Irish Language Blog

Ar an 4ú, an 5ú, an 6ú agus an 7ú lá den Nollaig (birds, rings, and poultry for the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th days of Christmas) Cuid / Part 2: Some Pronunciation Tips Posted by on Dec 29, 2016 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

cúig + fháinne nó fáinne nó fáinní nó fháinní? Cé acu foirm den fhocal atá ceart? Freagra sa phictiúr! (bunghrafaic:

Our last blogpost dealt with days 4, 5, 6, and 7 of the song “Dhá Lá Dhéag na Nollag” (The Twelve Days of Christmas).  This post, second in this mionsraith, will continue a little further with those days, looking at pronunciation.  Post 3 in the mionsraith will look at what the six geese are saying in the illustration for the 12/27 post.  By the way, if anyone is actually looking for the lyrics, I haven’t reproduced them here because there are several versions circulating online, but the staid chóipchirt isn’t clear for any of the ones I looked at.  If you’re looking for the lyrics, I’d suggest just doing a “cuardach Google.”  Our goal for this series and those in previous years when we covered this song is to go over the vocabulary, pronunciation and how the words fit together, plus “beagán cúlra” for the song itself, not to present a singable text.

Having said that, let’s look now at some pronunciation issues for the bronntanais (gifts) mentioned in days 4 through 7; this is mainly for beginners since nothing here is really out of the ordinary, except maybe the bit about “litiam” and

lonta dubha [LUN-tuh DUV-uh OR DOO-uh], blackbirds.  Remember, if you’re reading this in a sans serif type, that the first letter of “lonta” is an “L,” not an “I.”  I love the innovations of the helvetica font and its descendants but it does play tricks on the eyes of language learners.  And not just Irish — I also hear many ESL learners hesitate when they encounter new words with an initial “i” or “l” that printed in this font.   Once we’re familiar with the word, it’s usually no problem, so “the front lawn” or “The Inner Self” shouldn’t present any problems to a competent English speaker.  But “Iago” or “Ilium” could present a challenge.  And for an Irish perspective on the “serif” issue, kudos to anyone who would like to try “lon dubh Ioan” or “turgnamh ian litiam Iain” (translations below!).

fáinne óir [FAWN-yuh ohrzh], a gold ring, lit. ring of gold; fáinní óir [FAWN-yee ohrzh], gold rings.  The sound of the final “r” of “óir” isn’t typical in English but it’s like the “r” in the Czech name Jiří as in Jiří Trnka (1912-1969), the Czech puppet-maker and illustrator dubbed “the Walt Disney of Eastern Europe.”

When we add “cúig” in front, “fáinne” loses the “f” sound, “fh” in Irish is silent: cúig fháinne óir [KOO-ig AWN-yuh ohrzh], five gold rings.  The plural ending (-í) drops out, leaving us with the singular form, which is used in Irish directly after numbers.  So “cúig fháinne óir” very literally is “five ring of gold.”

sé ghé [shay yay], as mentioned previously, the “gh” here is a “y” sound

seacht n-eala, seven swans.  The “ch” of “seacht” is another sound not typical in English, but in my typical triumvirate of examples, it’s the “ch” of German “Buch,” Welsh “bach/fach,” and Yiddish “chutzpah.”

So, sin cúpla leid maidir le fuaimniú na mbronntanas do lá a ceathair, lá a cúig, lá a sé, agus lá a seacht den amhrán (lonta dubha, fáinní óir, géanna agus ealaí).  Next time we’ll look at the captions of what the geese are saying in the illustration from 12/27.  Tá súil agam go raibh sé úsáideach, do thosaitheoirí ar a laghad.  Agus fiú na daoine atá líofa, b’fhéidir nach raibh seans oraibh smaoineamh ar chlóghrafaíocht agus soléiteacht frásaí mar “thurgnamh ian litiam Iain.”  — Róislín

Aistriúchán:  “lon dubh Ioan” is “Ioan’s blackbird,” and for more on one famous bearer of the Welsh name “Ioan” just check out Ioan Gruffudd’s IMDb or Facebook page.   This one ( is pretty hot (Ioan Gruffudd agus filleadh beag, a kilt, air!) and the pix get a bit “níos teo” if you keep scrolling through the photo gallery.  As for “turgnamh ian litiam Iain,” it means “Iain’s lithium ion experiment.”

Iarsmaoineamh faoin ainm “Ioan” — how about “Ioan’s Iona,” if, for example, Mr. Gruffudd were hosting a documentary history of the island of Iona (aka Í Cholm Cille, agus, i nGaeilge na hAlbanÌ Chaluim Chille)

Liosta carnach nasc (cumulative webliography) maidir le “Dhá Lá Dhéag na Nollag” sa bhlag seo:

2010: Dhá Lá Dhéag na Nollag (The Twelve Days of Christmas), Posted on 25. Dec, 2010

Cearca Francacha agus Lonta Dubha (Cuid a Dó don tSraith: Dhá Lá Dhéag na Nollag) Posted on 29. Dec, 2010

“Ór,” “Óir” or “Órga”? “Fáinne” or “Éan”? Éan?! (Cuid a Trí: Dhá Lá Dhéag na Nollag) Posted on 31. Dec, 2010

2011: Géanna agus Ealaí (Cuid a Ceathair: Dhá Lá Dhéag na Nollag) Posted on 04. Jan, 2011

Na hUimhreacha Pearsanta i nGaeilge (Irish Personal Numbers and Cuid a Cúig or the Last Installment of Dhá Lá Dhéag na Nollag) Posted on 06. Jan, 2011

2012: Bunuimhreacha, Orduimhreacha is Maoluimhreacha — A Thiarcais! (Oh my!) Posted on 25. Dec, 2012

2013: Speaking of Pigeons (Colúir)Posted on Dec 14, 2013

(Cé Mhéad Patraisc? Cé Mhéad Drumadóir? (or ’12 Lá na Nollag’ Redux and an Irish Counting Lesson to boot) Posted on 18. Dec, 2013

2015: The Irish Twelve Days of Christmas Redux Redux with a Blogliography of Other Blogs on the Song Posted on Dec 25, 2015

2016: Cén sórt éin? Cén sórt crainn? — Learning Irish from the Christmas Carol ‘Dhá Lá Dhéag na Nollag’ (12 Days of Christmas) Posted on Dec 20, 2016

Ar an 2ú agus  an 3ú lá den Nollaig – dhá fhearán, trí chearc fhrancacha (2 turtledoves, 3 French hens, for the 2nd and 3rd days of Christmas) on Dec 24, 2016

Ar an 4ú, an 5ú, an 6ú agus an 7ú lá den Nollaig (birds, rings, and poultry for the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th days of Christmas) Cuid/Part 1/2 on Dec 27, 2016

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