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The Irish f is a bilabial fricative, meaning that it is produced by pressing your lips together. The English f is labio-dental, meaning that it is produced by pressing your lower lips into your upper teeth. Most people can't tell the difference by just listening, but it is possible that you can. This is also why bh sounds like a v sometimes, because it is a voiced bilabial fricative (which is exactly what you should expect a weakened b to sound like).
Irish has no sound like the English th. This is why there is a common Irish accent that replaces all the 'th' sounds in English with t and d sounds. The sound is so thoroughly incompatible with traditional Irish phonetics that there is no way a native Irish speaker would produce it by accident.
That's fascinating. In all the Irish language schooling I received as a child I don't recall ever being told about the difference between an English f and an Irish one. If I try to make a bilabial f sound as you describe I find it quite awkward, but it does work. The recording for this lesson remains a bit of a 'yani-laurel' for me. Anyway, thanks for the info.
could you please cite a source (ideally, an online article written in English that maps Irish orthography onto phonology) that provides more details about bilabial vs labiodental fricatives in Irish?
i have found is this one: https://www.daltai.com/discus/messages/13510/14160.html?1126322756
and i have heard of other sources, but i do not have access to them, and the discussions i have seen here describe labiodentals rather than bilabials, or suggest that labiodentals supplanted bilabials over centuries of English influence.
I don't have a link handy, but from what I have read, Irish historically had no labiodental sounds at all. Because labiodental and bilabial fricatives sound almost the same and both English and Irish have only one (making them allophones of each other in both languages), almost every native English speaker uses labiodental fricatives instead of bilabial fricatives. In 1900, basically every native speaker of Irish would have been using bilabial fricatives, and even today I believe that most native Irish speakers use bilabial fricatives. But there are significantly more native English speakers that speak Irish than there are native Irish speakers.
So it isn't even centuries of English influence that is changing the most common way to pronounce these sounds. It is a change that didn't really start until native English speakers were forced to learn Irish in school, and sped up when most of the Irish teachers stopped being native speakers. And now we have native English speakers trying to raise their children as native Irish speakers, which will push English phonology into Irish even faster. Irish is in the middle of a transformation as significant as the change in English when the Normans invaded and turned English into a hybrid of German and French, but that transformation is probably the only way that Irish will survive as a language.