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  5. "You are an old doctor."

"You are an old doctor."

Translation:'S e dotair sean a th' annaibh.

March 27, 2020



The answer supplied was warned as having a typo: and said I should have used "seann" - that was not yone of the available tiles to select. Which one is correct - sean or seann?


You must have had them the wrong way around. We'll accept two sentences here:

  • 'S e dotair sean a th' annaibh.
  • 'S e seann dotair a th' annaibh.

If you put sean before dotair, it would have assumed you were trying to enter seann dotair :)


I have written: " 'S e seann dhotair a th' annaibh." It was marked as having a typo: "You have a typo. 'S e seann dotair a th' annaibh."

But shouldn't the word "seann" lenite the following word?


That's what I thought too. It is perhaps a mistake and should be reported?


Mine was accepted with the lenition but the displayed correct answer is missing it [29/10/2020]


So no, I was wrong. Seann dotair is correct because of the "dental rule" or "sgian dubh rule": Final n traditionally prevents lenition of a following d, n, t, l or s e.g. nighean donn bhòidheach (a pretty brown-haired girl).

Edit: Niseag20 is my alter ego.


Note that it may confuse some that there is even a suggestion that n and l might lenite. There is no written change, but there would be a sound change (except after words like seann, of course). D


Well, now you did manage to confuse me :-)
So do you mean that d and t don't lenite after d, n, t, l,s, but n and l do?

Do they lenite just according to some opinions, or just in some dialects?
What are words like seann?

For further confusion, there is this entry in wiktionary:
An cluinn thu mi, mo nighean dhonn ?


Sorry if I have confused you. Your previous post was 100% correct. I was just pointing out that some people might be confused because they might not be aware that l and n were capable of leniting anyway - and if they don't lenite anyway then the concept of that lenition being prevented would be meaningless. So to clarify: all the letters you list usually lenite, but don't after certain words such as ones that end in n. In the case of words that start with n and l this makes no difference to the written language as these letters show no change anyway. In the spoken language the change varies by dialect and has been becoming much less over time. It can often be impossible to tell the difference when a learner is speaking and even for a native speaker, you will probably only be able to tell the difference for the slender consonants.

There are several posts on here that give wee bits of information about this rule which cover most of the important features between them. I will try to find the time to assemble them in logical order and to separate out what beginners need from what advanced learners need.

As for the * nigheann dhonn, I Googled An cluinn thu mi, mo nighean dhonn? and was given

Showing results for An cluinn thu mi, mo nighean donn?
Search instead for An cluinn thu mi, mo nighean dhonn?

so even Google thinks there shouldn't be an h! When I searched specifically for An cluinn thu mi, mo nighean "dhonn" it still gave me mostly links to donn.

But the Scottish Dancing Dictionary told me

In stricter modern Gaelic it should be "Nighean Dhonn".

This is of course nonsense, but it is a good example of how you frequently see/hear this mistake from learners who are simply proving that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. D


I see. I am glad I was not too wrong.
I think, that sometimes, if I listen carefully, I do recognize lenited r or l from unlenited ones, but mostly I forget paying attention. The fact that it does not show in the writing is an important reason.
I wonder how important it is to learn those differences. The argument goes that native speakers do not understand when the pronunciation is botched, and tend to switch to English. But I don't know how important it is in this particular case.

What I don't recognize at all, is the difference between English and Gaelic s.


I wonder how important it is to learn those differences.

This is a very important question for learners, but a very difficult one. First of all there are different teaching theories. Then there is the fact that different people learn in different ways. Then there is the fact that particular letters (or other features of the language) may have specific reasons for giving bespoke advice.

One unique and very valuable feature of the Duolingo system is these pages which are a permanent record of what language features causes confusion, what is taught by experts (the mods) what sounds right to native speakers, and most importantly here, what advice people find helpful. So having read all of that, here is my take on a suitable compromise for l and r.

The things you can see in writing, such as whether the l is double or single, and whether it is broad or slender are easy - you just listen to the voices and learn by example. You don't have to think about it - it is just learning to read - eventually you learn the sound of each combination in each situation. That takes care of the double ll (broad and slender) and the broad single l whether at the beginning of the word or elsewhere. But for the slender single l, you need to learn to spot the difference between lenited and unlenited. When you see a sentence, work out if the l is lenited and listen carefully. If it is unlenited you should hear a bit of a /j/ (y sound) before it if there is a vowel before it, such as toil which is quite similar to the same word in English, and after it if there is a vowel after it, so liùit /lʲuːt͡ʃ/ would be like the way some people say the English translation lute in English, as if they were saying * lyoot (except for the t ). But when it is lenited, mo liùit /luːt͡ʃ/ it is like the English loot (except for the t ). (Note that the difference between lute and loot is caused by the fact that u is sometimes slender in English, depending on how it is pronounced.) This means that a lenited slender l sounds like a broad l, lenited or not.

This is much the same. Use nude and noodle as examples in English.

Did you mean this? I am not sure if there is much difference but you could try listening for differences in the slender r. However, there are not too many common nouns or adjectives that actually start with a slender r so it may not be easy to find examples. D


When you see a sentence, work out if the l is lenited and listen carefully.

I think this is crucial for me (also n and r). Not to forget that those consonants can be lenited and to notice the subtle differences.

I have now re-read this article:
Liquids or - L N R in Gaelic
It makes rather more sense to me than when I have read it for the first time.

So my simplified takeaway from all that is this:
l: Broad l does not lenite, only slender l: Lʲ ⇨ l .
n: Both broad and slender N lenite to "normal" n.
Although I think I have heard rionnagan pronounced with initial ð in Speaking our Language.

Then there is the dental rule.
I'll ignore the exceptions (like fL, sL , sN, ʃNʲ, sdr and posessives) for now.

Is that correct so far?

As to s:
I have seen a mention in a couple of places about the Gaelic s being pronounced differently from the English one. I don't hear any difference and it annoys me slightly, because it is the only Gaelic sound I'm aware of not being able to recognise.
I have now found (again) this discussion:

Pronunciation of s

It didn't help me at all. If I try to pronounce it the way it is described, i.e. "Touch the base of your (upper) teeth where the tooth meets your gums with the tip and you got it", it sounds lispy and not at all like the native speakers. Also I was puzzled by s being characterised as a dental.

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