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Old Irish Online

Lesson 2

Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel, Caren Esser, and Jonathan Slocum

The text passages of this and the following two lessons are taken from the story entitled Táin Bó Regamna "The Cattle Raid of the Important Calf," which, like the text in Lesson 1, forms part of the Ulster Cycle. The story belongs to the Irish literary genre of Tána Bó, meaning "cattle raids," and is a prelude to its most prominent representative, the Táin Bó Cuailnge (TBC) "The Cattle Raid of Cooley," which can be dated to the 8th-11th century AD and relates how the Ulster hero Cú Chulainn wins back the Brown Bull after it had been stolen by Medb, queen of the neighbouring province of Connacht. The practice of raiding cattle was common among Indo-European tribes and represents an archaic feature which must be considered historical, as similar events are also known from ancient Greece. A successful cattle raid was an assertion of the integrity of the tribal community and consequently was of major social importance, though it ceased to be practised in the wake of Christianity with Irish Catholic church law prohibiting such raids.

Táin Bó Regamna is one of the various and sometimes later composed remscéla leading up to the TBC: while being a small Táin Bó of its own right, it also serves as a pretext to anticipate certain events within TBC. It tells of the encounter between the Ulster hero Cú Chulainn and the war-godess Morrígan "Great Queen". The theme of confrontation between a hero and a supernatural being is actually a literary genre in itself, and is characterized by several typical features that are also found in our text: the name of the supernatural being is not explicitly mentioned until the end of the story, but is encoded in a riddle for his/her real name; the description of the supernatural being contains unambiguous hints as to his/her identity; the hero is defeated in one way or the other by the supernatural being; the hero is being foretold disaster.

Táin Bó Regamna has come down to us in two manuscripts, one from the fourteenth century AD, contained in the Yellow Book of Lecan (Y), and the other from the sixteenth century AD (Egerton 1782 (E)), which, albeit younger, contains fewer modernisations and additions. The language of the archetype seems to go back to the ninth century, thus belonging to the Early Middle Irish period and therefore somewhat younger than Compert Con Chulainn, the text of Lesson 1, yet the version used in the present lesson is that prepared and adapted to the Old Irish standard language in J. Corthals' edition of the text.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The following selection relates the events leading up to the encounter between Cú Chulainn and the Morrígan. The hero is woken up by the roaring of cattle. Outside his house he is met by his charioteer Lóeg, and the two follow the sound till they meet up with a highly unusual entourage, consisting of a red-haired woman clad in red, whose chariot is drawn by only one red horse in contrast to the customary two horses -- which moreover has only one leg -- accompanied by a big man who is driving a cow. The symbology points to the identity of the woman as the war-goddess Morrígan, yet her name is not mentioned. Cú Chulainn enters into a dispute with her over the cow.

AN mboí Cú Chulainn iN nDún Iṁriḋ coNgúalae ní, aN ngéim.

  • aN -- conjunction; <aN> as, when -- when
  • mboí -- verb; nasalized 3rd person singular preterite indicative of substantive verb <attá> is -- was
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn
  • iN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- in
  • nDún Iṁriḋ -- toponym; nasalized dative singular of <Dún Imrid> Fort Imrid -- Dun Imrid
  • coNgúalae -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative active, deuterotonic, of <ro°cluinethar> hears -- he heard
  • -- indefinite pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <> something, anything -- something
  • aN -- article; accusative singular neuter of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ngéim -- verbal noun; nasalized accusative singular neuter, n-stem, of <géim> roaring (of cattle) -- a roaring of... cattle

CoN ndíuchrastar trianaL chotluḋ coniḋ corastar assaL imḋai coN riacht inN nariḋin inaL ṡuiḋiu for lár.

  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle; <con, coN> until; so that; and -- and
  • ndíuchrastar -- verb; nasalized 3rd person singular preterite indicative, prototonic, of <do°fíuch(t)ra> wakes up -- he woke up
  • trianaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <triL, treL> through + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- from his
  • chotluḋ -- noun; lenited dative singular masculine, u-stem, of <cotlud> sleeping, sleep -- sleep
  • coniḋ -- conjunction; compound form of conjunction <con, coN> until; so that; and + infixed pronoun 3rd person singular masculine <idL> he -- and... himself
  • corastar -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative active, prototonic, of <fo°ceird> sets, puts; throws -- he threw
  • assaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <essH, asH, aH> out of, from + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- out of his
  • imḋai -- noun; dative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <imdae> bed, couch -- bed
  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle; <con, coN> until; so that; and -- so that
  • riacht -- verb; 3rd person singular perfect indicative active, prototonic, of <ro°saig> reaches -- he reached
  • inN -- article; accusative singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • nariḋin -- noun; nasalized accusative singular masculine, n-stem, of <aride, airide> bench -- bench
  • inaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- that was
  • ṡuiḋiu -- verbal noun; lenited dative singular neuter, o-stem, of <sude, suide> sitting -- sitting
  • for -- preposition; <for> on, over -- on
  • lár -- noun; dative singular neuter, o-stem, of <lár> floor, surface; middle -- the floor

ÍarN sin immach doL ṡuiḋiu arL les.

  • íarN -- preposition; <íarN, íarmL-> after -- after
  • sin -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; <sin> this, that, those, the aforementioned -- that
  • immach -- adverb; <immach> out of, out -- outside
  • doL -- preposition; <duL, doL> to -- with
  • ṡuiḋiu -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; lenited dative singular masculine of <sude, suide> this one, the aforementioned -- him
  • arL -- preposition; <arL, airL> before, for, in front of, east of -- into
  • les -- noun; accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <les> yard -- the yard

CoN mbu íL, aL ḃen, berthae aL étach ocus aL armm inaL ḋiaiḋ.

  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle; <con, coN> until; so that; and -- and
  • mbu -- verb; nasalized 3rd person singular preterite indicative, conjunct, of copula <is> is -- it was
  • íL -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular feminine of <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- she
  • aL -- possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- his
  • ḃen -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- wife
  • berthae -- verb; 3rd person singular preterite indicative active, absolute, relative of <berid> carries, brings -- who brought
  • aL -- possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- his
  • étach -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <étach> clothing, garment -- clothing
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • aL -- possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- his
  • armm -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <arm, armm> armour, weapon -- armour
  • inaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- on his
  • ḋiaiḋ -- noun; lenited dative singular neuter, o-stem, of <dead, diad> end -- trail

CoN naccae ní, Lóeg araL chinn inaL charput inneltiu oc Fertai Loíg antúaiḋ.

  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle; <con, coN> until; so that; and -- and
  • naccae -- verb; nasalized 3rd person singular preterite indicative active, prototonic, of <ad°cí, at°chí> sees -- he saw
  • -- indefinite pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <> something, anything -- something
  • Lóeg -- proper name masculine; accusative singular of <Lóeg> Laeg -- Laeg
  • araL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <arL, airL> before, for, in front of, east of + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- in... of him
  • chinn -- noun; lenited dative singular neuter, o-stem, of <cenn> head, front; end -- front
  • inaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- in his
  • charput -- noun; lenited dative singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- war-chariot
  • inneltiu -- adjective; dative singular masculine of preterite indicative passive participle <inneltae> yoked, harnessed -- harnessed
  • oc -- preposition; <oc> at, with, by -- at
  • Fertai Loíg -- toponym; dative singular feminine of <Fertae Loíg> Laeg's tumulus -- Ferta Laeg
  • antúaiḋ -- adverb; <antúaid> from the north -- from the north

"CiḋL dotLucai?" ol Cú Chulainn friH Lóeg.

  • ciḋL -- stressed interrogative pronoun; neuter; <cidL, cedL> what; why -- what
  • dotLucai -- verb; 3rd person singular perfect indicative active, deuterotonic, of <do°beir> brings + infixed pronoun 2nd person singular <totL, tatL, tL> you -- brings you
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn
  • friH -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- to
  • Lóeg -- proper name masculine; accusative singular of <Lóeg> Laeg -- Laeg

"Géiṁ roLchúala issinL ṁaiġ," ol Lóeg.

  • géiṁ -- verbal noun; accusative singular neuter, n-stem, of <géim> roaring (of cattle) -- the roaring of cattle
  • roLchúala -- verb; 1st person singular perfect indicative active, deuterotonic, syntactically relative, of <ro°cluinethar> hears -- that I heard
  • issinL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + dative singular neuter of article <in, aN, indL> the -- in the
  • ṁaiġ -- noun; dative singular neuter, s-stem, of <mag> plain, field -- plain
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Lóeg -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Lóeg> Laeg -- Laeg

"CiḋL leth?" ol Cú Chulainn.

  • ciḋL -- stressed interrogative pronoun; neuter; <cidL, cedL> what; why -- which
  • leth -- noun; nominative singular neuter, s-stem, of <leth> side, direction -- direction
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn

"Aníarthúaiḋ amne," ol Lóeg.

  • aníarthúaiḋ -- adverb; <aníarthúaid> from the north-west, in the north-west -- from the north-west
  • amne -- emphatic particle; <amae, amin, amne> thus, in that way, so, then -- in fact
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Lóeg -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Lóeg> Laeg -- Laeg

"InaN ndiaiḋ," ol Cú Chulainn.

  • inaN -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person plural <aN> their -- on their
  • ndiaiḋ -- noun; nasalized accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <dead, diad> end -- trail
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn

Tíaġait ass íaruṁ coH hÁth da Ḟerta.

  • tíaġait -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative, absolute, of <téit> goes -- they set
  • ass -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <essH, asH, aH> out of, from -- out
  • íaruṁ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <íarN, íarmL-> after -- after this
  • coH -- preposition; <coH> to, until -- to
  • hÁth da Ḟerta -- toponym; aspirated accusative singular of <Áth da Ḟerta> Ford of the Two Mounds -- Ath da Ferta

InN dan mbátar ann, íaruṁ coNgúalatar culgaire inL charpait iN doíḃ Grellchae Culgairi.

  • inN -- article; accusative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- at the
  • dan -- noun; nasalized accusative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <tan, tain> time -- time
  • mbátar -- verb; nasalized 3rd person plural preterite indicative, syntactically relative, of substantive verb <attá> is -- they were
  • ann -- adverb; <ann> there -- there
  • íaruṁ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular neuter dative of <íarN, íarmL-> after -- afterwards
  • coNgúalatar -- verb; 3rd person plural preterite indicative active, deuterotonic, of <ro°cluinethar> hears -- they heard
  • culgaire -- noun; accusative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <culgaire> noise, rumble of a chariot -- the rumble
  • inL -- article; genitive singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- of the
  • charpait -- noun; lenited genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- chariot
  • iN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- on
  • doíḃ -- noun; nasalized dative singular masculine, o-stem, of <tóeb> side -- the side
  • Grellchae Culgairi -- toponym; genitive singular of <Grellach Culgairi> Bog of the Chariot-rumble -- of Grellach Culgairi

Tíaġait fóe coN naccatar ní, inN garpat reiṁiḃ.

  • tíaġait -- verb; 3rd person plural present indicative, absolute, of <téit> goes -- they go
  • fóe -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <foL> under -- down to it
  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle; <con, coN> until; so that; and -- and
  • naccatar -- verb; nasalized 3rd person plural preterite indicative active, prototonic, of <ad°cí, at°chí> sees -- they see
  • -- indefinite pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <> something, anything -- something
  • inN -- article; accusative singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • garpat -- noun; nasalized accusative singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- chariot
  • reiṁiḃ -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person plural dative of <reN> before -- before them

Óenech derg foa ocus óenchoss foL ṡuiḋiu ocus síthḃe inL charpait sethnu indL eich coN ndechuiḋ geinn trít friH fosaḋ aL étain anair.

  • óenech -- noun; compound of <óen-> one, single + nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <ech> horse -- a single... horse
  • derg -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <derg> red -- red
  • foa -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine dative of <foL> under -- under it
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • óenchoss -- noun; compound of <óen-> one, single + nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <coss, cos> foot, leg -- a single leg
  • foL -- preposition; <foL> under -- under
  • ṡuiḋiu -- anaphoric demonstrative pronoun; lenited dative singular masculine of <sude, suide> this one, the aforementioned -- the just-mentioned
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • síthḃe -- noun; nominative singular neuter, yo-stem, of <síthbe> pole, shaft -- the shaft
  • inL -- article; genitive singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- of the
  • charpait -- noun; lenited genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- chariot
  • sethnu -- preposition; <sethnu, sethno> through, across -- through
  • indL -- article; genitive singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • eich -- noun; genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <ech> horse -- horse
  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle; <con, coN> until; so that; and -- so that
  • ndechuiḋ -- verb; nasalized 3rd person singular perfect indicative, prototonic, of <téit> goes -- went
  • geinn -- noun; nominative singular feminine, dental stem, of <genn, geinn> wedge, block -- a wedge
  • trít -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <triL, treL> through -- through it
  • friH -- preposition; <frithL, friH> against, towards -- till
  • fosaḋ -- noun; accusative singular masculine/neuter, o-stem, of <fossad, fosad> plain surface -- the surface
  • aL -- possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- of its
  • étain -- noun; genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <étan, édan> front, brow, forehead -- forehead
  • anair -- adverb; <anair> from the front, before -- from the front

Ben derg issinL charput ocus bratt derg impe ocus diL ḃraí ḋerġa lé ocus aH bratt eter diL ḟeirt inL charpait síar coN sliġeḋ lár inaH diaiḋ ocus fer mór iN goṁair inL charpait.

  • ben -- noun; nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- a... woman
  • derg -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <derg> red -- red
  • issinL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + dative singular masculine of article <in, aN, indL> the -- in the
  • charput -- noun; lenited dative singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- chariot
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • bratt -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <bratt> cloak, mantle -- a... cloak
  • derg -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <derg> red -- red
  • impe -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular feminine accusative of <imbL, immL> around, about; mutually -- around her
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • diL -- numeral; nominative dual feminine of <L, díL, dáN> two -- two
  • ḃraí -- noun; lenited nominative dual feminine, u-stem, of <brú, brá> eyebrow, brow -- eyebrows
  • ḋerġa -- adjective; lenited nominative dual feminine of <derg> red -- red
  • -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular feminine accusative of <laH> among, by, with -- on her
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • aH -- possessive pronoun; 3rd person singular feminine <aH> her -- her
  • bratt -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <bratt> cloak, mantle -- cloak
  • eter -- preposition; <eter> between, among -- between
  • diL -- numeral; accusative dual feminine of <L, díL, dáN> two -- the two
  • ḟeirt -- noun; lenited accusative dual feminine, ā-stem, of <fert> shaft, pole -- hind-poles
  • inL -- article; genitive singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- of the
  • charpait -- noun; lenited genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- of the chariot
  • síar -- adverb; <síar> backwards, back -- to the back
  • coN -- conjunction; used as verbal particle; <con, coN> until; so that; and -- so that
  • sliġeḋ -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative active, conjunct, of <sligid> strikes, slays; clears -- it dragged
  • lár -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <lár> floor, surface; middle -- on the ground
  • inaH -- preposition; compound form of preposition <in, iN> in, into + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular feminine <aH> her -- on her
  • diaiḋ -- noun; accusative singular neuter, o-stem, of <dead, diad> end -- trail
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • fer -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <fer> man -- a.. man
  • mór -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <már, mór> big, great -- big
  • iN -- preposition; <in, iN> in, into -- in
  • goṁair -- adverb; nasalized; <comair> in front of -- front of
  • inL -- article; genitive singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • charpait -- noun; lenited genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <carpat> war-chariot, wagon -- chariot

Fúan forbbtha immi ocus gaḃallorg finnchuill friaL aiss oc immáin naH bó.

  • fúan -- noun; nominative singular neuter, o-stem, of <fúan> tunic -- a tunic
  • forbbtha -- noun; genitive singular feminine, i-stem, of <forbbaid> covering; shroud -- as a covering
  • immi -- pronominalized preposition; 3rd person singular masculine accusative of <imbL, immL> around, about; mutually -- on him
  • ocus -- conjunction; <ocus> and -- and
  • gaḃallorg -- noun; compound of <gabul, gabal> fork + nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <lorg> stick, shaft -- forked pole
  • finnchuill -- noun; compound of <find, finn> white, bright + lenited genitive singular masculine, o-stem, of <coll> hazel-tree -- of white hazel
  • friaL -- preposition; compound form of preposition <frithL, friH> against, towards + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular masculine <aL> his, its -- on his
  • aiss -- noun; accusative singular feminine of <aiss, ais> back, hinder part -- back
  • oc -- preposition; <oc> at, with, by -- ...
  • immáin -- verbal noun; dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <immáin> driving; roaming, wandering about -- he was driving
  • naH -- article; genitive singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • -- noun; genitive singular feminine, irregular, of <> cow, ox -- cow

"Ní fóeliḋ inL ḃó liḃ ocaH himmáin," ol Cú Chulainn.

  • -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • fóeliḋ -- adjective; nominative singular feminine of <fóelid> happy -- happy
  • inL -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ḃó -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine irregular of <> cow, ox -- cow
  • liḃ -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person plural accusative of <laH> among, by, with -- with ye
  • ocaH -- preposition; compound form of preposition <oc> at, with, by + suffixed possessive pronoun 3rd person singular feminine <aH> her -- at her
  • himmáin -- verbal noun; aspirated dative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <immáin> driving; roaming, wandering about -- driving
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn

"Ní dír duit éim aH hetercert naH bó so," ol inL ḃen.

  • -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- not
  • dír -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <dír> proper, fit, necessary -- fitting
  • duit -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular dative of <duL, doL> to -- for you
  • éim -- emphatic particle; <ém, éim> truly, indeed, then -- indeed
  • aH -- possessive pronoun; 3rd person singular feminine <aH> her -- ...
  • hetercert -- noun; aspirated nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <etercert> interpretation, discussion, judgement, decision -- the judging
  • naH -- article; genitive singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- of
  • -- noun; genitive singular feminine, irregular, of <> cow, ox -- cow
  • so -- demonstrative pronoun; <so> this, these -- this
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • inL -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ḃen -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman

"Ní bó charat na choicéli duit."

  • -- independent negative particle; <ní, ni> not -- it is not
  • -- noun; nominative singular feminine, irregular, of <> cow, ox -- the cow
  • charat -- noun; lenited genitive singular masculine, nt-stem, of <carae> friend -- of a friend
  • na -- dependent negative particle; <ná, na> not, nor -- nor
  • choicéli -- noun; lenited genitive singular masculine, yo-stem, of <coicéle, coicéile> companion, friend; friendship -- of a companion
  • duit -- pronominalized preposition; 2nd person singular dative of <duL, doL> to -- to you

"Is dír daṁsa éim baí UlaḋN nuile," ol Cú Chulainn.

  • is -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative, absolute, of copula <is> is -- it is
  • dír -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <dír> proper, fit, necessary -- fitting
  • daṁsa -- pronominalized preposition; compound form of 1st person singular dative of <duL, doL> to + emphasizing particle 1st person singular <se, sa> I -- for me
  • éim -- emphatic particle; <ém, éim> truly, indeed, then -- indeed
  • baí -- noun; nominative plural feminine, irregular, of <> cow, ox -- the cows
  • UlaḋN -- noun; genitive plural masculine, o-stem, of <Ulaid> Ulidians, Ulstermen -- of the Ulstermen
  • nuile -- adjective; nasalized genitive plural masculine of <uile> all, whole -- of all
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn

"Etercertaisu anba, aL Chú," ol inL ḃen.

  • etercertaisu -- verb; compound form of 2nd person singular present indicative active, deuterotonic, of <eter°certa> interprets; decides, determines + emphasizing particle 2nd person singular <siu, so, su> you -- you judge
  • anba -- noun; accusative singular feminine, yā-stem, of <anba> vast quantity -- a vast quantity
  • aL -- particle; introduces vocative; <aL> o -- o
  • Chú -- proper name masculine; lenited vocative singular of <> Hound -- Cu
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • inL -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ḃen -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman

"CiḋL arndiḋ íL, inL ḃen, atomLġláḋathar?" ol Cú Chulainn.

  • ciḋL -- stressed interrogative pronoun; neuter; <cidL, cedL> what; why -- why is it
  • arndiḋ -- preposition; compound form of preposition <arL, airL> before, for, in front of, east of + relative particle <-aN, -saN> that which, what + 3rd person singular present indicative, conjunct, of copula, <-did> is -- that it is
  • íL -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular feminine of <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- her
  • inL -- article; nominative singular feminine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • ḃen -- noun; lenited nominative singular feminine, ā-stem, of <ben> woman, wife -- woman
  • atomLġláḋathar -- verb; compound form of 3rd person singular present indicative, deuterotonic, syntactically relative of <ad°gládathar> addresses, speaks to + infixed pronoun 1st person singular <domL, dumL> I -- who speaks to me
  • ol -- indeclinable; <ol> says, said -- said
  • Cú Chulainn -- proper name masculine; nominative singular of <Cú Chulainn> Hound of Culann -- Cu Chulainn

"CiḋL nach é in fer atomLġláḋathar?"

  • ciḋL -- stressed interrogative pronoun; neuter; <cidL, cedL> what; why -- why
  • nach -- negative particle; compound form of negative <nad> not + 3rd person singular present indicative, conjunct, of copula <is> is -- is it not
  • é -- personal pronoun; 3rd person singular masculine of <(h)é, síL, (h)ed> he, she, it -- him
  • in -- article; nominative singular masculine of <in, aN, indL> the -- the
  • fer -- noun; nominative singular masculine, o-stem, of <fer> man -- man
  • atomLġláḋathar -- verb; compound form of 3rd person singular present indicative, deuterotonic, syntactically relative of <ad°gládathar> addresses, speaks to + infixed pronoun 1st person singular <domL, dumL> I -- who speaks to me

Lesson Text

AN mboí Cú Chulainn iN nDún Iṁriḋ coNgúalae ní, aN ngéim. CoN ndíuchrastar trianaL chotluḋ coniḋ corastar assaL imḋai coN riacht inN nariḋin inaL ṡuiḋiu for lár. ÍarN sin immach doL ṡuiḋiu arL les. CoN mbu íL, aL ḃen, berthae aL étach ocus aL armm inaL ḋiaiḋ. CoN naccae ní, Lóeg araL chinn inaL charput inneltiu oc Fertai Loíg antúaiḋ.

"CiḋL dotLucai?" ol Cú Chulainn friH Lóeg.

"Géiṁ roLchúala issinL ṁaiġ," ol Lóeg.

"CiḋL leth?" ol Cú Chulainn.

"Aníarthúaiḋ amne," ol Lóeg.

"InaN ndiaiḋ," ol Cú Chulainn.

Tíaġait ass íaruṁ coH hÁth da Ḟerta. InN dan mbátar ann, íaruṁ coNgúalatar culgaire inL charpait iN doíḃ Grellchae Culgairi. Tíaġait fóe coN naccatar ní, inN garpat reiṁiḃ. Óenech derg foa ocus óenchoss foL ṡuiḋiu ocus síthḃe inL charpait sethnu indL eich coN ndechuiḋ geinn trít friH fosaḋ aL étain anair. Ben derg issinL charput ocus bratt derg impe ocus diL ḃraí ḋerġa lé ocus aH bratt eter diL ḟeirt inL charpait síar coN sliġeḋ lár inaH diaiḋ ocus fer mór iN goṁair inL charpait. Fúan forbbtha immi ocus gaḃallorg finnchuill friaL aiss oc immáin naH bó.

"Ní fóeliḋ inL ḃó liḃ ocaH himmáin," ol Cú Chulainn.

"Ní dír duit éim aH hetercert naH bó so," ol inL ḃen. "Ní bó charat na choicéli duit."

"Is dír daṁsa éim baí UlaḋN nuile," ol Cú Chulainn.

"Etercertaisu anba, aL Chú," ol inL ḃen.

"CiḋL arndiḋ íL, inL ḃen, atomLġláḋathar?" ol Cú Chulainn. "CiḋL nach é in fer atomLġláḋathar?"

Translation

When Cu Chulainn was in Dun Imrid, he heard something, a roaring of the cattle. And he woke up from his sleep and he threw himself out of his bed so that he reached the bench that was sitting on the floor. After that, outside with him, into the yard. And it was she, his wife, who brought his clothing and his armour on his trail. And he saw something, Laeg, in front of him, in his harnessed war-chariot, at Ferta Laeg, from the north.
"What brings you (here)?" said Cu Chulainn to Laeg.
"A roaring of cattle that I heard in the plain," said Laeg.
"Which direction?" said Cu Chulainn.
"From the north-west, in fact," said Laeg.
"(Let's go) on their trail!" said Cu Chulainn.
After this, they set out to Ath da Ferta. Afterwards, at the time they were there, they heard the rumble of the chariot on the side of Grellach Culgairi. They go down to it and see something, the chariot before them. A single red horse under it, and a single leg under the just-mentioned, and the shaft of the chariot through the horse, so that a wedge went through it till the surface of its forehead from the front. A red woman (was) in the chariot, and a red cloak around her, and two red eyebrows on her, and her cloak to the back between the two hind-poles of the chariot so that it dragged on the ground on her trail, and a big man (was) in front of the chariot. (There was) a tunic as a covering on him, and a forked pole of white hazel on his back; he was driving the cow.
"The cow (is) not happy with ye at her driving," said Cu Chulainn.
"The judging of this cow is indeed not fitting for you," said the woman. "(It is) not the cow of a friend nor of a companion to you."
"It is fitting for me indeed (to judge) the cows of all of the Ulstermen," said Cu Chulainn.
"You judge a great quantity, o Cu," said the woman.
"Why is it that it is her, the woman, who speaks to me?" said Cu Chulainn. "Why is it not him, the man, who speaks to me?"

Grammar

6. Initial Mutations

In Old Irish, a morphophonological phenomenon exists which causes phonological alterations to the initial sounds of words in certain syntactical constructions. Originally of purely phonological character, these changes were caused by the old endings of the preceding forms/words; even though the original endings had already been lost by the Old Irish period, their effects remained, causing the initial sound of a following word or words to be lenited, nasalized or aspirated. However, for a word to suffer initial mutation, the word causing this does not necessarily have to immediately precede it, or can even be completely absent, as is the case with the leniting and nasalizing relative clauses (cf. lesson 4, section 16).

6.1. Lenition

Historically speaking, initial lenition was caused by the final vowel of a syntactically closely connected preceding word. In such a context, the following forms and words cause lenition of a following initial consonant:

A. Declensional forms:

  • dative singular of all genders and stems;
  • nominative and vocative singular of all feminines;
  • genitive, vocative singular and nominative plural of masculine o- and yo- stems;
  • genitive singular of neuter o- and yo- stems;
  • nominative, vocative and accusative plural of all neuters (inconsistently after those ending in -a);
  • nominative, accusative and genitive dual of masculines and feminines;
  • nominative and vocative singular of 'hound';
  • the neuters alaill and ced cid 'which?';
  • the possessive pronouns mo m- 'my', do t- 'thy', a 'his, its';
  • the infixed personal pronouns, 1st and 2nd person singular -m and -t, and 3rd person singular neuter -a -(i)d.

B. Verbal forms:

Originally, initial lenition only occurred after the following forms of the copula:

  • absolute relative forms in leniting relative clauses;
  • all forms of the imperative;
  • the 3rd person singular past subjunctive bad, bed;
  • monosyllabic conjunct forms (except 3rd person singular -did -dib -dip and forms that have become monosyllabic by shortening);
  • the forms masu 'if it is', cesu 'though it is', and their plurals matu, cetu ceto.

In later sources the application of lenition spreads and any verb can lenite a following object, subject or attributive, though this is not a general rule.

C. Uninflected words:

  • the prepositions amal, ar, cen, di, do, fiad, fo, im, ó úa and tre tri lenite the initial consonant of the word they govern;
  • the verbal particle ro ru when unstressed after a conjunct particle;
  • the conjunctions acus ocus 'and', no/nó nu/nú 'or', fa/fá ba/bá 'or', ma/má 'if', cía ce 'although', co 'so that', ó 'since', ama(i)l 'as', except in nasalizing relative clauses;
  • the negatives nicon/nícon, na(d)con;
  • the vocative particle a/á;
  • the emphasizing particle su, so after personal pronouns;
  • the numeral cóic 'five' in all cases except the genitive plural.

Also, the second element of a compound (cf. lesson 9, section 43) is lenited:

  • when the first element is a noun, adjective (including uninflected adjectives prefixed to a noun), or numeral;
  • after the inseparable prefixes so- su- 'good', do- du- 'bad', mí- 'ill-, mis-, wrong' and the negative neb- neph-;
  • after the prepositions aith ath 're-, ex-', air er ir 'before, for', dí de 'of, from', do, du 'to', fo 'under', imb im(m) 'about, mutually', ind 'in, into', ó 'from, by', rem 'before', ro, ta(i)rm 'across, over', to 'to, towards', in nominal and in close verbal compounds.

Initial lenition affects consonants only, and has basically the same effect as word-internal lenition (cf. lesson 1, section 1), causing spirantization of g, d, b, c, t, p and m to ġ, ḋ, ḃ, ch, th, f and respectively, and causing more lax articulation of n r l, which, however, is not indicated orthographically. It furthermore affects f, which becomes silent, while s turns into either /h/ or f, depending on its origin (e.g. suidiu 'sitting', lenited ṡuidiu -- as in the second sentence, inaL ṡuiḋiu; but siur 'sister', lenited fiur, from *sw- (cf. Goth. swistar)).

There are general exceptions to initial lenition: where the Old Irish final sound and the following initial consonant are homorganic, initial lenition does not occur and the two sounds form an unlenited geminate instead; initial t and d are never lenited after final n, l, s, th, d; the initial consonants of adjectival cach cech 'every', of the emphasizing particles sa, se, su, som etc. (cf. lesson 3, section 15.1), and of the demonstrative particles so, sin are never lenited (though the demonstrative particles are lenited when used as substantives after prepositions and in sunda 'here').

Just like lesson 1, the text of this lesson provides many examples of initial lenition, such as trianaL chotluḋ 'from his sleep' or the abovementioned inaL ṡuiḋiu, lit. 'in his sitting', both lenited by the possessive pronoun, 3rd person singular masculine aL. In the phrase inL charpait the genitive singular of the article lenites the following genitive noun (carpait), while Ní bó charat na choicéli represents an instance of a following genitive (carat, coicéli) being lenited for syntactic reasons. In diL ḃraí 'two eyebrows' lenition is caused by the numeral 'two', and in aL Chú we find lenition of the personal name due to the preceding vocative particle aL.

6.2. Nasalization

This phenomenon is generally caused by the following words and inflectional forms, originally ending in -n (representing both old final -n and -m):

Declensional forms:

  • the accusative singular and genitive plural of all genders;
  • the nominative singular of all neuters;
  • the nominative, vocative, accusative and genitive dual of all neuters;
  • the dative, all genders, of the numeral "two";
  • the infixed personal pronouns 3rd person singular masculine a, d; also, optionally, the 3rd person singular feminine and 3rd person plural s;
  • the plural possessive pronouns ar 'our', far 'your', a 'their'.

Verbal forms:

  • the absolute relative forms of the copula in nasalizing relative clauses
  • (cf. lesson 4, section 16).

Uninflected words:

  • the numerals secht, ocht, noí, deich;
  • the uninflected numerals cóic and nasalize the initial sound of a following genitive plural;
  • the relative particle (s)a, and i 'in which';
  • the conjunctions a 'while', ara, dia;
  • the conjunct particle co (but without nasalization when it is spelled con);
  • the interrogative particle in.
  • The prepositions co 'with', i 'in', íar 'after' and re ri ría 'before' nasalize the initial sound of a dependent case.
  • The originally nominal prepositions dochum 'towards', in-degaid 'after' and tar-ési 'instead of' nasalize the initial sound of stressed syllables only.

In certain relative clauses the initial sound of the verb is nasalized (cf. lesson 4, section 16).

Nasalization affects both vowels and consonants. It causes prefixing of n to an initial vowel, and of the homorganic nasal to the mediae g, d, b; the tenues c, t, p are turned into mediae, and f into its voiced counterpart v. Initial r, l, m, n and s are geminated when preceded by a proclitic vowel (see below). In writing, nasalization is clearly indicated only in the case of vowels and mediae; orthographic instances of nasalized c, t, p, f are rare.

There are many instances of nasalization in the lesson text. The first sentence alone presents us with four examples: AN mboí Cú Chulainn, where the conjunction aN nasalizes the initial sound of the following copula; iN nDún Iṁriḋ, with nasalization of the toponym caused by the preposition iN; coNgúalae, again with nasalization of the finite verb (°cúalae) caused by a conjunction (coN) used as a verbal particle; and finally aN ngéim, where the nasalization of the direct object is due to the preceding article (accusative singular neuter). In the phrase InaN ndiaiḋ, for example, we find the nasalizing 3rd person plural of the possessive pronoun a, causing mutation of the following adverb.

6.3. Spirant Mutation

This phenomenon is generally caused by the original final -s of a syntactically related preceding word, which may belong to any of the following categories:

Declensional forms:

  • the genitive singular of all feminines;
  • the accusative plural of all genders;
  • the nominative plural feminine and neuter of the article (also the same case-forms of some other words);
  • the nominative accusative singular neuter of na 'any';
  • the feminine possessive pronoun a 'her';
  • the infixed personal pronouns 3rd person singular feminine and 3rd person plural da, ta, a.
  • The nominative singular ua 'grandson' (a later medieval form of áue) causes prefixation of h- to an initial vowel in the later language.

Verbal forms:

  • the preterital and modal 3rd person singular of the copula ba (except in relative clauses);
  • the negative of the copula ni ní 'is not'.

Uninflected words:

  • the prepositions a 'out of', co, cu 'to', fri 'against' and la 'with, among', before a dependent case;
  • the particle assa between comparatives;
  • the negative na 'nor';
  • the numeral 'six', except in the genitive plural;
  • the particle a before abstract numerals.
  • In pretonic position, all prepositions ending in a vowel, as well as the particles ro, no, the interrogatives cía ce and co, and the negatives ni ní, na, when no infixed pronoun is attached to them, geminate the initial consonant of a following verb or verbal compound (except in relative clauses).

Spirant mutation, also known as gemination, causes the doubling of an initial consonant as a consequence of the progressive assimilation of the old final sound of the preceding word. It also affects initial stressed vowels, causing prefixation of h-. Already in decline in the Old Irish period, gemination is only indicated in writing where the two words are written together, as scribes never double the initial consonant of a separate word. Unlike the other two types of mutation, which have become morphophonological phenomena, gemination has never developed beyond a phonetic phenomenon.

Instances of gemination are found in the present lesson, for example in coH hÁth da Ḟerta where the preposition coH causes mutation of the following toponym, or in ocaH himmáin where the aspiration of the verbal noun immáin is due to the possessive pronoun 3rd person singular feminine a, which is here attached to the preposition oc.

7. Tmesis

As mentioned in lesson 1, section 2, whereas Proto-Celtic was an SOV language, the basic word order of Old Irish is verb-initial, so that the finite verb generally stands at the head of its clause. In Old Irish poetry and certain types of prose, however, a more archaic syntax has been preserved, in which the first preposition of a compound verb or the negative particle may stand alone at the head of the clause, separated by other words from the remainder of the verb, which follows later. This feature is known as tmesis. The following example from Audacht Morainn illustrates this: Is tre ḟir flathemoin fo-síd sámi sube soad sádili-sláini "It is through the justice of the ruler that he secures peace, tranquility, joy, ease [and] comfort," where the preposition fo- of the compound verb fo°sláini is separated from the rest of the verb by its objects (síd ... sádili).

8. Verbal Nouns and Their Use

The basics of the verbal noun have already been introduced in lesson 1, section 3.2. This chapter will take a closer look at the more advanced details of verbal nouns and the constructions they are used in.

8.1. Morphology of the Verbal Noun

No uniform rules exist for the formation of verbal nouns. Though with many exceptions, they are formed from the same root as the verb to which they belong. The verbal nouns derived from strong verbs show a great diversity of formations; cf:

  • combag, combach from con°boing 'breaks';
  • tofun(n) from do°seinn 'pursues', in lesson 1;
  • su(i)de from saidid 'sits', in this lesson;
  • brith breth, genitive brithe, from berid 'bears';
  • mrath from marn(a)id, °mairn 'betrays';
  • aicsiu from ad°cí 'sees', in lesson 1;
  • ac(c)aldam from ad°gládathar 'addresses';
  • géim, in the present lesson, from géisid 'shouts, roars';
  • án, áin from agid 'drives';
  • clúas from ro°clu(i)nethar 'hears';
  • gabál from ga(i)bid 'takes'; etc.

The verbal nouns derived from weak verbs (cf. lesson 4, section 17.2) are usually formed from the verbal stem by adding -ad, -ath or -iud, -iuth, -ud, -uth, while weak denominative verbs usually employ the very abstract noun from which they were derived.

8.2. Constructions Involving Verbal Nouns

As noted in lesson 1, section 3.2, verbal noun constructions often correspond to the infinitives of other languages. They may also be used like English infinitives connected by 'for ... to', as in Niba fír ... Cet do rainn na mucce, 'It is not just ... for Cet to divide the pig'; the object is in the genitive, as in most cases, and the verbal noun is related to other nouns by means of do; but other prepositions (cf. lesson 1, section 5) are found, too. Subjects also can be connected to the verbal noun by a preposition, e.g. iN in the sentence Conchuḃur dano iN suḋiu innaL charput 'Conchubur then was sitting in his chariot' (cf. lesson 1, 1st selection), literally 'Conchubur then was in the (act of) sitting in his chariot'.

9. General Synopsis of the Case Endings in Relation to the Noun-Stem Classes

In lesson 1, section 4, the different vocalic and consonantal stem-classes of Old Irish were mentioned. Due to their variety, it is not always clear from the ending of a declensional form which case-form of which stem-class the ending represents. The following table offers a general synopsis of the different possibilities. An [a], [i] or [u] after the C of the consonantal endings refers to its a-, i-, or u-quality (i.e. velar, palatal or neutral -- cf. lesson 1, section 4).

Ending   Singular       Plural    
    Case   Stem   Case   Stem
Ca#   Nom.   O   Gen.   O
    Nom.   Ā   Gen.   Ā
    Nom/Acc/Voc. Ntr.   S   Gen.   Cons.
    Gen.   Cons.        
    Acc.   O   Nom/Acc/Voc. Ntr.   O
    Voc. Ntr.   O   Nom/Acc. Ntr.   Cons.
    Voc.   Ā        
                 
Ci#   Nom.   Ī   Nom.   O
    Nom.   I   Nom.   Cons.
    Gen.   O        
    Dat.   Ā, I, Cons.        
    Acc.   Ā, I, Cons.        
    Voc.   O, I        
                 
Cu#   Nom.   U        
    Dat.   O, U        
    Acc.   U        
    Voc.   U        
                 
a#   Gen.   I   Nom/Acc/Voc.2 Ntr.   O
    Gen.2   U   Nom/Acc/Voc.   Ā
            Nom.   U
            Acc.   Cons.
            Nom/Acc.2 Ntr.   Cons.
                 
e#   Nom.   YO   Gen.   YO
    Nom.     Gen.   YĀ/Ī
    Gen.   Ā   Gen.   I
    Gen.   YĀ/Ī   Gen. (Cae)   U
    Gen.   S   Gen.   S
    Acc.   YO   Nom/Acc. Ntr.   YO
    Voc.     Nom/Acc/Voc. Ntr.   I
            Nom/Acc. Ntr.   S
            Nom. (Cae)   U
                 
i#   Gen.   YO   Nom.   YO
    Dat.   YĀ/Ī   Nom.   YĀ/Ī
    Acc.   YĀ/Ī   Nom.   I
    Voc.   YO   Acc.   YĀ/Ī
            Acc.   I
            Nom. (Cai)   U
                 
o#   Gen.   I, U        
                 
u#           Acc.   O, U
            Voc.   O
                 
(i)u#   Dat.   YO   Acc.   YO
            Voc.   YO
                 
(a)ib#           Dat.   O, Ā, U, Cons.
                 
ib#           Dat.   YO, YĀ/Ī, I, S
10. The Pronoun

Old Irish distinguishes four major groups of pronouns, which are: personal, possessive, interrogative, and demonstrative pronouns. These are divided into several subclasses.

Personal pronouns exist for all three persons, singular and plural, with a distinction of the three grammatical genders in the 3rd person singular. Proclitic and enclitic forms are far more numerous than the stressed ones. The proclitic forms became attached to a pretonic preverb and are therefore considered to be 'infixed' in the verbal form. Three different sets of infixed personal pronouns exist, whose usage depends on phonological and syntactical constraints. The enclitic forms are suffixed either to certain verbal forms or to prepositions, with which they combine to give the so-called 'conjugated prepositions' (cf. lesson 1, section 5). A special type of personal pronoun are the emphasizing particles, or notae augentes, which exist in various forms for each person, with a distinction between masculine/neuter versus feminine in the 3rd person singular. A detailed description of the personal pronoun will follow in lesson 3, section 15.

The possessive pronouns are formally the old genitive forms of the personal pronoun, and are therefore not inflected. Again, stressed and unstressed forms exist, with the stressed ones being used very rarely. The unstressed forms are different for the first and second persons, while the form for the third persons is a in the singular and plural, and the number/gender can only be inferred from the following initial mutation: lenition for the 3rd person singular masculine/neuter, aspiration for the 3rd person singular feminine, and nasalization for the 3rd person plural. Details on the possessive pronoun will be given in lesson 3, section 15.

The interrogative pronoun distinguishes two forms: An unstressed or weakly stressed form ce, ci, cía, invariable in gender and number, as well as a more fully stressed form cía 'who?', neuter cid, ced 'what?', plural citné. For details on the interrogative pronoun see lesson 8, section 40.1.

The adjectival demonstratives known from other IE languages are expressed in Old Irish by a combination of the definite article with adverbs of place, like so, se, sin, etc.; see in this lesson the phrase ÍarN sin immach doL ṡuiḋiu ... 'After that outside with him ...', or in lesson 1 the phrase ind amsir sin 'at that time'. The demonstrative is often emphasized by stressed í (hí), placed before the demonstrative particle, e.g. in fer (h)í-siu 'this man'. Details on the article and on the demonstratives will be given in lesson 6, section 30.