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Part II.


I SHALL adopt Mr. O'Reilly's division of the parts of speech into ten, in preference to that of Mr. O'Brien, who does not separate the adjective from the noun ; or that of Mr. Halliday, who omits the participle. They are the Article, Noun Substantive, Noun Adjective, Pronoun, Verb, Participle, Adverb, Conjunction, Preposition, and Interjection.


There is but one Article, an, which signifies the : it has but one variation, na, which occurs in the genitive case singular of the feminine gender, and in all the cases of the plural — n is added in the genitive plural, when the noun commences with a vowel, or with the influenced letters, d or g ; but the n in this case more properly belongs to the noun. It is thus declined —

  Singular Plural
Nom. the—an na
Gen. of the— masc. an, fem. na na
Dat. to the—an na

In dative and ablative cases, when following the prepositions do to, fo under, ua and o from, and some others ending with vowels, an unites with the preposition, and the A is omitted — do'n, ua'n, and o'n, for do an, ua an, and o an; but in such cases an apostrophe should properly be written or printed.


To Nouns belong number, gender, case, and declension. THere are but two numbers in Irish, singular and plural; but two genders, masculine and feminine; and six cases, the Nominative, Genetive, Dative, Accusative, Vocative, and Ablative.

Declension shows forth the changes which nouns undergo in their several varieties of number and case. There is nothing in which modern Irish Grammarians differ so much, and so materially, as in the declension of nouns ; some of them, forgetting the great antiquity and eastern character of the language, have endeavoured to cramp it to the mould of European rules. A Grammarian should not, indeed, pass by the influence which these must naturally have upon the Irish tongue, through the use of it by persons who are in continual contact with others, whose language was constructed on a different principle ; but, according to the system of O'Brien, adopted by O'Reilly, and most others, we must look for the inflexions of nouns chiefly to the beginning of the words, while we must not neglect their terminations. Acting upon this principle, it matters not whether, with O'Brien, I make the number of declensions to be three ; or with O'Reilly, four ; as his first and second are but sub-divisions of O'Brien's first. O' Reilly's division is perhaps preferable : and I shall follow it, because it induces fewer exceptions to general rules.

Respecting the formation of the cases of regular nouns, I must premise, that the Nominative and Accusative, in both Substantives and Adjectives, are always the same ; so are the Dative and Ablative — I shall not, therefore, from henceforth, always notice the Accusative or Ablative cases, in speaking of the rules, or exhibiting the declensions, of either species of Nouns. The Vocative of masculine nouns is generally like the Nominative, and the Vocative of Feminine sometimes like the Nominative. The Nominative Plural is generally the same with the Genitive Singular ; and the Genitive Plural with the Nominative Singular. The first part of this rule will be found to agree with many other languages, for instance, in the Latin, libri, &c.

The first declension of Substantives is of Feminine Nouns, commencing with vowels ; the Genitive requires h to be prefixed ; so do all the other cases of the Plural, except the Genitive, which requires an n after the article.

Example—oigh, a virgin
  Singular     Plural  
Nom. an oiġ the virgin Nom. na hoġa the virgins
Gen. na hoiġe of the virgin Gen. na noġ of the virgins
Dat do'n oiġ to the virgin Dat. do na hoġaiḃ to the virgins

2d Decl. Masculine Nouns beginning with vowels.

The nom. and accusative singular require t to be prefixed. The genitive singular does not require an h. The plural is as in the first declension.

Example—iasg, a fish
  Singular     Plural  
Nom. an tiasg the fish Nom. na héisc, hiasca the fishes
Gen. an éisg of the fish Gen. na niasc of the fishes
Dat do'n iasg   Dat. do na hiascaiḃ, hiasca to the fishes

The gender, then, of a noun beginning with a vowel is easily ascertained in the singular number ; for if t be prefixed to the nominative or accusative, or h omitted from the genitive, it is masculine.

3d Decl. Feminine Nouns beginning with consonants..

In this declension the initial letter of gen. sing. never suffers variation, but all mutable consonants, ( except d, s, and t,) if the article be used, must be aspirated in the other cases of the sing. In the plural there is no change, except in the gen. which must be eclipsed, if commencing with a consonant that can suffer eclipsis, unless it be an s. Some grammarians eclipse the dative sing. ; and O'Reilly, by his example, which is that used here, allows that it may be sometimes expressed by eclipsis, sometimes by aspiration.

Example—colam, a dove
  Singular     Plural  
Nom. an ċolam the dove Nom. na colaime, or colama the doves
Gen. na colaime   Gen. na gcolam  
Dat do'n ċolaṁ, gcolam, ċolaime   Dat. do na colamaiḃ  

If the noun begin with s, followed by a vowel, or by l, n, or r, it must be eclipsed instead of aspirated, by having t prefixed to all the cases of the sing. except the genitive and vocative.

Example—súil, an eye
Nom. an tsúil the eye      
Gen. na súil        
Dat do'n stúil        

4th. Decl. Masculine Nouns beginning with consonants.

In this, the initial letter of the gen. sing. if a mutable consonant must be aspirated, except it be an s, followed by a vowel, or by l, n, or r. The dative sing. must be aspirated or eclipsed. The genitive plural must be eclipsed, and the vocatives aspirated. The other cases suffer no change.

D and t sometimes afford an exception, as Dia, god, genitive De.

Example—crann, a tree
  Singular     Plural  
Nom. an crann the tree Nom. na crainn  
Gen. an ċrainn   Gen. na gcrann  
Dat do'n gcrann or ċran   Dat. do na granaiḃ, or cranna  

Nouns of this declension, beginning with s, and followed by a vowel, or by l, n, or r, require t to be prefixed in the genitive, dative, and ablative singular.

Immutable consonants suffer no initial changes ; but, if the nouns with which they commence be feminine, they are marked by a broader, or double, pronunciation after the article.

The inflexions of nouns are I. often connected with changes in the vowels contained in them ; these become more attenuated than in the nom. cases, or the reverse: they also II. influence the terminations of nouns. Connected with the changes of the vowels, it will be necessary to make some observations on the genders of nouns ; but I shall very much diminish the number of rules, with their exceptions, which are laid down by grammarians, as they are difficult, uncertain, and perplexing; and present only a few of them, and such as are generally admitted to be correct.

One test of genders is the use of the article in the gen. sing. If an agrees with the noun it is masculine, if na, feminine. The use of the aspirated genitive singular, and of the t or h prefixed, according to rules already laid down, are also tests. Most nouns whose last vowel is broad, or an e followed by a consonant, are masculine ; and those whose last vowel is slender, are feminine. All proper names of men, and in general names of offices belonging to men, and nouns signifying males, are masculine ; but names of women, and of offices peculiar to them, and nouns signifying females, are feminine.

The names of countries and rivers are feminine.

Diminutives ending in ean or an are masculine, and those ending in eog, og, or in are feminine.

Derivatives ending in aċ, aiḋe, uiḋe, aire, eaċ, oir, or eoir and derivative or abstract nouns in as or eas, are masculine.

Those taking an increase, and ending in a slender vowel, are feminine, as buaine, perpetuity; and abstract nouns ending in aċt or eċd are feminine.

Nouns compounded of two substantives are of the gender of the latter.

II. With respect to the inflexions of the terminations of nouns, the rules that are simple and most general are as follows —

  1. The dative and abl. sing. generally terminate like the nom. sing. but the dative and ablative plural are formed by the addition of aiḃ, if the last vowel of the nom. sing. be broad, and of iḃ if it be slender. Some nouns, however, that transpose their final consonant in the gen. sing. as ualaċ, a burden, gen. ualċa, form the dat. and abl. plur. by making the addition to the gen. as ualċaiḃ: but in words of one syllable, they sometimes end like the nom. plur. as na fir the men. do na fir to the men.
  2. Regular masculine nouns ending in unaspirated consonants, seldom change their final letter : but, if the last vowel be broad, it is attenuated in the gen. by the insertion of i after it, thus brat, a garment, gen. brait ; if of the feminine gender, they require, besides this attenuation, (where the last vowel is broad,) the addition e to the gen. thus, cos, a leg, coise.
  3. Regular nouns ending in aspirated consonants, exceptng c, seldom vary their terminations in any cases, except the dat. plur. ; but, if the nom. terminate in ċ, the gen. stng. generally ends in ġ : some nouns of one syllable, as eaċ, a horse, laoċ, a hero, croċ, c saffron, retain ċ in the gen. thus, eiċ, of a horse, &c.
  4. Words having A or o for their last vowel, are often irregular in their attenuation ; but the diphthong ea is generally changed into ei or i, eu into eoi, iatnto ei, and io tnto ea in the masculine, and i in the feminine, though with exceptions.
  5. Nouns in ir, except derivatives in oir, usually have the gen. sing. ar or ara in the masculine, and a. áċ or aċa in the feminine.
  6. Nouns ending in vowels generally terminate all the cases of the sing. alike, but some take na or ana in the gen. sing. ; many nouns ending in vowels make no final change in any case, but the dative and ablative plural.
  7. Substantives ending in im, or iḋm, generally make their plurals in anna.
  8. In masc. nouns the voc. terminates like the gen. excepttng such as take a broad increase in the gen. Feminine nouns terminate their voc. like the nom.



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grammar of the irish language—mason—1842
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