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  5. "Piobair agus salann."

"Piobair agus salann."

Translation:Pepper and salt.

December 3, 2019



In English you would nearly always say "salt and pepper", not the other way round. The word order just sounds wrong, I can't explain it. Is this not the same in Gaelic?


I remember wondering exactly the same thing when I came across this sentence. Would definitely like some input on this one, because "pepper and salt" in English is a completely unnatural collocation, and something I've almost never heard anyone say. Is pepper and salt the natural collocation in Gaelic? Or does it not really matter either way?


I don't think it matters. I would personally say salainn 's piobair


Is there a reason you spelled salt with the "i", "salainn" rather than "salann?" Does it have something to do with the 's? And is 's just a casual shortening of agus or does it specifically mean something?


This is a common mistake because in some sentences (that you will meet later) it changes to salainn. Confusion arises because they are pronounced almost identically.

Yes, the 's is a common contraction of agus, but it is also found as a common contraction of is. Only context will tell you which it is, but it is usually pretty obvious because one (agus) has to go between things, and the other (is) is almost always at the beginning of a sentence or clause. D


It doesn't matter which way round you would normally say it, you have to translate it exactly here :)


Generally I would agree. The literal translation is better for learning Gaelic, and we cannot expect the contributors to spend time putting in all possible word orders.

However this is different. *Pepper and salt is simply not normal English. Ngram shows that S+P started becoming more popular in 1897 and is now almost 30x more common. So I would say that S+P should be accepted. Imgur

Consider it the other way round. I would always say black and white but I would never do a word-for-word translation - it is always geal 's dubh. When they translated Postman Pat's black-and-white cat into Gaelic it became geal 's dubh. (Sadly they seem to have re-recorded it with different words, so if anyone can provide a link to the original, please do.)

And there is even less doubt that the Breton flag is Gwenn-ha-du - and you should understand the word du. It could not possibly be Du-ha-gwenn, any more than the British flag could be Blue, white and red. It is always Red, white and blue, even though the French flag is always Bleu, blanc et rouge.

Breton flag


If we accept "salt and pepper", then how can we be sure that the learner knows that salann means "salt" and piobar means "pepper"? It may seem obvious, but every language has its false friends.


That is a good point. Especially as I am a strong supporter of this attitude in Gaelic which I think is much better for teaching than the opposing attitude in Welsh. However, the fact that S+P is so much more common that P+S would be regarded as bad English if I were marking a translation at a high level, and that it is not made explicit anywhere that you are preferring more literal translations to good English, mean that in this particular case I would accept it as an alternative. It will still say 'Another answer is "P+S"', and the words have already been taught separately. A clear note stuck to the top of this page would be another solution, to prevent what will inevitably be a continuous string of complaints. But I accept the judge's decision is final.


I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one :)

For what it's worth, the sentence "salann agus piobar" is also taught on the course. Given how early on in the tree this skill is, there are only so many sentences we can make with the words already taught. So you'll often see the "noun + agus + noun" construction. Anyway, it keeps you on your toes!


I came hear to ask the same question.


For some reason I can't get the pronunciation of "piobair" down. It doesn't even sound that different to English, but my mouth can't seem to form it. Could anyone give an example of the phonetics?


The important thing is not to worry about the details of this particular dialect and concentrate on the main features of these phonemes in Gaelic. If you do see words written out in phonetics they often give too much detail. Of course if you are not familiar with the language you may not be able to identify the important bits, so here is my attempt:

Letter Phoneme Example Notes
p /p/ pepper
i /i/ none This is not a sound found in English. It is like the ee in peep but shorter. It is not quite the same as the i in pip.
o /-/ - silent
b /p/ pepper Possibly a little softer than in English.
a /ɘ/ - /ɛ/ around / error There is a range but it is not important exactly how you pronounce unstressed vowels.
ir /r/ - /ð/ error - leather This varies by dialect between these two extremes. This speaker (who has recorded all seven examples of this word) seems to vary between these two extremes. Stick with /r/ unless you live on Lewis or nearby and people say /ð/. Get used to hearing both.



The word piobair seems very close, if not the same to the Gaelic for piper. Can anyone advise please?


Yes it sometimes happens that two unrelated words are similar but not the same. Rather like pepper and piper in English. Luckily the two words are far enough apart in meaning that you should not get confused:

Please pass the salt and piper
The pepper was playing Flower of Scotland

In both languages the difference is the length of the vowel. Let's have a look at the difference between the two languages, so we can decide which is easier


  • piobair just assume the i is short unless marked
  • pepper the second e would make the first one long, so they had to insert the second p to stop this happening


  • pìobaire the long vowel is clearly marked
  • piper the e makes the i long. This would originally have been pronounced just like the Gaelic pìobaire (without the e at the end) but unfortunately the Great Vowel Shift between 1400 and 1700 messed up all the long vowels, so now the long i
    • is no longer a longer version of the short i
    • is no longer the same as in other languages such as Gaelic
    • is no longer actually pronounced as slender, although it is still counted as slender

So which did we decide was easier?

I have no idea why there is an e at the end of pìobaire but there usually is when you add air to make a person (like the English piper). D

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