The Daltaí Boards » Archive: 1999-2004 » 2001 (January-June) » Help! spelling and pronounciation confusion « Previous Next »

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JohnR ( -
Posted on Tuesday, January 02, 2001 - 05:37 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Athbhliain faoi Mhaise Dhaoibh!

I am just starting to learn Gaeilge and I'm a bit confused with seemingly conflicting spellings and pronounciations. I hope someone will be kind enough to set me straight. :-)

First, the word 'duit'. I've seen is spelled 'dhuit' with pronounciations of 'git', 'ditch', 'dit' and 'gwit'. If I understand correctly, there is no 'ch' sound in Irish so 'ditch' would wrong. Are all these variations merely different dialects? Or are mangled pronounciations the attempts by non-native/fluent Irish speakers to get close the proper pronounciation?

I also need some help properly pronouncing two Irish names. I have two Irish email friends whom I will be meeting in a weeks. It would be nice if I could say their names correctly. :-)

First name is Roibeard (with Fada over the 'a'), which I learned is the Irish equivalent of Robert. I've seen pronounced as RUB-erd, ROH-bahrd and RU-bard. Are any of the R's rolled?

Second name is Eadbhard (Fada over the 'a'), Edward, I believe. I've seen it pronounced AYD-vard and ED-vawhrd. Is the R rolled here?

I hope my questions don't seem terribly silly. The variations are a bit confusing to a beginner. Especially a native English speaker, who is still stumped by English's weird rules. :-) I just think someone's name is important. I'd like to get these two friends' names right the first time.

Go raith mile maith agaibh as bhur gcunamh!


PS... I realize many of the Gaeilge words are supposed to have a Fada. I couldn't get the cut and paste method to work for some reason. Nor would the HTML character tags
work. The board kept complaining about 'special character does not exist'.

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Seosamh ( -
Posted on Wednesday, January 03, 2001 - 12:11 am:   Edit Post Print Post

The different pronunciations of 'duit' are all approximately correct and reflect dialectal differences. 'D' and 't' in Irish are dental, ie, the tip of the tongue touches the upper front teeth. When they are slender, ie, next to an 'i' or 'e' they are still dental, but pronounced softly. In Munster to the south the effect is very slight, but in Connaught and Ulster, the sound of 'd' is almost like an English 'j' and 't' is almost like an English 'ch'.

Irish speakers often lenite the 'd' in 'duit' (meaning 'to you') and related forms, sometimes spelled as 'dhuit' but often left out of the spelling of the word. The 'dh' is unlike any sound in English but is often rendered in approximate pronunciation as 'gw'. It's sort of a gargled, hard 'g' sound. If you can make the 'kh' or 'ch' sound in words like chutzpah, loch, and achtung, then try making it without letting the sound come up your throat. Keep it down there, thus voicing it. If you can't make the sound, you can pronounce 'duit' with a plain, clean 'd'. But there is no getting around the sound in other cases, so if you intend to learn Irish there's no getting around it.

Pronounce Roibeárd as 'RIH-bawrd'. AYD-vard or AYD-vawrd is OK but it would be pronounced AYD-ward north of Munster.

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JohnR ( -
Posted on Friday, January 05, 2001 - 09:48 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Go raith maith agat, A Seosamh! (Did I say that right?) This really helps clear up my confusion over 'duit'. Not yet having meet any local Gaeilge speakers makes it a little harder to learn the proper pronounciations. I plan on getting some tapes so that should help me a lot! I have few more questions related to pronounciation. I'm trying to figure out broad and slender consonants. Is the rule 'broad with broad and slender with slender' a general one or does it apply in all cases?

Using the example of 'Roibeárd' above. (Hey, got cut and paste working!) The 'o' is broad, so the 'R' is broad? The 'b' is surrounded by a slender 'i' and 'e', so it is slender?

The 'e' is effectively silent and only the 'á' is pronounced?

Finally, what determines if the final 'rd' are broad or slender? In other words, in general, do consonants normally take one sound (broad or slender) unless something changes it? Sorry if I am dissecting too much. :-) I am just trying to get a grasp on the basic Gaeilge rules.

Slán!! John

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Seosamh ( -
Posted on Friday, January 05, 2001 - 01:41 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

The rule applies generally but you happened to ask about a major exception: initial 'r' is pronounced broad, even if written as slender. 'Rd' in the word above is next to an 'a' so they are both pronounced broad. ('R' is complicated in Irish; books don't usually mention whether you should trill the 'r' and never exactly when.)

In some cases, a neighboring word may affect pronunciation. For example the 'n' in the article 'an' is slender (therefore pronounced soft) if followed by an 'e' or 'i' sound: an easpa (the lack) and an fhidil (uh nyih-dil; because 'fh' is silent, remember).

Occasionally you will see consonants flanked by conflicting vowels. Those are either a few very common words (arís) or a few compound words (seanfhear). Prounounce these examples with slender consonants.

Be creative as well as analytical: Imitate tapes and speakers closely. Be a parrot.

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JohnR (
Posted on Sunday, January 14, 2001 - 04:38 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Dia dhuit Seosamh...

Go raith maith agat! This helps a great deal! I plan on being as much of a parrot as I can! :-)


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Seosamh ( -
Posted on Monday, January 15, 2001 - 01:17 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Talking about parrots, I had a student who used to tape me. He worked hard at the language and got quite fluent. One day he turned on his tape recorder. "Why do you have to tape me?" I said. "I hate the way my voice sounds, especially on tape." "That's not you," he said. "That's ME."

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