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Scottish Gaelic Simplified Phonetic Pronunciation Guide
Gàidhlig is neither easy to write, read, nor speak. Here's an attempt at helping learners of the language pronounce the words properly. "Scottish Gaelic in Three Months" has been used as a reference.
Terms in this set (86)
In most Gàidhlig words falls on the first syllable, e.g.: poLICE /pə lis/ in English; POILios /pɔləs/ in Gàidhlig. There are some exceptions, which are generally indicated by hyphenation, e.g.: an-sin, an-diugh, a-màireach.
The letters and diphthongs of the Gàidhlig alphabet will be explained, as well as possible, by means of employing words from the English and German languages. The words from the English language are to be read and pronounced with a Scottish dialect.
as in 'hat'
as in 'halve'
the first as in 'coat', the second as in 'cot', the third as in 'cut' or 'Ugh!'
as in 'caught', with lips more open to allow more of an 'aw' sound
as in 'owe', with lips more closed to allow a sound as in German 'Oh!'
as in 'took'
longer as in 'cool'
as in 'deep'
longer as in 'bean'
the first as in 'gate', the second as in 'get'; compare with German 'He!' and 'Hä?'
as in 'fair' or German "Fähre"
as in 'say' or German "geh!"
The addition of an 'i' to a vowel
generally changes nothing in the pronunciation: ai, ài, oi, òi, ói, ui, i, ì, ei, èi, éi are all pronounced as though the 'i' were not present.
the first as in 'Maria', the second as in 'say'
no equivalent in English, almost like 'cool' but with unrounded lips; comparable to German 'ö'
no equivalent in English, almost like 'boy' with an unrounded 'o'; comparable with German 'öi', the 'ö' being unrounded and at the back of the tounge
as in 'ear'
as in 'poor'
the first as in 'get', the second as in 'hat'
the first as in 'deep', the second as in 'took'
as in 'ear'
all, ann, am /au/
as in 'how'; Gàidhlig 'thall' (adv. 'over there') would thus be pronounced something close to English 'howl'
oll, onn, om /ou/
as in standard British English 'no'
aill, ainn, aim, aibh, aimh /ai/
as in 'my'
einn, eim /ei/
as in 'say'
oill, oinn, oim, aidh, aigh, oidh, oigh /ɤi/
has no equivalent in English; it is similar to 'y' in 'my' but the first part of the diphthong is like the 'u' in 'cut'. It is somewhere between 'y' in 'my' and 'oy' in 'boy'.
uill, uinn, ui /ui,ɯi/
has no equivalent in English; it is similar to the previous diphthong, but the first part of the diphthong is like an unrounded form of 'oo' in 'cool'.
The diphthongs above are only pronounced thus when 'll', 'nn', 'm' are not followed by vowels. If they are, the vowels are pronounced normally: ann /aun̴̪/; Anna /an̴̪ə/; donn /d̪oun̴̪/; donna /d̪on̴̪ə/.
Helping (Epenthetic) Vowels
A vowel is inserted between two consonants in certain words (usually containing l, r or n). This is called the 'helping vowel' which is present only in speech and is generally the exact copy of the preceding stressed vowel: Alba /[ala]bə/ - Scotland; marbh /m[ara]v/- dead
There are broad and slender consonants. A consonant is broad if it is preceded of followed by any of the broad vowels a, o, u; it is slender if preceded or followed by any of the slender vowels i, e. Vowels on either side of the consonant must agree in 'colour' (broad and slender).
b /b,p/ (broad)
as in 'bad' at the beginning of a word; otherwise it is pronounced like 'p' in 'pad'
p /p/ (broad)
as in 'pad'
g /g,k/ (broad)
as in 'good' at the beginning of a word; otherwise it is pronounced like 'k' in 'cook'
k /k/ (broad)
as in 'cat'
d /d̪,t̪/ (broad)
as in 'dog' at the beginning of a word; otherwise it is pronounced like 't' in 'cat'. Dental: tongue touches upper teeth.
t /t̪/ (broad)
as in 'tap'. Tongue touches upper teeth.
l, ll /l̴̪/ (broad)
like a hollow 'l' as in 'full' with the tongue touching upper teeth
n /n̴̪,n/ (broad)
is pronounced in a similar way to the hollow 'l' described before when it appears initially; otherwise broad 'n' is pronounced as in English
nn /n̴̪/ (broad)
is pronounced similarly to the hollow 'l' described before
r /r̴,r/ (broad)
has no equivalent in English but is similar to a rolled 'r'; this sound appears for 'r' in 'read'
rr /r̴/ (broad)
has no equivalent in English but is similar to a rolled 'r', sometimes like the Irish or American English 'r'
ng /ŋ/ (broad)
as in 'kong'
Broad f, h, m, s
are pronounced like their English counterparts.
b /bʲ,pʲ/ (slender)
as in 'bee' or 'beauty' at the beginning of a word; otherwise it is pronounced like 'p' in 'loop'
p /pʲ/ (slender)
as in 'pea' or 'pew'
g /gʲ,kʲ/ (slender)
as in 'argue' at the beginning of a word; otherwise it is pronounced like 'c' in 'cue'
k /kʲ/ (slender)
as in 'cue'
d /dʲ,tʲ/ (slender)
pronounced like 'j' in 'judge' at the beginning of a word; otherwise it is pronounced like 'ch' in 'chew
t /tʲ/ (slender)
like 'ch' in 'chew'
l /ʎ, l/ (slender)
like 'll' in 'billion' when it appears initially; otherwise slender 'l' is pronounced like 'l' in 'silly'
ll /ʎ/ (slender)
as in 'billion'
n /ɲ,n/ (slender)
pronounced like the first 'n' in 'union' when at the beginning of a word; otherwise slender 'n' is pronounced like 'n' in 'neat' and sometimes like the first 'n' in 'union'
nn /ɲ/ (slender)
like the first 'n' in 'union'
r /rʲ/ (slender)
has no equivalent in English and varies considerably from dialect to dialect; the simplest way of pronouncing this is to pronounce an unfinished 'th' sound as in English 'the', with the tongue not quite touching the upper front teeth; in some dialects it is similar to 'r' in 'tree'
ng /ŋʲ/ (slender)
as in 'king'
f /fʲ/ (slender)
as in 'few'
h /h,ç/ (slender)
as in 'happy' and the first 'h' in 'Hugh'; compare to German 'ich'
m /m,mʲ/ (slender)
as in 'meat' or like 'm' in 'mule'
s /ʃ/ (slender)
as in 'shoe' or 'shove'; compare to German 'sch'
Loanwords with 't' or 'd'
are pronounced as in English, e.h.: tì /ti:/ - tea; dola /dɔlə/ - doll
It signifies the placing of an h-like sound before certain consonants. Voiceless consonants (t, c, p) are usually pre-aspirated when they follow a stressed vowel. Pre-aspiration takes the form of voiceless breathing /h/ before each of the consonants. It may be realized as a 'ch' especially before c.
cat /kaht̪/ - cat; cait /kahtʲ/ - cats; mac /mahk/, /maxk/ - son; mic /mihkʲ/, /miçkʲ/ - sons; map /mahp/ - map
Rt, rd groups
Related to pre-aspiration is the insertion of an 's' between 'r' and a following 't' and 'd' in stressed syllables, e.g.: ceart /kʲar̴sd̪/ - right; àrd /a:r̴sd̪/ - high. Not all dialects insert 's' in these groups; in some the 's' becomes 'sh' /ʃ/
When two adjacent vowels are not joined together as one vowel, we say there is hiatus (a gap) between them. In many words 'bh', 'mh', 'dh', 'gh' are muted when they appear between vowels. The preceding and following syllables are generally not coalesced (i.e. joined together); there is a gap between such syllables. This hiatus is denoted by a hyphen (the symbol /-/) in the Phonetic Guide. 'th' is used only in a small number of words to indicate hiatus and is otherwise pronounced /h/.
laghach /l̴̪ɤ-əx/ - kind; saoghal /sɯ:-əl̴̪/ - world; cladhach /kl̴̪ɤ-əx/ - digging; abhainn /ã-iɲ/ - river; latha /l̴̪a-ə/ - day; fhathast /ha-əsd̪/ - yet; rathad /r̴a-əd̪/ - road
More on consonants
In English when 'h' is written after 't', 'd', 'c', 'g', 'p', 's', 'w', a new sound is formed, repectively: 'th', 'dh', 'ch', 'gh', 'ph', 'sh', 'wh'. The letter 'h' is used far more frequently in this way in Scottish Gaelic than in English. Please note that when an 'h' is added to a consonant in Gàidhlig, the resulting consonant is NEVER pronounced as in English. Here we also have to distinguish between bread and slender.
ph /f/ (broad)
as in 'fish'
bh /v/ (broad)
as in 'very'
ch /x/ (broad)
as in Scottish 'loch' or German 'Bach'
gh /ɣ/ (broad)
no equivalent in English. Similar to the German guttural 'r' (not rolled) but leaning more towards 'g' than 'r'.
th /h/ (broad)
as in 'hat'; it is never pronounced like 'th' in 'think'
dh /ɣ/ (broad)
usually the same as 'gh' (broad)
mh /v/ (broad)
usually the same as 'bh' (broad)
usually the same as 'th' (broad)
fh - (broad)
not pronounced except in fhathast, fhuair, and fhalbh, in which case it is pronounced as h.
ph /f,fʲ/ (slender)
as in 'fast' and 'few'
bh /v,vʲ/ (slender)
as in 'very' and 'v' in 'view'
ch /ç/ (slender)
as in 'Hugh' or German 'ich'
gh /j/ (slender)
like 'y' as in 'yes'
th /h,ç/ (slender)
like broad 'th' or slender 'ch'
dh /j/ (slender)
like slender 'gh'
mh /v,vʲ/ (slender)
like slender 'bh'
sh /h,ç/ (slender)
like broad 'sh' or slender 'ch'
fh - (slender)
not pronounced except in fhéin, in which case it is pronounced as h.
Sets found in the same folder
Scottish Gaelic in 12 Weeks Lesson 1.1
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Scottish Gaelic in 12 Weeks Lesson 1.2
Scottish Gaelic Nouns
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