Question About Irish Pronunciation
Irish pronunciation is complicated for me. I was wondering whether it is necessary to learn how to speak the underglides correctly, or if I can get away with it because I have an accent.
For anyone who knows Spanish, you know that a gringo could get away with pronouncing "rr" like "r" but not by pronouncing "J" as it is in English. Is it a nonessential thing? I am having a hard time with the "H" dipthongs like "mh", "bh", etc and could use some help so I ensure I am not wasting my energy. Thank you.
What do you mean by “underglides”? Lenited consonants such as mh, bh, etc. are digraphs rather than diphthongs. (A digraph is a pair of letters that represents a single sound, such as the “ck” in “back”; a diphthong is two vowel sounds that are pronounced in the same syllable, such as the “ou” in “house”.) There is some dialectal variation in the pronunciation of some Irish consonants, e.g. a broad bh can be pronounced either like an English “w” or like an English “v”, but it would be best to try to learn how to pronounce them as Irish speakers do. The pronunciation of the slender r in particular might take a fair bit of practice to learn, since it’s a sound that’s not found in many languages.
Oh, okay. I don't know all this terminology, haha! Are the broad and slender sounds very different than English? I am not well informed and it seems as though I am getting the sounds confused, as I believed that the consonants (excluding the digraphs) are the same as English.
The broad consonants tend to be more velarized than their English analogues. [Velarization is raising the back of the tongue towards the velum (the soft palate) while pronouncing a consonant.]
If you speak North American English, compare the pronunciation of the L sound in a word like “full” vs. its pronunciation in “la la la”. Many (but not all) North American English speakers use the tip of their tongues to pronounce the L sounds in “la la la”, while the L sound in “full” is pronounced in the back of the mouth, without using the tip of the tongue. The L sound in “full” is velarized, and is often called a “dark L”, as opposed to the L sound in “la la la”, which is called a “light L” or a “clear L”.
Excluding digraphs, there shouldn’t be any confusion caused by using an English sound for a broad consonant.
The slender sounds tend to be palatalized, which is less common in English than in Irish. [Palatalization is raising the middle of the tongue towards the hard palate while pronouncing a consonant.] Palatalized consonants tend to sound like they have a slight English Y sound following them, e.g. the way in which some people pronounce “coupon” as “queue-pon”.
Excluding digraphs, inserting a slight English Y sound after a consonant is a fair approximation of a slender consonant, excepting slender s, which sounds like English “sh”; slender z (in loan words), which sounds like English “zh”; and slender r, for which a link was provided above.
Note that Irish h (e.g. hata “hat”, hine “henna”) is exactly like English “h”, and doesn’t have broad and slender varieties.
Regarding the pronunciation of ch as «a very harsh English “H”», the broad ch is like Spanish x in mexicano. For slender ch, Chilean Spanish is supposed to have it in the j of mujer, but I don’t know if it is found in other Spanish dialects also.
I have trouble with slender r too! It is really difficult for me to hear the difference much less pronounce it. I try to pay attention, but to me the duolingo voice especially often seems to pronounce them the same. What is slender r supposed to sound like?
The sound is very different so, yes, you do need to learn the pronunciation. It is more like the J in Spanish which is a completely different letter sound.
https://www.duolingo.com/comment/4277962 Irish Portal
The pronunciation video that follows is very useful and mh, bh, etc. is in its 3rd group of letters. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIokUII7LX0&feature=youtu.be
As others have pointed out, it's not clear what you mean by "underglide" - it's not a term that other people use.
Pronouncing the séimhiú (the name for that "h" that comes after certain consonants) is not optional - other speakers will recognize the underlying word, but they will also generally recognize that you're not bothering to pronounce the word correctly, and you may find a different response to "not bothering" versus "needs some practice".
Also bear in mind that you're not going to be speaking Irish to monolingual Irish speakers. If you're talking to other learners, then they might not even notice your mistakes, or not care much. But if you do manage to find some reasonably fluent Irish speakers to talk to (who aren't specifically volunteering to act as a teacher), then they'll probably just switch to English if you just don't bother making an effort to get the pronunciation right - occasional, even frequent errors are one thing, and certain sounds are more problematic than others (you can probably get away with getting ch wrong, but get th or dh wrong and you won't get very far), but just ignoring the presence of the séimhiú will simply have you learning completely bogus pronunciations.
And I should clarify that the "mistakes" that people will recognize what you meant if you forget to use a séimhiú involve "initial mutations", where the séimhiú one the initial letter of a word comes and goes depending on the grammatical circumstance.
But an "embedded séimhiú", such as, for example séimhiú, Feabhra, anraith or aghaidh, must be included in the pronunciation. Ignoring the séimhiú in these words will produce a sound that will simply confuse most listeners.
However, don’t different dialects have different rules about séimhiú? Could what is correct in one dialect be percieved as a mistake in another?
There are a few differences between the dialects, but most things are actually the same. If you do something that no dialect does, it will be perceived as wrong.
If you speak one dialect consistently in an area where it isn't native, it may sound foreign, but not any more wrong than British English does in America.
If you mix dialects, you may sound a bit odd, but it's debatable whether that counts as a mistake or not.
Is the ‘standard’ Irish itself, that is taught in schools, a mix of dialects? If I understand correctly it is not based on any one dialect. So if you learn the standard.. in a school.. or on duolingo.. won’t you already be speaking a mixture?
The Caighdeán is kind of a middle ground. While it allows different options in several cases to cater to all three major dialects, so that the underlying dialect can still be visible, it's "watered down" to make it more accessible for people not familiar with the dialect.
Generally, mixing dialectal features with standard forms (assuming you choose the options closest to the dialect you're using) is not seen as inconsistent. Between a full dialect and the standard there is a kind of continuum where you can move relatively freely.
Things start to sound odd when you don't only water down things towards the standard, but go beyond it and mix, say, non-standard Munster forms with typical Ulster vocabulary, and for good measure pronounce it with a Connemara accent.
The Caighdeán is only a written standard; it isn’t a spoken standard. In circumstances where dialects prefer different mutations, e.g. ag an chailín in Ulster Irish vs. ag an gcailín in the other dialects, either mutation is acceptable, but one should be able to pronounce the accompanying consonant in whichever dialect is preferred — e.g. pronouncing either chailín or gcailín as cailín in that phrase would be a mistake.
I think the question is meant in this way: "If I mispronounce some sounds, will Irish people still understand me?"
I don't know the answer exactly, not being a native speaker of Irish, but I would say this from hearing a lot of people assign the wrong gender on the French words, or mispronounce vowels and such: native speakers will most likely understand, especially if there is a context and you say more than one word in the sentence. However, if you have a lot of heavy pronunciation mistakes in one word, it gets really difficult until people understand your accent and "compensate" for your mistakes.
I'd say in general, the shorter the words and sentences, the greater chances you get of being misunderstood in any language. In Chinese Mandarin for example, if one mispronounces the tone on a vowel, if could mean any of 5-6 other things because they have a lot of one-syllable words, so context matters.
I don't feel Irish has a high level of confusion embedded in its mispronunciation, but there might be a lot of funny things that could happen with specific words with only an accent's difference (yes.... that cáca and caca thing, or if you need an example in English, many non native speakers here pronounce "focal" like "f*** all"... you know...).
But that's just my subjective perception based on what I know about it so far ;) I don't worry about this too much, just like when I learned English and I would get corrected years later by native speakers on my pronunciation of "sword" (don't pronounce the w) or "sew" (not the same as "few", it's like "so") or when I pronounced "hair" like "air" and people would chuckle but still get it....
The usual tip probably applies: do your best, but don't obsess about pronunciation.
did you try youtube: how to pronounce irish names and other irish words: a quick guide (Benny Lewis) I tryed and it was helpful :)
So... I am just a beginner myself.. however.... (no expert!) In Irish the key to pronounciation is understanding the difference between slender and broad consonant. In other words, if they are beside a, o, u or beside i or e. I kind of think of the vowels as a ‘frame’ for the consonants.
Mh an bh are both pronounced the same. They are pronounced as w or v depending on the dialect, and whether or not they are proud or slender. Usually mh and bh are pronounced as w when broad (they have the vowel a, o, u beside them) and v when slender (next to vowels i or e). Most dialects pronounce broad mh and bh as w and slender bh and mh as v.
If you can pronounce v and w in English they are easy... it is just a matter of getting your brain used to ‘reading’ them correctly.
Personally I have trouble figuring our gh and also slender g..I have no idea what it is supposed to sound like, to me it sounds a bit like a french r... and I completely off? I don’t think I can make that sound. (I also can’t make the french r despite years of trying)
I think really as an English speaker I have accepted I just can’t make some sounds (like and sort of rolled or trilled r). I am not going to drive myself crazy over it..l because I think an accent is just part of a language. However, some peope who are more skilled at such things probably have better tips.
If you can pronounce "ch" (which is voiceless), "gh"/"dh" are basically just the voiced counterpart of it. In IPA, the sounds are /j/ for slender "gh" and /ɣ/ for broad "gh".
Thanks, What does voiced and voiceless mean in layperson terms? I thought the ch was like a guttural sound (like the Hebrew chet- ח). (Never learned IPA) Are you saying ch and gh/dh are all the same sound?
Yes, Hebrew chet is the Irish broad "ch". As David already correctly explained, broad "gh" is pronounced in the same mouth position (i.e. it's just as guttural), you just add the sound of your vocal chords.
Irish slender "ch" is like in German "ich". Slender "gh" is like English "y" - again, both are more or less pronounced in the same position, just one of the voiceless and the other voiced.
I can make the ch. So.. gh is a gutteral y? Yeah, I don’t think I can make that sound (i feel like I am just coughing up phlem when I try)...but I’ll work on it. I wonder why it sounds like an r to me...maybe it is just not a sound I am used to hearing so I try to equate it to something I have.
The broad gh (IPA /ɣ/) is a voiced velar fricative, and the standard French r (IPA /ʁ/) is a voiced uvular fricative; these sounds aren’t too different from each other. Hebrew ר can be pronounced as either of these sounds.
If you’re familiar with the distinction in German between the ch of Bach and the ch of ich, that is the same distinction in Irish between broad ch and slender ch — viz between IPA /x/ and IPA /ç/. I think that Hebrew only has the broad /x/ sound.
Thanks! Yeah, the ch sound I ‘get’ more or less.. because I did Hebrew when I was young, but the gh sound... I have no idea how to pronounce it.. and I don’t think I am even hearing it properly.. because I can’t think if any equivalent that I am used to hearing.
Greek γ (as in γάλα, “milk”) can be pronounced like Irish broad gh. Some Spanish speakers pronounce the g in amigo (“friend”) with this sound, and some Hebrew speakers pronounce the ר in אור (the noun “light”) with this sound. As patbo noted, broad gh (IPA /ɣ/) is simply a voiced broad ch (IPA /x/).
Similarly, Greek γ (as in γεια, “hi”) can be pronounced like Irish slender gh. Some Spanish speakers pronounce the y in sayo (“smock”) with this sound, and some southern Italian dialects pronounce the gl in figlio (“son”) with this sound. Slender gh (IPA /ʝ/) is simply a voiced slender ch (IPA /ç/). Note that slender gh is a voiced palatal fricative, in contrast to English Y (IPA /j/), which is a voiced palatal approximant; but /j/ can be the preferred pronunciation of slender gh before vowels other than í or at the end of a syllable.
Since you get the two ch sounds, just add your voice to them to get the two gh (and the two dh) sounds.
Thanks for the tips! So far..all my attempts sound like a cat trying to cough up a furball ...but I guess it takes practice.