Am bu chòir do dh’Alba a bhith na dùthaich neo-eisimeilich?

Should Scotland be an independent country?
Should Scotland be an independent country?
I’ve been wondering for a wee while how to express the official referendum question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”, in Scottish Gaelic. A few enquiries on Twitter didn’t get me anywhere.

I had this idea that the way to express “should” would be through some obscure verb form, but when I finally looked it up in my copy of “Scottish Gaelic in Three Months” today, I learnt that it’s expressed as bu chòir do “it’s proper for”.

With that information in hand, it didn’t take me long to find a BBC blog page which gives the question as Am bu chòir do dh’Alba a bhith na dùthaich neo-eisimeilich?

Although I have no way to verify it, this looks correct to me. The structure is as follows:

Am bu chòir do dh’ Alba a bhith na dùthaich neo-eisimeilich
Q is proper for Scotland to be country independent

(I’m not entirely sure about the na. I believe it means “in her” here — “in his” would lenite the following word, and the genitive form of the definitely article would require the genitive form of dùthaich — and I suspect it’s here to bind together the infinitive with the rest, but I must admit I don’t remember the details.)

If the government provided ballot papers in Gaelic, too, they would presumably then look as follows:

Am bu chòir do dh’Alba a bhith na dùthaich neo-eisimeilich?

  • Bu chòir
  • Cha bu chòir

I wonder whether it would change the number of Yes and No votes if the question in English had been “Is it proper for Scotland to be an independent country?” too…

8 thoughts on “Am bu chòir do dh’Alba a bhith na dùthaich neo-eisimeilich?

  1. The ‘na’ is part of the ‘to be’ construction in Scottish Gaelic. When you are connecting the subject of the ‘to be’ verb with a noun, you are effectively saying, “to be in”. So, if I were to say, “I am a teacher”, in Scottish Gaelic you say, “I am in my teacher” “tha mi nam thidsear”. “you are a Scot” “tha thu nad Albannach”. It’s simply the ‘to be’ construction with a noun. The author is correct to note that ‘Scotland’ is feminine, and therefore there is no lenition after ‘na’. “Tha i na duthaich”.

    You also use this construction with physical and emotional states. “Tha mi nam shuidhe”. ‘I am sitting’ or ‘I am seated’ (literally ‘I am in my sitting’).

    ‘Duthaich’ is not genitive, it’s the nominative. ‘Duthcha’ is the nominative (excuse lack of diacritics).

  2. Further, ‘neo-eisimeilich’ is the plural adjective. ‘Neo-eisimeileach’ is the singular.

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