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  5. "The Isle of Skye is big."

"The Isle of Skye is big."

Translation:Tha an t-Eilean Sgitheanach mòr.

April 26, 2020



I've got a question about the word eilean.

The letter l in it is surrounded by ani and an e. I would expect the rules to say that the l should be lenited, but this dictionary says it is not lenited (which also matched what I heard, but as I'm a learning I wouldn't trust that!).

Have I understood the rules correctly and so eilean is an exception to them, or am I just wrong?


I think you mix terms here. L is never lenited in writing (lenition is a process of making consonants weaker, that is less stop-like and more vowel-like – in Gaelic it changes stops to fricatives, changes /s/ to /h/, and weakens in other ways the liquids /l/ and /r/ – but that’s not marked in writing).

What I think you mean here is that this L should be slender (ie. palatalized, with raised, i-like pronunciation). And actually it is a slender l here.

The problem is that in modern Gaelic there are three types of L:

  • unlenited slender L, pronounced as palatal [ʎ̪] and transcribed as /Lʲ/ in Am Faclair Beag,
  • lenited slender L, pronounced as [l̪] and transcribed as /l/ in AFB,
  • broad L, pronounced as velarized [ɫ̪] and transcribed as /L/ in AFB.

The broad L (the one standing next to As, Os, and Us) is always /L/ and lenition doesn’t change it. See eg. ealain /jaLɪNʲ/ for an example of a broad L in the middle of a word.

The slender ones is generally /Lʲ/ in the beginning of the words and after consonants, and /l/ in after vowels.

AFB gives pronunciation /elan/ for eilean – as you see /l/ is the slender lenited L. If it were a broad one, it would be /L/.

See also Liquids or - L N R in Gaelic: Give me an L on the Akerbeltz wiki.



You're right on the money: I was confusing lenition with being slender.

This explanation is thorough and makes a lot of sense. I think one of my other problems is thinking that "slender always means palatised".

As you've written, lenited slender L (the one in eilean) isn't palatised. It's just a voiced dental lateral approximant - NOT palatised. But because it is slender, it is most definitely not velarised.

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