NÓTA FAOI AINMFHOCAIL / A NOTE ABOUT NOUNS
Ó Chumann Carad na Gaeilge / From The Philo-Celtic Society
you'll find some important definitions which relate to nouns. Remember -
elegant, sophisticated languages (like Irish!) use nouns in the following ways:
Using the Noun in the Nominative Situation or 'Case'
where you want to use the noun (let's say Tomás) as the subject of the sentence,
you just say "Tomás." The noun doesn't change at all. We call this kind of
case or situation the "nominative case." You already know how to do that - you
do it all the time in English.
Using the Noun in the Accusative Situation or 'Case'
where Tomás is the object of the verb (like "The girl kissed Tomás"), we again
just say "Tomás." The noun doesn't change at all. We call this kind of case or
situation the "accusative case" and the noun's form is the same as the
"nominative case." You already know how to do both of these. You do both of
these all the time in English.
Using the Noun in the Vocative Situation Or 'Case'
where you want to address somebody (let's say Tomás), you say "O Tomás" (which
in Irish is A Thomáis, but don't memorize it - you'll have plenty of time to
memorize this kind of information over the next 3 years). Because you're
voicing the person's name as you address him/her, this kind of case or situation
is called the "vocative case" (from 'vocative' or 'voice'). Notice that we
changed the noun a little bit to make clear that we're addressing Tomás. Easy
to do. You'll learn that over the next 3 years.
Using the Noun in the Dative Situation or 'Case'
prepositions? Those are words which describe position in time or space - words
like over, under, around, through, before, after, etc. In cases where the noun
is used with a preposition (like "with Tomás" / "near Tomás" / "on Tomás",
etc.), this kind of case or situation is called the "dative case." I think of it
this way - the noun is dating the preposition in the sentence. They have a
relationship in time or space, but they are not united in Holy Matrimony!!!!
Just dating in the Dative.
Using the Noun in the Genitive Situation or 'Case'
where you want to say "of Tomás" or "of anything else" in Irish, you don't have
to use a separate word for 'of.' Instead, Irish let's you change your noun
slightly to include the word or concept of 'of'' within it. So, if I wanted to
say "house of Tomás", I would say "teach Thomáis." The 'of'' concept or word is
inside the word Tomás. It's represented by the little 'i' we just inserted.
This case or situation, when I'm saying 'of something' or 'of someone' in Irish,
is called the "genitive case." "Genitive" is just a fancy way to say "of
something." I think of it this way - the 'of'' is way down deep in the genes,
right inside the word, not dating with another word in time or space, so it's
genitive! There are a handful of ways to change nouns in order to demonstrate
that you're using them in a "genitive" situation or case. You'll learn those
over the next 3 years.
But here's an example right now. If you have a Gaelic Irish last name in your ancestry, then you're already used to using the genitive. Irish surnames are miniature genealogies. Take the name of our friend and member Séamas Ó Neachtain. This means Séamas Grandson of Neachtan. It's good Irish Gaelic, and like all Irish Gaelic names, it actually means something! Séamas' ancestor Neachtan lived back in the 10th century or so. Ó means grandson, in the nominative. You could use it as the subject of a sentence. It does not mean 'grandson of'.' The 'of' is the little i stuck into Neachtain. Neachtain is in the genitive - the 'of' is right down inside, deep in the genes.
Nouns in elegant, sophisticated languages (like Irish!) don't just sit there like dumb lumps. They clearly indicate how they're being used, situation by situation, case by case. You'll easily learn how to properly use nouns in these different situations or 'cases'. It's not hard. Millions upon millions of Irish have done it before you. And you'll get plenty of help in learning this from the rest of us.