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What is the difference between using "piuthar", "phiuthar" and "bràthair", "bhràthair"?

Hi there! I'm on the Family skill and noticed that "piuthar", "phiuthar" and "bràthair", "bhràthair" are used. I was wondering what the difference is in using them? Thanks!

November 28, 2019



What you see is called "lenition". It is what changes the sound of consonants in a word. Same goes for example with "math" (as in "good"). It is "Feasgar math" (pron. maa') but "Madainn mhath" (pron. m'vaa).

A good resource is http://akerbeltz.org/index.php?title=Lenition Gun soirbhich leat!


A simultaneously beautiful and painful thing called lenition! In the context of a sentence (possessive pronouns, masc./fem. nouns, tenses etc), certain words may require that extra 'h', which affects the pronunciation too.


It depends on the sentence. The words on their own are bràthair and piuthar. As other people have said, the h is what's called lenitition (or aspiration). If the sentence is something along the lines of Seo mo phiuthar, it's because mo (the possessive) has caused piuthar to lenite. Think of it as being like the 's in the phrase "Connor's pen". It's a mark that the word mo and piuthar are working together and certain other words link that way.

If the sentence is something like Ciamar a tha thu, a phiuthar? (how are you, sister?) the h is being used to emphasise vocative case. The vocative case shows you are speaking to someone rather than about them. It's a quirk that English doesn't have but is quite useful.


I haven't reached the Family skill yet, but I have encountered "piuthar/a phiuthar" and "bràthair/a bhràthair" earlier in the course. It looks like the vocative case: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Gaelic_grammar#Vocative. This is a grammatical case that indicates the noun is being addressed directly by the speaker. Like JeromeBlum said, you need to have a good handle on lenition to understand how it works. Lenition is used other times in Scottish Gaelic for other grammatical reasons. A very similar system exists in Irish.


Thanks for the help everyone. It helps a lot! :-)

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