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Jonas ( -
Posted on Sunday, June 15, 2003 - 08:47 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I've posted this question to Gaeilge-B already but I thought it might be of interest to you as well.

Mar a tá a fhios agaibh (má tá aithne agaibh orm) is í Gaelainn Chorca Dhuibhne atá agam féin agus níl mórán eolais agam mar gheall ar an gcaint i nDún-na-nGall. Bhíos ag léamh Modern Irish le Mícheál Ó Sidhail inné agus chuir sé sin cúpla cheist im cheann. Bheadh sé go deas ar fad dá mbeadh sibh ábalta me a chabhrú!

Reading what Ó Sidhail writes about the pronunciation of "á" and "ái" in Donegal I feel very lost. Speaking Munster Irish, I naturally know the pronunciation of that dialect. I also know Connacht Irish fairly well, at least the dialect of Conamara. Ulster Irish is a very different story altogether, though...

I'll use these symbols to explain
/a:/ the long a: in Munster and Connacht Irish "breá" or "tá"
/(ae):/ the long form of the /(ae)/ in Stand.Engl "man", "cat"
/e:/ the long form of /e/ in "bed", French "sait".

On to what Ó Siadhail writes:

"In Donegal /a:/ is most often realised as /(ae):/, as in, e.g., áit /(ae):t´) "place". The environment in which the change takes place varies from one local dialect to another. In the eastern area of Gaoth Dobhair, for instance, the rule has effect before any slender consonant except a tense nasal or liquid. This yields examples such as:
páiste /p(ae):s´t´@/
sáile /s(ae):l´@/
Spáinn /spa:N´/"

If I understand him correctly, Ó Siadhail says that in Gort a' Choirce and Dún Lúiche all slender /a:/ (that means "ái", I guess) are
pronounced /(ae):/ except when followed by those consonants he mentioned. Does this the means that the "á" in "lá", "grá", "breá" remains /a:/ in Cort a' Choirce and Dún Lúiche?? He does give
dhá /G(ae):/ and bádóir /b(ae):daj/ for Gaoth Dobhair .

I've never heard a single speaker from those places (eastern Gaoth Dobhair) so I have no idea at all. Help appreciated.

And what about the western half of Gaoth Dobhair? It is there that most people actually live. And what about the area around Rinn na
Feirste? I've heard quite a lot of speakers from these areas (as has anyone who has ever heard Enya, Clannad or Altan) and as far as I can
tell there is a huge difference between their pronunciation and that which Ó Sidhail has described above. Two things comes to mind:

1. Almost everyone I've heard seems to have /(ae):/ instead of /a:/in all words where á is pronounced long. They do say
páiste /p(ae):s´t´@/
sáile /s(ae):l´@/

as Ó Siadhail writes, but they also say
Spáinn /sp(ae):N´/
grá /gr(ae):/
tá /t(ae):/
álainn /(ae):L@N´)

From what I think I've heard, there are only two times when á or ái is not always pronounced /(ae):/. These are:
I. Before "th"
máthair /mahar´/ (I've also heard /m(ae):h@j/
áthas /ahas/
II. When unstressed
scadán /sgadaN/

Does this mean that an á or ái that remain long always are pronounced /(ae):/ in places like Bun Beag, Na Doirí Beaga, Rinn na Feirste and
Cnoc Fola but not in Gort a' Choirce and Dún Lúiche?

2. Many speakers (mostly from Rinn na Feirste I think, but I'm far from sure) seems to have neither /(ae):/ nor /a:/ in these words but /e:/.
I've heard the following at least
grá /gre:/
tá /te:/
breá /b´re:/
Spáinne /spe:N´@/
I've eved heard
athair /ehir´/

So once again, I'm lost between /a:/, /(ae):/ and /e:/.

My assumtion has always been that ái and á are always /(ae):/, but according to Ó Siadhail this is not the case in those areas of Gaoth Dobhair that I haven't visited at all. In Doirí Beaga and Cnoc Fola, and from Rinn na Feirste speakers, I've only heard /(ae):/ or /e:/.
Does this mean that in those areas /a:/ is always replaced? (I haven't heard much of their Irish either). And what about the difference
between /(ae):/ and /e:/. Is it also a question of local dialects or simply idiolect.

Any help would be incredibly welcome!!!

Slán go fóill,

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