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  5. how do you pronounce bh- mh- …


how do you pronounce bh- mh- and bp- gc- etc?

Im just curious if you should make an effort to say both consonants in Gcailin for example, or if you should only say the 'g'?

also with Bh- and mh- and the likes, are they all just pronounced like 'v-'?

Grateful for answers

edit: How is 'Mbean' supposed to be pronounced? right now i do a short hum before saying "-bean"

is that correct?

May 5, 2017



As patbo noted, eclipsed consonants aren’t pronounced: for example, gcailín is pronounced like gailín, mbean like mean, bhfear like bhear, etc., but ngasúr is pronounced “ŋasúr” rather than like nasúr, using the /ŋ/ sound of English “ring”.

The lenited consonants are represented by digraphs — two letters used to express a single sound, like English “sh”, “ng”, etc. Lenited consonants can have two pronunciation variants — one “broad” (velarized) and the other “slender” (palatalized), depending on the nearest vowel. For example, phas is pronounced like fas (i.e. as a broad f ), and phióg is pronounced like fióg (i.e. as a slender f ). Some of the lenited consonants can have more than one pronunciation for a given variant, e.g. for a slender sh, shean is pronounced like hean, but shiopa can be pronounced “çiopa”, using the /ç/ sound of German ich.


In gcailín, the 'c' isn't pronounced. It's only there to show that the underlying base form is cailín. The same is true for all eclipsed forms except 'ng', which is pronounced like the same letter combination in English.

The lenited consonants like 'bh', 'mh', etc. also form units that represent only a single sound. In contrast to eclipsis, you can't say that simply one of both letters is pronounced, but you have to memorise the sound of the combination. (As you say, 'bh'/'mh' sound like English 'v' if slender; they sound like 'w' in most dialects if broad.)

  • 1051

Seeing the responses of Patbo and Scilling there's little to add as a direct answer. But here's a video you might find useful to get the sounds of Irish writing down.


Keep in mind that while Irish writing is usually very phonetic, there are some big dialectal differences which aren't reflected in the spelling, and there are quite a few words where the spelling doesn't exactly match the pronunciation in any dialect.


Thanks for a good answer!

" and there are quite a few words where the spelling doesn't exactly match the pronunciation in any dialect."

I noticed, haha

  • 1051

If you're looking for the specific pronunciation of a word, both focloir.ie as well as teanglann.ie have recordings for the 3 main dialects in their dictionaries.


All great answers so far, but one thing that helped me when I was learning -- "eclipsis" is just like it sounds -- like a solar eclipse. "Capall" changes to "gCapall" and the G is like the moon when it moves in front of the sun... except it's moving in front of the "C" ;)

Also it's important to note that these are not the same thing as "álainn" changing to "go hálainn" or "údar" changing to "an t-údar". Those are called h- and t- prothesis, which happen in various situations.


You can hear how the speaker on this course pronounces mb in exercises like "She intends to listen to the woman" or "The radio is on the table", and how gc is pronounced in an exercise like Siúlann tú chuig an gcapall.

Just search for words like mbean or mbord or gcapall, and find exercises that include them. Not all of them will have audio, but you will usually find at least one that does. (Both English-to-Irish and Irish-to-English exercises will provide the Irish audio, if it is available).

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