Notes on Nolan 7

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Nolan points out that copulas of identification an classification often come together: deir cuid acu gurb é Ieremias é nú duine de sna fáidhibh.

The reason why names are often indefinite in copula sentences is because Pádraigjust means a person bearing the name Pádraig. So deir sé gur Pádraig é siúd leis is telling you something general – it is a person called Pádraig. The same can be said about deir sé gur Pádraig is ainm do. Whereas ‘sé Pádraig a bhí ann means the man himself – not a person bearing the name – but the real man – and so is definite, a true proper name. In ‘sé ainm atá air ná Pádraig the term is more definite.

Other similar examples include is é rud é ná athrú ana-mhór and is athrú ana-mhór é. The second is indefinite – the matter is “a great change”. The first is identifying the class of thing something belongs to – and identifying it as the class of “great changes”, the kind of thing that is called a great change.

There is no rule in Irish requiring definite nouns to be separated from the copula by a personal pronoun. That Type I now requires a pronoun is purely in order to assimilate type I to types II, III and IV – not to separate the copula from a definite noun. The real rule is the subject cannot come immediately after is. Apart from the confusion of types of copula of identification, another proof that the pronoun is required to prevent the subject from coming after the copula is the fact that even in copulas of classification a pronoun is inserted to perform the same function, as in ainmhí is ea capall.

Other examples of how definite nouns can come after the copula include the use of an fhaid and similar adverbial phrases.  Is dócha gur an fhaid a bhí an dealús air a dhein sé é. And other examples with an iomad, anois, inniu can be found: is anois é. (The reason you have to say b’é faid an turais a chuir tuirse orm is precisely because Type 1 copulas of identification have been assimilated to the pattern of Types 2, 3 and 4.)

Also definite prepositional phrases do not require a pronoun and can stand next to the copula, adding fuel to GÓN’s point of view: is i dTeamhair a bhíodar an uair sin. Finally, in relative clauses such as gurb é Íosa is Críost ann, if it were the case that definite nouns could not stand next to the copula, then Críost would require a pronoun before it, but it doesn’t, as it is predicate here, the subject being the unexpressed relative particle that governs is.

Nolan adds that it is only where the relative is the subject of the copula in such sentences that no pronoun is required; where the relative is genitive, dative or accusative the pronoun is inserted, showing that the real point of the copula is not to prevent definite nouns from standing next to the verb, but to keep the subject from doing so. An example of a genitive relative is níl éinne ó bhaol ag teacht os cómhair daoine ach an té gurb é a dhúil bheith in’ aonar, where thre relative means “whose” here. An example of a dative relative is an fhaid is é grásta Dé atá dhá iompar, where the temporal clause requires a dative relationship (“the length of time in which…”). In conas mar is é úr leas é, the relative is also dative in a modal clause (“the way in which”). An example of an accusative relative is ar chuma nách é gach éinne a thuigeann, “in a way that not everyone understands”, where the relative is governed by thuigeann.

GÓN then points out that even when the relative is subject to the copula, the pronoun is occasionally expressed when the relative clause is negative, as in bhí a lán nithe nárbh é an lá ar áilleacht againn from PUL’s Sgothbhualadh. This can be understood as reflecting the influence of phrases such as rud nách é and rud nárbh é, the peculiarity here being that after the é the predicate is then is then repeated.

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