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  5. "Tapadh leat, a Mhàiri."

"Tapadh leat, a Mhàiri."

Translation:Thank you, Mairi.

January 26, 2020



Now will some enlightened registrar please stop allowing parents to call their baby daughters "Mhairi". And they then go on to pronounce it "Mairi". And it drives me mad. If I hear one more political announcer refer to "Mairi Black" I will scream. I only just started to learn Gaelic but even I knew that Mhairi was the vocative case and that's not what you put on the birth certificate.

Signed, Morag, not Mhorag.


I agree with you about the first part, but in a free world, if Ms Black wishes her name to be pronounced 'marri' then that is how we should pronounce it. I agree it is annoying and confusing, because if you read something about 'Mhairi Black' the correct pronunciation is 'Mhairi' until you discover that it is referring to the young politician and then you have to suddenly change. But of course you could argue that rather than being pronounced wrong, it is spelt wrong, and just pronounce it 'Màiri'.


Though to be honest, Hamish is, I fear, here to stay.


I could hear Tapadh leat, a Mhàirich.


They are very close together in terms of how we make the sound. You only have to raise your tongue a tiny bit during the i of Mhàiri, or even lower it not quite enough after the r to make it sound a bit like Mhàirich so there will always be a grey area in between.


They are, indeed, but I would expect a movement "ich > i" rather than the opposite. We, in Russian, also have such unexpected evolutions like for example family name Махиборода (Machiboroda) that evidently derive from erroneously recorded Майборода (Maiboroda) ("Have a beard") as if someone dictated their name whispering. But that is weird and rare.


I agree. You are always going to have some evolutions that are common and some that are rare. This one is so rare I have never noticed it before, but perhaps I have heard it without noticing it.

I am lucky to have a comprehensive phonological atlas of Gaelic, compiled in the 1950s, i.e. just before Gaelic speakers got contaminated by English and the radio. It has examples of each phoneme in various different phonological context. I looked this up and there were no words that end in unstressed i. There are words that end in idh but this would have been different once (as dh would have been /ð/ (like th in English the) so might still be different even if the dh itself is now silent. Màiri is actually a name of foreign origin so would once have been atypical.

However the nearest available was cuiridh with cuiridh tu available for contrast. In the latter, when followed by a consonant, the idh is always some variant of /i/, /e/ or /ə/ (except where a different word cuireas or cuireadh was recorded instead). But in cuiridh, with the idh in phrase-final position, /ç/ (which is the sound you describe), or /x′/ (which is between /x/ and /ç/ in their non-standard notation - somewhere between the chs in loch and deich) was found in St Kilda (evacuated in 1930s), Jura, Islay, Colonsay, Tiree, Coll, Moydart (from Canna), Eigg. In other words, St Kilda and all the islands south of Skye.

So the reason we have not heard this before is quite simply that there are extremely few speakers left in these places. I think Tiree is the only one with any significant number of speakers left.

And going back to what you said about the unusual evolution, idh would not have developed from /i/ to /iç/ but from /ið/ to /iç/, possibly via /iθ/ (like th in English thin) or /iʝ/ (like /ç/ but voiced), which would be unstable as neither exists in standard Gaelic phonology today. The i in Màiri would just have copied the now similar idh.

Very interesting.


True, very interesting.

By the way, Gaidhlig/Gaeilge phonetics is overall quite easy for me because we still have those phonemes in Russian (d/d', r/r', l/l', x/x' etc). It is only funny sometimes when I hear phonetic variations of the same word, like /su:l'/ and /su:l/ for sùil or /naxar'/, /naxir'/ and /naxir/ for nathair. I understand that it may reflect a specific dialect/school/infividuality.


Not gonna lie, I've got tricked into bhalaich, even though the 'r' sound was misheard by me as a some sort of 't' or 'd'.3

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