Gaelic Language

The Gaelic (more correctly, Goidelic) languages are

Part of the CelticLanguage family, along with the BrythonicLanguages.

See also RomanceLanguage, GermanicLanguage
The pronunciation and spelling of Gaelic languages is... rather interesting, to say the least. From what I've read, at least in some dialects of Irish Gaelic, the word bhfaighidh (a form of the verb faigh, meaning "to get") is pronounced roughly like the English word "we"! There's also gheimhreadh, meaning "winter", which can be pronounced roughly like "year-uh". -- CodyBoisclair

On the surface, yes, but deep down, no. It's true, Gaelic is spelt oddly, but for very good reasons. The Latin alphabet isn't very good at representing a language as phonologically rich as Gaelic. Like the RussianLanguage and a number of others, Gaelic has a series of velarised (known as broad or leathan) and palatalised (known as slender or caol) consonants, which form pairs. The CyrillicAlphabet, which Russian uses, has specific symbols for denoting palatalisation of consonants. Gaelic doesn't have that luxury, so what it does is overload vowel sequences to show both vowel sounds (quality and length) and palatalisation. e and i indicate palatalisation, and the rest indicate its absence. For instance, in leathan, the l is indicated as palatalised by being followed by an e, and the th and n are both unpalatalised as indicated by the as. Palatalised consonant clusters are always surrounded by palatalising vowels. Palatalisation isn't something that can be thrown away as it's grammatically significant.

Now we get to consonants. It's common in Gaelic to see words with an abundant number of hs. h isn't really a letter as such, but more of a diacritic of sorts. It is used to indicate Séimhiú (lenition/spirantisation) of a consonant, and was, up until 50 years ago, formerly denoted using a punctus delens (a dot above the letter). It's also grammatically significant, and occurs for numerous reasons which I'm too lazy to list. An example would be the word for "airport" in Gaelic, aerphort, which is a compound of the words aer and port. Compounding words typically results in the lenition of the leading consonants.

Specifically in Irish Gaelic, there's an additional process called Urú, or either eclipsis (because it hides the following consonant) or nasalisation (because that's what etymologically causes it). Comparing Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic throws this into relief. Scots Gaelic preserved final ns where Irish Gaelic has lost them e.g. in the plural definite article (nan in the former and na in the latter), but their effect is still felt in Irish Gaelic through the nasalisation of the initial consonant of the following word. Cody's example of bhfaighidh is such an example, where f is nasalised (where I'm from) into a bilabial v sound (like b or v in Spanish). The f is kept to make the original word completely clear, but is not pronounced. I'd pronounce it something like vy-ee (where the y sounds like the i in "hi").

Cody's example of gheimhreadh is slightly misleading. It's actually spelt geimhreadh and pronounced something like GOW-roo where I'm from. I think he must have pulled it from somewhere where it was lenited.

Though it might surprise you, Gaelic orthography, despite its surface complications, is a better representation of pronunciation than English orthography. It's just that it's complicated by having to shovel 10kg of phonology into a 5kg alphabet. ;-) -- KeithGaughan?


CategoryNaturalLanguage

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