Caibidil a Sé Déag: 

the Phonology (an Fhóneolaíocht)

the sounds of Irish
stress within a word

In phonology the sounds of a language are described, the written result of these sounds does not belong to that and is secondary.
The Irish written language is for this reason discussed separately in the chapter orthography , with (further) guidelines about the pronunciation.

Note about the depiction:
The depiction of the sounds should actually be done using the IPA symbols (IPA = international phonetic alphabet).
But this is dependent on the font, and is still not feasible in HTML in a way in which all, regardless of what platform they use, can see.
It is for this reason that there are partially "substitutes" used here.
Some of these symbols are common as modified IPA symbols for Irish, so the apostrophe ['] for slender (palatal) consonants and with that the forms [x'] for [ç], [s'] for [ò] and [z'] instead of []; as well as [L], [N], [R] for "tensed l, n, r" (in the IPA these are normally used for depicting other phonemes).
The fricatives [f] and [v] are partially spoken bilabial, partially also labiodental, for both the Irish transcriptions are normally without a difference [f] and [v] are used (actually according to the IPA they are only for the labiodental variants, [φ] and [β] would be the bilabial symbols).
As actually also in the modified IPA not-conform replacement symbols, there remains here only [ng] for the velar nasal (in IPA ein [ng]), [@] for the neutral vowel (in IPA a [schwa]), [å] for a back a (in IPA a [a]) as well as [?] for the glottal stop (in IPA a [glottaler Verschlusslaut]).

I don't have here any listenable examples (in form of soundfiles) of the sounds of Irish but there are some to be heard on the website Fios Feasa: The Sounds of Irish (there one finds the sounds of the Munster dialect)

the vowels (na gutaí)

There is a difference made between long and short vowels.
In the artificial Lárchanúint (central dialect) there are:

The vowels [a], [o], [u] count as broad
The vowels [e] and [i] count as slender

Not only those vowels marked with an accent in writing (á, é, í, ó, ú) are long. Also preceding certain consonants the vowels are lengthened (e.g. preceding -rd, -nn, -rr, -ll, -m), if the word is monosyllabic, also further combinations lead to vowel lengthening (see orthography)

In Ulster, all vowels in an unstressed syllable are short, otherwise long vowels remain clear (and are not reduced to [@], as it happens with short vowels).
The [a:] is often spoken in Munster/Connacht as a "back a", similar to the scandinavian"å" (technically: an opem back unrounded vowel). In Ulster it is an [æ:], only the Lárchanúint uses a normal long [a:]
Furthermore, in Connacht/Munster there is the [æ] instead of an [a] in some combinations.
In Ulster, there is partially the [ш], which ist an unrounded ü-sound (technically: a closed back unrounded vowel), in Irish orthography "ao", which is otherwise appearing as [i:] (Standard, Connacht) or [e:] (Munster) , e.g. saor [si:r], [se:r], [sшr]

the neutral vowel (schwa) [schwa]

the dipthongs (na défhogair)

There are the following dipthongs:

in some dialects there are also the sounds [oi], [@i], [ui], [ou].

the consonants (na consain)

The consonants are classified depending their point of origin (bilabial, dental, alveolar, velar, glottal) and by their nature of production (plosives = stops, fricatives, nasals , liquids). Many consonants have an unvoiced and a voiced version (e.g.: [p]/[b], [t]/[d], [k]/[g], etc.)
Although, there are no truly aspirated consonants (k, p, t, are always aspirated in German)

broad and slender (leathan agus caol)

All consonants exist in two forms (with the exception of the [h]):

In phonetic transcriptions, a small apostrophe ['] is used to denote the slender variant.
The difference between the two forms is important. The differences are also greater then the equivalent pairs in German or English.
In German, only "ch" in "ach" [ax] (velar) and in "ich" [iç] are woth mentioning, in Irish transcription: [ix'] (palatal))
In Irish, the differences are also to be heard in [d] and [d'] or [t] and [t'] and others (partially, and especially in Ulster, the slender consonants d,t are spoken like affricates: [dj], [tç] or [tò])
It becomes especially obvious in the difference between [s] and [s']. A slender [s'] is always spoken like the German "sch" [ò].

In combinations like sp-, sf-, sm- at the beginning of a word, the s is always broad. e.g.: spléach [sp'l'e:x]
In the following combinations, the 1st consonant is always broad : -cht, -rd, -rl, -rn, -rs, -rt. e.g.: boichte [boxt'@] not: [box't'@]
At the beginning of a word the [r] is always broad: [ri:]

It is important to note that broad consonants may also stand next to slender vowels and also the other way around: slender consonants next to broad vowels.
In German, this is not possible. There, it is always only similar toned consonants and vowels beside one another (e.g. ach [ax], ich [ix']).
In Irish, the glide comes into use, in order to make this shift from slender to broad, and vice versa, possible.

The difference of broad and slender is made clear in the orthography through the neighbouring vowel signs.
e.g. seo [s'o], sin [s'in'], airgead [ar'@g'@d], airgid [ar'@g'@d']

The difference between "broad" and "slender" consonants in Irish is equivalent to the difference between "hard" and "soft" consonants in slavic languages.
This is made clear e.g. in Russian, where necessary, through a soft character ь and a hard character ъ : e.g. работать [rabotat'] = to work (soft т [t'] durch ь); or through "soft" vowels like я, ё and ю and the "hard" vowel ы (which is approximately the Irish ao).

tensed l,n,r

The consonants l,n,r are differentiated in some dialects in a tensed form [L], [N], [R] and the non-tensed form [l], [n], [r]. ([m] counts always as tensed, so therefore there's no need ofr a special notation)
The difference comes roughly in the precision of the pronunciation, [L], [N], [R] are somewhat lengthened, [l], [n], [r] are spoken a bit more lax. [L], [N] are formed by a pressing of the tongue on the front teeth, [l], [n] are produced on the alveolae.
In written Irish, the tensed variant (except at the beginning of a word) often expressed as a double (nn, ll, rr).

Tensed consonants also have an effect on neighbouring vowels:
The "tension" reaches over to the neighbouring vowels. This is why they are either lengthened or diphthongised, if the tensed consonants are in a stressed syllable at the end of a word (or preceding further consonants):
In Munster, the difference tensed/non-tensed was lost, only the vowels show dipthongisation or lengthening:
e.g. donn [daun] instead of [doN], ceann [k'aun] instead of [k'aN], fillte [f'i:l't'@] instead of [f'iL't'@].
Only in Ring and Clare is [i] also diphthongised: e.g. cill [k'ail]
In some dialects, (bes. Connemara) there is a lengthening and diphthongisation also in a sustaining of the tensed consonants, but the diphthongisation is only with middle vowels
e.g. donn [dauN], ceann [k'å:N], fillte [f'i:L't'@]
In Ulster there is only lengthening, no dipthongs,
e.g. donn [du:N], ceann [k'æ:N], fillte [f'i:L't'@]
In the Lárchanúint, the tensed consonants are completely ignored and handled like the non-tensed ones, and the vowels remain mostly short,
e.g. donn [don], ceann [k'an], fillte [f'il't'@]

at the beginning of a word:
Where the differences between tensed and non-tensed consonants remain, then it also applies that if [L], [N] at the beginning of a word as the unlenited form, then [l], [n] as the lenited form,
e.g.: the book = an leabhar [@ L'aur], my book = mo leabhar [m@ l'aur]
tensed n [N] is also used in the eclipsed form (except ng): e.g. ten doors = deich ndoras [d'e: Nor@s], ten fish = deich n-iasc [d'e: N'i@sk]
Only the word le appears resistant to start with a non-tensed l [l@]

the glides (na sleamhnóga)

In Irish, slender (palatal) consonants can appear neighbouring broad vowels ([a], [o], [u]) as well as broad (velar) consonants next to slender vowels ([e], [i]).
When spoken, there then occur deliberate short glides, that don't really correlate to real phonemes: There is a palatal glide [j] and a velar glide [u]. In transcriptions, it is normally not included extra, just the palatal consonant is marked with an apostrophe ['] instead.
e.g.: beo [b'o] actually [bjo] (slender consonant b + broad vowel o)
e.g.: buí [bi:] actually [bui:] (broad consonant b + slender vowel i)
In the case of a palatal s [s' bzw. ò] there is no glide: seo [s'o] or [òo]
There also lacks a notation in written Irish of these glides. Only the broadness or slenderness of the consonants is denoted by the voiceless vowel signs: (e.g. the u in buí [bi:] or the e in beo [b'o:]).
These vowel signs could therefore be taken as a hint of such a glide and are sometimes also known as "sleamhnóg".

In some dialects, an [u] appears between some broad consonants (esp. [b, m]) and [a], e.g. baile [bual'@], maith [mua].

stress (an bhéim)

stress within a word (an bhéim ghutha)

Depending on the stress, one can differentiate into 2 dialect groups:

1. Connacht and Ulster:
In these dialects, the stress lies always on the 1st syllable.
In polysyllabic words, the syllables with long vowels get a secondary stress.
Only a few words are stressed on the 2nd syllable (in combinations, e.g. with unstressed prefixes like a-, is-, mostly adverbs): aréir, anocht, istigh, atá, some foreign words e.g. tobac)
Other prefixes get the main stress, intensifying prefixes (e.g. an- = very) are stressed right after the following syllable.

2. Munster:
Here, the rules governing stress are more complicated.
Mostly, is's also a case of stress on the 1st syllable, but then


constantly unstressed words

The following parts of speech are always unstressed (because they are proclitic or enclitic):

graduation of the stress within a sentence

interrogative sentences

In English, interrogative clauses are denoted by an alteration in the intonation (comp. e.g.: "He's here." and "He's here?"). In Irish this is not commonplace.

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© Lars Braesicke 2002

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