I have decided to respond here to the thread Inscríbhinn fháinne on the ILF forum, where someone is checking the translation is tusa mo chroí.
According to the experts on Standardised Irish on that forum, this is the right thing to say. But is it? And if so, why is it right to say mo ghrá thu and mo cheól thu?
There seems great confusion on the copula, not least among the aficionados of Standardised Irish, who would instantly respond with references to the Christian Brothers’ Grammar if challenged, as if a book about Standardised Irish had any authority at all on the Irish language. The real authority is the traditional language of the Gaeltacht — not some book compiled in Dublin. If traditional Irish be deemed of no value, there would be no sense in learning Irish anyway.
The Christian Brothers’ Grammar is highly confused on the copula — the compilers do not seem to know the difference between the subject and the predicate. I suppose Scooby and the others on the ILF forum would insist that the Irish of An tAthair Peadar was wrong and whatever is written in a book printed in the 21st century in Dublin is right. Words fail me!
In such sentences, Peadar Ua Laoghaire and Gearóid Ó Nualláin were both insistent that the copula is followed by the predicate. Is mise Gearóid Ó Nualláin — often abbreviated as mise Gearóid Ó Nualláin – has mise as the predicate and GÓN as the subject. It makes no difference that in English “I am Gerald O’Nolan” has GÓN as the predicate.
Mise Gearóid Ó Nualláin is the ordinary way that such sentences are phrased in Irish — it is the ordinary order of the words. This is logical in the Irish language, because in a conversation with someone where the words mise and thusa are required, you have already located and identified the person: if you say “me” and “you” to someone, then both parties to the conversation can already see which real, concrete human beings are being referred to. So “I am GÓN” does not “identify” me, in terms of logic; rather, it identifies the label “GÓN” in terms of the real person, me. That is the logic of Irish: mise and thusa tend to be in the predicate because these persons require no identification in a conversation. A name – just a word – just a label – does not identify a person; it just pins a label on the person. The real person provides the correct identity for the label/name – it is the label or name that needs to be identified and pinned down as to who it applies to.
This does not mean that it is impossible to have mise and thusa as the subjects, as long as that is really what is meant — and I mean, meant in logic, rather than in terms of any kind of word-for-word translation from English (which I am afraid is all that the Christian Brothers’ Grammar is capable of). PUL mentioned in his Papers on Irish Idiom that although mise an rí was the normal phrase, an rí mise was possible. Similar, PUL’s Mionchainnt shows that ní mise Tadhg means “I am not Tim”. The fact that Tim is the predicate in the English is neither here nor here: mise is the predicate in Irish and the sentence denies the identification of the label Tadhg in terms of the real flesh-and-blood person, mise. But it is also possible to say ní Tadhg mise, as Mionchainnt then shows, glossing it as “my name is not Tim”. Here, Tadhg is the predicate, and there is much greater emphasis on Tadhg. I am not Tadhg, but David. PUL’s Mionchainnt also has an file thusa? “Are you a poet?”
Consequently, it is totally incorrect to say that the pronoun has to go next to the verb. Where the noun is the predicate, it receives greater stress. Examples given by GÓN include:
1. Maois agus Elias iad san
2. mo Dhia thu
3. mo chuid ’en tsaol thu
4. ’sí cainnt an tSlánaitheóra féin í sin
You will notice in all this that the present or absence of the suffix -se/-sa or the demonstrative sin/san is not the determinant of whether the pronoun is subject or predicate in the sentence. An rí mise has mise, not me (bearing in mind the disjunctive pronouns in Irish are me and tu, not mé and tú), as the subject. An file thusa? has thusa as the subject. So while it is true that in copula sentences the predicate receives the stress in intonation, this does not mean that any pronoun in the sentence with the emphatic suffix must be the predicate.
The Christian Brothers’ Grammar claims in section 16.40 that an tusa Séamas? has tusa as the predicate, whereas an tu Séamas? has tu as the subject. This amounts to a claim that the emphatic suffix may never be used with the subject of a copula of identification sentence, although they do not appear to have thought it through to that extent. Are they saying na daoine sin, where the demonstrative is equivalent to an emphatic particle, cannot be the subject of a copula sentence? They seem confused. According to them, mo ghrá í sin (mo ghrá: predicate, í sin: subject) in PUL’s Séadna would have to be wrong, because í sin is emphatic.
Of course, what this is all about is their belief that the pronoun should come next to the verb in the copula of identification sentence, and, according to them, may be either subject or predicate. They refuse to consider the possibility that Irish may (and often more logically) have a word in the predicate that would be in the subject in English. Why does English always have to play the trump card in this way? What difference does it make what they say in English? Finally, at the end of section 16.40, the Christian Brothers’ Grammar admits sheepishly — with bad grace, because they put it in a smaller font — that the pronoun does in fact come last in phrases like mo cheól thu and mo ghrá í sin.
But if you can say mo cheól thu, then the Christian Brothers don’t understand the copula at all — as this contradicts the whole of the rest of the section on the copula.
The question that needs to be determined is whether you really are emphasising the noun as the information given (i.e., as the predicate). If so, you can say ní Tadhg mise, because the information given is the fact that Tadhg is not the name. The information given is what the predicate is. And it makes no difference that PUL said mise and not me here. He could have written ní Tadhg me and the subject and predicate of the sentence would be unchanged. In ní mise Tadhg, the information given is once again in the predicate (regardless of where it would be in English).
So what about is tusa mo chroí? Well sentences like mo ghrá thu provide the template: here once again the information given is in the predicate next to the verb. This sentence strikes me as much more powerful than the bland tusa mo ghrá — which merely identifies the noun phrase mo ghrá in terms of your interlocutor tusa. Mo ghrá thu by contrast identifies your interlocutor thu as “the one that I love”. It is more powerful; it is more emphatic; and it is what is said in traditional Irish. Tusa mo chroí — usually without the verb – would mean “you are my love” in a non-emotional and bland way. “You are the teacher; you are Eileen; you are my love” and you are also many other proper nouns. Whereas mo chroí thu, or (in more natural Irish) grá mo chroí thu, or mo ghrá im chroí ‘stigh thu, is much more expressive: you are THE ONE THAT I LOVE.