"A' chaileag bheag."
Translation:The small girl.
3 CommentsThis discussion is locked.
It’s not really an abbreviation. Historically it used to be an, but then this an started to be pronounced differently in different contexts, /ən/ by default, but /əm/ before bilabial sounds (like /m/ or /p/), and just /ə/ before fricatives from lenited consonants.
And today it’s written accordingly in those contexts. So you write am before f, b, m, and p, and a’ before lenited consonants mh, bh, ph, gh, ch, and an otherwise (before vowels, including vowels after lenited fh: an iuchair the key, an fhìrinn the truth; and before all other consonants: an sgeul the story, an t-sràid the street, an cat the cat…).
It’s not interchangeable – it is an orthographic rule that is based on the pronunciation.