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NOUNS Adjective abound in the Irish language, and . to them its poetry owes much of its beauty and force : like substantives they suffer changes, both in their initials and terminations, which mark their relation to other words ; and the same circumstances contribute to these changes, as cause similar variations in substantives.

The adjectives generally follow their substantive ; and, when they precede them, they suffer no change in their termination : but, if they begin with vowels, they will require a t prefixed to the nom. sing. masc. h to the gen. sing. fem. and n to the gen. plural, when preceded by the article. They suffer no change in their terminations, when they end with vowels ; and, when monosyllables are placed before a substantive, so as to form a compound with it, they are inflected as noun substantives are.

Adjectives following substantives generally suffer changes as follows —

I. With mutables for their initials, (except d, s, or t, following a noun ending with n,) they must be aspirated in the nom.* and voc. sing. of the fem. gender, and in the gen. dat. and voc. sing of the masc. gender ; likewise in the plural the gen. fem. must be aspirated.

II. Terminating in consonants, and having

  1. Their last vowel broad, they require in the masc. gender an i after them, or else to have the broad vowel changed to an i in the gen. sing. ; but, if they be of the fern. gender, there must be added a small increase in the gen. sing.
  2. If their last vowel be slender, there is no change from the nom. in the gen. masc. but a small increase in the genitive feminine.
  3. According to some grammarians, all the cases of the plural, except the genitive, take a broad increase, if the last be a broad vowel ; and a slender increase, if the last vowel be slender.
    Some few adjectives of one syllable, with their last vowel broad, take a broad increase in their genitive feminine ; and some, as well as substantives, are so irregular, that they are not reducible to rule.

Two instances of adjectives, declined in the first three cases of both numbers, will suffice as examples here.

crann ard, a high tree, masc.
  Singular Plural
Nom. an crann ard na crainn arda
Gen. an ċainn aird na gcrann ard
Dat. do'n ċrann or gcrann ard do na crannaiḃ arda
bean ard, a tall woman, fem.
Nom. an ḃean ard na mna arda
Gen. na mna airde na ban ard
Dat. don ṁnaoi ard or aird do na mnaiḃ airde or arda


There are regularly but three; but in poetry the bards, as Mr. O'Brien remarks, " passed the ordinary bounds ; and upon the superlative, which their heated imaginations made the positive degree, raised a second comparative and superlative ;" and on this even a third of each of these.

The comparative now in common use is formed by adding e to the positive ; and attenuating the last vowel, if it be broad. The superlative is the same as the comparative, with the addition of the particle as. It is also expressed by the following particles added to the positive, which aspirate its initial letter, if it be a mutable consonant. — an, sár, ró

Nios corrupted from ní sa or ní ḃas , is often prefixed to the comparative : signifies very ; and is rather a sign of eminent quality in a thing, than a degree of comparison ; so also are fír, ur and according to Mr. O'Reilly, fár; an s a particle of excess still more forcible.

The following adjectives are irregular in their comparison—(see O'Reilly, Lynch, &c)

Positive   Comparative
maiṫ good fearr, feírrde
olc bad measa, miste, measide
mór great mo, moide
beag little luga, luġaiḋe
grearr short giorra, girríde
fada long faide, sia, faídide, séidide
fuirrus, urusa easy fusa, fusaide, usa, usaide
teaṫ hot teo, teiṫe, teiṫide
deaġ good deaċ
fogus near foicse, foisge

Adjectives of place end in , added to the name of the place; thus Spáin Spain, Spaineaċ, Spanish—also a Spaniard, or Spanish man.

Adjectives of numbers are as follows —(see Neilson, &c)

  Cardinal Ordinal (as first, &c)
1 aon ceuid
2 or dara
3 trí trear
4 ceaṫair, caiṫre ceaṫraṁaḋ
5 cúig cúigeaḋ
6 seiseaḋ
7 seaċt séaċtṁaḋ
8 oċt oċtṁaḋ
9 naoi naoiṁeaḋ
10 déiċ déiċṁaḋ.

All that followk up to twenty, are expressed by compbinations of the foregoing, thus—

11 aon déag aonaḋ déag
20 fiṫċe fiṫċeaḋ
21 aon agus fiṫċe aonṁaḋ fiṫċeaḋ
22 dó agus fiṫċe dara fitċeaḋ

Two more instances will exhibit the nature of these compounds, up to 100.

30 deiċ ar ḟiṫċead deiċṁeaḋ ar ḟiṫċead
31 aon déag agus fiṫċe aonaḋ déag ar ḟiṫċead
100 céad céadaḋ
200 da ċéad da ċéadaḋ
1000 míle míleaḋ

There is an idiom in very common use, which is to call 7 great six—ex. móir ṡeisíur, 7.

Persons are thus — aon, one person ; dís or beirt , two persons; triur, three; and so on, ceaṫarar, cúigear, seísear, saeċtar, oċtar, noinṁar, deiċaṁar. , Numbers over ten are thus expressed — aon-fear-ḋéag,, eleven men, &c. The influence of these numbers on aspiration shall be noticed hereafter.

The termination of a vowel before r is therefore often indicative of person, and, added to a word, gives it that character ; thus mealta, deceived, mealtair, or mealtoir, deceiver

The termination aċt is, in general, the sign of a substantive formed from an adjective, somewhat similar to the termination ness in English ; thus, fearaṁuil, manly, fearaṁlaċt, manliness. When the primitive adjective ends in ta, the substantive is formed by the addition of s, thus, macanta, honest, macantas, honesty.

The following example will serve to exhibit some of the combinations usual, in the formation of derivative words, in the Irish language ; but I do not conceive it- necessary to enlarge upon this subject here.

meallta, deceived, is the part. pastof the verb to deceive
mealltair, a deciever, mealltaireaċt, deceit
mealltan, a low deceiver, mealltanas, low deceit

There is a general rule in the composition of words, which is much quarrelled with hy many grammarians, as having somewhat injured the language by the strictness with which it has been adhered to. It will be found to have been very generally adopted. It is technically called leaṫan re leaṫan, agus caol re caol, or broad with broad, and slender with slender : and it makes it necessary, " that the vowel which goes before a consonant, must be of the same class with the vowel which follows that consonant; i.e. both broad or both slender. Hence we have feall treason, and feallair, a traitor ; but from caint speech, we cannot by this rule have caintair, so that this termination must be thus, cainteoir " — (See O'Reilly's Preface to his Dic tionary, c. II. Neilson and O'Brien. )


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grammar of the irish language—mason—1842
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