Irish Gaelic: maithiúnas

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L'irlandais

Senior Member
Ireland: English-speaking ♂
Hullo,
In Irish maithiúnas is a masculine noun meaning forgiveness or pardon.
Source : Oxford Irish Dictionary (hardcopy).
I was wondering if somebody could explain a little the make-up of this word. It's based on the verbal noun maitheamh = to forgive ; what change is it subjected to? I am looking to gain a better understanding of previous generation's way of forming such words. That, and perhaps an insight into their particular way of looking at the notion of forgiveness in it's own right.

Any ideas on the subject would be appreciated.
 
  • elirlandes

    Senior Member
    Ireland English
    My natural inclination is to work on the basis that -únas is a standard suffix which, when added to a word or verb stem (in this case maith- from maitheamh) provides a derivitive noun. Obviously, in this case it takes an "i" at the beginning to match standard spelling rules ("caol le caol").

    Other examples that come to mind (veeeeeeery slowly!) are :

    - ciúinaigh (v. to quieten) ciúnas (n. silence)
    - rathaigh (v. to thrive) rathúnas (n. prosperity)
    - ceadaigh (v. to allow) cead (n. permit) ceadúnas (n. license)
    - cruthaigh (v. to prove) cruthúnas (n. proof)
    ...errr... I've run out, but I am sure there are more...

    Could it simply be related to the germanic -ness (Eng.) -nis (German) noun-forming suffix ?
     

    seanos

    Member
    English - Australia
    It's worth considering the older spelling too - maitheamhnas (maithiúnas) is just and extension of maitheamh. I suppose there is some small step up in abstraction between the verbal noun (still connected to action) and the pure noun -nas form. All of the examples above seem to be formed from verbal nouns originally ending in -mh, though you could probably make a long list of abstract nouns with this ending.

    A quick search at corpas.focloir.ie ([word=".*nas"] containing [tag="N.*"] - not sure if I've got this query language quite right) yields 20762 hits (1039 pages), though that includes many duplicates.

    A couple of different cases:
    • breithiúnas (breitheamhnas): from a noun, breitheamh.
    • ceannas: > noun, ceann.
    • coiteannas: > noun or adj. coiteann.
    • riachtanas: from an adjective? riachtanach.
    • dliteanas: > verbal adjective? dlite > dligh. (Dinneen has dlisteanas presum. > dlisteanach)
    • bronntanas: > v.adj. bronnta > bronn.
    • gealltanas: > verbal adj. geallta? or plural geallta?
    • searmanas: ?

    On reflection maybe the -ness analogy is a complete furphy. I think the ending is really -as with the -n- coming in for some other reason. Consider aontas, rialtas, cuntas, iarratas, iontas (vs. ionadh), srl. - where does that -t- come from?
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Thanks for those great replies. I had forgotten the broad vowel/slender vowel rule.

    Okay then sticking to the verb stem idea.
    maith- (forgive)verb / maitheamh (to forgive)verbal noun / maithiúnas (forgiveness)noun
    breith (judgement)noun / breitheamh (judge)noun / breithiúnas (judgment)noun

    I think my pocket dictionary is out of it's depth here. Is their a verbal noun for breitheamh, or the other suggestions? (Thinking out loud.)

    ... ceadúnaigh (to license)verb ceadúnas (license)noun

    I will have a look at the other suggestions later on.
     

    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    On reflection maybe the -ness analogy is a complete furphy. I think the ending is really -as with the -n- coming in for some other reason.
    English -ness is also originally "the -n- of Germanic n-stems + the Germanic base of -assu-, the suffix attested in Gothic ufarassus abundance" (OED, s.v. -ness, suffix). They also suggest a parallel with "Old Irish -es, -as, mainly in denominative formations (e.g. Old Irish ólachas youth < ólach young man; compare Welsh teyrnas dominion < teyrn lord)".
     

    seanos

    Member
    English - Australia
    My knowledge of Old Irish is too hazy to be of help but my intuition was that the -n- (-t-) had to do with a particular case or a class of nouns.

    ...Old Irish ólachas youth < ólach young man; compare Welsh teyrnas dominion < teyrn lord...
    Hmm...I think you mean óclachas > óclach. Ólachas (not that it exists as a word) would suggest something rather different...more like alcoholism!

    The Welsh example exists in Irish also: tiarnas > tiarna.

    In any case the common thread seems to be taking a particular and turning it into an abstract.

    So, did Old Norse do this too?
     

    CapnPrep

    Senior Member
    AmE
    Hmm...I think you mean óclachas > óclach. Ólachas (not that it exists as a word) would suggest something rather different...more like alcoholism!
    You are quite right, but the typo is in the OED… Maybe someone should let them know.
    The Welsh example exists in Irish also: tiarnas > tiarna.
    It may be worth mentioning that derivations with the suffix -as are feminine in Welsh, while the suffix is masculine in Irish.
    So, did Old Norse do this too?
    From the OED, again: "No evidence of the suffix can be found in North Germanic."
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    My knowledge of Old Irish is too hazy ...
    In any case the common thread seems to be taking a particular and turning it into an abstract...
    I agree. My own modern Irish isn't up to such abstract thoughts either. However I do wonder if the OED wasn't referring to " Óglach" now that we've mentioned it.

    Although Óglach only means "Volunteer now-a-days as in Óglach na hÉireann (Irish Volunteer), Óglach in the days of Gráinne Mhaol (c. 1530 -c. 1603) meant something like young warrior, rooted in the word óg = young. In any case these words are steeped in political connotations and so are far from the gist of my original post.
     
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