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adjectives

Adjectives are words which typically describe attributes and properties of nounsmòr ‘big, large’, gorm ‘blue, green’, sgìth ‘tired’, sona ‘lucky’, briste ‘broken’, bochd ‘poor’.


derivation [+/-]

Adjectives can be divided into three groups, depending on how they are formed –

  • Derived adjectives are formed from other adjectives, nouns or verbs – ciall fem. ‘sense’ciallach adj. ‘sensible’, ceòl masc.ceòlmhor adj. ‘melodious’, drùidh vb. ‘impress’drùidhteach adj. ‘impressive’, sgìth adj. ‘tired’sgìtheil adj. ‘wearisome’.
  • Compound adjectives are formed from other adjectives, typically by addition of another adjective or prefix – cneasta adj. ‘decent, modest’mì-chneasta adj. ‘uncharitable’, dubh adj. ‘black’, gorm adj. ‘blue’dubh-ghorm adj. ‘dark blue’.
  • Simple adjectives are not formed out of other words – mòr ‘big’, geal ‘white’, sona ‘lucky’.


forms [+/-]

When an adjective functions as a modifier of a noun, it agrees with the noun in gender, number and case. In other words, attributive adjectives are declined for gender (feminine or masculine), number (singular or plural, with a hint of legacy dual marking), and case (nominative or dative or genitive or vocative). This does not happen when an adjective is part of the predicate.

There are two independent aspects involved in the declension of attributive adjectives –

  • lenition – Like other modifiers of nouns, attributive adjectives are lenited or not depending on the gender, number and case of the noun (along with some other contextual factors involving the pre-context of the nouns).
  • slenderisation/suffixation – Attributive adjectives are slenderised and/or augmented depending on the gender, number and case of the noun.


masculine


nominative [+/-]

Attributive adjectives which modify a nominative singular masculine noun are unmutated at both beginning and end –

  • (am) balach beag ‘(the) little boy’
  • (an) taigh mòr ‘(the) big house’
  • (an) cuilean Gearmailteach ‘(the) German puppy’

Some examples – [+/-]

  • pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • Fhuair sinn cat dubh. | Chuala mi òran gòrach. | Bha sruth beag air cùl an taighe. | Chunnaic mi an cat dubh. | Is toigh leam an t-òran gòrach seo. | Seo an sruth beag a’ bha sinn a lorg. 📚
    • (am) fear mòr | bàta beag snog geal 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • (am) balach mòr | (am) balach còir | (am) balach carach | (am) balach bòidheach 📚
  • older pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • gille sona | gille bochd | gille bàn | gille glic | (an) Gall sona | Gall bàn | Gall glic | (an) gille mór 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • fear beag | gille dubh | (an) duine maith | (am) breac mòr 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • Càit an d’ fhuair thu am fraoch geal? | Tha seòl mòr geal air a’ bhàta. | Tha bian brèagha glan air a’ chat. | Tha còta brèagha dearg oirre agus ad ghlas. | Fuirich gus am faic thu na sradagan a’ leum an uair a bhuaileas e an t-iarann dearg. 📚

However, when the noun is preceded by ‘two’, attributive adjectives are lenited (‘jumping lenition’) –

  • (an) dà thaigh mhòr ‘(the) two big houses’
  • (an) dà chuilean Ghearmailteach ‘(the) two German puppies’

However, in modern Gaelic, attributive adjectives often are not lenited after masculine nouns.

Some examples with (dual number) – [+/-]


dative [+/-]

As with the nominative, attributive adjectives which modify a dative singular indefinite masculine noun are generally unmutated at both beginning and end –

  • le balach beag ‘with a little boy’
  • ann an taigh mòr ‘in a big house’
  • air cuilean Gearmailteach ‘on a German puppy’

Some examples – [+/-]

  • pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • le balach beag 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • ’S e manadh a tha ann an cat dubh. | Dh’èist sinn ri òran gòrach. | Fhuair i an fhàinne ann an sruth beag. 📚
    • le fear mòr 📚
    • [le] balach mòr | [le] balach còir | [le] balach carach | [le] balach bòidheach | Bha e na bhalach beag aig an àm. 📚
  • older pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • aig gille sona | aig gille bochd | aig gille bàn | gu gille glic | gu Gall sona | gu Gall bàn | gu Gall glic | aig gille mór 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • aig fear beag | aig gille dubh | aig duine maith | aig breac mòr 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • Rug an gille beag air iasg mór. | Chì mi trì bàtaichean anns a’ bhàgh. Tha aon bhàta a’ seòladh le seòl geal. | Bha faochagan is bàirnich is feusgain aig Seònaid ann an cuman beag. | Tha an gobha ’na dhuine làidir. 📚

However, again as in the nominative, when the noun is preceded by ‘two’, attributive adjectives undergo ‘jumping’ lenition –

  • ann an dà thaigh mhòr ‘in two big houses’
  • air dà chuilean Ghearmailteach ‘on two German puppies’

Some examples with (dual number) – [+/-]

In addition, when the noun is specified by the (leniting) definite article, attributive adjectives also undergo lenition, even when the article does not lenite initial t- or d- and when it prefixes t- to s-

  • leis a’ bhalach bheag ‘with the little boy’
  • anns an taigh mhòr ‘in the big house’
  • air a’ chuilean Ghearmailteach ‘on the German puppy’

Some examples with the definite article – [+/-]

  • pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • leis a’ bhalach bheag 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • Cha robh sgeul air a’ chat dhubh. | Èist ris an òran ghòrach seo! | Bha èisg òir anns an t-sruth bheag. 📚
    • leis an fhear mhòr 📚
    • [leis] a’ bhalach mhòr | [leis] a’ bhalach chòir | [leis] a’ bhalach charach | [leis] a’ bhalach bhòidheach | [leis] an dà bhalach mhòr | [leis] an dà bhalach chòir | [leis] an dà bhalach charach | [leis] an dà bhalach bhòidheach 📚
  • older pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
  • pedagogical examples with an dà[ex +/-]
    • [leis] an dà bhalach mhòr | [leis] an dà bhalach chòir | [leis] an dà bhalach charach | [leis] an dà bhalach bhòidheach 📚


genitive [+/-]

Attributive adjectives which modify a genitive singular masculine noun are generally both lenited and slenderised, irrespective of whether definite or indefinite –

  • falt balaich bhig / falt a’ bhalaich bhig ‘a/the little boy’s hair’
  • doras taighe mhòir / doras an taighe mhòir ‘a/the big house’s door’
  • earball cuilein Ghearmailtich / earball a’ chuilein Ghearmailtich ‘a/the German puppy’s tail’

Some examples – [+/-]

  • pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • taigh fir mhòir 📚
    • [ceann] balaich mhòir | [ceann] balaich chòir | [ceann] balaich charaich | [ceann] balaich bhòidhich 📚
  • older pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
  • pedagogical examples with the definite article – [ex +/-]
    • Rug e air spòg a’ chait dhuibh. | Cò tha gabhail an òrain ghòraich? | Shuidh i air bruach an t-sruith bhig. 📚
    • taigh an fhir mhòir 📚
    • [ceann] a’ bhalaich mhòir | [ceann] a’ bhalaich chòir | [ceann] a’ bhalaich charaich | [ceann] a’ bhalaich bhòidhich 📚
  • older pedagogical examples with the definite article – [ex +/-]
  • pedagogical examples with (dual number) – [ex +/-]
  • older pedagogical examples with [ex +/-]

However, these mutational rules are often relaxed, particularly in conversational Gaelic, and particularly when there is no definite article specifier.

Examples involving ‘relaxed’ mutations – [+/-]

  • pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • Chuir i earball cat dubh sa phoit. | Thoir dhomh ainm òran gòrach! | Chuala sinn glugail sruth beag faisg. | seacaid balach beag 📚
    • taigh fear mòr | taigh an fhear mhò(i)r 📚
  • older pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • Tha pathadh orm. Òl deoch uisge fuar. 📚


feminine


nominative [+/-]

Attributive adjectives which modify a nominative singular feminine noun are lenited (but unmutated at the end) –

  • caileag bheag / a’ chaileag bheag ‘a/the little girl’
  • eaglais mhòr / an eaglais mhòr ‘a/the big church’
  • cearc Fhrangach / a’ chearc Fhrangach ‘a/the French hen’

Some examples – [+/-]

  • pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • Tha cas cham air a’ bhòrd seo. | Bhris iad uinneag mhòr. | Tha slige dhearg air an ugh sin. 📚
    • caileag mhòr 📚
    • caileag mhòr | caileag chòir | caileag charach | caileag bhòidheach 📚
  • older pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • caile shona | caile bhochd | caile bhàn | caile ghlic 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • caileag bheag | caile mhìn 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • Rinn na gillean bodach sneachda anns a’ phàirc. Chuir iad ad dhubh air a cheann agus pìob ’na beul. | Tha [an nighean] a’ dèanamh deiseil bòrd na suipeir. Chuir i tubhailt bhrèagha gheal air agus an sin chuir i air sgeanan is spàinean. | Tha Iain agus Seònaid a’ cluich air an tràigh. Ghlac Iain crùbag bheag, ach bha eagal air Seònaid gum beireadh a’ chrùbag oirre. | Tha gainmheach ghrinn gheal shìos an cois na mara. 📚
  • pedagogical examples with the definite article – [ex +/-]
    • An gabh a’ chas cham a càradh? | Fosgail an uinneag mhòr! | Na bris an t-slige dhearg! 📚
    • a’ chaileag mhòr 📚
    • a’ chaileag mhòr | a’ chaileag chòir | a’ chaileag charach | a’ chaileag bhòidheach 📚
  • pedagogical examples with (dual number) – [ex +/-]
  • older pedagogical examples with [ex +/-]

Note that attributive adjectives of a slenderised dual feminine noun are sometimes found slenderised in the nominative, and this can be seen as analogical.

Pedagogical examples involving potentially analogical slenderisation after [ex +/-]


dative [+/-]

Attributive adjectives which modify a dative singular feminine noun were traditionally both lenited and slenderised

  • le caileig bhig / leis a’ chaileig bhig ‘with a/the little girl’
  • ann an eaglais mhòir / anns an eaglais mhòir ‘in a/the big church’
  • air circ Fhrangaich / air a’ chirc Fhrangaich ‘on a/the French hen’

Some examples – [+/-]

  • pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • Tha aon each ann le cois chaim. | Fhuair mi fo uinneig mhòir e. | Bha seilcheag ann le slige dheirg. 📚
    • le caileig mhòir 📚
    • [le] caileig mhòir | [le] caileig chòir | [le] caileig charaich | [le] caileig bhòidhich 📚
  • older pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
  • pedagogical examples with the definite article – [ex +/-]
    • Thoir dha an sèithear leis a’ chois chaim! | Choimhead sinn air an uinneig mhòir e. | Seall an t-seilcheag ann leis an t-slige dheirg! 📚
    • leis a’ chaileig mhòir 📚
    • [leis] a’ chaileig mhòir | [leis] a’ chaileig chòir | [leis] a’ chaileig charaich | [leis] a’ chaileig bhòidhich 📚
  • pedagogical examples with ‘two’ (dual number) – [ex +/-]
  • older pedagogical examples with [ex +/-]

However, the slenderisation is usually relaxed, particularly in conversational Gaelic, and particularly when there is no definite article (even in traditional usage) – le caileag bheag, le dà chaileag bheag, and even leis a’ chaileag bheag, leis an dà chaileag bheag.

Pedagogical examples involving ‘relaxed’ slenderisation – [ex +/-]

  • Bha e cluiche air dà thruimb mhòr Abrach. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
  • Dé an rud a tha agad an sin? Tha luch. [...] Rug an cat air té bheag an dé. | Tha feum agam air sgian gheur. [18] 📚
  • le caileag mhòr | leis a’ chaileag mhòr 📚


genitive [+/-]

Attributive adjectives which modify a genitive singular feminine noun were traditionally non-lenited but slenderised and (vocalically) augmented

  • falt (na) caileige bige ‘a/the little girl’s hair’
  • doras (na h-)eaglaise mòire ‘a/the big church’s door’
  • gob (na) circe Frangaiche ‘a/the French hen’s beak’

The genitive singular feminine ending can be -eadh in monosyllabic words in phrase-final position.

Some examples – [+/-]

  • pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • Ruith e math a dh’aindeoin coise caime. | Bha i ri taobh uinneige mòire. | Tha slige òir aice seo an àite slige deirge. | Latha na Sròine Deirge, bha mi aig taigh na cailliche bige. 📚
    • taigh caileige mòire 📚
    • [ceann] caileige mòire | [ceann] caileige còire | [ceann] caileige caraiche | [ceann] caileige bòidhche 📚
  • older pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
  • pedagogical examples with the definite article – [ex +/-]
    • Ruith e a dh’aindeoin na coise caime aige. | Tha e air beulaibh na h-uinneige mòire. | A bheil càil am broinn na slige deirge? 📚
    • taigh na caileige mòire 📚
    • [ceann] na caileige mòire | [ceann] na caileige còire | [ceann] na caileige caraiche | [ceann] na caileige bòidhche 📚

Note that ‘two’ does not induce ‘jumping’ lenition with a feminine genitive noun – *cinn (na) dà chaileige mhòire.

Pedagogical examples with (dual number) – [ex +/-]

  • [cinn] na dà chirce bige 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
  • [cinn] (na) dà chaileige mòire | [cinn] (na) dà chaileige còire | [cinn] (na) dà chaileige caraiche | [cinn] (na) dà chaileige bòidhche 📚

The vocalic augmentation is often relaxed, particularly in conversational Gaelic, and particularly if the adjective is polysyllabic, even in traditional Gaelic. Sometimes this is accompanied with lenition of the adjective, and even non-slenderisation and use of the nominative article.

Pedagogical examples with ‘relaxed’ augmentation &c[ex +/-]

  • Ruith e a dh’aindeoin (na) cois chaim aige. | Bha i ri taobh uinneig mhòir. | Tha e air beulaibh na h-uinneig mhòir. | Tha slige òir aice seo an àite slige dheirg. | A bheil càil am broinn na slige dheirg? 📚
  • taigh (na) caileig mòir | taigh (na) caileag mhò(i)r | taigh a’ chaileag mhò(i)r 📚
  • [ceann] (na) caileige caraich | [cinn] (na) dà chaileige caraich 📚


plural [+/-]

The general rules for declining attributive adjectives which modify plural nouns are –

  1. Monosyllabic adjectives are (vocalically) augmented, even in the genitive plural – mòrmòra, beagbeaga, mìnmìne.
  2. Polysyllabic adjectives are unmutated at the end – Gearmailteach, sona.
  3. Adjectives which modify slenderised plural nouns are lenitedbalaich bheaga; those which modify non-slenderised plurals are not lenitedtaighean beaga.
  4. Adjectives which modify certain nominative singular feminine collective nouns are lenited and can be augmentedclann bheaga ‘small children’, feadhainn mhòra ‘some big ones’.
Note that monosyllabic adjectives too can remain unmutated at the end, especially certain adjectives that contain a long vowel or diphthong.


nominative [+/-]

Nouns that form their plural via slenderisation –

  • (na) balaich bheaga ‘(the) little boys’
  • (na) cuilein Ghearmailteach ‘(the) German puppies’

Some examples – [+/-]

  • pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • balaich bheaga 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • balaich bheairteach | òrain mhòra | facail chruaidh | fir chaola | solais bhoillsgeach 📚
    • (na) fir mhòra 📚
    • (na) balaich mhòra | (na) balaich chòire | (na) balaich charach | (na) balaich bhòidheach 📚
  • older pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]

Non-slenderised nouns –

  • (na) taighean mòra ‘(the) big houses’
  • (na) caileagan beaga ‘(the) little girls’
  • (na) cearcan Frangach ‘(the) French hens’

Some non-slenderised examples –

  • pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
  • older pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • gillean sona | gillean bochda | gillean bàna | gillean glice | cailean sona | cailean bochda | cailean bàna | cailean glice | (na) gillean móra 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • caileagan beaga | gillean dubha | cailean mìne | (na) daoine maithe 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • So agad nead smeòraich. Tha cóig uighean gorma ann. | Tha flùraichean brèagha anns a’ ghàrradh. | Nach e a’ mhuir a tha ciùin an diugh. Chan ’eil i tric ciùin. An uair shéideas a’ ghaoth bithidh tonnan móra fiadhaich a’ bristeadh air na creagan sin. | Tha bàtaichean beaga air a’ chladach. 📚


dative [+/-]

Slenderised nouns –

  • le balaich bheaga / leis na balaich bheaga ‘with (the) little boys’
  • air (na) cuilein Ghearmailteach ‘on (the) German puppies’

Some examples –

Non-slenderised nouns –

  • ann an taighean mòra / anns na taighean mòra ‘in (the) big houses’
  • le caileagan beaga / leis na caileagan beaga ‘(with) (the) little girls’
  • aig (na) cearcan Frangach ‘at (the) French hens’

Some non-slenderised examples –

  • pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • le caileagan mòra | leis na caileagan mòra 📚
    • [aig] (na) caileagan mòra | [aig] (na) caileagan còire | [aig] (na) caileagan carach | [aig] (na) caileagan bòidheach 📚
  • older pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • aig gillean sona | aig gillean bochda | aig gillean bàna | gu gillean glice | aig cailean sona | aig cailean bochda | aig cailean bàna | gu cailean glice | aig (na) gillean móra 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • aig gillean dubha | aig cailean mìne 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • Tha neadan aig na h-eòin anns na craobhan àrda. | Bha [na h-eòin] air falbh fad a’ gheamhraidh ann an dùthchannan blàtha. 📚
  • some examples with the old dative plural suffix -(a)ibh (which doesn’t cause lenition) – [ex +/-]


genitive [+/-]

There is syncretism between nominative singular and genitive plural for certain nouns. In addition, the indefinite plural is lenited –

  • falt bhalach beaga / falt nam balach beaga ‘(the) little boys’s hair’
  • dorsan thaighean mòra / dorsan nan taighean mòra ‘(the) big houses’ doors’
  • coin chaileagan beaga / coin nan caileagan beaga ‘(the) little girls’ dogs’
  • earbaill chuilean Gearmailteach / earbaill nan cuilean Gearmailteach ‘(the) German puppies’ tails’
  • goban chearcan Frangach / goban nan cearcan Frangach ‘(the) French hens’ beaks’

Some examples –

  • pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • taigh fhear mòra | taigh chaileagan mòra 📚
    • [cinn] bhalach mòra | [cinn] bhalach còire | [cinn] bhalach carach | [cinn] bhalach bòidheach | [cinn] chaileagan mòra | [cinn] chaileagan còire | [cinn] chaileagan carach | [cinn] chaileagan bòidheach 📚
  • older pedagogical examples – [ex +/-]
    • cinn ghillean bochda | cinn ghillean bàna | cinn ghillean glice | cinn chailean bochda | cinn chailean bàna | cinn chailean glice | cinn Ghall bàna | cinn Ghall glice | cinn ghillean móra | cinn ghillean sona | cinn chailean sona | cinn Ghall sona 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • neart fhear beaga | dealbh chaileagan beaga | neart ghillean dubha | dreach chailean mìne | neart dhaoine maithe | neart bhreac mòra 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 📚
    • Bha a’ chlann a’ tilgeil chlach do’n uisge. Bha na clachan a’ dèanamh thonn beaga. 📚
  • pedagogical examples with the definite article – [ex +/-]
    • taigh nam fear mòra | taigh nan caileagan mòra 📚
    • [cinn] nam balach mòra | [cinn] nam balach còire | [cinn] nam balach carach | [cinn] nam balach bòidheach | [cinn] nan caileagan mòra | [cinn] nan caileagan còire | [cinn] nan caileagan carach | [cinn] nan caileagan bòidheach 📚
  • older pedagogical examples with the definite article – [ex +/-]

Note that the genitive plural is sometimes replaced by the nominative plural, particularly in conversational Gaelic. Some examples of this – [ex +/-]

  • taigh (na) fir mhòra | taigh (na) caileagan mòra 📚


uses [+/-]

The main uses of adjectives are –

  • predicative – generally as complement of the predicative verb bi.
  • attributive – as a modifier of a noun