Irish Language Blog

Pronouncing “taoschnó” and other “-chn-,” “-chr-,” and “-chl-” combinations in Irish Posted by on Jul 17, 2015 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

In the last blog we looked at the recent “scannal lite na dtaoschnónna,” as reported in the media concerning Ariana Grande in the Dunkin’ Donuts shop.

And I have to admit that even though I’ve been familiar with the words “taos,” “cnó,” and “taoschnó” for years, I still notice an “eye-boggling” effect, where  the “-sch” cluster of “taoschnó” seems to jump out, suggesting a pronunciation like the “sh” of English “shoe” or “shine,” or even better, like German “Schloss.”  Actually, the “-s” is the ending of the first part of the compound word (taos) and the “-ch-” is the lenited form of the letter “c” of “cnó,” lenited here because it’s the second half of a compound word.

This “-sch” must be imprinted on my mind from words like the name Hieronymus Bosch, a few foreign terms used in English like “flysch,” “kitsch,” “borsch,” “mensch,” and a bunch of German words like “Fleisch” or “Kirsch.”    Or the “Schloss Drachenfels,” which I can never forget (not that I’d want to) since it was so prominently featured in my first-year German textbook.

Why this “-sch-” pattern should jump out at me, at the expense of the Irish “-chn-,” when my German is sooooo rusty, baffles me, but c’est la vie.  I try to discipline my eyes to read the word with the correct word division for Irish.

At any rate, how do we pronounce “taoschnó?”  Just remember where the word division lies: “taos” + “cnó,” with “cnó” becoming “chnó” because it’s the second half of a compound word.

taos [teess or tayss] + chnó [khnoh, with the “kh” sound as in “chutzpah” or “Achtung“]

Adding one more syllable, to make the word plural, doesn’t change the basic word division:

taoschnónna (taos-chnó-nna) [TEESS-KHNOH-nuh OR TAYSS-KHNOH-nuh], doughnuts

Nor does adding the initial eclipsis (“d” becoming “t”):

na dtaoschnónna (na dtaos-chnó-nna) [nuh DEESS-KHNOH-nuh OR nuh DAYSS-KHNOH-nuh], of the doughnuts

Another typical “-chn-” combination would be when the word “cnoc” (hill) gets lenited .  Of course, there’s “chn-” at the very beginning of a word, as in “barr an chnoic” ([bahr uh khnik], the top of the hill).  But we’ll focus here on some examples where there’s a prefix.

-nchn- in Bánchnoic Éireann Ó [bawn-khnik …] (song title, typically translated as “The White Hills of Ireland-O!”)

-nchn- in bunchnoc [bun-khnok], a foothill

-thchn- in gnáthchnoc [gnaw-khnok, remember, this “gn-” is fully pronounced, not like the English word “to gnaw”], a normal hill.  Hmm, this is a sports reference in contrast to what, an abnormal hill?  An abnormally large hill?  Ábhar blag eile, I suppose.

And then there’s another “-chn-” cluster in:

T-chn- in stéig T-chnáimhe [shtayg TEE-KHNAWV-uh], T-bone steak.  This one, at least, retains the “fleiscín,” so it’s easier on the eye.

You might also remember that the “n” in all these “cn” and “chn” combinations is pronounced in some dialects like an “r” (“cnoc” as “krok” instead of “knok”) but that’s definitely ábhar blag eile.

And how about “-chr-” in a combination such as:

-chr- in róchruinn (ró + c(h)ruinn) [roh-khrin], perfectly round, lit. too/very round

Of course, that one was a little easier, since “-” is a widely recognized prefix (róthe, ródhaor, srl.).

A less standard prefixed element is “aer,” as in:

-rchr- aerchrochadh [AYR-KHROKH-uh], air suspension

Here are a couple for “-chl-”

-nchl- seanchló (sean- + c(h)ló) [shan-khloh], old font/print

-ch-chl- in droch-chlú (droch- + c(h)lú) [drokh-khloo], a bad reputation

Again, those two had readily recognizable prefixes (sean- and droch-).   Here are a couple that are less everyday:

-mchl- in candamchlog (candam + c(h)log) [KAHN-dum-KHLOG], a quantum clock

-rchl- in dobharchlog (dobhar + c(h)log) [DOH-ur-KHLOG], a klepsydra  (aka “clepsydra”).  If that doesn’t ring any immediate bells, you might recall the géasar known as the Clepsydra Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, so named from its clockwork-paced eruptions.  Or you might recognize it from Bruno Schulz’s Sanatorium Pod Klepsydra, which resurfaced in Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as the “Klepsydra Sanatorium.”  Stumped?  This “dobhar” is “water,” so it’s a water clock.  This “dobhar” is also a cognate of the Welsh “dŵr” (water) and the place name “Dover.”  Who said Irish doesn’t have many cognates to other languages?  Maybe time to resurrect and extend that “mionsraith,” which some of you may remember (nasc thíos).

-bhchl- in sclábhchlog (sclábh + c(h)log) [sklawv-khlog], a slave clock (in telecommunications)

Here’s a fairly transparent example, transparent because “stop” is such a familiar word, in Irish and in English:

-pchl- in stopchlog (stop + c(h)log) [stop-khlog], a stop-clock (in sports)

And here’s a beauty to end up with, bringing us back to the “-sch” issue.  Does the same thing happen to you — the “-sch-” part jumps out and attracts the eye’s attention?

tafraigeochuaschlaonas (tafrai- + geo- + c(h)uas + c(h)laonas) [TAF-ruh-GAY-oh-KHOO-us-KHLAYN-us] taphrogeosyncline

Bhuel, that was a nice little work-out–looking at word divisions and recognizing them helps you read words, especially the longish compound ones, more easily.  Hope you found it helpful.  SGF — Róislín

nasc: the “cognates” series starts with: Ascaill, Axilla, Armpit — Who Says Irish Doesn’t Have Many Cognates with English? (Cuid a hAon/Pt. 1) Posted on 24. Apr, 2013 by róislín in Irish Language

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  1. Jon Moran:

    You had me at taoschnonna.

    • róislín:

      @Jon Moran GRMA as do nóta, a Sheáin. Agus ar bhain tú sult as “tafraigeochuaschlaonas”? It’s not quite so tongue-tying if we think of it as “tafrai + geo + c(h)uas + c(h)laonas. So it’s a 4-part compound word, the second half of which is already a compound word: cuaschlaonas, from “cuas” (cavity, recess, sinus) + “claonas” (dip, inclination, cline). Nach iontach an focal é? Anyway, there are always alternatives to “taoschnónna” if we’re looking for “sneaiceanna” that are shorter and easier to say: brioscaí, cístí, and borróga tae. Of course, there will always be longer words, like “pastaetha Danmhargacha,” a term which brings us back gleefully to the realm of the voiceless velar fricative and longer-ish, multi-syllable words. Anyway, a lot of the long Irish words can be broken down into prefixes and suffixes and a core. Some of the compound words can be more challenging because they have less typical prefixes, like “tafrai-” but often, in those cases, the English is equally long (taphrogeosyncline). BB7B

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