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PostPosted: Sun 25 Mar 2012 9:33 pm 
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Weak vs Strong Plurals

First, the bad news

All the effort you put into learning how to guess the declension of a noun does help you to figure out the genitive singular, but it's of limited use in figuring out the plural. Oh, there are rules, and sub-rules, and I will give them to you, but it's my personal opinion that the rules are so involved that it's not worth memorising them. (It is worth reviewing them, though.) Also, plural forms do vary from one dialect to another, and they are subject to change; there is a general trend in the language toward "strong plurals", which I'll explain in a moment.

Now the good news
Plurals seem to have a way of finding their way into one's memory. By the time I started worrying about the genitive, I had already absorbed a lot of plurals without really trying to learn them. If I know a word, there's a fair chance I know the plural without even thinking about it. (In contrast, I usually have to think about the genitive form unless it's a common noun.) When I don't know the plural, I simply apply this simple rule:

Wombat's Golden Rule for Plurals Think of a very similar word whose plural you do know. In this case, "similar" means ending in the same sequence of letters. Chances are the plural for the "new" word is formed in the same way.

Weak Plurals vs Strong Plurals
There are two basic patterns to the way a noun changes. In "weak plurals", the genitive plural is the same as the nominative singular. In "strong plurals", all the plural forms are identical: the genitive plural is the same as the nominative (common) plural and the vocative plural. To summarise:

weak plurals: gpl = ns
strong plurals: gpl = npl = vpl

This information isn't usually that helpful in figuring out the npl, because if you don't know the npl, you probably don't know the gpl or vpl either. But it certainly comes in handy for figuring out the gpl or vpl. So it's worth knowing the difference:

Weak plurals usually end in: -(a)igh, -a, or -e
Strong plurals usually end in: -(e)anna, -ta, -te, -tha, -the, -(a)í, -(e)adh, -(a)í, í, -(e)acha, -lte, -lne, OR they're formed by syncopating ("scrunching") the ns and adding -e or -a.

As Promised, the Rules

Here are the "rules" for forming plurals. Learn them if you want. I haven't bothered to memorise them because Wombat's Golden Rule for Plurals seems to do the job nearly as well. But I do find it helpful to read through this list periodically.

Weak Plurals

Most m1 nouns:
To form the plural:
* Make the ending slender
* -(e)ach -> -(a)igh
m1: beart, bruas, cág, ceap, ceart, cleas, cuibhreach, creatlach, fiach, fithrach, giall, nod, úll
f2 nouns ending in -eog, -óg, -lann
Multi-syllable f2 nouns ending in -each
f2: binn, deoir
3ú: béas, dreach, coinsias, deasghnáth, dol, tréad
4ú: neach

To form the plural: broaden the ending, add -a
f2: súil, dúíl, glúin
To form the plural: add -e

Strong Plurals

Only one-syllable nouns!
m1: bás, carr, cas, frog, gléas, luas, marc, nós, rós, spás, spórt, saghas, stad (mostly loan words)
One-syllable, slender f2 nouns
One-syllable m3 nouns
4ú: ae, bá, bia, bogha, bus, club, fleá, tae, ceo, cnó, dó, cú, fia, fogha, liú, nia, pas, seans, stop, sú, togha, tram, tua

To form the plural: add -(e)anna
Only one-syllable nouns!
One-syllable m1, f2, 3ú declension nouns ending in l, n preceded by a diphthong or long vowel
To form the plural: add -ta or -te
One-syllable m1, f2 nouns ending in r preceded by a diphthong or long vowel
4ú nouns ending in -í, -aí, -aoi, -é

To form the plural: add -tha or -the
Only multi-syllable nouns!
m1 nouns ending in -(e)adh, -(e)ach
slender f2 nouns
f2 nouns ending in -ach
3ú nouns ending in -éir, -eoir, -óir, -(i)úir, -cht, -áint -úint, irt
4ú nouns ending in -ín or -a, -e

To form the plural:
* add -(a)í
* -(e)adh, -(e)ach -> (a)í
* -e -> í
Two-syllable m1 nouns ending in broad -l, -n, -r
f2: craobh, fréamh, iall, iníon, nead, splanc
carraig, ceirt, cistin, clúid, coirm, colainn, féith, feirm, foirm, maidin, muintir, stoirm
3ú nouns ending in -il, -in, -ir
4ú: ainm, cine, easna, teanga

To form the plural: add -(e)acha
m1: bóthar, cloigeann, doras, solas, uasal
To form the plural: syncopate, add -e
3ú: gamhain
To form the plural: syncopate, add -a
4ú nouns ending in -le,-ne
To form the plural:
* -le -> lte
* -ne -> lne

ImageTo the extent possible under law, Amy de Buitléir has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.

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