Cuirpthean language

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Cuirpthean language
Cuirptheach Theanga
Pronunciation[ˈkɔɐ̯pjəx ˈçɛŋgə]
Spoken in Cuirpthe
Native speakersca. 34,245,000 (2018)
Language family
  • Thiaric
    • Peripheral Thiaric
      • Old Maíraidh
        • Cuirpthean
          • Cuirpthean language
Writing systemFiorentine alphabet
Official status
Official language inCuirpthe
Regulated byComann na Cuirptheich Theanga (Cuirpthean Language Society)
Language codes
ISO 639-1cu
ISO 639-2cui
ISO 639-3cui

Cuirpthean (in Chuirptheach or Cuirptheach Theanga pronounced [ɪn ˈxɔɐ̯pjəx] or [ˈkɔɐ̯pjəx ˈçɛŋgə]) is a Thiaric language spoken in the Republic of Cuirpthe by over thirty four million people. It is a Maíraidh language, deriving from Old Maíraidh but splitting off before the Middle Maíraidh period, and thus forming a distinct sub-branch from languages such as Mawr Lhaeraidd which derive from Middle Maíraidh. Immigration from Alemannia and a theorised period of creolisation led to major changes in the grammar, such as the adoption of subject-verb word order in unmarked phrases.





A phonemic inventory of the consonants of Cuirpthean is presented below. Entries in italics are marginal or otherwise only occur in some dialects.

Cuirpthean consonant phonemes
Labial Dental Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n nˠ ɲ
Stop p b t d t͡ʃ d͡ʒ k g
Fricative f v s z ʃ ʒ ç ʝ x ɣ h
Approximant l ɫ r ʎ j
  • The consonants /n nˠ ɲ/ and /l ɫ ʎ/ form groups of consonants where there is a contrast between lenis /n l/, broad fortis /nˠ ɫ/ and slender fortis /ɲ ʎ/. An additional distinction amongst the rhotics has been lost from most Cuirpthean dialects. The pronunciation of the fortis sounds is quite variable amongst dialects, and the given pronunciations represent the standard values. For more information see the section "Slender and broad sounds".
  • The consonants /z ʒ/ occur only as the nasal mutations of /s ʃ/, and are not usually distinguished in writing: sollas "light" [ˈsoɫəs] but soinndeach sollas "bright light" [ˈsɔɲd͡ʒəx ˈzoɫəs]. In some southeastern dialects this distinction has been lost and the voiced sounds are always used word-initially.
  • /ʝ/ is the slender value of /ɣ/, but except in some conservative dialects it has merged with /j/. The two are not distinguished in writing: ríghe "kings" [ˈriːʝə] or [ˈriːjə] but ghionga "lad, boy" [ˈjʊŋgə] and never *[ˈʝʊŋgə].
  • /h/ only occurs word-initially, primarily as a result of aspiration and lenition of /s/: a h-each "her horse" [əˈhɛx], in shúid "the eye" [ɪn huːd͡ʒ]. It may also occur as an allophone of /x/ in western dialects and of /p/ in southeastern dialects: chrábh "bone" W. [hnaːv]; corp "person" SE. [kɔɹh].
  • Outside the word-initial position, /ɣ/ is marginal, occurring primarily as a lenition of /g/ in proximity to a plosive: léagbha "(we) accept" [ˈʎeːgvə] but léaghda "(you, they) accept" [ˈʎeːɣdə]. Word-initially it is frequent as the lenition of /g/ and /d/: in dhoras "of the door" [ɪn ˈɣorəs].

The pronunciation of /r/ varies significantly amongst dialects. Contextually acceptable dialectal pronunciations include /ɾ ɹ ʐ ð/. The Comann na Cuirptheich Theanga suggests either a trill /r/ or tap /ɾ/ in the standard language. Additionally, after a vowel, /r/ is reduced to a semivowel, either [ɐ̯] or [ə̯] in most urban dialects. More conservative dialects retain the consonantal pronunciation in all environments. Thus, a word like fer "man" can be pronounced in any of the following ways: [fjɛɐ̯], [fjɛə̯], [fjɛr], [fjɛɾ].

Aspiration of the voiceless plosive consonants when they occur word-initially is widespread everywhere except in the most southern dialects. Elsewhere in a word light aspiration may occur before any vowel except after a consonant, when they are pronounced with an earlier voice onset time: puirtín "small port/fort" [ˈpʰɔɐ̯t͡ʃʰiːn] but follteach "university" [ˈfuːɫt͡ʃˣəx]. Voiced plosives in contrast have a negative VOT and so are always contrastive: déad "tooth, teeth" [d͡ʒeːd]. At the end of a word, there is a strong east/west division between full release of plosives in the east (manifested with strong aspiration) and lack of audible release in the west (manifested with light glottalisation): corp "person" E. [kʰɔɐ̯pʰə̥] but W. [kʰɔɐ̯ˀp̚].


A phonemic inventory of the vowels of Cuirpthean is presented below.

Cuirpthean vowel phonemes
Front Central Back
Close iː i uː u
Mid eː e ə oː o
Open aː a

The schwa [ə] occurs as a reduction of vowels in unstressed syllables. Typically these vowels are orthographically neutralised as <a> or <e>, though there are exceptions to this. The reduced vowel may contextually occur as [ɨ] in some western dialects.

Short vowels in closed syllables tend to be pronounced with lax, lowered allophones: sollas "light" [ˈsoɫəs] but soillse "lights" [ˈsɔʎʃə]. The vowel /a/ may instead take on a more centralised pronunciation [ɐ], but more frequently this vowel simply does not change.

Long /aː/ is often rounded to [ɔː] in northeastern dialects: crábh [kɾɔːvʷ]. This may or may not affect historical /aː/ which has diphthongised: tallbhan "lands" [ˈtɔu̯ɫvʷən] or [ˈtau̯ɫvʷən].

The diphthongs /ai̯/ and /au̯/ can occur as developments of /a/ in certain environments: baillte "towns" [ˈbai̯ʎt͡ʃə]; tallbhan "lands" [ˈtau̯ɫvən]. These are used in all but a few southeastern dialects, where long /aː/ occurs instead: [ˈbaːʎt͡ʃi], [ˈtaːɫavən].

Vowel insertion occurs in dialects in the northwest and southeast to break up many consonant clusters. Typically, an inserted vowel is phonetically identical to the preceding vowel, though always short and lax. With regards to the orthography, epenthetic vowels do not alter the usual pronunciation of vowels in closed syllables: légseabh "we accepted" [ˈʎeːgɛʃəv].

Generally the first syllable of a word is stressed, which can cause syncope when a word is inflected: doras "door" → doirse "doors"; tallabh "land" → tallbhan "lands". Syncope is blocked by certain morphophonological environments, such as in the fourth declension of nouns: cém "step" → cémeneabh "of steps" rather than *cémneabh. There are, however, words which have irregular stress. For example the word indí "today" has stress on the last syllable: [ɪɲˈd͡ʒiː]. These words are often phrases which have been reanalysed as single words; in this instance indí derives from the phrase in dí "the day", but the normal word for "day" in modern Cuirpthean is . Other examples are dabhaille [dəˈvaʎə] "homeward" and conáigh [kəˈnaːʝ] "forwards".

Slender and broad sounds

Old Maíraidh possessed a consistent distinction between so-called "broad" (velarised) and "slender" (palatalised) sounds. This system has been reduced to a significant extent in Cuirpthean, but it is still present and is important in understanding the language's orthography. Furthermore, even for consonants which otherwise do not possess the distinction, mutation may cause distinctly broad or slender sounds to manifest; for example, /k/ lenites to /x/ when broad but /ç/ when slender, even though the value of /k/ proper is unchanged. A broad consonant can only be preceded or followed by the written vowels <a o u> while a slender consonant can only be preceded or followed by <e i>.

The pairs of sounds relevant to the modern language are as follows:

Basic sound Slender Broad
Value Example Value Example
/p/ [p] corp "person" [kɔɐ̯p] [pj] piúr "sister" [pjuːɐ̯]
/b/ [b] baille "town" [ˈbaʎə] [bj] berem "I carry" [ˈbjerəm]
/f/ [f] fuid "blood" [fʊd͡ʒ] [fj] fer "man" [fjɛɐ̯]
/v/ [v] crábh "bone" [kraːv] [vj] rebheard "I carried" [rəˈvjɛɐ̯d]
/m/ [m] mor "sea" [mɔɐ̯] [mj] "I, me" [mjeː]
/t/ [t] tallabh "land" [ˈtaɫəv] [t͡ʃ] ténn "soldier" [t͡ʃeːɲ]
/d/ [d] doras "door" [ˈdorəs] [d͡ʒ] déad "tooth, teeth" [d͡ʒeːd]
/s/ [s] súid "eye" [suːd͡ʒ] [ʃ] sél "story" [ʃeːl]
/N/ [nˠ] tonn "wave" [tuːnˠ] [ɲ] neart "power" [ɲɛɐ̯t]
/L/ [ɫ] lubharam "I speak" [ɫuːrəm] [ʎ] "stone" [ʎiː]
/x/ [x] in chrábh "of the bone" [ɪn xraːv] [ç] in cheill "the church" [ɪn çɛʎ]
/ɣ/ [ɣ] in ghuch "of the voice" [ɪn ɣʊx] [ʝ], [j] in ghiolla "of the conscript" [ɪn ʝɪɫə]

As the table shows the distinction is maintained for most dental consonants, velar fricatives, and labial sounds, though palatalisation within the latter group has yielded to clusters with [j].

Alternation between broad and slender consonants is involved in some inflectional processes: déad "tooth (direct case)" [d͡ʒeːd] → déid "(oblique case)" [d͡ʒeːd͡ʒ]; túach "people (dir.)" [ˈtuːəx] → túaich "(obl.)" [ˈtuːəç]; teanga "tongue" [ˈt͡ʃɛŋgə] → tengde "tongues" [ˈt͡ʃɛɲd͡ʒə]. As one can see this frequently causes spelling changes.

Note that when a fortis consonant is subject to lenition, there is no phonetic distinction between slender and broad, but the underlying pronunciation is shown by the orthography: "stone" [ʎiː] → da lí "your stone" [də liː]. Other consonants maintain a distinction where possible: da ghuch "your voice" [də ɣʊx] but da ghiall "your jaw" [də ʝau̯ɫ].

The pronunciations of the fortis consonants varies between dialects. Often they are written simply as /N Nʲ L Lʲ/ to avoid specifying any particular pronunciation over another. The traditional distinction, as with other slender/broad pairs is believed to have been velarisation v. palatalisation but the manifestation of this is variable. The standard values are velarised [nˠ ɫ] and palatal [ɲ ʎ]. However, some speakers use palatalised coronal sounds [nʲ lʲ] rather than true palatals. For yet other speakers, the palatalised sounds have merged with the lenis sounds and the velarised sounds are distinguished by tenseness, giving /N Nʲ L Lʲ/ → [nː n lː l]. Some speakers merge the fortis sounds with one another, distinguishing them from lenis sounds by their place of articulation: fortis sounds are alveolar or postalveolar while lenis sounds are dental.


Cuirpthean has retained the Old Maíraidh mutation system largely intact, with three mutations: lenition, nasalisation (also called eclipsis) and h-prosthesis (also called aspiration). Each mutation occurs in specific morphophonological environments. For example, nouns and adjectives may have cases which are pronounced identically except that they cause a different mutation on the following word. Compare the following:

  • In maichN dténn. [ɪn maç d͡ʒeːɲ] "The good soldier."
  • InL mhaichL dhénne. [ɪn vaç ˈʝeːɲə] "Of the good soldier."
  • InL mhaiche ténnde. [ɪn ˈvaçə ˈt͡ʃeːɲd͡ʒə] "The good soldiers."
  • Na maicheabh ténndeabh. [nə ˈmaçəv ˈt͡ʃeːɲd͡ʒəv] "Of the good soldiers."

Superscript letters show the mutation a given form causes on the next word. This is the only means by which maich dténn in the direct case is distinguished from maich dhénn in the oblique case. The full set of mutations is given below. Note that h-prosthesis only occurs before words starting with a vowel.

Each of the three mutations can occur after various forms of the definite article. For example, in marks the nominative masculine singular when it does not cause a mutation, the accusative masculine singular when it causes nasalisation and the genitive masculine singular when it causes lenition.

Two types of mutation are observed in Cuirpthean. Phrasal mutation occurs only on the next word within a given phrase (such as a noun phrase); after the final word in said phrase, mutation cannot occur on any following word as it belongs to a different phrase. For example, when a noun precedes a verb, the noun does not cause mutation to the verb: in rí ích in bhflé "the king eats the meal"; here causes a phrasal h-prosthesis but since ích is not within the same phrase this mutation does not occur (*h-ích). However the nasalisation mutation does occur to flé as in bhflé is a single phrase. The exception to this is that phrasal mutation can affect a following preposition.

A much rarer mutation is the jumping mutation. This is believed to have arisen as a result of syntactic changes occurring to the language without any changes to the mutations which occur. A jumping mutation causes mutations across phrase boundaries; however, within a phrase it causes mutation to the final unit in the phrase, overriding any mutation which might occur phrasally. An example of a jumping mutation occurs with the preposition ca "to, until" which causes nasalisation: mé tíghem can tall dtallabh "I will go to that land". The determiner tall does not cause mutation; the mutation of tallabh to dtallabh is caused by the preposition ca.

Basic sound Broad mutations Slender mutations H-prosthesis
Lenition Nasalisation Lenition Nasalisation
/p/ [f] [b] [fj] [bj] No change
/t/ [x] [d] [ç] [d͡ʒ]
/k/ [x] [g] [ç] [g]
/b/ [v] [m(b)] [vj] [m(b)j]
/d/ [ɣ] [n(d)] [ʝ] [ɲ(d͡ʒ)]
/g/ [ɣ] [ŋ(g)] [ʝ] [ɲ(d͡ʒ)]
/m/ [v] [m] [vj] [mj]
/N/ [n] [N] [n] [Nʲ]
/L/ [l] [L] [l] [Lʲ]
/f/ Silent [v] [j] [vj]
/s/ [h] [z] [hj] [ʒ]
/a/ [a] [na] N/A [ha]


Cuirpthean orthography is based on the traditional Maíraidh orthography and thus contains many quirks making a concise description difficult. Digraphs and trigraphs are common due to the rule of coél re coél as léan re léan "slender with slender and broad with broad": the letters <a o u> are broad vowels and the letters <e i> are slender vowels. Although variant spellings which violate this rule such as ferebh for fereabh [ˈfjerəv] are occasionally encountered, the correct spellings always follow this rule. The only exceptions are compounds where following the orthographic rule is otherwise impossible, such as follteach [ˈfuːɫt͡ʃəx] "university", where the cluster [ɫt͡ʃ] cannot be written in accordance to the rule. Additionally, digraphs of a consonant plus <h> are common as a means of showing lenition, though one may encounter the overdot used in more traditional spelling styles (eg. ġaḃa or ghabha "we are").

All mutations are indicated orthographically. Mutations before a vowel are separated with a dash: a fer "her husband" but a h-árd bhfer "her tall husband". Otherwise, the initial consonant of the mutated word is altered. Generally, lenition is shown by inserting a <h>: <b> becomes <bh>, <t> becomes <th> and so on. Lenition of the fortis consonants, however, is not indicated: a ghuch "his voice" but a lí "his stone". Nasalisation of plosives is shown by prefixing the new sound to the old sound: <p> becomes <bp>, <g> becomes <ng> and so on. Nasalised <f> is written as <bhf> as in Mawr Lhaeraidd. Nasalised <s> is rarely written as <zs> but usually there is no orthographic distinction made.

The possible ways of writing given consonant sounds follow. Compared to vowels, consonants are quite simple and their writing predictable:

Sound Spelling(s) Example
[m] <m> mor [mɔɐ̯] "sea"
<mb> when occurring as the nasalisation of /b/ gembeard [gəˈmjɛɐ̯d] "I might have carried"
<n> in baille [ɪm ˈbaʎə] "the town"
[n] <n> [niː] "is not"
<nd> when occurring as the nasalisation of /d/ a ndoras [əˈnorəs] "the door"
[ŋ] <n> before a velar consonant; for <ng> only when broad teanga [ˈt͡ʃɛŋgə] "tongue, language"
<ng> when occurring as the nasalisation of broad /g/ a ngráigheach [əˈŋraːʝəx] "the citizen"
[nˠ] broad <nn> ceann [kɛnˠ] "head"
broad, unlenited, word-initial <n> nach [nˠax] "that not; some"
[ɲ] slender <nn> muinnter [ˈmɔɲt͡ʃəɐ̯] "society, association"
slender, unlenited, word-initial <n> neart [ɲɛɐ̯t] "power"
slender <ng> tengde [ˈt͡ʃɛɲd͡ʒə] "tongues, languages"
<nd> when occurring as the nasalisation of [d͡ʒ] a ndéad [əˈɲeːd] "the tooth"
<ng> when occurring as the nasalisation of slender [g] in ngiolla [ɪɲˈɲɪɫə] "the conscript (acc.)"
[p] broad <p> pobal [ˈpobə̯l] "people"
[pj] slender <p> piúr [pjuːɐ̯] "sister"
[b] broad <b> [boː] "cow"
broad <bp> a bpuirtín [əˈbɔɐ̯t͡ʃiːn] "the small port/fort"
[bj] slender <b> berem [ˈbjerəm] "I carry"
slender <bp> in bpiúr [ɪmˈbjuːɐ̯] "the sister (acc.)"
[t] broad <t> tallabh [ˈtaɫəv] "land"
[d] broad <d> doras [ˈdorəs] "door"
broad <dt> a dtáillín [əˈdaːʎiːn] "the part"
[t͡ʃ] slender <t> ténn [t͡ʃeːɲ] "soldier"
[d͡ʒ] slender <d> déad [d͡ʒeːd] "tooth, teeth"
slender <dt> a dtaillbhín [əˈdai̯ʎviːn] "the region"
[k] <c> cóireach [ˈkoːrəx] "foreigner"
[g] <g> grách [graːx] "normal"
<gc> a gcém [əˈgeːm] "the step"
[f] <f> fóllan [foːɫən] "learn"
[v] <bh> dabhaille [dəˈvaʎə] "to home"
<bhf> árd bhfer [aɐ̯d vjɛɐ̯] "tall man"
[s] broad <s> súid [suːd͡ʒ] "eye"
[z] <s> when occurring as the nasalisation of [s] soinndeach sollas [ˈsɔɲd͡ʒəx ˈzoɫəs] "bright light"
broad <zs> (uncommon spelling) zsollas [ˈzoɫəs] "light"
[ʃ] slender <s> seinn [ʃɛɲ] "play (a stringed instrument)"
[ʒ] <s> when occurring as the nasalisation of [ʃ] a sél [əˈʒeːl] "the story"
slender <zs> (uncommon spelling) zsél [ʒeːl] "story"
[ç] slender <ch> iche [ˈiçə] "eating"
slender <th> in theanga [ɪɲˈçɛŋgə] "the tongue, the language"
[ʝ] slender <gh> ríghe [ˈriːʝə] "kings"
slender <dh> in dhéid [ɪɲˈʝeːd͡ʒ] "of the tooth"
[x] broad <ch> túach [ˈtuːəx] "people"
broad <th> in thúach [ɪnˈxuːəx] "the people"
[ɣ] broad <gh> ghas [ɣas] "is"
broad <dh> in dhoras [ɪnˈɣorəs] "of the door"
[h] <h> a h-each [əˈhɛx] "her horse"
<sh> in shúid [ɪnˈhuːd͡ʒ] "the eye"
[l] <l> poblach [ˈpɔbləx] "public"
[ɫ] broad <ll> foll [fuːɫ] "learns"
broad, unlenited, word-initial <l> [ɫaː] "day"
[r] <r> rubha [ˈruːə] "red"
[ʎ] slender <ll> soillse [ˈsɔʎʃə] "lights"
slender, unlenited, word-initial <l> [ʎiː] "stone"
[j] slender <gh> (not distinguished in writing from [ʝ]) ghionga [ˈjʊŋgə] "lad"

Vowels are more complicated due to the slender/broad spelling rule. This means that many digraphs and trigraphs are in use, as well as even longer, less predictable strings such as <ubha> for (word-internal) [uː]: lubharam [ˈɫuːɾəm] "I speak". Regular spellings are given in the following table:

Sound Spelling Example
[iː] <í> [t͡ʃiː] "he/she goes"
<aí> baí [biː] "cows"
<ío> síos [ʃiːs] "down and away"
<ía> (sometimes word-internally) mían [miːn] "desire"
<aío> naíonacht [ˈnˠiːnəxt] "youth"
<ao(i)> in some dialects Portlaoise [ˈpɔɐ̯tˌliːʃə] "Portlaoise"
<i> before fortis consonants in closed syllables prinn [pɾiːɲ] "towards us"
[i] <i> in [ɪn] "the"
<ui> in a few words buich [bɪç] "being"
<io> when not preceding a fortis consonant in a closed syllable giolla [ˈgiɫə] "conscript"
<ao> in some monosyllables saon [sɪn] "meaning, sense"
[uː] <ú> [tuː] "thou"
<úi> súid [suːd͡ʒ] "eye"
<iú> piúr [pjuːɐ̯] "sister"
<iúi> piúir [pjuːɐ̯] "sister" (oblique case)
<o> before fortis consonants in closed syllables tonn [tuːnˠ] "wave"
<io> before fortis consonants in closed syllables inionn [ˈinuːnˠ] "in us"
<ubh> (word-finally) dubh [duː] "black"
<ubha> (word-internally) lubharam [ˈɫuːɾəm] "I speak"
[u] <u> ullar [ˈuɫəɐ̯] "floor"
<ui> except when preceding a fortis consonant or /r/ in a closed syllable fuid [fʊd͡ʒ] "blood"
<iu> pliuch [pʎʊx] "wet"
<iui> pliuiche [ˈpʎuçə] "wetter"
[eː] <é> sél [ʃeːl] "story"
<oé> coél [keːl] "slender"
<éa> léan [ʎeːn] "broad"


Compared with Old Maíraidh, Cuirpthean grammar has been greatly simplified overall. The extremely complex verbal system has been collapsed into a largely regular system, although some irregularities such as breach being the verbal noun of beir "carry" persist. Moreover, nouns have been reduced to only four forms, showing combinations of singular or plural number with direct or oblique case. However, there are some complications which have been introduced, such as jumping mutations or the partial switch to SVO syntax.

Nouns and adjectives

Nouns are one of masculine, feminine or neuter, and a knowledge of a noun's gender is important both for declining a noun of any given paradigm as well as for correct adjective agreement. Adjectives decline to agree with their head in case and number, as well as have comparative, superlative and equative grades which can only be used as predicates and therefore do not decline.

Nouns have four main paradigms with a number of subclasses. The first declension is a merger of many Old Maíraidh noun types, although the historical paradigm has led to irregularities for a few nouns: feminine i-stem nouns and neuter o-stem, io-stem, s-stem i-stem and u-stem nouns are all slightly different from the usual first declension paradigm. The second declension continues Old Maíraidh velar-stem nouns, the third declension continues dental-stem nouns though each gender has some differences in declension, and the fourth declension continues n-stem nouns once again with a difference between each gender.

The declension of the regular first declension noun túach "people" is as follows:

Singular Plural
Direct túachN túachaH
Oblique túaichL túachabh

Note that slenderisation of the final consonant occurs only for feminine nouns of this declension: guch "voice" which is masculine has the oblique singular guch. With such nouns nasalisation or lenition of the following word is the only indicator of case.

Some nouns may have an irregularity in the plural, such as fer "man":

Singular Plural
Direct ferN fireH
Oblique ferL fereabh

When the irregularity is a change in the stem vowel, as above, only the direct plural is affected. However, if the irregularity is the addition of a consonant, then both the direct and oblique plural forms are affected, as with baille "town":

Singular Plural
Direct bailleN baillteH
Oblique bailleL baillteabh

The first declension contains five slightly deviant subsets. Feminine i-stem nouns traditionally cause lenition rather than nasalisation in the direct singular form. However, it is perhaps more common today to use nasalisation instead; the Comann na Cuirptheich Theanga accepts both variants. The declension of súid "eye" follows:

Singular Plural
Direct súidL or N súideH
Oblique súidL súideabh

The remaining three variants are all neuter nouns. Neuter o-stem, io-stem and s-stem nouns have merged into one subgroup which is exceptional in causing lenition rather than h-prosthesis in the direct plural. In fact, this rule holds for all first declension neuter nouns except for u-stem nouns; this subgroup simply lacks any other idiosyncrasies. The declension of sél "story" follows:

Singular Plural
Direct sélN séleL
Oblique sélL séleabh

Neuter i-stem nouns have a different oblique singular form, identical to the direct plural but causing h-prosthesis instead of lenition. Some speakers are merging this declension with the above. The declension of mor "sea" follows:

Singular Plural
Direct morN moraL
Oblique moraH

Finally, neuter u-stem nouns do not cause mutation in the direct plural, and have slenderisation in both plural forms. These are the only first declension neuter nouns which do not cause lenition in the direct plural. The declension of doras "door" follows; note that the syncope in the plural here is regular:

Singular Plural
Direct dorasN doirse
Oblique dorasL doirseabh

The declension of the regular second declension noun "king" is as follows:

Singular Plural
Direct H rígheH
Oblique L rígheabh

The variant spelling rígh in the singular is sometimes seen, but is regarded as archaic and dispreferred today.

The declension of the regular masculine third declension noun ténn "soldier" is as follows. Note that throughout the third declension, if syncope occurs in the plural following a broad consonant it will be slenderised (see teanga below):

Singular Plural
Direct ténn ténndeH
Oblique ténneL ténndeabh

Third declension feminine nouns cause aspiration in the direct singular. The declension of teanga "tongue, language" follows:

Singular Plural
Direct teangaH tengdeH
Oblique teangaL tengdeabh

Although neuter dental-stem nouns are grouped into the third declension, their declension is particularly different. There are two accepted variants for the oblique plural, one with slenderisation and one without. The declension of déad "tooth" follows:

Singular Plural
Direct déadN déadL
Oblique déidL déideabh

Lastly, the declension of the regular masculine fourth declension noun tallabh "land" is as follows. The occurrence of h-prosthesis in the direct plural is optional and both its presence and absence are accepted:

Singular Plural
Direct tallabh tallbhan(H)
Oblique tallbhanL tallbhanabh

Feminine nouns are identical but have h-prosthesis in the direct singular. The declension of tóide "idea" follows:

Singular Plural
Direct tóideH tóiden(H)
Oblique tóidenL tóideneabh

Neuter nouns decline like first declension nouns in the singular, and cause lenition in the direct plural. The declension of cém "step" follows:

Singular Plural
Direct cémN cémenL
Oblique cémL cémeneabh

Adjectives decline like nouns, but distinguish between masculine, feminine and neuter forms in the basic grade. The majority of adjectives decline like first declension nouns, following the relevant pattern for each gender, though some may have a complication in certain forms; the adjective-forming suffix -(e)ach for example has irregular forms ending in -(a)igh. The basic forms of grách "normal" are give below:

Masculine Feminine Neuter
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Direct gráchN gráchaH gráchN gráchaH gráchN gráchaL
Oblique gráighL gráchabh gráigheL gráchabh gráighL gráchabh

Adjectives also possess three additional grades which are only used predicatively. The comparative is formed with slenderisation or lenition and a suffix -e: gráiche "more usual". The superlative is formed by slenderisation or lenition and a suffix -eabh: gráicheabh "most usual". Finally the equative is formed with a suffix -(a)ír with no changes to the stem: gráchaír "as usual". Irregular adjectives only regularly form the equative: maich "good" → fér "better", deach "best", maichír "as good".

These forms can be used predicatively in the following constructions:

  • Ghas in rí maich. [ɣas ɪn riː maç] "The king is good."
  • Ghas in ríghean fér ná h-in rí. [ɣas ɪn ˈriːʝən fjeːɐ̯ naː hɪn riː] "The queen is better than the king."
  • Ghas éasa dheach deneabh rígheabh. [ɣas ˈeːsə ʝɛx d͡ʒenəv riːʝəv] "He is the best of the kings."
  • Ghas in rí có-maichír us in ríghean. [ɣas ɪn riː koːˈmaçiːr ʊs ɪn ˈriːʝən] "The king is as good as the queen."

To use these forms attributively, qualifying particles must be used. In this case, the morphological grades are not used; instead the particle is used with the appropriate plain form of the adjective:

  • In maich rí [ɪn maç riː] "The good king"
  • In línN maich rí [ɪn ʎiːn maç riː] "The better king"
  • In och maich rí [ɪn ɔx maç riː] "The best king"
  • In rí gcobhH maich (na) [ɪn riː goː maç (nə)] "The as good (as...) king"

There are some adjectives which do not decline to agree with their head. These adjectives typically occur at the start of an adjective phrase (but after articles) and include numerals and demonstratives: ún mhaich mben [uːn vaç mjɛn] "one good woman"; in thall maich mben [ɪn xau̯ɫ maç mjɛn] "that good woman".

Definite article

Cuirpthean has no indefinite, but has a definite article ("the"). Whereas all other declining words only mark direct and oblique case, the definite article continues to distinguish four cases: nominative, accusative, genitive and dative, though the dative article only occurs suffixed to prepositions. The article also shows number and gender in most forms. There are only three distinct independent forms of the article: in, a and na; however, various cases cause distinct mutations to occur.

Singular Plural
Masculine Feminine Neuter Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative in inL aN inL naN
Accusative inN naH
Genitive inL naH inL naN
Dative -n -nabh, -neabh

After a preposition, the definite article takes on the given bound clitic forms, with no distinction of gender and lenition matching that caused by the preposition. For example, with the preposition caNJ "to, until": gham mé a' téach can siúla [ɣam mjeː əˈt͡ʃeːx kən ˈʒuːlə] "I am going to the school".


The simplifications which have occurred since Old Maíraidh are perhaps no more apparent then in the Cuirpthean verbal system. The extremely complex and irregular verbs have been collapsed to two regular conjugations, with two subgroups in the first conjugational paradigm. In the spoken languages, the changes are even more sweeping, with many synthetic verb forms being abandoned in favour of analytic constructions. However, in the literary language, as well as in more formal spoken registers, the full array of synthetic forms are in use.

The first conjugation derives from type-A verbs in Old Maíraidh, with the two subgroups reflecting AI and AII. The second conjugation derives from type-B verbs. Deponents have been eliminated entirely, and stem changes have been largely eliminated outside perhaps one or two forms, such as the irregular verbal noun breach from the root ber- "carry".

Verbs inflect to show two tenses (present and past), three moods (indicative, subjunctive and imperative), three persons and two numbers. Analytic constructions involve using the irregular verb buich "be" with a verbal noun. In the written language, this makes a specifically imperfective aspect verb, but is usual in speech.

The indicative forms of the type AI verb móra "feed" follow. Note that for every verb the first person plural form may be replaced by the second/third person plural form:

Present Past
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person móram mórbha móras mórsabh
2nd person móra mórda mórsad
3rd person móras mór

AII verbs differ from these forms only in the past tense, where the /s/-affix is slender. The conjugation of lége "accept" follows:

Present Past
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person légem léagbha léges légseabh
2nd person lége léaghda légsead
3rd person légeas lég

Subjunctive forms always occur in conjunction with a subordinating particle such as ca. When no other particle occurs, the verb takes the prefix ga- or ge-. Since this is predictable only the plain forms are given below for móra:

Present Past
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person mórasa mórdaine mórdasa mórbhaine
2nd person mórdaise mórbhaise
3rd person

There is no difference in the conjugation of AII verbs, but the subjunctive of lége is given below regardless:

Present Past
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person légeasa léaghdaine léaghdasa léagbhaine
2nd person léaghdaise léagbhaise
3rd person

The two imperative forms are as follows:

móra lége
Singular mór! lég!
Plural móra! lége!

The verbal nouns of regular first conjugation verbs are formed with a suffix -a or -e and are thus identical to the plural imperative form. The present analytic conjugation of móra is given below; other forms are obtained by substituting for another form of buich:

Singular Plural
1st person gham a' móra ghabha (t-)a' móra
2nd person ghá (t-)a' móra ghada (t-)a' móra
3rd person ghas a' móra

The second conjugation has a number of differences to the first, particularly in the past tense where the prefix ra- or re- is mandatory. This conjugation also has numerous alternations between broad and slender stem-final consonants. The present conjugation of breach "carry" follows; this verb is regular except for the verbal noun. Verbal nouns in the second declension are highly unpredictable:

Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person berem bearbha bereasa beardaine
2nd person bere bered beardaise
3rd person beir

Forms with a zero ending (ie. the third person singular present indicative and singular imperative) may experience spelling and pronunciation differences. With breach the pronunciation is regular, with the only change being the use of <ei> instead of <e>. However, a more irregular form is that of fóllan "learn"; the appropriate form of this verb is foll [fuːɫ].

In the past tense, a prefix occurs on the verb. Formerly this was written with a dash as ra- but the prescribed spelling now is ra- or re- in accordance with the usual spelling rules. This prefix causes lenition of the verb. In very informal contexts, the prefix may be dropped, but lenition still occurs on the verb. The past forms of breach follow:

Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person rebheard rebheardam rebheardasa rebhearbhaine
2nd person rebheird rebheardad rebhearbhaise
3rd person

When the past prefix coöccurs with the subjunctive prefix it merges with the verb root, causing nasalisation: gembeard "I might have carried" etc. Before a vowel, the prefix is simply r-: ích "he/she eats" → richd "he/she ate".

The imperatives of breach are identical to the first declension: beir!, bere!

Second conjugation verbal nouns possess multiple endings, and the appropriate ending is rarely predictable. Some common endings are -ch (as in breach or téach "go"), -a or -e (as in the first conjugation; as in gabha "hold" or iche "eat"), -n (as in fóllan "learn" or bubhaín "win") and zero ending (as in seinn "play (a stringed instrument)" or glá "persuade"). The third person singular present indicative forms of each of these verbs follow to exemplify:

Verbal noun 3s.pres.ind
breach [brɛx] beir [bjɛɐ̯]
téach [t͡ʃeːx] tí [t͡ʃiː]
gabha [ˈgavə] gaibh [gav]
iche [ˈiçə] ích [iːç]
fóllan [ˈfoːɫən] foll [fuːɫ]
bubhaín [ˈbuiːn] bubhaí [ˈbuiː]
seinn [ʃɛɲ]
glá [gɫaː]

The verb buich "be" is highly irregular. The present tense appears to have formed out of a hybridisation of the Old Maíraidh absolute and conjunct forms, as they are attested with initial dh- in historic sources. Compare the relativiser da from ata. Both the present and past forms have lenition throughout. The indicative conjugation follows:

Present Past
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person gham ghabha bhasa bhubha
2nd person ghá ghada bhada
3rd person ghas bhá

The present tense of buich is exceptional also in having an irregular set of negative forms. These are given below:

Singular Plural
1st person nída nídan
2nd person nídad
3rd person

The past tense however is regular: ní bhasa etc.

The highly irregular subjunctive forms now follow; note the exceptional forms with /x/ in the past tense:

Present Past
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person bhá bhann bhinn bhime
2nd person bhaigh chá chís
3rd person bhí

The imperative forms of buich are singular ba! and plural bé!

The Old Maíraidh distinction between copular "be" and substantive "be" has been lost outside the present indicative tense, where the forms bía and bigheát exist as defective forms: Bía lam tóide "I have an idea" ← "there is an idea to me".


Cuirpthean retains two sets of personal pronouns, traditionally called absolute and emphatic forms. The absolute forms are unmarked and largely occur as enclitics whereas emphatic forms are syntactically free. Often, emphatic pronouns are also used to emphasise a contrast : tusa "you (in contrast to me)".

The two sets are as follows:

Absolute Emphatic
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person sní mese snine
2nd person sibh tusa sise
3rd person Masculine é éad éasa éise
Feminine í íse
Neuter ad ása

Absolute pronouns can only occur in proximity to a verb; as a result, mé aiceam é "I see him" is correct but *co aiceasa mé é is not a correct way to say "that I see him". In this instance, either the emphatic pronoun must be used (co aiceasa mé éasa) or an object clitic must be used (ca n-aiceasa mé). The former is more common in speech, while object clitics are largely confined to writing today.

Object clitics are always bound to a preverbal particle; when none otherwise occurs the particle no is used. Clitics can cause mutations on a following verb. The set of object clitics before the verb breach "carry" and aice "see" follow. The third person singular present indicative is used to demonstrate:

Singular Plural
1st person nubh bheir
nubh h-aiceas
nann beir
nann aiceas
2nd person nad bheir
nad h-aiceas
nobh beir
nobh aiceas
3rd person Masculine no mbeir
no n-aiceas
nas mbeir
nas n-aiceas
Feminine nas mbeir
nas n-aiceas
Neuter no bheir
no h-aiceas


Cuirpthean prepositions are somewhat more complicated than those of Old Maíraidh. Most dialects of Cuirpthean have inherited two forms of many prepositions, depending on the phonological environment in which the preposition occurs. For example, the preposition ca "to, until" has the form co which is used before most vowels and certain consonants. Cuirpthean has also inherited the so-called conjugating preposition system of that language, meaning that prepositions take sometimes unpredictable suffixes to indicate pronominal arguments. Although some irregularities in the Old Maíraidh system have been levelled out in modern Cuirpthean, some exceptional forms still occur. Presented below are the personal forms of the prepositions pra/pri "towards" (OM fri) and í "in":

pra/pri í
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person priam [ˈpriəm] prinn [priːɲ] ineam [ˈinəm] inionn [ˈinuːnˠ]
2nd person prid [prɪd͡ʒ] priabh [priəv] iniod [ˈinəd] ineabh [ˈinəv]
3rd person Masculine/Neuter pris [prɪʃ] pría [ˈpriːə] in [ɪn] inde [ˈɪnd͡ʒə]
Feminine pría [ˈpriːə] ine [ˈinə]

Of particular note here is the third person masculine/neuter (no distinction is made between the two genders) and plural forms which are largely unpredictable. Other forms are mostly predictable, though some vowel alternations are not.

Distinct emphatic forms have been lost, with the preposition plus free pronoun used instead with optional mutation: pra mese/mhese "to me".

Many prepositions also have distinct combining forms before the definite article, although the form of the definite article itself never changes in this position. Pra has no distinct form: pran. However, í takes the form ise-, giving the forms isen and isneabh.

Although Old Maíraidh distinguished dative arguments from accusative arguments in the third person and when combined with the definite article, this distinction has been lost in Cuirpthean where the dative forms are generalised. These are used even where an accusative meaning is intended, and where the noun takes the direct case: gham mé isen mora "I am in the sea" (dative/oblique) but mé tíghem isen mor "I go into the sea" (accusative/direct).

Prepositions cause a variety of mutations, including the "jumping mutation" which is unique to Cuirpthean. Pra causes lenition, for example, while í causes nasalisation. These mutations occur on the head noun, ie. the last word in a prepositional phrase, rather than to the word immediately following. If a word preceding the head would cause mutation, the jumping mutation takes priority: sní tíobha pranL túigheachN Lthráigh "we will go to the northern coast." In this case, we have lenited thráigh rather than nasalised *dtráigh for "coast".


The unmarked word order of Cuirpthean is SVO, that is, subject-verb-object. However, there are exceptions. The Old Maíraidh order of VSO returns in two main instances: with the verb buich "be" which is always placed first in the clause, as well as in subordinate clauses such as content clauses:

  • In tallabh móras in dtúach. [ɪnˈtaɫəv ˈmoːɾəs ɪnˈduːəx] "The land feeds the people."
  • Ghas in tallabh mór. [ɣas ɪnˈtaɫəv moːɐ̯] "The country is large" lit. "is - the - country - large"
  • Mé fiosam, ca n-iched na mbaí a fér. [mjeː fisəm kəˈniçəd͡ʒ nəˈmiː əˈfjeːɐ̯] "I know that cows eat grass" lit. "I - know - that - eats - the - cows - the - grass"

Peripheral arguments can be placed before or after the direct object, with no change in meaning. Placing such an argument elsewhere however is marked: mé móras in bhflé bpran bhó or mé móras pran bhó 'n bhflé "I fed the meal to the cow." Adverbs of time, however, almost always go at the end of a clause: mé ra h-iochd in bhflé indí "I ate the meal today."

Subordinate clauses are always marked by some subordinating particle. Declarative content clauses generally begin with ca, while interrogative and relative clauses begin with the appropriate pronoun. The clause following has a default VSO word order, though any subordinating pronoun is placed before the verb:

  • Mé creidem, ca ghas a dtall failt. [mjeː ˈkɾed͡ʒəm kə ɣas aˈdau̯ɫ falt͡ʃ] "I don't think that's right."
  • Mé fiosam, cí rabhaird tú coga. [mjeː ˈfisəm kiː ˈɾavəɐ̯d͡ʒ tuː ˈkogə] "I know what you said to her." (OVS)
  • Mé fiosam, céa ghas in tall. [mjeː ˈfisəm ˈkeːə ɣas ɪnˈtau̯ɫ] "I know who that guy is." (SVO)
  • Mé aiceas éad, co a tardas tú in liobhar. [mjeː ˈakəs ˈeːəd ˈkoə ˈtaɐ̯dəs tuː ɪɲˈʎivəɐ̯] "I saw him/her to whom you gave the book." (VSO with an indirect object initial)

Questions can be formed in various ways. Perhaps the most common is to simply use the structure of a declarative sentence with a rising intonation. However, two alternative methods exist in the spoken language. To form formal questions, it is most common to simply use a subjunctive verb; in the absence of any other particles, this verb takes the prefix ga- or ge-. The other possibility, and the only form permissible in the written language, is to use a sentence-initial particle an which forces the clause to take a VSO syntax. Before the ra- or re- prefix occurring on second conjugation past tense, the prefix is lost, merging with an to give ar. However, the verb is still lenited: ar bheird "did you bring?". The following examples all mean "did you see the church?":

  • Tú aiceas in gceill? [tuː ˈakəs ɪŋˈgɛʎ]
  • Tú gachdasa 'n gceill? [tuː ˈgaxdəsəŋ gɛʎ] (spoken language only, formal)
  • An aiceas tú 'n gceill? [əˈnakəs tuːŋ gɛʎ]

Interrogative words can be placed in the unmarked position or fronted for emphasis; if a question word is fronted causing the object to precede the subject, the verb is required to be placed at the end of the clause, though it can precede adverbs: tú bere cí tall? or cí tall tú bere? or cí tú bere tall? "what are you carrying there?"



Cuirpthean Old Maíraidh Translation
ún óen one
dau two
trí trí three
céir cethair four
cóig cóic five
siacht seacht seven
acht ocht eight
nói nine
deich deich ten
ún deag óen deac eleven
dá dheag dau deac twelve
trí deag trí deac thirteen etc
fiche fiche twenty
tríacha trícho thirty
ceórcha cethorcho forty
caíoga coíca fifty
seasca sesca sixty
siachmó sechtmoga seventy
achmó ochtmoga eighty
nócha nócha ninety
céad cét hundred
dá chéad dau cét two hundred
trí céad trí cét three hundred etc
mille míle thousand