Pronouncing Irish words correctly!

Pronouncing Irish words correctly!

I stumbled across this. Now I don’t want to learn to speak Irish/ Gaelic but I’d like to be able to correctly pronounce people’s names, some tune names, phrases and place names and so forth when I see them in print.
Do you think this short vdo is useful Gaelic speakers?
https://youtu.be/DU9w9qLynwE

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I’m can’t speak Gaelic but have often wished I could understand it. I found that video really clear and easy enough to follow. That guy seems like an excellent teacher. I will learn all of that and see where it takes me.

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Re: Pronouncing Irish words correctly!

Yes, this is a pretty good guide to pronouncing names in Irish.

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This kind of resource is pretty nifty as well: type or paste something in the box and get synthesised speech back, in different dialects + IPA. https://www.abair.ie/en/

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If ‘fh’ is silent, why have it?!
Or did I misunderstand that bit?!

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The way I understood it, Irish words are written down by first taking the word phonetically, and then adding a motherload of unpronounced consonants.

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> did I misunderstand that bit?!

No, just no-one has ever explained it. It’s normal for letters between vowels in speech, in any language, to be eroded over time, and it’s part of why all languages sound different after a few hundred years.

In Irish (and all extant Celtic languages), those sound changes became associated with grammatical meaning, and so they appear and disappear in a regular fashion. The marker in modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic is to add an h after the letter at the beginning of the word. F is an unusual case because when it softens, it just disappears.

> The way I understood it

Well, that’s not understanding, that’s (a) ignorance and (b) rudeness. Not uncommon, but I’m surprised you’d want to show it off in a forum like this.

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If ‘fh’ is silent, why have it?
Or did I misunderstand that bit?

If "gh" is silent, why have it?
Why isn’t daughter spelled dotter and thought thot?

Many languages have silent letters. English and French are at least as bad as Irish in that regard. At least Irish has undergone spelling revisions which has got rid of many of them.

Many languages do that- revise their spelling from time to time to keep up with pronunciation shifts. English has not, save for Noah Webster.

In any case any guide to Irish pronunciation is welcomed by me. I studied Scottish Gaelic in uni which makes me mispronounce Irish.

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I’ve tried to summarize the info from Mr Lewis’s vdo:
Vowels lengthened by the fada.
ae= long a sound (‘ah’)
ao= ee (in English)
b, f, g, l, m, n, p and r pronounced more or less as in English.
c= k
s= s but is sh (when before an e or i)
bh= v
ch= ch as in Scottish ‘loch’/ chi in Greek
fh= not pronounced (silent)
mh= v
ph= f (like Greek)
sh= h
th= h

But what was unclear was how to say the letter combinations ‘dh’ and gh’.
(And I do know there are no standard Ireland-wide pronunciation, each county or even smaller area has its dialect and own peculiarities.)
Thank you and please correct any errors/ misunderstandings!!!!

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I vaguely remember that in Scots Gaelic dh is like y and gh is a vocalised or softened ch but not sure about Irish.

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Regarding the questions to fh

In Irish lenition ( putting that h after the first letter of a word) occurs quite frequently.

Bean is the Irish word for woman. If you use bean together with it’s singular article it changes to an bhean howewer, as does every female word that’s "lenitable"

Hence, there is words like:

Fuinneog, window An fhuinneog
Feirm, farm An fheirm
Fiacail, tooth An fhiacail

You pronounce them then as if there wouldn’t be any f, An-uinneog, an-eirm

There is other cases such as the female given name Gormfhlaith. It consists of two words added together, gorm and
flaith . Blue and sovereign. The meaning may be translated as illustrious princess.

The same happens when you compound a word with one of the many prefixes such as mí-, neamh-, sár:

Foighne, patience becomes impatience when mí- is put in the beginning :mífhoighne
Fear, man can be altered to sárfhear or ardfhear to refer to a man who exeeded with something ect.

The past tense of regular verbes commencing with the letter f consists of d’ and then the basic verb, again lenited. For example: D’fhág sé a bhaile ina dhiaidh. He left his home behind him.

For monoglot, native English speakers may hard to grasp, this is completely natural to native speakers of Irish.

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Roughly speaking, consonants have four different pronunciations: lenited/unlenited, and slender/broad. The former we’ve covered. Slender/broad consonants are indicated by the vowels that surround them: e and i are the slender vowels, and a o u are the broad. You’ll notice that almost every consonant is consistent in having either slender vowels on both sides, or broad vowels. (I believe this rule is a bit less applicable in modern Irish due to the spelling reforms, but it generally holds).

The details of pronunciation are a bit much for a forum post, but this hopefully gives you an idea of what to listen out for. One thing worth knowing, though, is that a slenderised and lenited consonant will more often than not disappear in speech, especially when not pronounced deliberately.

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Gaels of the world lenite!

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And I had thought that learning Nāhuatl and Ch’ol Maya was difficult!
At least in those languages, if you see it, you say it; and each letter has but one way of pronouncing it.
Counting my blessings now…

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the Spelling is actually quite close to the sound. If you know the rules you should be able to have a reasonable crack at pronouncing whatever new words you encounter. (Which is certainly not the case with English.)
It’s just that there are a lot of rules and some of them don’t seem very intuitive.
Basically the big problems are going to be séimhiú (those mh and fh and bh sounds) and urú (adding a letter on in certain contexts so, for example Gallaimh (Galway) becomes nGallaimh.) but the rules for pronunciation of those sounds and when and why they happen are pretty regular. (It’s declension stuff - possessives, being “in” a place or going “to” a place or coming “from” a place - that kind of thing.)
Then there’s those vowel clusters which result from consonants being palatalised or not. Basically consonants can sound more or less the way they would in English or they can sound in a sort of narrower squeezed way, a bit like combining them with a “y”. Irish shows this is happening by putting slender vowels (“i” or “e”) around the consonant.
So all this arbitrary weirdness does actually serve a purpose and it reflects the sounds of Irish pretty accurately and clearly. It’s just a bit of a steep learning curve in the beginning for an English speaker.

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warning: united states american-blinkered viewpoint ahead. Kindly, intelligent, and compassionate European and otherwise much more literate and aware people not from the area might want to steer clear lest groans, headshakes, and face-palming commence. 🙂

Okay, so coming from an upstart American here with probably all too much American cocky confidence and all too little knowledge of anything (actually to be fair, I have no confidence at all with like anything in the slightest and probably slightly more knowledge on a few subjects than I give myself credit for, however Irish Gaelic would not be one of those subjects).

So, as well as learning the rules, which is helpful maybe, but will only get you so far. I’d point you where you could to finding actual factual native speakers if possible (hard to find in my area for sure!), and if not, at least videos of native speakers who were kind enough to provide such introductory materials.

Another way to go if you’re just weird like I am, is to try and find songs in the language that provide lyrics, sung by native speakers (or at the least folks from Ireland who have undergone a looooottttt of training and learning). I say youtube, because youtube allows you to slow down the videos so you can really really hear what’s going on. Learning to sing a few songs this way can start to help you build up that intuitive sense of pronunciation, how you hold your mouth and other pronunciation related things et cetera than Americans, and other such things.

Be warned, this does not make you even knowledgable on any real level, but it sounds like you’re aware enough of that already. You might *ahem* (digression ahead totally not related to your actual ask) get away with kindly folks at a smaller session with no actual factual native Irish speakers to offend occasionally enjoying hearing a sparse song or two that’s as close to in the language as you can ever do, but don’t push it and make sure its a group you know well and that you’re staying within session politeness and for goodness sake, make sure that you won’t be offending any Irish speakers or folks from Ireland who happened to stumble by your local session. They deserve better than us brash Americans like screwing up their language and songs, even if they are beautiful and we love them and its our guilty pleasure to try and learn them anyway that we barely speak of, lol.

But that’s a digression since you’re main goal isn’t singing, but rather just basic politeness with basic pronunciation. hope anything in this helped, and if not, hope there might have been a good laugh for you somewhere in it!

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