Oh dear. This makes me realize that pronunciation is going to be something new for the 'English' letters, ie Tha = Ha, Gaidh = Gah, -lig = lick, snog = snock. Are there any rules anywhere for pronunciation to assist with this early learning process?
Tapadh leibh! (I hope I got that right.)
Diphthongs in Gàidhlig aren’t always consistent (like English) so for the most part I'd recommend listening to the audio bites and learning the "feel" of the language, which will help pronounciation (especially of "ea" which has three different pronunciations). Occasionally there are “graphic vowels” which are included in a word but not pronounced to adhere to the one major rule “broad to broad, slender to slender”. “Broad” vowels are a, o and u (your mouth is very open when saying them), slender vowels are e and i (your mouth is narrow width-wise when pronouncing them). The rule does not permit the change from broad to slender on each side of consonants, only vowels: e.g. "ela" is not permitted, but "elea" is.
Gàidhlig only has 17 letters, so slender vowels affect the pronunciation of certain consonants, introducing more sounds: S = “sh”, c = “ch”, d = “j”, dh = “y”, r ="th" (unaspirated).
A couple of other consistent rules or pronunciations: - Always stress/emphasise the first syllable of a word
g at the end of a work is a soft “ck” sound
the diphthong “ao” is pronounced like the “oo” in “cool”.
"mh" is a v sound (e.g. Niamh is pronounced "Neev"), though I have heard a softer w sound in some dialects
"nne" is pronounced like an "n" with a short "nyeh" at the end elongating the second n and pronouncing the e
Double consonants may occasionally have an "invisible" vowel to assist the flow of pronunciation, e.g. "Alba" (Scotland) is pronunced "AL-a-ba"
B is soft in Gaidhlig, sounding somewhere in between a b and a p and is unaspirated.
There is also something called "lenition" but that one might be best reading on your own as it's a bit complex.
That's what I can remember off the top of my head. As I mentioned, a lot will be listening hard and getting the feel for the flow of the language, but I hope this helps you find your feet :)
Varsa6, Many thanks! Getting the feel for a language is half of the fun, and your tips will certainly help in doing that. I think the speakers' voices here are nice and soft, so that too is a pleasure to hear. Like an audible feast. Your tips certainly help explain the sounds though, which is helpful at the start of this journey. Thanks again - very much!
The eccentric spelling certainly dissuades a lot of potential learners from learning Gaelic. While it is logical, it works on a different logic to any other language and you don't get as many sounds for free as you would in any other language as you have to learn an almost entirely new system of spelling.
Scottish Gaelic was initially a dialect of Irish, and though the spelling has diverged, many things are the same. I don't know that "eccentric" is the right word; Irish is the oldest written vernacular in Europe. The ancient Irish adapted the Latin alphabet to their language, which has very different sounds from Latin, in a way that is quite different from the way German and Germanic languages (like Anglo-Saxon) and French did, for example. It helps to stop thinking of English or any other language as a "norm" and Gaelic as deviating from it. As you've certainly noticed, it does not sound like a Latin language, and the spelling used is the best solution that was arrived at for representing the sounds of Gaelic using the Latin alphabet. The good news is that it's easier than it seems at first. At least you don't have to learn a different alphabet or writing system (Russian, Chinese, etc.)
Russian, ironically, is far easier to learn to read since it is spelt phonetically. Once you learn the letters, which doesn’t take long when you realise they are more similar than different to the Latin alphabet, it is pretty much spelt the way it is pronounced and pronounced the way it is spelt. Anyone can learn to read Russian in an afternoon even if they would have no idea of the meaning of what they were reading.
The same unfortunately cannot be said for Gaelic where there are so many new rules to learn for how a letter or digraph is interpreted depending on the letters around it.
I think “eccentric” is a good word for it, and the spelling isn’t exactly the “best solution”. Best solution spelling is always phonetic, one letter corresponding to one sound and any sounds changed by context generally written with a different letter. Once you have to interpret groups of letters together all the time to arrive at the pronunciation, it takes far longer to learn.
The other Celtic languages have far easier spelling systems, Irish, for example, sensibly having done away with most of the strictly speaking unnecessary silent letters that still are all over Gaelic, and while the intent of whoever came up with the spelling once may have been good, it’s not particularly helpful just when you’re starting out.
In fact, most modern languages have spelling reforms frequently, to reflect current usage and linguistic evolution, or to simplify and make logically coherent. Clinging on to archaic spelling systems is actually a hurdle in the way to the primary purpose of language, which isn’t to be a museum piece but to be a tool of communication. If weird spelling gets in the way of that, it is actually a less efficient tool.
Anyway, that’s enough rambling from me for now.
Like everything, of course, once you know it, it won’t seem so tricky anymore.
Sorry, but no, that is not how it is written in English. That is the Gaelic spelling, which is not even considered a loanword; it is not listed in the dictionary as an English word: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/G%C3%A0idhlig
If anyone uses that spelling when they write English, it is a bit the same as saying "In France they speak français" – except, of course, unlike "Gàidhlig", "francais" IS actually considered an official loanword in English.
On Asus laptop, if you go to Control Panel, Change Keyboard etc, click Keyboards and Languages tab, then click the big button Change Keyboards, General tab, then click Add and scroll to United Kingdom Extended, check box and OK it and Apply.......finally select default language as United Kingdom Extended and OK it again.
You should now be able to use the
key (to the left of the 1 key). Press the key at the same time as pressing the vowel you need eg "a" etc......and release simultaneously. You should be able to type à è ì ò ù. It should also work on other laptops.
It's quite simple. If you've installed the language pack, on your taskbar, at the bottom right of the screen, there should appear a keyboard code (EN, GL etc.). Click GL to switch to the Gaelic keyboard. To produce an accent, use the `key at the very top left of the keyboard, and then type the vowel.
Note that the Gaelic keyboard also works for Irish. To produce an Irish 'fada', hold the right ALT key while typing the vowel.
There's an even faster way to switch keyboards, using two keys (ALT+Shift or CNTRL+Shift). You can choose the combination you prefer under 'language settings' in the Control panel.
Where's the language pack located? I can't see it anywhere on my screen. I'm on a desktop computer at the moment, but I alternate between my home computer and my Android, whereupon I have installed a SwiftKey keyboard, which allows up to five languages. (I'm already at my limit there. I don't know if SwiftKey offers Gaelic or not. Other keyboards may, however, and if so, I could download one of those and switch between keyboards for my Gaelic lessons.) Still, I don't see where the option is to install a language pack.
You have to download the language pack (it will also correct your spelling). Look here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/14236/windows-language-packs . Listed under 'Scottish Gaelic'. When it downloads, you have to install it. I don't think it matters which version of Windows you have.
As for SwiftKey, it does offer Gaelic and so far it's been working well for me. I have Irish also, but it seems to be capable of sorting them out.
KittDunne, I see no reply option under your text below, so I'm replying to myself and hoping that you'll see this. I have Windows 7 Professional, and when I clicked on the link you provided, I do not see Scottish Gaelic (or even just plain Gaelic) listed. Rats. That's wonderful news about SwiftKey, but that keyboard has a limit of five languages, and I've reached that limit. I may have to find a separate keyboard and switch to that when doing Gaelic, OR replace another of my SwiftKey languages with Scottish Gaelic and use a separate keyboard for one of my other languages (English, French, Hebrew, Norwegian, and Greek). Anyway, many thanks for your reply.
While UK keyboards bizarrely have the ` key, it doesn't work as an accent key and they also have the á on AltGr+A (why is a mystery: it's not a common accent in English), so the easiest way to write à is normally to hold down Alt and press 0224 before releasing it again on the number pad, but having a laptop, you might not have a number pad, which makes the easiest option for you to copy and paste it.
Yes, it's still a hassle, but I think this will be the easiest for you. Copy any occurrence of à on the screen (Ctrl+C) and every time you have to write it, press Ctrl+V.
You would think with accents being optional in loanwords and often mandatory in foreign words, that at least the basic ones that are actually used by many when they type English were easily available on a UK keyboard, but, alas, no.
In many languages, the "h" and "ch" sounds are allophones, often also together with "k", but once you get used to them, both practicing saying them and listening to them, you will be able to distinguish them.
The consonant in "tha" is "h", pretty much like an "h" in English, a fricative made at the far back of the mouth, at the glottis, and while it is a fricative, it sounds more like a stop, a more audible version of the glottal stop which doesn't so much have a sound in itself as being an abrupt stop between the sounds preceding or following it.
The "ch" in "cha" on the other hand, is created a bit further forward in the mouth, in the same location as the stop "k". If you say "k" and add air pressure to make it into a continuous, raspy sound, also moving the tongue ever so slightly away from the velum (the roof of the mouth at the far back, behind the palate), that is pretty much an elongated "ch", though in most linguistic contexts, it is quite a short sound.
Due to sharing its location with "k", in many languages it is an allophone of "k", and also of "h", depending on what sounds are its neighbours. Notably, most languages that used to have a "ch" sound have often ended up eventually completely replacing it with either "k" or "h" as there usually aren't many words where those letters make a minimal pair (two words only distinguished by those sounds") where the context wouldn't easily tell you which word you wanted to say.
To reiterate my initial advice, it takes practice distinguishing them when used in normal speech. It might help to know that while a "h" almost behaves like a stop, "ch" needs a little bit more length to be properly realised. Practice listening to them, and also practice just saying them too: "cha, tha, cha, tha, cha, tha."
Anyway, I hope that helps.
I don't feel it's fair to penalise folk for writing Gaidhlig over Gaelic; my teacher was an elderly woman from Stornoway and she always said Gaidhlig. I've always been told it's Irish Gaelic/Gaelige (GALE-idge), Scottish Gaidhlig (either GAH-lig or GAHR-lick)...
Actually, in English, it is not confusing at all. Unless one is actively trying to obfuscate it, context will make it very clear which you are talking about, and "Gaelic" is even pronounced differently depending on which language you refer to (if you speak correctly, of course).
/ˈɡeɪlɪk/ = Irish Gaelic
/ˈɡælɪk/ = Scottish Gaelic (or /ˈɡalɪk/ in a number of Scottish dialects).
Håkon, I’m not sure where you’ve found a “k” pronunciation for Gàidhlig, but the beginning of the word is most certainly a “g”. “G” at the end of a word in Gàidhlig is, however, a “k” sound as listed in the pronunciation. I have studied Gàidhlig at Sabhal Mor Ostaig and also by a woman from Stornaway and never amongst anyone who has taught me or I’ve spoken with have pronounced it beginning with a “k” sound.
Håkon, I am incredibly amused that you’ve said no one would confuse Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic due to the different pronunciations, and then listed the IPA for pronunciation of “Gàidhlig” as how you say Scottish “Gaelic”.
Are you saying you cannot hear the difference between /ˈɡalɪk/ and /ˈɡaːlɪkʲ/, even if you consider the g an allophone of the phonemic /k/? Which also is aspirated in English and unaspirated in Gaelic, by the way, and the /l/ isn't quite the same either, and the vowel length is different. If you know anything about phonetics, those make several major differences.
Oh, and if you wonder where I found the pronunciations, you may have heard of Wikipedia, but perhaps not of Wiktionary.
Buddy, you wrote that it was pronounced "/ˈkaːlɪkʲ/" above which was what I was addressing regarding "k" vs "g" sounds.
You're coming across like someone who's studied linguistics, rather than Gàidhlig and is here to stir the pot because they can. Studying linguistics makes you an expert on the construction/syntax of languages, not the individual languages themselves. You're citing Wiktionary sources (which is still a community edited source, like Wikipedia); I think I'll stick to the pronunciation used by the native speakers who taught me Gàidhlig at the Sabhal Mor Ostaig (university).
Varsa6, I have indeed heard it pronounced /ˈkaːlɪkʲ/ rather than /ˈgaːlɪkʲ/, and considering how particular Gaelic speakers are about pronunciation, it seems strange no one would have thought to correct it on Wiktionary if it was incorrect. And, yes, this is a beginner's course in Gaelic and I am here to learn, so I've not studied it yet beyond some very mild exposure to it from living in the Highlands, though as you guessed, I have studied linguistics and phonetics as well as a few other languages.
I am not here to stir any pots, unless you call correcting mistakes and misconceptions pot-stirring. In this case I am merely pointing out that what is presumably a consensus of many phonetically inclined Gaelic speakers is that the correct pronunciation is /ˈkaːlɪkʲ/. That is not the same as saying that there are no dialects where a word-initial "g" isn't an allophone of the phonemic "k" used to describe the word in the dictionary. And that is even before considering the amazing effect of psychoacoustics on what we hear often being what we expect to hear rather than the actual physical description of a speech sound. If you expect a "g", you might hear a "g" even if it is closer to a "k".
The seemingly comprehensive Wiki entry on Gaelic phonetics also clearly states there is no [g] in Gaelic at all. It describes G as [k] (unaspirated) and GH as [ɣ], which is closer to an English G-sound, although more like a Spanish or Portuguese one.
Anyway, I'll make no more comments about it and leave everyone to enjoy their own versions of Gaelic while I pursue mine.