The Editor of the Gaelic Journal.
Dear Sir - Apropos to táthar, it may interest your
readers to know that táthar is not the only impersonal
form of the verb to be in the spoken Irish. Táthar is
pretty comon even in books, but in S.W. Kerry we find
other peculiar but beautifully expressive passive forms,
viz., bíti, beidhfear, beidhfidhe, bhítheas. These forms
are used when the nominative is indefinite or ambiguous:
in much the same position as the French would use on.
Their use and meaning will best be seen in a few exam-
ples. “Bítí ag faire uirthe,” they, people, &c., are
continually watching her = she is being watched con-
“Ní bheidhfear dian ort,” people, authorities, etc.,
won't be severe on you = you shan't be severely treated.
(Beidhfear is the commonest form of all.) “Ní
bheidhfidhe dian air,” he would not be severely treated.
“Is mórán a treablóid bhítheas ag fagailt.” people, &c.
got much trouble from it. These forms are very common,
and express a shade of meaning that cannot otherwise be
2. In the very same part of Kerry is found a peculiar
part, impersonal passive form ending in -thas, or -theas in
some half a dozen verbs; as, dubharthas, fuarthas,
labharthas, bhítheas, (above), tangthas, as “dubharthas
go raibh se ann,” “people said,” etc. I make these
remarks that some competent person may look the matter
up and do it justice. — faithfully yours,
Streamstown N.S., Westmeath.
[Our correspondent can hardly have given the fourth
example correctly. It should be, to my thinking, Is mór an
trioblóid bhítheas d'fhágailt, or, as some would prefer it,
Is mór (or ní beag) d'á dhuadh bhítheas d'fhághail.
These forms, which have been well exemplified in
Father O'Leary's Mion-chaint, are universal, for they are
used in all the Irish-speaking districts — a thing not gene-
really known — and in the Gaelic-speaking portions of
The following are some examples of their use in the
Northern dialects: Bheifidhe d'á ráidht (heard in con-
versation from a native of Glengesh, Co. Donegal), Dá
mbeithidhe ag buaint (airgid) as, badh ghoirid go
mbéidheadh sé reathte (Donegal), God chuighe (= cad
chuige) nár fhan tú mar bhí do dhaoiní 'san áit nach
mbíthí dá ruagadh (Donegal, in song), thainiceas (=
tángas) air agus é ag goid, he was caught stealing
(Donegal), thioctaoi chugam ar cuairt, “they would come
(= the used to come) to visit me” (Louth), cha
dtiocfaidhe tuarasgbhail ar bith fhághail uabhtha, “they
could get no tidings of them” (Monaghan). Táthar,
bíthear, bhíthí, béidhthear, &c., ag cur na bpréataidhe are
common in Co. Donegal. There is a very curious
dialecticism in the form used for the past tense in Co.
Donegal, in two verbs at any rate, ex. Bhíthear ag cur
na bpréataidhe, “they were setting the potatoes.” not
bhitheas, &c. Fuadhthar (or chuadhthar) i mbannaidhe
air le theacht amach, “he was bailed out,” not chuadh-
thas, &c.; it is hard to understand how this -r came to be
used instead of the literary -s. It is very easy to find
examples in the Scottish dialect, as they have been and
are constantly written in Scotland.
The only example I know of, as yet, from Connacht is
the following from a Mayo folk-tale — I give the quota-
tion from memory: Tá an fear agus an bhean anois ag cur
aithne ar a chéile agus faoi cheann tamaill béidhthear
dh'a bpósadh; but i have no doubt all the different forms
exist in that province also.
All the grammars are silent as regards the existence of
such forms in intransitive verbs, simply because their
authors did not fully understand the Irish passive voice.
This is really, in modern Irish usage at least, an active
impersonal form, thus buailtear é = people (unknown)
strike him, and hence = he is struck. This is how Father
P. O'Leary and many other native speakers understand
this grammatical form. — Ed.
FOCLÓIR STAIRIÚIL NA NUA-GHAEILGE (FNG) / THE HISTORICAL DICTIONARY OF MODERN IRISH
ACADAMH RÍOGA NA HÉIREANN (ARÉ) / THE ROYAL IRISH ACADEMY (RIA)
Is cuid de Chartlann FNG de théacsanna Nua-Ghaeilge an ríomhthéacs seo. www.fng.ie
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