1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Scottish Gaelic
  4. >
  5. "Can sin a-rithist."

"Can sin a-rithist."

Translation:Say that again.

December 1, 2019

12 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Michular

Is this phrase formal? I mean, can I say it to my teacher or somebody same respected? Or maybe is there any rule when we distinguish between formal and informal, and when we don't?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DaibhidhR

It is politer than it sounds in English, although you would use the plural/polite form to a teacher

Canaibh sin a-rithist

You could add

mas e do thoil e (sing.)
mas e ur toil e (plural, polite)

I think this is quite common now, but only because English speakers feel the need to add it.

There are politer constructions that are often used, but they involve grammar that has not yet been covered, such as

Nach canadh tu/sibh a-rithist sin? Wouldn't you say that again?

Note the change of word order as Gaelic does not like two pronouns together.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ArijanZostravski

Canadh works both for plural and singular?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DaibhidhR

Yes it does. Good question. Most verb forms, with the exception of true imperatives, work for everybody in Gaelic. There is actually an exception with conditionals like this, in that they have special forms for I and we, but apart from that they work for everybody.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CatherineN146284

Shouldn't be a space between the a and hyphen


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Marie-MacLeod

No, because the hyphen joins the two words together.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DaibhidhR

There is a bug in the Duolingo system and it cannot handle hyphens and apostrophes. People on various courses have been clamouring for them to fix it for years but to no avail.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ETolb

I keep hearing "a-vrithist". Am I hearing right?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DaibhidhR

Sort of. This particular pronunciation of the slender r is a feature of Lewis Gaelic.

The problem is that the human brain always interprets what it hears in terms of what it knows, and loads of people on Duolingo have reported hearing all sorts of different letters for this particular allophone, mainly v, f, th and d. Linguists generally say it is a /ð/, the sound of th in English the.

However, identifying it with some letter in English is not helpful. You just need to learn to recognise it as the way that Lewis people pronounce their slender r. However it is probably best not to try to emulate it unless you are planning a trip to Lewis. D


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joannejoanne12

It's not something unique to Lewis, you hear it to varying degrees across the Western Isles. None of the folk that provided audio for Tree 1 are from Lewis - we've kept them back for Tree 2 :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DaibhidhR

Thank you. That is interesting. We have discussed this before, but this is the first time, as far as I am aware, that you have made a definitive statement to the effect that this is heard outwith Lewis. For example, here you qualify your statement with 'I'd say'. It is also the first time I am aware of that it has been stated that none of the speakers is from Lewis. Of course the question of whether any of their ideolects has particular Lewis influence is another question, as there is a lot more movement of people than there used to be, as you yourself are an example of.

On the same page I cite authoritative evidence that the phenomenon was restricted to Lewis, with a crystal-clear boundary, in the 1950s. That means that the phenomenon has definitely spread to elsewhere in the Western Isles since then.

Despite your very helpful pointers to the different dialects, I am afraid I am still pretty well unable to identify where a particular Duolingo speaker comes from. It would be so helpful if this could be marked on the sentences, as Duolingo would then become a resource of enormous linguistic and historical importance, although I understand that is not currently practical.

You imply that the different Western-Isles are still easy to distinguish. That means the phenomenon has spread across dialects, rather than the dialect itself spreading. This is not that odd. After all, there have been much bigger changes in where different allophones of r are heard in English in a comparable period - see this enormous article on Wikipedia.

I imagine that trying to identify the current isogloss is very much a moving and nebulous target, and it is frustrating but inevitable that you make a vague statement like 'you hear it to varying degrees across the Western Isles', but two question remain that are important for learners, and that I am still confused about:

  1. Has the phenomenon spread to broad r, and if so, who does this and when?
  2. Does everyone who is said to have adopted this /ð/ allophone actually pronounce it the same way, or is there a variety responsible for the numerous comments on here suggesting it sounds like a v, f, d or th? D

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joannejoanne12

For example, here you qualify your statement with 'I'd say'.

That's just the way I speak haha. It wasn't necessarily meant to cast doubt on my comment.

It is also the first time I am aware of that it has been stated that none of the speakers is from Lewis.

I've mentioned it a few times here on the forum in comments to others, and I'm sure Ciaran has too, but that of course doesn't mean you'd have seen that.

Of course the question of whether any of their ideolects has particular Lewis influence is another question, as there is a lot more movement of people than there used to be, as you yourself are an example of.

That's a question I can't answer. It is an interesting question on the whole, I think nowadays certainly Gaelic speakers will have idiolects that are influenced by a far greater range of dialects and accents than their parents' or grandparents' generations, due to the way the world is in the 21st Century. Greater access to media, increased inter-island mobility as well as mobility between islands and the mainland, and a more widespread Gaelic Medium Education system. All these things help expose learners (be they adults or children) to a greater range of accents and dialects, which in turn can (and does) influence their own idiolects.

On the same page I cite authoritative evidence that the phenomenon was restricted to Lewis, with a crystal-clear boundary, in the 1950s.

I couldn't find a map for the word athair as you mentioned in the other thread, but from this map, it shows the pronunciation of the slender r in the name Màiri. It has most of Lewis as well as South Uist and Benbecula using the pronunciation /ið/ rather than /iɾ/. The second example of nas doirche has the use of /ð/ as exclusively Leòdhasach.

In the case of Màiri, I'd definitely agree here. I've also heard it used by people from North Uist too. With nas doirche, I can't actually imagine someone saying it with a /ð/ right now so it probably is as uncommon as the map suggests.

Despite your very helpful pointers to the different dialects, I am afraid I am still pretty well unable to identify where a particular Duolingo speaker comes from.

Honestly, I think part of this is because the sentences get recorded individually, without context, and with so much focus on getting a clear pronunciation. Off the top of my head, we have male audio recorded by speakers from Fort William, South Uist, and Eriskay (I think? I'm not 100%). I think there were four men total. The female audio came from about five or six speakers, from Skye, North Uist, Benbecula, Eriskay, and Oban. There may be others I might have forgotten though. So mostly islanders.

Certainly with the male audio there isn't a huge amount of difference in accent because they all have South Uist/Eriskay connections. I often struggle to tell who recorded what audio as they all have pretty similar accents :) The differences are more noticeable with the women given the larger variety of accents.

it is frustrating but inevitable that you make a vague statement like 'you hear it to varying degrees across the Western Isles'

This goes back to what I said earlier about the increased outside influence on idiolects. Speaking personally, I'm the second child of four. The youngest two live in the islands, while myself and my older sister have lived on the mainland for a good few years now. The four of us all have our own idiolects, with a marked difference particularly in the accents of the youngest two (although they wouldn't like me saying that...).

Despite living in Benbecula, I find they lean towards a North Uist dialect when speaking, in a way that I don't as much. My older sister and I have that influence on our idiolects, but less so than the younger two. When it comes to accent specifically, I find that myself and the youngest have more 'generic' Benbecula/Uist accents, whereas the other two have more of a North Uist 'blas'.

So even within our own nuclear family, those 'varying degrees' exist, and that's not something that is unique to us.

Has the phenomenon spread to broad r, and if so, who does this and when?

Presuming you mean "is broad r pronounced /ð/?", quite possibly. I think I do it myself sometimes. I'll have to have a proper think about this one, so I'll come back and answer it properly later.

Does everyone who is said to have adopted this /ð/ allophone actually pronounce it the same way, or is there a variety responsible for the numerous comments on here suggesting it sounds like a v, f, d or th?

I'm convinced those comments are the result of one of two things:

  1. People not being able to accurately transcribe the unfamiliar phonemes they are encountering. For example, when people try to explain the sound ch [x] to English speakers, and say "it sounds like kh".

  2. Difficulty in discerning individual phonemes in audio recordings e.g. "she says ayus and he says agus!" In reality, agus is usually pronounced with a /ɣ/ or a /k/, but the /ɣ/ can sound like a /j/ to English speakers.

Learn Scottish Gaelic in just 5 minutes a day. For free.