I am making some notes on Nolan’s Studies in Modern Irish, volume 1. Nolan (Gearóid Ó Nualláin) seems to have a very logical mind, although sometimes he insists on some points that don’t seem important. An example in his grammar book is his instance that the correct verb conjugation is as follows: molaimse, molairse, molann seisean etc, and not molaim, molair, molann sé. Why did he insist on the emphatic suffix? Well, in a conjugation table you are emphasising the persons. But it doesn’t seem a very helpful approach.
The types of copula occupy the first 49 pages of Studies in Modern Irish. It is truly amazing how many types he manages to divide the copula into. He points out on p2 that the statement that the copula is always followed by the predicate–such a statement is often made–is false. The correct formulation is a) that the subject should not stand immediately after the copula (he mentions that this applies to non-interrogative sentences) and b) when the material predicate does not immediately follow the copula, a pronoun much be inserted to take its place. The fact that in the copula of identification a pronoun is inserted between the copula and the predicate is therefore an anomalous development in modern Irish that reflects a confusion of types of copula constructions.
He rejects the argument that Irish sometimes distinguishes between a logical predicate and a grammatical predicate, claiming the copula is always followed by the logical predicate. In fact, that is, he says, the whole point of the copula: to identify the predicate. Browsing through the pages, I note that he later denies that in sentences of the is mise Tadhg type mise is the logical subject, even if the grammatical predicate in Irish. He insists that would be to force English grammatical categories on Irish, but it seems to me that mise is the logical subject in logic, regardless of which language is being discussed. Most other presentations of Irish grammar explain that first-person pronouns always follow the copula directly, even if they are the subject and not the predicate of the copula.
Irish for Nolan must always be held to be logical and rational, without the natural logical slips that ought to exist in all languages. So, he argues, the copula is a logical copula that always points to the logical predicate. This means that where the material predicate precedes the copula, an additional logical predicate (ea) must be inserted after the copula: fear is ea me. Here, fear is the material predicate and ea the additional logical predicate.
p3: the whole point of is is to show the predicate. That is why the verb is unstressed: it is the predicate that is stressed. That is also why the answer to an leabhar é sin? cannot be is, because is by itself predicates nothing. Is ea joins it to the predicate and allows the copula to play its true role. The reason you can’t say is é leabhar is that é is not the predicate. You are saying what it is and so leabhar must be the predicate, going after the copula. If you say is é leabhar atá idir lámhaibh agam ná Séadna, Séadna is the material logical predicate, but separated so far from the copula that a temporary logical predicate é must be inserted after the copula in a “holding” fashion.
p4ff: lists 15 types of copula of classification. In the following list, V stands for the copula, P the predicate, S the subject, p an additional predicate.
Type 1, VPS: is leabhar é sin – the predicate is a noun.
Type 2, VPS: is maith é sin – the predicate is an adjective
Type 3, VPS: is breá an lá é, is maith an buachaill tu, is gunta an fear é, is olc an aimsir atá ann – the predicate is an adjective and the subject includes a relative clause. Note: he says that the relative clause is clear in is olc an aimsir atá ann, but elliptical in the other examples given. Therefore, an buachaill tu is the subject, but with an elliptical relative clause (“the boy that you are”).
Type 4, (V)PS: is Alba fé hainm don chrích sin: the predicate is a proper name “but in reality is used as a general term”. This is important as this type of sentence is classificatory and not one of identification, despite the fact that the predicate is a proper noun. In sentences like Éamonn a athair, the verb is dropped.
Type 5, VPS: is dó’ liom ná tiocfaidh sé: the predicate is a prepositional phrase. Is liomsa an leabhar san stands for is rud liomsa…
Type 6, PVpS: leabhar is ea é sin: this is the emphatic form of Type 1. The real predicate comes before the verb requiring ea to be inserted after the verb, as otherwise there would be no predicate after the verb.
Type 7, PVpS: maith is ea é sin agus ní holc: the emphatic form of Type 2.
Type 8, PVpS: olc is ea an aimsir atá ann: the emphatic form of Type 3. He adds that this form of emphasis is quite rare in speech and the other sentences in Type 3 would not be found in an emphasised form. In other words, although breá is ea an lá é is quite grammatical, it would be an odd sentence not found in real usage.
Type 9, PVpS: Alba is ea is ainm don chrích sin: the emphatic form of Type 4. Note that this is still a sentence of classification, despite the proper noun, and so ea is inserted.
Type 10, PVpS: liomsa is ea an leabhar san: the emphatic form of Type 5. He adds that there is no emphatic form corresponding to is dó’ liom ná tiocfaidh sé. The only way to emphasise that is to say is é is do’ liom ná tiocfaidh sé, but that belongs to an Identification copular type discussed later.
Type 11, VPS: cailín dárbh ainm di Gile na mBláth, is ainm do Dia. The predicates here are ainm di and ainm do. This type is listed separately by Nolan in order to polemicise against the view of others that Gile na mBláth and Dia are the logical predicates while appearing to be the grammatical subjects. Nolan is strongly of the view that the logical subject and grammatical subject are one and the same. He argues that if Gile na mBláth were the logical predicate, the sentence would be cailín gur Gile na mBláth ab ainm di. My impression is that he is overly inspired by a desire to show the logicality of Irish copula usage, and that cailín gur Gile na mBláth ab ainm di is a different type of sentence entirely.
Type 12, V(P)S: dá mba ná beadh sé fálta roim ré aige: Nolan argues that this sort of sentence is not an exception to the rule that the subject cannot stand immediately after the copula, because an implied predicate rud is felt after dá mba and must be supplied in thought.
Type 13, SVP: tabhair do Dhia an ní is le Dia: the subject here is the relative particle a that is understood before is.
Type 14, part of P+VpS+rest of P: fir ab ea iad ná leogfadh a gcroí ná a n-aigne dhóibh fanúint sa bhaile. This emphatic style divides the predicate into two parts: fir…ná leogfadh a gcroí.
Type 15, SVPs: an teagasc so a thugaimse ní liom é: an emphatic sentence where the material subject comes first. É then is a additional subject referring back to the material subject.
Types 11-15 have no emphatic forms, although some of them are already emphatic in meaning.