I noticed that if one crosses out the 'e' in the 'ea' group of these words I remember the pronunciation more easily. So it becomes "Ban agus far" - which is much more like it's pronounced. Don't know if anyone else uses these tricks to remember pronunciation, but I thought I'd share it.
That's a handy trick. The 'e' is actually there for a reason, though. It gives you a clue to the pronunciation of the 'b' or 'f' before it. It's quite subtle, but the b in 'bean' (woman) is different from the b in 'bán' (white). It has a 'y'-like quality.
This is much more obvious with other consonants. For example, the first syllables of 'teampall' (temple) and 'tamall' (while)' have the same vowel (a) but the Ts are different. In 'tam' it's normal (let's call it), while in 'team' it's more like 'tya-' or 'cha-'.
If that's confusing, just trust your ears. They'll figure it out eventually :).
Why are the vocal sounds in "bean" and "fear" pronounced differently? Is it just one of those things?
It's partly a dialect thing. In other dialects, there's no difference, but the Connemara dialect (which, in spite of the course being An Caighdeán - the official standard dialect) appears to be the speaker's native dialect.
That's OK. The Connemara dialect is widely understood.
Irish has initial word mutations, so it just depends on the context they are used. Feminine nouns lenite (add an h) after the definite articles; masculine ones don't. So, an bhean. But, an fear.
Nominative singular if it starts with a vowel (t-prefixing). They also mutate in genitive singular
And yet it accepts "an bean" as perfectly correct without so much as a "You have a typo in your answer". Should this be reported as an error?
I would, but I think they decided to be lenient on lenition/eclipsing in the course. There was a discussion about it a while back.
Lenition is one of the most arresting aspects of the Irish language, and one of the reasons I keep going back to it despite having more trouble with it than with any language I have ever studied (I've studied over two dozen, though none to fluency (not my aim at present)).
I actually love it so much that I made it a vital case marker for one of the conlangs I'm designing. In my language, words divide into categories based on whether they're primarily active, like people and predators, or primarily acted upon, like prey animals, babies, and inanimate objects. The words get lenited when they're outside the two or three classes they're most likely to be found in (there are some other changes that take place too, such as sneaking an R into some cases, as ten - tren or - thren).
But yeah, Irish lenition occurs for a ton of reasons, and the only one I tend to remember is the vocative ("Hi, Bob!"). Here's Wikipedia's list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_initial_mutations#Environments_of_lenition
Lenition is a kind of sound change. It's basically the change of a stop sound (such a 'p', 't', 'k', &c.) into a fricative (such as 'f', 's', 'ch' as in 'loch', &c.) pronounced in more or less the same position.
An example of lenition in English would be the words 'act' and 'action'. 'Action' is basically the word 'act' + the suffix '-(t)ion'. However, you'll notice that whereas the 't' in 'act' is pronounced as a stop, in 'action' it ends up pronounced as an 'sh' this is because when when '-ion' is added to the end of a word, it causes the 't' to lenite to 'sh', even if it's already part of the word.
In Irish, this happens all the time because it's grammaticalised.
As I read through many of these comments, I feel that I am out of the loop on lots of the lango used. Language interests me a great deal, and it would be lovely to increase my knowledge so as to help me more easily learn languages. Can anybody suggest some sort of reading material to look into...linguistics, phonology, etc.? Thank you!
So when you want to practice speaking Irish to someone, which dialect do you use? Do you have to learn all dialects or is there a "general Irish" language you can learn?
There's an artificial standard dialect, An Caighdeán Oifigiúl, which is what this course is teaching. However, It's not actually spoken in practice. No dialect is considered superior to the others, though Munster Irish speakers have a tendency think that theirs is the best.
While I'm far from fluent, the dialect I picked up from my grandmother is an intermediate between the Connacht and Ulster dialects (basically Ulster Irish with Connacht vowels) because I'm from Sligo, and that's more or less how the last Irish speakers in my locality spoke and how my grandmother taught me. As far as which one you should learn goes, you should stick with CO for now so as you get the fundamentals of the language, and when you're comfortable, try to pick up whichever of the three major dialects takes your fancy.
I might add that dialect differences are not seen as a big, big deal by Irish speakers. They can be confusing to the learner, but essentially everyone comes to speak their preferred form and to understand everyone else. It's like English dialects that way.
Here the pronunciation of "bean" doesn't sound (to me) like in other previous sentences... I couldn't come up with that word when listening to it :/
No. You should supply it in your translations where English requires it.
That's strange. I've never had that issue. Did you report it?