THE RELATIVE CLAUSE
Below are listed the many instances where a direct relative is used where an indirect relative would be more logical:
A. Temporal Clauses. Direct relative particle a is used in temporal clauses where the indirect relative would be more logical, like ón lá úd a ghoibh sé orthu and an fhaid a bhíos ag cuardach. Nuair also takes the direct relative. However the indirect relative clause is also found with other temporal phrases, such as um an dtaca go raibh sé and le línn ha haimsire ‘na rabhadar.
This leads to the surprising discovery, that since nuair takes the direct relative, temporal clauses often contain both direct and indirect relatives in the same clause, such as nuair a tháinig an t-am ‘nar mhithid do é.
Note that in a double relative clause with is dó’ le we have both direct and indirect relatives side by side, but the logical order is inverted by putting the indirect relative with the is dó clause. For example in ag breithniú na haimsire ‘nar dhó’ leó a bheadh sé ag teacht we have a fusion of two clauses:
1) na haimsire ba dhó’ leó (direct relative), and
2) na haimsire ‘na mbeadh sé ag teacht (indirect relative)
but once fused together in a double relative clause, the indirect relative precedes the dó’ clause.
B. Modal Clauses. The direct relative is used where the indirect relative would be more logical in modal clauses of the type mar a bhí, with the doxology used as an example: mar a bhí ar dtúis, mar atá anois, is mar a bheidh go brách.
In the case of mar the use of the direct relative distinguishes meanings:
mar tá: because there is
mar atá: as there is
mar a bhfuil: where there is
Chómh haicillí agus d’fhéadfad é is an example of a direct relative do being used with indirect relative modal meaning.
Note that although conas takes the direct relative in Munster, the indirect relative is used with cad é an chuma…?
C. The direct relative is used where the indirect relative would be more logical following the proleptic a or dá (“however”): bhí iúnadh a gcroí orthu a fheabhas do dheineadar an gnó.
D. The direct relative is used where the indirect relative would be more logical following proleptic de and other prepositional pronouns used proleptically. The example given is b’fhéidir gur déinide a déanfar an guí an teachtaireacht do chur tímpall uaitse, where a déanfar is equivlaent to an chuma ’na ndéanfar.
E. The direct relative is used after proleptic amhlaidh and GÓN claims this is logically superfluous (e.g. in is amhlaidh a dhein sé…). It doesn’t appear superfluous to me.
[F. Sar, “before”, takes the indirect relative in Munster (where Keating had used the direct relative).]
G. Emphatic elliptical sentences also have a direct relative where there is no nominative or accusative relationship and therefore an indirect relative might have been expected: is liomsa a bhaineann an chainnt sin.
H. In relative clauses that follow a comparative or superlative, where the comparative/superlative is not relative itself, the meaning is modal and therefore is another instance of the direct relative being used for an indirect meaning. Is feárr is eól dómhsa é ná mar is eól duitse é.
Where the comparative or superlative is itself relative, the relative that follows it is indirect: níl éinne is feárr gurb eól do é ná mar is eól dómhsa é. Here is feárr is relative, and followed by the indirect relative gurb eól. Another example is tá in easnamh fós air an ní is mó ’na bhfuil gá aige leis.
Where the dative relationship is expressed before the comparative/superlative, however, the indirect relative does not follow the comparative/superlative: is dómhsa is feárr is eól cá luíonn an bhróg orm. An exception to this is clauses with cé and cad: an example from Niamh is bhíodh an formad ann, leis, féachaint cé aige dob fheárr ’na mbeadh an t-ollmhúchán déanta.
I. GÓN also says that sentences like cad é an rud a bhí Bruadar ar aigne a dhéanamh?, which he says are rarely found, are an instance of the direct for the indirect relative. It seems straightforward to me, but maybe this sentence can be essentially genitive, with a dhéanamh referring obliquely to an rud. Many of these various types seem straightforward and only become less so by overanalysis.
Other direct relative particles
Do as a relative particle: GÓN shows that the use of do as a relative particle has developed by confusion from the perfective particle (do chuaigh) and the verbal prefix (do-gheibhim). As these were often used without do, the particle came to take over relative functions. This is similar to way the relative atá and adeir aided the spread of a as a relative particle. Originally, lenition alone was enough to give relative force, later on do and a took over this function. It is also possible that in phrases like cad d’oireann dóibh, the relative particle is derived from the final consonant of cad, i.e. cad oireann became cad d’oireann.
A dh’ is also used as relative, either as a combination of a and do or maybe the dh’ is just phonetic padding. An example of an accusative relationship is an té a dh’éiríonn go moch bíonn an rath air. This usage bears a comparison to the use of do and a dh’ as the particule governing verbal nouns: scéal a dh’ínsint.
Finally, the direct relative can simply be understood, with lenition alone showing the relationship: sin é ’ mhíll me.
A (with eclipsis) and ar (with lenition):
The relationship is not nominative or accusative. Genitive examples include sid é an fear ar chodlas ’na thigh aréir and sid í an bhean a bhfuair a fear bas inné.
A and ar as indirect relatives are more commonly used in Munster Irish with sar and mar (in the meaning of “where”). Sula raibh uain ag an marcach é ’ thabhairt fé ndeara: sula here includes the indirect relative particle. Fan mar a bhfuil agat. Is mairg don fhear san trína ndéanfar Mac an duine do dhíol.
Go and gur
Dative examples include is mó duine go mbíonn an tseóid úd aige. A genitive example is ní dó’ liom go mbeidh an fear eile sin le fáil is mó go mbeidh a bhean ’na cabhair is ’na cúnamh aige ná mar a bheidh sí agatsa.
Some uses of go appear irregular, because a usage is found that is equivalent to a genitive, and therefore what GÓN calls a virtual genitive. Na hoibreacha gur thug m’athair dom iad le déanamh could be rephrased with a ndéanamh at the end.
In some senses, supplying an unexpressed ’na thaobh will bring out the virtual genitive relatinship: Íosa éigin a fuair bás & go raibh Pól dhá rá [’na thaobh] go bhfuil sé beó.
’Na and ’nar
An example is an bhean ’na bhfuil an t-éadach corcra uirthi.
These can also be virtually genitive: an t-aimhleas ’na mbeadh duine lánceapaiathe ar é ’ dhéanamh is virtually genitive because é ’ dhéanamh can be replaced by a dhéanamh.
’Na and go can be found in the same sentence: brostú chun na háite ’na mbeidh aoibhneas síoraí againn, & go bhfanfaidh sé againn.
The fact that go is a conjunction in subordinate clauses as well as an indirect relative particle means that in some sentences you could parse go in a number of ways. For example: is aoibhinn don té go dtabharfairse teagasc do, & go múinfir as do dhlí é. This could be the conjunction go with ellipsis of a rá after the ampersand, or you could parse it as a relative particle used with an accusative relationship (i.e., one that should be a direct relative) under influence of the earlier indirect relative in the first clause.
In sid é an té gur leis é and cad é an ceanntar ’narbh as é, the prepositional pronoun has to follow the relative (you can’t say le gur or anything like it). GÓN links this with his earlier discussion of the copula, pointing out that the prepositional phrase is the predicate that follows the copula.
Go as a realtive developed from ag+the indirect relative a, although the connection with ag is no longer felt, and so go…aige is frequently found.
In Keating, gach mnaoi dhíobh ag ar mhair a fear ag teacht in Éirinn dóibh does not mean what it would appear to mean in modern Irish, where ag ar mhair a fear would mean “with whom her husband lived”. Keating was using the earlier grammar before ag+a had turned into go, and he means gur mhair a fear (“whose husband lived”).
The conjunction go has also influenced the development of go as an indirect relative, as it is often hard to tell which the writer is intending when he writes go. Take these examples:
Cad é mar dhuine é seo go smachtaíonn sé gaoth & farraige & go ndeinid siad rud air. The first go is a conjunction, and the second appears to be relative.
Cá bhfuil an seómra bídh go n-ithead an Cháisc i bhfochair mo dheisceabal? Here go appears to be a conjunction used with the subjunctive, but by supplying an additional unexpressed ann it would become relative.
Féachaint an bhfaigheadh sé aon rud go bhféadfadh sé greim a bhreith air. Here go could be a conjunction, with the clause meaning “that he might take hold of it”, or a relative particle, with the clause meaning “that he might take hold of”.
A final point on the development of go as a conjunction is that as go and ná are the affirmative and negative conjunctions leading into subordinate clauses it was natural that an affirmative relative go would develop in contrast to the negative relative ná.
On the development of the relative ’na and ’nar, GÓN points to the way that prepositions combined with the indirect relative to form ina, óna, go n-a (where go means “with”), trína, lena, etc. An example from Catilína is gach treabhchas daoine lenar mian iad féin a bheith os cionn na n-ainmhithe eile, where lenar is used for what would once have been lér’ in older Irish. This constant use of na(r) became relative in feel, producing things like, from Séadna, san áit ’nar bhain an órdóg leis an dtalamh.
That ’na(r) has nothing to do with the preposition i or at least not any more is shown by the use of ann after it, e.g. in the phrase saothar a dhéanamh ’na mbeidh tairbhe ann, where the preposition force of the n- is no longer felt, and ’na is just the indirect relative.
In his further remarks on the relative, GÓN notes that whereas in Ulster they say goidé tá tu a dhéanadh? this becomes in Munster cad ’tá agat á dhéanamh?
GÓN claims to be the first to notice the double relative construction in Irish. He gives as an example cé is dó’ leat do scríbh an leitir? This fuses together two separate relative sentences:
Cé (hé an té) is dó’ leat?
Cé (hé an té) do scríbh an leitir?
The two sentences are connected, in that the second of these relative sentences is dependent in thought on the first, and thus combined in the one overall double relative sentence given above.
In tógfar uaidh gach a measann sé atá aige, we have a similar fusion of two relative sentences:
Tógfar uaidh gach a measann sé.
Tógfar uaidh gach a bhfuil aige.
We saw earlier how in sentences like ag breithniú na haimsire ‘nar dhó’ leó a bheadh sé ag teacht the indirect relative is shifted to the dó’ clause, which is then followed by a direct relative. The same process is at work here. As gach a measann sé already has the indirect relative, it is followed by atá aige, even though the separate sentences nested in this double relative sentence show that gach a bhfuil aige with an indirect relative has been subsumed.
Treble, quadruple and quintuple relative clauses
There can be multiple relative clauses nested within the one sentence. Take this: is minic nuair is sia is dó’ leat a bhímse uait gurb ea is giorra ’ bhím duit. This subsumes the following three clauses:
1. an uair is sia
2. an uair is dó’ leat
3. an uair a bhímse uait
The meaning of the first and third clauses is dependent in thought on the second clause, is dó’ leat.
A quadruple relative sentence can be created thus: cad é an uair aduart is sia is dó’ leat a bhímse uait? And you can even have a quintuple relative sentence in cad é an rud is dó’ leat aduairt sé do mheas sé ab fheárr a dh’oirfeadh don scoil? (“What do you think he said he thought would suit the school best?”) This includes the following five relative clauses:
1. Cad é an rud is dó; leat?
2. Cad é an rud aduairt sé?
3. Cad é an rud do mheas sé?
4. Cad é an rud ab fheárr?
5. Cad é an rud a dh’oirfeadh don scoil?
The dependence in thought in this relative sentence is such that the meaning of clause 5 is dependent on the other 4.
As mentioned previously, an indirect relative clause later in the sentence is often transferred to the is dó’ clause. Takes these 5 nested relative clauses (to produce a sentence meaning “in what way do you think he said they thought things would work out to their benefit?”):
1. Cad é an chuma is dó’ leat?
2. Cad é an chuma aduairt sé?
3. Cad é an chuma do mheasadar?
4. Cad é an chuma ab fheárr?
5. Cad é an chuma ’na raghadh an scéal i dtairbhe dhóibh?
By transferring the indirect relative clause to the first nested question, the final sentence then becomes cad é an chuma ’nar dhó’ leat aduairt sé do mheasadar ab fheárr a raghadh an scéal i dtairbhe dhóibh? [Compare ag breithniú na haimsire ‘nar dhó’ leó a bheadh sé ag teacht and tógfar uaidh gach a measann sé atá aige above.]
Another example given is ní baol ná go raghadh an tóir sa treó baíll ba lú ’nar dhó’ leó a tiocfí suas leó, where the indirect relative is also transferred from sa treó baíll ’na dtiocfí suas leó to the dó’ clause.
Exceptions and abnormalities in the double relative
A large number of cases of unexpected usages are listed.
1. In an té adeir sibhse gurb é úr nDia é (“he whom you say is your God”, from John 8:54), the gur clause (subordinating rather than relative) requires explanation. Without it, you would have had to say an té adeir sibhse is úr nDia (bearing mind that we saw in an earlier chapter that where the relative particle governs the copula as its subject, no additional pronoun or subpredicate is inserted). This construction, while correct, is also a little unusual. GÓN also argues that although adeir sibhse is accusative (“he whom you say”), it seems equivalent to a genitive (“he of whom you say”) and GÓN states that the double relative does not permit a genitival relationship in the first clause, but requires some kind of conjunctional clause to intervene, e.g., an té ’nar dhó’ libh ’na thaobh go… [Reading this passage as a whole, GÓN appears to be saying that if you said something like an té go ndeir sibhse ’na thaobh go..., it would be a viable sentence, but would not be double relative, because once you introduce the genitival relationship into the first clause the second go must be parsed as a conjunction and not a relative.]
2. Many apparent exceptions arise from confusion between go as a relative and go as a conjunction. In canad is toil leat go n
ollmhóimís é? the go appears to be a conjunction, but is actually relative, thus correctly forming a double relative sentence. The nested clauses are:
a) canad is toil leat?
b) canad go n-ollmhóimís é (which is equivalent to canad ’na n-ollmhóimís é.)
3. In many sentences go and ná could be parsed either way, as conjunctions or as relative particles, thus making it unclear if they are exceptions to the double relative construciton or not. For example, in buairt nár mheasas riamh gurbh fhéidir a leithéid do theacht ar mhnaoi, gur may be genitive relative (“a sorrow the like of which”), but nár could also be interpreted as the negative conjunction (“a sorrow so great that I did not…”). If nár is a conjunction, then gur must also be parsed as a conjunction, as there could be no double relative in that case. Finally, if nár is interpreted as a negative genitive relative (a truncation of nár mheasas riamh ’na thaobh), then gur must be a conjunction, as, as was stated above, the double relative cannot be used with a genitive relationship in the first clause.
The key issue in double relative sentences is therefore that the direct relative must be used in the first clause. In rud ba dhó’ le héinne nárbh fhéidir a dh’fháil, we see that ba is direct relative and nár is also a relative here (a genitival relative linking up with a dh’fháil), and so this is a double relative sentence. But once you say rud gur dhó’ le héinne nárbh fhéidir a dh’fháil, you no longer have a double relative sentence. This is because gur in the first clause is indirect relative (in a genitival relationship implying gur dhó’ le héinne ’na thaobh), and so there is no double relative here and the nár must be parsed as a conjunction. [The situation, as discussed several times above, where in a multiple relative sentence a later indirect relative is transposed to the dó’ clause makes the first clause in such sentences appear dative and therefore indirect, but this does not violate the rule being presented here, as separation out of the nested relative clauses shows the first underlying clause to be direct.]
4. The example is given of cad é a mhinicí do fuaras é san áit nár mheasas a gheóbhainn é, there seems to be a problem that san áit a gheóbainn é has the direct relative, whereas as a separated clause this would be quite wrong, as san áit requires the indirect relative. If we said san áit do mheasas ná faighinn é, it would be quite normal, but when the negative relative is shifted by a process of inversion to the first relative clause, the direct relative of that clause is then shifted to the second clause.
Having noted that with a dó’ clause followed by a temporal or local clause with the indirect relative it is normal to transfer the indirect relative to the dó’ clause and follow with the direct relative, there are examples where the succeeding temporal or local clause retains the indirect relative too: chun gach tíre ’nar dhó’ leis go bhfaigheadh sí a bheag nú a mhór d’aon rud i bhfuirm nirt is an example of where chun gach tíre ba dhó’ leí becomes indirect relative, and yet we still have a go clause afterwards. Another way of parsing it is that the first clause is incomplete and the go is the conjunction to complete the sense.
In an rud gur mheasais gur rud fónta é, this cannot be a double relative, because either the first gur is a conjunction, in which case the second must be a conjunction too, or the first is genitive relative (short for gur mheasais ’na thaobh), which also precludes a double relative as the first clause in a double relative must be a direct relative (except for cases of inversion as mentioned above). To make this into double relative, you have to say an rud do mheasais ba rud fónta.
GÓN argues that use or non-use of the double relative makes for great subtley in PUL’s Irish. Fro example in bímíd go minic ag gáirí nuair ba cheart gur ag gol a bheimís, this is not double relative, and the meaning of nuair is rather “whereas”—“we often laugh whereas in all reason we ought to weep”, creating a contrast betwen laughing and crying. If the stress were upon laughing at the very time we ought to be crying, then the double relative would be called for: bímíd go minic ag gáirí an uair ba cheart a bheimís ag gol.
To summarise, therefore, the double relative tends to occur after phrases such as is dó’ le and do mheasas, when they are themselves relative. There are 8 forms of the double relative sentence:
1. Where there is a direct relative in both clauses (i.e., the relatives are both nominative/accusative in nature). E.g. cé is dó’ leat do scríbh an leitir?
2. Where a comparative or superlative stands in a direct relative in the first clause, with an indirect relative in the second. E.g. níl éinne is feárr gurb eól do é ná mar is eól dómhsa é.
3. Where a direct relative in both clauses stands for the indirect. E.g. is dómhsa is feárr is eól cá luíonn an bhróg orm, where because the dative relationship has already been expressed before the comparative clause, both relative clauses are then direct.
4. Where there is a direct relative in the first clause and a direct relative standing for an indirect temporal in the second. Bímíd go minic ag gáirí an uair ba cheart a bheimís ag gol
5. Where there is a direct relative in the first clause and an indirect relative in the second in interrogative sentences. An example from the subsequent section on interrogatives in relative clauses is cad chuige aduairt sí ná raibh aon mhaith inti?
6. Where there is an indirect relative in the first clause and a direct relative in the second by a process of inversion. The underlying nested relative clauses have a direct relative in the first and a temporal indirect in the second. E.g. bhí gach éinne ag breithniú na haimsire ’nar dhó’ leó a bheadh an tÁrdrí ag teacht abhaile, where the indirect relative of the temporal clause na haimsire ’na mbeadh has been switched to the dó’ clause.
7. Where there is an indirect relative in the first clause and a direct relative in the second by a process of inversion. The underlying nested relative clauses have a direct relative in the first and a local indirect in the second. An example is cad é a mhinicí do fuaras é san áit nár mheasas a gheóbhainn é, where the underlying clause is san áit do mheas ná faighinn é.
8. Abnormal double relative clauses with indirect relatives in both clauses. E.g. chun gach tíre ’nar dhó’ leis go bhfaigheadh sí a bheag nú a mhór d’aon rud i bhfuirm nirt, where the indirect relative has been imposed on the dó’ clause via the process of inversion without replacing the subsequent indirect relative with a direct relative.
Ná, nách, and nár are negative relative pronouns as well as being conjunctions. GÓN arranges examples by case, showing these negative relatives are either direct or indirect:
a) Nominative (or genitive): ar ball do theastódh rud éigin uathu nárbh fhéidir a dh’fháil. Whether this is parsed as nominative or genitive depends on how a dh’ is parsed. If it is just the particle governing the verbal noun, once as a and repeated as do (and lenited), then the relationship is nominative. If a dh’ is understood as the possessive particle, padded out phonetically by dh’, then the relationship is genitive. [This ambiguity stems from the fact that the negative relative does not differentiate between the direct and indirect relatives. The affirmative form mian is ea é gur fuiriste a dh’fháil must be genitive relative following the indirect gur; the affirmative form mian is ea é dob fhuiriste a d’fháil must be nominative following the direct dob.] An example that is clearly nominative is sin rud ná raibh ann lem línnse.
b) Genitive. An unambiguous genitive is rud ab ea é nár ghá labhairt ’na thaobh.
c) Dative. Dheineadar roinnt cainnte, cainnt ná raibh puínn suime ag éinne acu inti.
d) Accusive (or genitive). Sarar deineadh an teitheadh sin bhí cruatán is brúth is feidhm ar Ultaibh ná féadfaidís a sheasamh puínn eile aimsire. In this sentence, the a could be interpreted as the particle governing the verbal noun (=do sheasamh). This would make the relative ná accusative. [GÓN states that in a sheasamh, seasamh would then stand in the dative. This seems a confusing point, but he seems to be referring to the fact that do is a dative preposition, and so when it is used as the particle governing the verbal noun, it puts the verbal noun “in the dative”. This may have etymological justification, but it seems easier for me to regard do or a governing the verbal noun as separate from the preposition do.] An alternative parsing would be to take cruatán is brúth is feidhm as a noun phrase that is considered as a whole and referred back to by a genitive a sheasamh. This would make the relative ná genitive and seasamh would be the accusative object of the verb féadfaidís.
An interesting example is this do measadh sinn a thabhairt ar an slógadh so le bréig, le geallúint nár measadh a chómhlíonadh. He argues that a could be the preposition do (i.e., the particle governing the verbal noun), and if measadh (the second measadh) in the sentence is autonomous n meaning, that would make the relative nár accusative in meaning. He adds that measadh could be seen as passive in meaning, which would make the relative nár nominative. By viewing measadh as either autonomous or passive, GÓN seems to be saying that the autonomous form can be either active or passive in meaning (“people thought” or “it was thought”). Yet PUL stated on a number of occasions that the autonomous form is always active, regardless of its translation into English. Another way of parsing the sentence is to have a as the possessive pronoun. Although bréig and geallúint are feminine, GÓN argues this need not prevent their being referred back to by a chómhlíonadh. This would make the relative nár genitive, and cómhlíonadh would be accusative (or nominative), rather than dative, governed by the verb measadh.
Some instances of the negative relative are virtually genitive. For example in níl bata sa tigh sin nárbh éigin seisreach do gabháil chun é ’ thabhairt abhaile ón gcoíll, chun é thabhairt is equivalent to chun a thabhartha.
Comparative and Superlative adjectives.
Even when adverbial in meaning (GÓN calls them virtual adverbs), Irish comparatives and superlatives are adjectives in formal grammar and the double relative construction is frequently required to express what would in English be comparative and superlative adverbs.
“No-one knows better than you how to do that” would become níl éinne is feárr gurb eól do conas é siúd a dhéanamh ná mar is eól duitse é, where feárr is to be parsed as an adjective, although equivalent in sense to an adverb or adverbial phrase. “The work he knows best” would therefore be an obair is feárr atá ar eólas aige.
Interrogatives and the relative
Interrogatives followed by a prepositional phrase, like cad ’na thaobh, cé dho and cé leis are elliptical. For example cad ’na thaobh ná rabhais anso inné? is equivalent to cad é an rud ná rabhais anso inné ’na thaobh, which makes the ná genitive relative. The subject of the unexpressed copula is an rud … ’na thaobh, the predicate is cad, and in the full form of the sentence é is the temporary subject.
Note how the prepositional phrase is normally placed next to the interrogative in the truncated sentence. An underlying cé hé an té go bhfuilir dhá thagairt sin do? therefore becomes cé dho go bhfuilir dhá thagairt sin? and cé hé an té gur leis an peann? becomes cé leis an peann?
These sentences require the indirect relative (cé dho go bhfuilir…), although GÓN adds that the Waterford form allows the direct relative, e.g. in sentences like cé leis atá sé ag cainnt?, but this is contrary to West Munster, Connaught and Ulster usage and, he argues, “a corruption of the true idiom”, which shoudl be cé leis go bhfuil sé ag cainnt?
A further reason to object to this “corruption” is that it destroys the distinction between single and double relative sentences, which depends on the distinction between the direct and indirect relative usages. Note for example the difference in nuance between cad chuige aduairt sí ná raibh aon mhaith inti? (a double relative sentence meaning “what did she say she was no good at?”) and cad chuige go nduairt sí ná raibh aon mhaith inti? (a single relative sentence meaning “why did she say she was no good?”) The latter sentence is an elliptical form of the full sentence, cad é an rud go nduairt sí ná raibh aon mhaith init chuige? As the double relative sentence requires the direct relative in the first clause (other than in cases of inversion), the difference in nuance is clearly seen.
Note the distinction between:
cathain aduairt sé a bheadh sé ann? (Double relative: “when did he say he would be there?”)
cathain aduairt sé go mbeadh sé ann? (Single relative: “when did he make the statement that he was going to be there?”)
cad ’na thaobh adeir sibh go mbíonn buaireamh oraibh? [“in connection with what do you say you are troubled?”]
cad ’na thaobh go ndeir sibh go mbíonn buaireamh oraibh? [“why do you say you are troubled”?]