For the vast majority of masculine Irish words their genitive plural was identical to their nominative singular originally. Only in the last two centuries have "strong plurals" started to spread and changed this.
From the slightly addictive Etymology Online website, this time the entry for Tyrone: "Tyrone: Irish county, from Irish Tir Eoghain "Eoghan's Land," from Eoghan "Owen," ancestor of the O'Neills, who owned land here. Tir also forms the final syllable in Leinster, Munster, Ulster."
The highlighted part is very interesting, if true. Never thought about it and can't find any source confirming it. Anybody able to confirm?
I could be wrong, but I thought it was a result of the addition of the North Germanic ending "-ster" (for state) to the pre-existing Gaelic names by the Vikings:
Mumhain + ster -> Munster.
Laighean + ster -> Leinster
Uladh + ster -> Ulster
I had a search of etymonline but tbh, I think ALD's answer is more probable.
I suspected a non-Irish origin also, given the existence of Münster in Germany. However, I finally got access to the OED online, and here's the result from Ulster (Leinster & Munster have no separate entries) so I can see where Etymonline is getting his origin above:
Etymology: < the name of the most northerly of the four provinces of Ireland.
The name occurs in Middle English (14–15th cent.) as Ulster (also Hulster) and in the fuller form Ulvester (in Scots also as Ullister, Ulsister, and Ulcister), = Anglo-Norman (a1225) Ulvestre (Hulv-), Anglo-Latin (c1200) Ulvestera, Ulvestira, Ulvestria, corresponding to Old Norse Ulfastir, a variant of the more usual Ulaztir, Ulaðstir (also Ulaþscir), the first element of which is the Irish Ulaidh (genitive Uladh), men of Ulster. The origin of the suffix, which also appears in Leinster and Munster (Irish Gaelic Laighean, Mumha), is not clear, but it may represent Irish tír land."
Oxford English Dictionary entry for 'Ulster'
"Is iris chultúir é NÓS" Why is this not "Is iris chultúir í Nós", as 'Iris' is feminine?
Likewise, "Is áit álainn í", as áit is feminine? What precisely is the rule here? áit is presumably a pronoun so if one were speaking about an ostán it would be is áit álainn é, or would the actual name of the hotel determine whether it's é or í?
In the vast majority of cases "é" seems to be used without, to me, any apparent reference to gender. Can anybody direct me towards the rule governing this? Grma.
In "Is iris chultúir é Nós", the é refers to the second noun, in this case "Nós" which is masculine.
In a sentence without a second noun, where the subject is just "it", like:
Is áit alainn í/é
The general tendency is to use the gender of the first noun, although it is valid to just always say é, and native speakers frequently do.
Also, if the first noun is definite it will also have a pronoun matching it in gender:
Sin é an saghas duine í Bríd.
é -> due to saghas being masculine
í -> due to Bríd being feminine
An Modh Coinníollach.
etc. Fair enough. The pattern with all the verbs is clear. However, in grammatical terms how is 'Ba mhaith liom...' explained? I assume it is modh coinníollach as it's 'I would like...'? But could somebody help me understand it.
What other modh coinníolach constructs are there outside the verb structure above?
To be very brief & not at all comprehensive:
ba is a form of the coupla.
I think the copula has only two affirmative forms left - is and ba
(of course there are also the negative and question forms)
is for present/future, and ba for the historic tenses (past & conditional).
If you go here http://126.96.36.199/focloir/ and put is into the box, it will give you a list of all the forms of the verb.