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  5. "balach agus caileag"

"balach agus caileag"

Translation:a boy and a girl

December 3, 2019



Struggling with the spelling of 'caileag' on this one


That's amazing! Thanks ever so much for including that sound file! :-)


I've heard two different pronounciations of "agus," one with a hard g and another pronounced like "aYus."

Just wanted a clarification of which one is correct, or does it depend on the person. Tapadh leat gu mòr <3


It's dialectal but the pronunciation with hard g is more common


Apologies for the late reply, but thank you very much for the clarification. Gaelic is a rather beautiful language (both irish and scottish) and I would like to get into studying it one day <3


In 'caileag' the 'ai' and the 'ea' both sound like 'a' which makes me wonder why the different spelling?


There is a logical reason. The vowels both sound like a because they are both a. The e and i are not pronounced. They are there to slenderize the l. Every consonant in Gaelic is considered either broad or slender, which affects the pronunciation. If it is slender, as here, it has to have an e or i on either side. That is why there are so many extra vowels in Gaelic. It's like action in English, where the i is silent but added just so you don't pronounce it as Acton. The i does not affect the o and so it is not a diphthong, even if some books say it is.


I don't understand the concept of "slenderizing." What's that all about?


Okay, there are five vowels: a, e, i, o, u.

e, i are ‘front vowels’, pronounced toward the front of the mouth. Gaelic refers to these as “slender” vowels.

a, o, u are back or mid- back vowels, pronounced farther back in the mouth. Gaelic refers to these as “broad” vowels.

There is a rule in Gaelic that both of the vowels before and after a consonant must be of the same type— so the rule is “broad to broad, slender to slender.”

However, the presence of the front vowels (slender vowels) also affects the pronunciation of the consonant, shifting towards the front of the mouth. (Linguists and phoneticists call this “palatalization”, FYI). That’s what they mean by “slenderizing”.

Does that help?


Just history and the way the language developed (English also has multiple spellings for the same sound).


What is the difference between balach and bhalaich?


A bhalaich is just balach in the vocative case.


That means when you are addressing a boy. There are two separate insertions: bhlaich, and they are both required in the vocative. You will meet other uses of bhalaich later in the course, and bhalach and balaich also exist. Lots of fun for another day.


I would say nighean is girl and caileag is women, I've never heard caileag used for girl before.


Hey, I can't say I agree. To me, caileag being used for girl to me is common and it is listed as such in pretty much every dictionary as far as I know. Although unlike nighean it does not mean you are necessarily describing a child. :)


The problem is that boundaries between categories vary between cultures and over time.

In the past you would have been a child (nighean in Gaelic if female), then you would have been a maiden (caileag, 'young, unmarried woman'), then a wife or married woman (bean). The concept of woman, covering everything above child did not exist. That is why a new word has been introduced with that meaning - boireannach (originally a female thing, hence neuter gender which later became masculine).

My guess is that when boireannach was introduced (which it wasn't in Ireland - bean (pronounced 'ban') became the generic word for a woman in the modern sense) then caileag was somewhat redundant and this led to confusion about what it meant.


Why do they always say Halò a bhalaich but they never have Halò a chaileag? Is it said differently? Or do people not use it that way?


Yes you can say it. They cannot give you every valid thing you could say as every single question is written by hand, checked by hand and recorded by hand. There is no Duolingo algorithm generating these sentences.

Although they haven't done it, it would be possible for Duolingo to do this in some languages (the ones with a computerized voice) but not for Gaelic where we are so lucky to have real voices.

[deactivated user]

    So here 'agus' is pronounced with a y sound but in module 2 it's pronounced with the hard g. Which is it now?



    It’s a regional variation, so the pronunciation depends on where in the Gàidhealtachd the speaker is.


    True. But it should be noted that the y sound is extremely rare in this word, and even fluent Gaelic speakers may find it odd if you use it. I would stick with the g.

    This discussion shows that other people are also unfamiliar with it and that the particular speaker (and it is just one) is from Benbecula, an island with a population of 1,283.


    I wouldn't call it "extremely rare" at all. Some people would pronounce agus with a hard g /k/, but I'd say more people pronounce it with a softer gh, as in /ɣ/ or even /j/. Being a sound that doesn't appear in English, it's a hard one to explain to people. Your best bet for pronunciation would be somewhere in the middle of an English G and Y.


    Thanks! I didn’t know where the particular speaker is from, but I know I have never heard that in all the years I have been listening to Gaelic songs and instruction material.


    When they started making this course they just grabbed any willing fluent speakers they could find for the fairly arduous task of recording hundreds of sentences, so we should be thankful to the speakers' hard work, as well the writers'. However, this one pronunciation of one word is so unusual, and such an odd way to pronounce a g in Gaelic or Modern English anyway that it causes loads of confusion, and it is not really appropriate at the beginning of the course.

    Note that I said Modern English. This is because this sound change did occur in Old English, which is why we have some words with a y, such as day where a g is historically correct (German Tag).


    Oh, yes— I am delighted about and grateful for all the native speakers who feature in the course! My comments were meant as, “oh, interesting, I didn’t know about that regional variant,” NOT as any kind of criticism.

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