Hope, expectation, responsibility

Even though bi is the verb for “to be”, you can’t usually use it with two noun phrases, certainly not to say that one of them is the order. But there is a class of nouns that go quite happily with another noun as arguments of bi. I think what might be going on is that they’re being used adverbially, like an diugh (today) or an làthair (present). Let’s take this phrase from the Scotsman (source) a few years ago (slightly edited because Johnston Press have mislaid their diacritics):

Thuirt am Ministear a tha an urra ris a’ Ghàidhlig, Peter Peacock:

“Said the minister responsible for Gaelic, Peter Peacock:” is what this means. It’s a clefted construction, as is so often the case in Gaelic and Irish. Tha am Ministear an urra ris a’ Ghàidhlig “The minister is responsible for Gaelic” would be the unclefted version.

Another example from the same piece:

Tha mi an dòchas gum bi duine làidir ann a sheasas suas riutha, a sheasas airson na Gàidhlig, airson nan Gàidheal ‘s an aghaidh an riaghaltais ma tha sin a dhìth.

“I hope that there will be strong people who will stand up for them, stand for Gaelic, for the Gaels and against the government if need be.” This is unclefted and clearer than the previous sentence. At the very beginning we have thami, and an dòchas gu… as the verb and two noun phrases.

And one from the BBC:

Chuir ministear eile aig Eaglais na h-Alba fios chun na h-eaglaise gu bheil e an dùil fàgail air sgàth cùis nam ministearan gèidh.

“Another minister in the Church of Scotland has sent word to the church that he expects to leave on account of the matter of gay clergy.” Here we have bheil, the dependent form of bi, followed by e, “he” and an dùil fàgail, “the expectation to leave”.

So that means that bi fits the following patterns (out of my head and double-checked with William Lamb’s Scottish Gaelic):

  1. bi + NP + PP: for expressing locations, for possession, for many verbal constructions if we take ag/a’ and friends to be prepositions (otherwise there is a 1b: bi + NP + AspP), and for linking two nouns: tha mi nam oileanach and ‘s e oileanach a th’annam
  2. bi + NP + ADJ: tha sinn toilichte, tha i brèagha and so on
  3. bi + NP + ADV[loc]: tha an cat a-staigh
  4. bi + NP + NP[dòchas]: the examples we’ve seen above and a few more. Wilson McLeod on Twitter has helpfully pointed out that dùil and urra (as shown above), eisimeil and crochadh are in this set of nouns.

I wonder whether there are any more? I will keep looking.

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