In an effort to improve my knowledge of Irish, and especially to increase my vocabulary, I have started a painfully slow crawl through an Irish novel. I am getting through about two sentences a day, and have to look up every second word. However, it has already thrown up an interesting point of grammar. Well, interesting to me at least.
On the very first page of the novel I found:
bhí a dhá géag nochta
word-for-word: “were her two limbs bare”, that is “her legs were bare”. What is interesting about that? Well, Irish in common with Welsh and Cornish (and I would bet Breton, Manx and Scots Gaelic too, though I haven’t bothered to check yet) uses a singular noun after numerals, except for a few words which have special plural forms which are used in this context. So in the sentence above géag “limb” is singular. The plural form is géaga. However, the following adjective nochta (“bare, naked”) is plural in form. I haven’t yet been able to find anything about this in the Irish grammars I have, and am wondering if it is usual.
Welsh and Cornish generally don’t have plural forms for adjectives, except for a few words. I am also wondering what happens to to these few words after a numeral + noun phrase. Any help would be very gratefully received.
If anyone is interested, the novel is L’Attaque by Eoghan Ó Tuairisc and deals with the military revolt in County Mayo in 1798 which was supported by a French army, which landed at Killala. I chose this because I already knew a bit about the French invasion from a song:
Raibh tú i gCill Ala nó Caisleán an Barraigh?
An bhfaca tú campaí bhí ag na Francaigh?
Have you been to Killala or Castlebar?
Have you seen the camps the French had?
Actually, I have been to Castlebar. The French had long gone, but I did have a nice cup of tea there.