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Gentitive (was: Andrew catches up on his reading!)
At 14:11 11/11/97, Padraic Brown wrote:
>On Tue, 11 Nov 1997, Peter C. Skye wrote:
>> opinion and merely an opinion at that, that casan ill of is the more elegant
>Since we've only been discussing this phrase for about two weeks now, I
>suppose this is as good a time as any to ask this question -- I understand
>all the words, but what is the "etymology" of the phrase? In other words,
>what is this 'genitive construction' (I believe that's what it has been
>called) and where is it from? Is it descended from an actual genitive
>formation or a possessive dative or what?
It is descended from an actual genitive & is common to all forms of insular
The Gaelic languages still retain case flexions, so the genitive is obvious
there. I'll use Scots Gaelic as examples, but the Irish versions are
leabhar = book.
caileag = girl.
Seumas = James.
If I want to say that the book belongs to a girl or to James I put girl or
James in the genitive and, since it qualifies leabhar, it follows it just
like most adjectives, thus:
leabhar caileige = a girl's book
leabhar Sheumais = James' book
It will be noticed that in the second example book, by implication, is
definite, i.e. 'the book of James'. In proto-Celtic, as in earlier forms
of IndoEuropaean langs, there was no definite article; this was developed
later in most from demonstrative pronouns. In Celtic it was felt necessary
only to indicate that - as in the case of James above - the possessor was
leabhar na caileige = the girl's book.
leabhar may _not_ be preceeded by a difinite article in this construction.
Similar constructions were clearly used in Brittonic; but all the modern
Brittonic langs have lost case flexion. Nevertheless, the _same_
constructions survive & are used today.
llyfr = book.
merch = girl.
Iago = James.
llyfr merch = a girl's book
llyfr Iago = James' book
llyfr y ferch = the girl's book
Cornish (Unified Cornish orthography)
lyver = book
Jowan = John [Don't know the Cornish for James :=( ]
mowes = girl
lyver mowes = a girl's book
lyver Jowan = John's book
lyver an vowes = the girl's book
In neither the Welsh nor the Cornish may the word for book be preceeded by
the definite article in this construction.
Breton alone of the Celtic langs has developed an indefinite article & has
extended it to this construction, thus (using the modern orthography):
leor = book
Jakez = James
merh = girl
leor eur verh
leor ar verh
Again, it is quite incorrect to preceed leor by an article.
And at 18:08 10/11/97, Andrew Smith wrote:
>I think there may be good justification to favour _llo chas di'll of_ over
>_casan ill of_ as this is the only reason to introduce a plural ending
>that is not necessary elsewhere in the language, the second option is more
>aesthetically pleasing to me though (but I do feel a historically logical
>option must outweigh my own sense of aesthetics!)
I fear I very much agree with Andrew's sentiments here. There is no
question, I feel, that 'casan ill of' is more elegant & more aesthetically
pleasing [and is 100% Celtic :-) ].
But, as Andrew says, it is the only reason for introducing the 'new' plural
-an/-on after the fall of final -es,-as,-os, a fall which actually happened
in the Brittonic langs and in _spoken_ French, and so is quite likely to
have happened in Brithenig. I must confess I've never been
over-enthusiatic about -an/-on. I know I suggested it; I could think of
nothing better for which a plausible reason could be given.
There is no question that 'llo chas di'll of' is the western Romance form.
French, the Romancelang which shows more Celtic influence than the others,
has shown no signs of developing the 'Celtic genitive' construction.
My heart favors 'casan ill of' but my head says 'llo chas di'll of'.