Answer Verbs or Thuirt vs Thubhairt and what's in it
Most people have come across these doublets, but few across any helpful explanantions. Most just regard them as variants of the same 'thing', some say the longer forms are the 'old way' of spelling them and there are but a few sources which refer to them as stressed and unstressed forms. The latter is certainly true - but it actually goes beyond that. To begin with, here is a list of the most commonly seen variations:
an deigheagh an deagh would go? an dubhairt an duirt said? bhà bha was bhitheadh bhiodh would be bithidh bidh will be chàidh/chathaidh chaidh went thabhair thoir give thà/thatha tha is thubhairt thuirt said
As so many things in Gaelic orthography which seem to be random, this isn't either. What the spelling is trying to reflect here with some of the most commonly used verbs is a phenomenon of spoken Gaelic - the distinction between what we have chosen to call 'neutral' and 'stressed forms'.
Neutral means that the verb is used without putting particular stress on it, for example because something else is stressed in the sentence or because it is just a simple statement or question you are making. Stressed means that for whatever reason, for example in answering a question or when stressing the verbal elelemt of the sentence, you are putting emphasis on the answer.
This is very common in languages - they differ in how exactly they do it though. Gaelic does two things - it lengthens the vowel of the stressed verbs and splits the single syllabe into two. Huh? Well, let's look at an example:
1. Thuirt mi ris dol ann 2. An dubhairt? 3. Thubhairt! I told him to go there. Did you? I did!
The first thuirt has quite a short vowel and has just one syllable. The other two on the other hand are "drawn out" somewhat and now there are two syllables. It's as similar difference as in English "Yes" and "Ye-es!" in terms of syllables - although it's still the same vowel, it's longer and there is kind of a break in between.
In general there is a tendency to lengthen the vowels slightly in stressed verbs, e.g. in:
1. Mhol mi an latha dhà 2. An do mhol? 3. Mol! I greeted him. Did you? Yes!
In the last Mol! the vowel gets ever so slightly lengthened if you do a measurement of the vowels - by no means enough to make it sound like mòl, but just a bit.
So it actually makes sense to have thubhairt AND thuirt when you are writing Gaelic - but however you write it, the important thing is to remember to pronounce them properly when speaking.
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