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John Meunier
Posted on Thursday, July 27, 2000 - 11:39 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I am an amateur linguist who is new to Irish, but have been exposed to countless other languages. I bought the book _Teach Yourself Irish_, by Diarmuid Ó Sé, but, unfortunately, did not purchase the tapes that go along with the book (very stupid move).

So, having no access to Irish speakers (and having little desire to purchase another copy of the book along with the tapes), I would like to ask you question about the pronunciation of vowel combinations when they have accents on the letters.

For example, when you have a word like "Eanáir," as opposed to a word like "baile," how would the acute accent over the "a" make a difference in pronunciation? And do the same rules apply for other vowel combinations such as "ui," "io," etc.?

Go raibh maith agat in advance (hope I used the phrase correctly).

John Meunier

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Laigheanach ( -
Posted on Friday, July 28, 2000 - 12:01 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

A on it's own, is pronounced like an "O" in English.
Á with the accent over it, is pronounced "AW"

E is pronounced the same as in english, without the accent.
É with accent is pronounced "AY"

I is pronounced as in english, without accent.
With accent, it is pronounced as "EE"

O is pronounced as a "U" in english, without accent.
With accent it is pronouced as "OA"(Boat, Goat,)

U without accent, is pronounced like the english.
With accent, it is pronounced "OO" (cool, pool)

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Posted on Friday, July 28, 2000 - 12:58 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

John, if you go to the grammar section (basic phrases), you will be able to click on phrases and hear them pronounced.

Laighneach describes the difference between short and long vowels in Irish that is indicated by the accent mark, which is called the síneadh fada in Irish, i.e., the length mark. The difference between i/í is basically like English 'fit' and 'feet', u/ú like 'put' and 'spoon'. A/á is like 'father' and 'law' in most dialects. (A few spelling conventions make things a little more complicated: 'ae' = e:, for example.)

The vowels are pronounced cleanly with no glide vowel at the end as in English. Unstressed short vowels are an indistinct sound like the English schwa.

Some of the vowels in Irish words are there just to tell you how to pronounce the neighboring consonant(s), i.e., whether to palatalize them or not. The 'i' in 'Eanáir' is not pronounced, it indicates that the 'r' is soft.

When consonants are nearest to an 'e' or 'i', they are said to be slender and are palatalized; when nearest to an 'a', 'o' or 'u' they are broad and not palatalized. The spelling rule is 'Leathan le leathan agus caol le caol' 'Broad with broad and slender with slender'.

Figuring out which short vowels should be pronounced can be a pain in the neck. But long vowels are easy for the learner, they're always pronounced, always pronounced long, and almost always any adjacent short vowels are mute, affecting only the consonant(s) next to them.

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