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  5. "Màthair neònach."

"Màthair neònach."

Translation:A strange mother.

January 17, 2020

9 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kanders9

Strange mother as in "stranger/unknown" or as in "weird, odd"?


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

This pronunciation of the final "r" of màthair threw me here because is sounds more like a "d'. I didn't get it wrong because I listened 7 or 8 times. I could hear that the final word was neònach but I was unsure about the first. "Màthair" seemed the only word it could be. Is this just a dialect thing?


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

From what I understand the final 'r' in mathair is a slender consonant so it's pronounced more like a faint 'th' sound.


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

Yes, but only in Lewis dialect, as far as I know.


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

And (most of) the rest of Western Isles, I'd say.


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

That is interesting. It must have spread recently. I was told it was Lewis. The only detailed dialect survey I have is SGDS (Survey of Gaelic Dialects of Scotland) which was compiled in the 1950s. It only contains a sample of words so I looked at athair as the nearest equivalent phonological context. It was quite clear that the occurrence of [ð] matched exactly with the boundaries of Lewis. To be precise, the isogloss was between Mangersta and Tolmachan on the west coast and between Gravir and Scadabay on the east. (Words 63 and 64, vol. II pp.126-9. Point 7 (in Lewis) excepted as they erroneously recorded athar). The only example of anything that was not a kind of /r/ outwith Lewis was [ḻ] from a St. Kilda informant. Apparently, (vol. I, p.128) this represents 'a weakly palatalized or slightly "clear" l, as in coileach.

It is my perception (mainly from a documentary I saw recently recorded in Lewis) that a standardization of Western-Isles dialects is occurring. In particular I did not notice any nasal mutation at all. Is this your perception?

I have always been led to believe that this [ð] is specific to the slender r, but various comments here suggest it is r in general. Is it just a lack of precision in the comments, or is it found in broad r? I found no trace of it in arbhar (word 54, vol II. pp.108-9).


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

I am now confused as to whether I have actually heard it in a broad r on Duolingo, or only been told on Duolingo that it happens. I think it's the latter. I am also not an expert on accents but I think the Lewis accent is difficult to mistake for anything else and I have only heard it there, at least outwith Duolingo.

It is possible that it is spreading as an affectation, and if it is, then there is an interesting consequence. If you are not from Lewis and you go only by the spoken form, rather than the written form, then it virtually impossible to distinguish the broad and slender rs. For example I have heard a discussion on whether you can distinguish oirre 'on her' from orra 'on them', and the consensus was that you can't. That means that you would have no idea which rs to change to [ð] and which to leave. It would be like asking a Scot, who rhymes good with food to speak Southern English and know which words rhymed with food and which with good. It would be impossible.

So if (and it's a big IF) it is being adopted by people not used to it then it would likely be applied regardless of whether the r were slender or not.


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

I've heard it with borad r recently, but that has not been my prior understanding either.


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

To answer a couple of your questions together:

It is my perception (mainly from a documentary I saw recently recorded in Lewis) that a standardization of Western-Isles dialects is occurring. In particular I did not notice any nasal mutation at all. Is this your perception?

No doubt to some extent. I often joke about how my own Gaelic is a weird mix of lots of different dialects, due to having parents and grandparents from different islands. Because of that, I think my accent can be a bit hard to place at times (in both Gaelic and English).

That said, the islands in the Western Isles all have fairly distinct accents and dialects (in my opinion), and so even though there may be a degree of standardisation, broadly speaking you could tell a Barra accent from a Lewis one without too much difficulty.

I am also not an expert on accents but I think the Lewis accent is difficult to mistake for anything else and I have only heard it there, at least outwith Duolingo.

The standard Lewis accent is very different to most of the Hebridean accents, so is indeed difficult to mistake for anything else. Take this clip for example. The main newsreader from this clip is from Lewis.

About two minutes in, a councillor from North Uist is interviewed, and the reporter at seven minutes in is also from North Uist. About thirty seconds after that, the reporter interviews a man from Lewis. You can compare both of their accents quite easily here.

If you skip to 9 mins 45 secs, another man from Lewis is interviewed in a piece about the Mòd. The woman doing the voiceover for that piece is from Harris. Her accent sounds similar to the Lewis accents, but it isn't quite as nasal.

17 minutes in, the reporter doing the voiceover is from South Uist, and the woman she interviews at the 18 minute mark is from North Uist. These two are probably a bit harder to tell apart if you're not used to Uist accents, but there's an obvious difference to me :)

Even though most of the Lewis folk in the clip are from different parts of Lewis, they all have recognisably 'Leòdhasach' accents. Compare that with the Uist folk in the clip, who all have very 'non-Leòdhasach' accents. Many of the other accents I found quite hard to place as an islander (there were a few mainlanders), but the Lewis ones are the easiest to spot.

(I also think the North Uist accent is very easy to spot, but only because they often pronounce /i/ like /e/. Once you notice it, you can't un-notice it. Also, have a listen to the way the North Uist folk in the clip pronounce the word cuideachd.)

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