Irish Language Blog

Nótaí Fuaimnithe don Bhlag “Cé Mhéad Lá sa Mhí?” (Pronunciation Notes) Posted by on Jan 23, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Pronunciation notes always seem welcome here, so here’s another batch, this time for the discussion of na míonna, from the previous blog (nasc: 

That blog seems to have generated a lot of lenition (séimhiú), so we’ll certainly be looking at that here.  Urú (eclipsis), hmm, I only see one example.  An meas tú sin!  We’ll also look at a few other points, like word stress (which syllable is emphasized) and various vowel sounds.  Ag tosú le séimhiú, with the usual disclaimer, that this is just an overview, for selected examples, not an córas go hiomlán!

I.   Séimhiú

1. after “cé,” the word “méad” (amount) becomes “mhéad” [vayd]

2. after “sa” (in the), “mí” (month) becomes “mhí” [vee] and “cairt” (chart) becomes “chairt” [khartch]

3. after “ar” (the particle changing the question “An maith leat …?,” do you like …?, to “Ar mhaith leat …?, would you like …?), “maith” (good) becomes “mhaith” [wah, or “vah” or “wai” (like “why”) in some dialects)

4. after “ceithre” (4), “mí” (month) becomes “mhí” [vee]; lenition follows the numbers two through six, for most nouns

5. on an attributive noun or adjective after a feminine singular noun, like “bliain.”  This time, can you find the example (in the last blog), instead of me just writing it in?  Freagra (1) thíos.

6. lenited sounds in the middle of a word: Fómhair [FOH-wirzh], Feabhra [FyOW-ruh], and Samhna [SOW-nuh, with “sow” like “now” or “cow,” not “tow” or “snow”] have a “w” sound; the “t’s” of “laethanta” (days)  and “Meitheamh” are silent [LAY-hun-tuh], [MEH-huv]; slender medial “ch” (flanked by e or i) is basically breath, as in “fiche” (20) [FIH-huh]; broad medial “ch” (flanked by a, or u) is guttural, as in “tríocha” [TREE-uh-khuh].

7. lenited sounds at the end of a word, typically silent or very softened: deireadh [DJERzh-uh], bhisigh [VISH-ee or VISH-ig in Munster Irish], Mithimh [MIH-hiv], Meitheamh [MEH-hiv]

II. Urú: after the preposition “i” (in).  Can you find the samplaLeid: initial “b” is eclipsed by “m.”  Freagra (2) thíos.

III. Gutaí:

  1. ue – I think “bhuel”  is the only word in Irish that has this spelling (explainable by its being borrowed from English).  It’s like the short “e” of “well,” not like “gruel” or “flue.”
  2. aoi – like “ee” in English, as we’ve discussed previously (naoi, faoi, etc.)
  3. eo – usually “oh” in Irish, as in “teo” (plural of “te,” warm, hot); also “ceo” (mist, fog), Tóiceoteoranta (limited, as in company names), but not like the two main exceptions, “seo” [shuh] or “anseo” [un-SHUH]

IV. Béim: cén siolla?  There’s a lot of variation as to which syllable is stressed in an Irish word, but the dominant pattern is “stress on the first syllable.”  As a point of comparison, English, I would say, is notoriously varied in this regard (produce section, to produce, a graduate, to graduate, regard, regal, window, endow, etc., etc., etc.), so English isn’t very useful as a basis of comparison (although overall I’d say more words are stressed on the first syllable).  French, in contrast, if I remember my “Clouseauais” correctly, is fairly consistent in stressing the last syllable (fiancé, fiancée, Paris [par-EE], fromage, buffet, ballet, etc.), so one can emphasize the last syllable of most words and sound sort of French, as did Inspector Clouseau, who, I imagine, referred to the “pink panTHER” when discussing the theft of the jewel.  A rusty memory, that, so I guess I’ll put that on my next Netflix instant list.  For current purposes, we’ll just look at the one main exception from the January 20th blog: amháin [uh-WAW-in], with the “WAW” and “in” run together, almost like one syllable

V.   And, as a final note, we saw one permanently lenited word, “bhuel” (well), pronounced “well,” similar to the English, from which it is borrowed.

So, that’s a bit more pronunciation help.  HTH.  Hmm, that (HTH), abbreviated in Irish, would be “TSAGGSSL,” or something to that effect.  And what exactly does that unpronounceable abbreviation stand for?  Ara, isn’t it grand the cliffhanger that that would be.  So hang on tight, till next blog.  SGF, Róislín

Freagraí: 1) lenited attributive noun: bhisigh, in the phrase “bliain bhisigh,” leap-year, lit. year of increase; you may already know “bhisigh” from its basic form, “biseach” (improvement, increase), as in “An bhfuil biseach ort anois?”; 2) urú: i mbliain [im-lee-in]

Gluais: Meas tú sin! Roughly equivalent to “What do you know?” or “What do you think about that?” or “Imagine that!” or “Just imagine!” or “Fancy that!”  Literally, it’s from the verb “meas” (judge, deem, consider).  Normally we’d expect the “-ann” ending typical of present-tense verbs (first conjugation!), giving us “measann” but for this particular verb, the ending is optional, especially when the phrase is used as a rhetorical question.  Word endings aren’t usually optional, but this verb seems to follow the same pattern as established by “deir / deireann,” where both forms exist, with “deir” more common, at least i mo thaithí féin.

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