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  5. "A bheil m' athair ann an tai…

"A bheil m' athair ann an taigh-seinnse a-rithist?"

Translation:Is my father in a pub again?

December 8, 2019



I listened to this and answered without the word bank. I couldn't tell if it was "màthair" or "m' athair". Would it sound different one was to say "Is mother..." as opposed to "Is my father..."? Maybe the fada would give it away?


In principle the sràc (as it's called in Gaelic - fada in Irish, accent in English), which marks the vowel as long, would be clear. Unfortunately people with English as their first language are very bad at distinguishing, whether speaking or listening, so that is now unreliable.

As far as I know no one uses Màthair as a proper noun by itself, so you would have to translate as a mother which would be an odd sentence, so m' athair would be the better guess.

I discuss one possible reason for English speakers being so bad at recognising vowel length here. D


If it was mom, it would need to be mo mhàthair (mo before a consonant). For dad its m'athair (because o and a are vowels-and vowels don't like each other in Gàidhlig, so you drop the o)



I'm having a hard time telling the difference between the sound of mathair and m' athair. Is there a trick when listening to be able to tell?


Yes a lot of people are baffled by this but I have answered it above in response to TayWhite07's post, so perhaps you don't need to keep this one. If that one is not clear please comment there.


Personally I'd always want to say "at a pub" rather than "in a pub" in a situation like this, so I was surprised to see that answer rejected. I know it's not the literal translation, but it feels more natural to me in English to use "at".


People do not normally say at a pub or in a pub in British English, hence the confusion. Either at the pub or in the pub in the generic sense of out drinking. You would only say a if you meant 'in some pub and I have no idea which' but even then I would accept either preposition. D


Yeah, this is one of those places learners trip up. It's "in" you would use in Gaelic.


Not directly relevant, but why does Duolingo spell house 'taigh' when older grammars (and most Scottish house names I've seen) spell it 'tigh'. Is this a change of practice?


Well it appears that this spelling change has been mentioned or alluded to in at least six questions, but no one has actually addressed the issue directly, so here goes.

You will be aware that many European languages have some sort of system for pronouncing consonants differently when next to an a, o or u from when they are next to an e or i. For example, compare in English

game and gem

In Gaelic we call the two classes of vowel - and the two pronunciations for each consonant 'broad' and 'slender'. This distinction is taken much more seriously in Gaelic and Irish than in most other languages, with loads of extra vowels inserted to make sure the consonants are pronounced correctly, as happens less frequently in English, as in

guest or mission

There are, however, errors in English spelling due to the fact that we have never had a systematic spelling review


Well Gaelic never had a systematic review either - until 1988. Rather, the extra vowels were introduced gradually over the last 1000 years. Some were changed centuries ago, such as


Taigh was one of the last to change, in the twentieth century. Without the a, the t should be pronounced /t͡ʃ/ (like the ch in cheese). The a was inserted to tell us that the t is /t̪/ as in tie (but with the tongue touching the teeth).

So the only correct modern spelling is taigh but you often see tigh in house names as many owners are not aware of the spelling change, and indeed there is the question of whether you should change a traditional name anyway. And you would have to tell the Post Office and everyone else who has your address.

The process is still not complete. Is is still spelt 'wrongly' - who knows if they will ever change it. D


Thanks, very instructive. When I started learning Gaelic from an old grammar, I was pronouncing 'tigh' as 'chee'! Helpful to see that house names may still be 'valid', though I'm still seeing new builds being called 'tigh beag'!


You have drawn attention to the fact there are actually two odd things about the word tigh. One is why it has a broad t and the other is why the i is not pronounced like a normal i. The alleged origin is the Irish teach - which does have a slender t. The change in form is explained by us using the dative (or locative) tigh (which has a slender t and a 'normal' i ). However, whilst this is a possibility, I do not find it convincing, especially when paired with the very variable pronunciation of the i in taigh all over Scotland.

Another explanation, that I prefer, is what the Irish Gaels found when they arrived in Britain, bringing their language with them. They found people already living here in houses. The name of the building was not any Irish word but a British word, something closer to Welsh . The Welsh do not have a slender t and the range of pronunciation of the vowels in and taigh overlap. Further, the Irish would have found that the word sounded like the dative of their own word, so a blending of these two words could have occurred, resulting in the wide range across dialects.

The overall effect is that this is not one of those words that you should use to learn how to pronounce Gaelic letters. Just accept the various different pronunciations that you will hear as irregular. D

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