT’ expresses an existing condition. The person or thing affected by the fact is the Indirect Object. The item, action, situation, etc. that generates the fact is the Subject. Common idioms of this type convey necessity and obligation.
Sheesh! I could have said that. 😉
It would be helpful if folks have other examples and explanations for how to identify when this kind of idiom is being used.
GRMAJuly 1, 2012 at 10:07 pm #42200Héilics ÓrbhuíParticipant
I don’t think I’d be able to give a better general description than Wong, if you’re looking to identify the construction. There actually aren’t that many of them (other than the ones you already mentioned) that fall into the category you’re talking about: that is negative phrase is being used to suggest a concept that is actually positive in most ways of thinking about it. I’d say these fall into the category of “reflex expressions”, meaning something you just have to learn by heart so that it is automatic. There are a lot of other similar phrases like “ní móide”, “níÂ miste”, but these are negatives talking about negatives, so even though they are crucial to learn, they don’t present the same reversal of Anglicized thinking. In general, you just have to start thinking the Irish way – that is when you think about “X should be X” you start thinking “it wouldn’t be bad/a mistake/wrong if X were X”. Once you start altering your thought patterns, the language will follow. Or vice versa 😉July 2, 2012 at 1:33 am #42201
Go raibh maith agat as do ionchur, a Héilics. It has prompted me to take another look.
In Ó Dónaill there is a link from foláir to foráil where the meaning “superabundance, excess, too much” is given. There are two translations suggested for the phrase ní foráil a bhfuil ann díobh: “there are not too many of them” and “there is need for all of them”. That’s a nice reflection of the pattern you were suggesting. It’s not too much of a mental jump to apply this meaning transition to the phrase:
Ní foláir do Cháit imeacht.
–> It’s not excessive for Cáit to go off. –> There is a need for Cáit to go off. –> Cáit must go off.
With one of the meanings of mór being “excessive” I can make a similar conceptual transition with the phrase from Wong.
Go deas! Go raibh maith agat aríst.July 2, 2012 at 3:37 pm #42204OnuvanjaParticipant
A Sheáinin, I also had trouble with “ní mór”, until I grew used to this particular way of “reverse thinking”… Luckily, most Irish job adverts start with “Ní mór” and then go on to list the “cáilíochtaí” that are required from the applicant, so eventually that expression will stick in the poor learner’s mind. 😉
Incidentally, “is mór” can be a tricky one as well. I think we had a thread on the previous forum about wedding invitations which read “Ba mhór linn thusa a bheith i láthair ag an ócáid”, where the bride and the groom mean that they would like you to be present at the occasion, but actually say that “it would be too much (to bear) for us if you were present”.October 5, 2012 at 12:29 am #42751
I just ran into a similar brain twister in Nancy Stenson’s Intermediate Irish:
Is beag nár thit me. I almost fell.
Is beag nach ndeachaigh sí amach ar an tsráid. She almost went out into the street.
I was familiar with the word beagnach, but not aware that it is actually a contraction of this structure.
Muise, is brea liom Gaeilge!October 5, 2012 at 8:14 am #42752aonghusParticipant
Cad ab fhearr leat? Bheith beagnach báite, nó beagnach tarrtháilte?October 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm #42756
Tuigim cad a scríobh tú, a Aonghus, ach ní féidir liom a thuiscint a bhrí.October 7, 2012 at 6:24 pm #42757aonghusParticipant
Nath chun smaoineamh a spreagadh! Léigh go cúramach!October 7, 2012 at 6:42 pm #42758AislingeachParticipant
Cad ab fhearr leat? Bheith beagnach báite, nó beagnach tarrtháilte?
Ba fearr liomsa bheith beagnach báite. 🙂October 7, 2012 at 8:36 pm #42759
B’fhearr liom a bheith codlata, ná beagnach rud ar bith!October 7, 2012 at 9:12 pm #42760Héilics ÓrbhuíParticipant
LOL, A fellow sleeper I see.
That thing Aonghus said is meant to show that, even though the verb “tarrtháil” seems more favorable a fate than “báigh”, the construction reveals that you’d definitely rather “almost be drowned” than “almost be rescued”. Hope that helps.October 8, 2012 at 12:45 am #42761
Go raibh maith agat, a Héilics. D’oibrigh mé é amach cheana féin. Tá sé tomhas maith.October 8, 2012 at 12:52 am #42762AislingeachParticipant
Ba fearr liomsa bheith beagnach báite. 🙂
Oh my Lord, I am making all kinds of stupid mistakes in my Irish the last couple of days! :red:
B’fhearr liomsa bheith beagnach báite.
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