Irish Language Blog

Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘X’ (Part 2 of 2): xileafón agus xifisteirneam Posted by on Sep 18, 2015 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

As you might recall, the most recent blagmhír here was “Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘X’ (Part 1 of 2)” (nasc thíos).  Today we’ll look at Part 2, Irish words beginning with “x” where the single letter “x” isn’t a prefix.  In other words, this is not the post dealing with words like x-gha, x-ghathaigh, x-chrómasóm, and, however small its cyberfootprint, “x-chomhad” (as in the clár teilifíse, which, in Irish, would be Na X-Chomhaid, if it were translated into Irish.  I haven’t seen it in Irish yet.  If you have, please let us know).

Here we’ll look at some samples from the other small group of “x” words, those that have usually have a “z” sound in English (xylophone, which is a reasonably useful vocabulary word, and xiphisternum, because I can’t resist it!).  There really aren’t that many more, unless we start talking about xeranthemum and xonotlite crystals.

xileafón.  If we adapt the IPA in Foclóir Póca to a more everyday transcription sound, the pronunciation would be indicated as “ZHIL-yuh-fohn,” with the “zh” as in “pleasure” or “leisure.”  Virtually nothing in English is spelled actually spelled “zh,” so, yes, we’re using “zh” to represent the letter “x” in Irish, a sound that is represented by an “s” in English (one of at least 4 ways the letter “s” can be pronounced in English!).  I never said it wasn’t convoluted!  The actual Irish-modified IPA,  in Foclóir Póca, in case you’re interested, is /’z΄il΄әͺfo:n/, with the vertical tic marks indicating stress, the slanted tic marks indicating slenderness, and the colon indicating a long vowel.

As for “zh,” apparently we do have the spelling in English for the Russian place name and surname “Zhdanov” and a handful of other words transcribed from Cyrillic, but not much else.   So would that mean that the Irish spelling of “Zhdanov” (if such a spelling existed), would be ” *Xdeanof“?  Or would we go the “Zhuang” to “Siuáingis” route and do ” *Sdeanof“?  Just askin’!  OMD, and what’s the Irish for “zhdanovism,” which I didn’t realize existed until just now.  Apparently the French is “Jdanovisme” and the Italian drops the “h” altogether, with “zdanovismo,” so the Irish would be … bhuel, cuardach do lá na coise tinne.

Anyway, I emphasize all of that “zh” business because I’ve also heard “xileafón” pronounced in Irish with the same “z” as in English.  That means the only major differences between the English and the Irish versions would be the slight slenderness of the “l” in the Irish version and whether the “i” is like English “ill” or like “tile.”   Endless food for thought!  Someday I’ll have to look into other versions of the word “xylophone” around the world.  It will be fun to see what, happens to the initial “x.”  So far, I’ve noted “xilofono,” “ksylofon,” and “saylopon,” but of course, that’s really another project for “lá na coise tinne,” and may not even make it back into this blog.  And it would be interesting to see if any languages (Íoslainnis, b’fhéidir) break it down into its component parts, which for Irish would render it something like ” *adhmadghuth” or ” *adhmadfhuaim.”  I’m using the “réiltíní” as usual to indicate unattested words.

As for “xifisteirneam,” the pronunciation would be “ZHI-fih-SHTERzh-nyum,” and please do let me know the next time that pops up in your daily small talk!  Of course, if you are an “ortaipéidí” or some other related medical practitioner, it might well be everyday linguistic fare.

Before we close, you might be happy to know that “xylography” in Irish is “adhmadghrafaíocht,” so you don’t even have to worry about an initial “x” sound there!  SGF — Róislín

Nasc: Some Irish Words Starting with the Letter ‘X’ (Part 1 of 2) Posted on 14. Sep, 2015 by in Irish Language,

Iarsmaoineamh: I wonder, if The X-Files were translated into Irish, would we pronounced “Na X-Chomhaid” as “nuh HEKS-KHOH-widj” or “nuh EKS-KHOH-widj.”   In other words, would we add the inserted h-sound as we would for “na heilifintí” or “na heitleáin“?  Hmmm…

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