Irish Language Blog

Pronunciation Tips for ”Six Ways to Say ‘I Want Some More’ in Irish” Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

From time to time (ó am go ham), I like to go back to a previous blog and provide more pronunciation notes.  Here are a few more tips for ” Six Ways to Say, ‘I Want Some More’ in Irish (ag cur Gaeilge ar athfhriotal clúiteach Oilibhéir)” (10 Bealtaine 2014; nasc thíos).

As usual, the main emphasis will be on distinguishing words in their root forms from words with lenition (séimhiú) or eclipsis (urú).  In other words, if you remember learning “madra” and “mo mhadra” or “Bostún” and “i mBostún,” that’s what we’ll be looking at here (say: MAH-druh, muh WAH-druh, BOS-toon, im-OS-toon).  Of course, there isn’t room in one blogpost to cover all possible dialect variations, so there are other pronunciation possibilities besides what you see here.

Let’s look at the following pairs of words, as shown in the previous blog.  These words may have more forms, but we’re not going to cover all of them here (ganntanas spáis): maith / mhaith, díth / dhíth, fuair / ní bhfuair, sá / shá and sáith / sháith, dóthain / dhóthain / ndóthain (which will bring us back to the infamous ‘voiced velar fricative,’ previously discussed in various blogposts, listed below), caisleán / chaisleán, béile / bhéile, and, for good measure, although it didn’t appear in its lenited form in the previous blog, praiseach / phraiseach.

Why special attention to ‘praiseach‘?   Because it’s so much fun to say this word, whose meanings include “thin porridge,” “gruel,” “mess” and “hash,” (but not “corned-beef hash,” just “hash” in the “dog’s dinner” (or, for you Welsh speakers, “traed moch“) sense).   And if it’s useful to call something “praiseach,” we might also want to sometimes be more specific and say “an phraiseach.”

So, down to the nitty-gritty:

1a) maith [mah], good, as in “Is maith liom U2” or “An maith leat hákarl?”  Literally, these mean “U2 is good with me” and “Is hákarl good with you?”

1b) mhaith [wah], still means “good,” literally, but also occurs in sentences like “Ba mhaith liom tuilleadh leitean” (I would like more porridge, presumably a little thicker than “praiseach).”  Literally, this means “More porridge would be good with me.”

2a) díth [djeeh, with a puff of breath at the end, like starting to say “djee-huh”], need, want

2b) de dhíth [djeh yee-h], lit. of need, of want, also with the puffy “h” sound at the end.

3a) fuair [FOO-irzh, with the distinct Irish slender “s,” as found in the Czech name Jiří.] The slender “r” sound is almost unknown in English, so the Czech example is one of the few, reasonably recognizable comparisons.  ‘Fuair‘  means “got.”

3b) ní bhfuair [nee WOO-irzh], didn’t get.  Usually we have séimhiú (lenition, with “f” becoming “fh”) after the negating “,” but the verb “get” (faigh) is irregular, so we have urú (eclipsis, with “f” becoming “bhf”) instead.

4a) [saw] or sáith [approximately saw-ih, very hard to transcribe in writing], a sufficiency

4b) shá [haw] or sháith [haw-ih], as in “mo shá” or “mo sháith,” both meaning “my sufficiency,” i.e. “enough for me.

5a) dóthain [DOH-hin], a sufficiency

5b) dhóthain [γOH-hin], as in “mo dhóthain ” (my sufficiency).  The initial sound is represented by the Greek gamma sign  It has no parallel in English or Welsh, but it’s like the “g” found in some varieties of Spanish (“agua,” not like the standard “AHG-wuh” that I first learned, but more of a throaty breathy “AH-hwuh”).   Linguistically, this is the voiced velar fricative (cúpla nasc faoi thíos).

5c) ndóthain [NOH-hin], as in “seacht ndóthain,” which we saw in the last blog  in “Tá a seacht ndóthain le rá aici, She talks far too much,” lit. There are her seven sufficiencies to say at her.”

6a) caisleán [KASH-lyawn], castle

6b) chaisleán [KHASH- lyawn], as in “sáith rí de chaisleán,” a castle fit for a king, lit. a king’s sufficiency of a castle.  “Of a castle” is not possessive here (i.e. not like “doors of a castle,” which would be ‘doirse caisleáin‘), but refers to the size of the castle.  Similarly, we might say “lán doirn de mhilseáin,” which means … (freagra thíos, dúshláinín beag d’fhoghlaimeoirí)

The “ch” of “chaisleán” is like the “ch” of German “Achtung,” Yiddish “chutzpah,” Welsh “bach,” and Irish and Scottish Gaelic and some Scottish English “loch.”  Linguistically, it’s the voiceless velar fricative.

7a) béile [BAYL-yuh], a meal

7b) bhéile [VAYL-yuh], as in “dóthain rí de bhéile,” a meal fit for a king, lit. a king’s sufficiency of a meal

8a) praiseach [PRASH-ukh], thin porridge, gruel, hash, mess

8b) an phraiseach [un FRASH-ukh], the thin porridge, the gruel, the hash, the mess

So that’s eight sets of words with changes to the first letter, making at least a dent in the iceberg of Irish inflections.  There are tens of thousands of examples, but the basic patterns are:

séimhiú: “h” is added after b, c, d, f, g, m, p, s, t

urú: the following changes occur: b changes to mb, c to gc, d to nd (as in “seacht ndóthain“), f to bhf (as in “ní bhfuair“), g to ng, p to bp, and t to dt.  Of these, today’s blog only dealt with “nd” and “bhf.”


P.S. lán doirn de mhilseáin, a fistful of sweets (a fistful of candies), lit. the full of a fist of sweets

P.P.S. TSAGGSSL, Tá súil agam go gcuidíonn sé seo leat (libh).

Naisc: (Six Ways to Say, “I Want Some More” in Irish (ag cur Gaeilge ar athfhriotal clúiteach Oilibhéir) ; 10 Bealtaine 2014) (Saying “I love you” in Irish and Minding Your Velar Fricatives ; 9 Deireadh Fómhair 2011) (How To Pronounce ‘A Dheaide,’ ‘A Dhaidí,’ and Other Forms of ‘Dad/Daddy’ in Irish ; 6 Meitheamh 2013)

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