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  5. "Gaeilge."



August 25, 2014



From where does the "w" sound originate? Does it come from the G, or some interaction with the vowels?


When a consonant is surrounded by 'a', 'o', and/or 'u', it's velarised (broad). This often causes a sligh 'w' sound. As TanagerMoonmist noted, the sender vowels 'i', 'e' make the consonant slender (palatalised), so there's often a 'y' sound.

How the velarisation and palatalisation is realised depends a bit on the dialect, though.


Thank you for that description! I've only ever seen it described as ‘a slight "w" sound’, which always led to me trying to pronounce it with a subtle ‘w’; same goes for the ‘y’ sound description. The ‘velarised’/‘palatalised’ description has instantly made my pronunciation feel more natural. :)


For me, the velar 'g' is just a regular 'g' as you'd find in English. For people with other dialects, the velarisation is more pronounced, hence the slight 'w'. An example of this could be the Connemara dialect, which is the one the voice actor has. I'd end up pronouncing it [ˈgeːlʲɟə].

If you go here, select 'Gaoth Dobhair', type in 'gaeilge', and click the black button marked 'déan sintéis', you'll here something similar to how I'd pronounce it: http://www.abair.tcd.ie/

There are two dialects given in that speech synthesizer: Ulster ('Gaoth Dobhair') and Connacht ('Conamara'). The pronunciation I picked up as a child was more like the Ulster dialect than the Connacht one: the dialect of my grandmother was a transitional dialect with features of both, but phonetically most like Ulster Irish.


I think learning the broad and slender vowels, or velarised and palatalized sounds has been the most difficult part of learning Irish for me. I try to follow the pronunciation instructions for each but still have trouble mimicking the actual sounds I'm hearing.


The best I can recommend it so find a dialect you like and try as best you can to mimic the sounds. With any language, it takes time and practice, so keep practicing.


Leathain = a,o,u. Caol = i,e


In my school in the east- we pronouce this as "Gay'll-geh"


Yeah, the G interacts with the broad vowels to make a sort of w sound. With slender vowels, it makes a y sound.


I wouldn't quite say that G interacts with broad vowels. Rather there are two types of G, one of which is marked in writing by G + a,o,u.


Yeah, most pronunciation guides I've seen talk about the consonant taking on a slender or broad sound depending on the surrounding vowels. I find it easier to just think of it as there being two different sounds, marked by two different digraphs that just happen to look similar.


Yes, that is a very good description!


Love your dog profile pick!


Actually, the w sound is built into the G. There is broad G which has a slight w sound and slender G which does not. Usually whether a consonant is in its broad or slender version is marked by the vowel next to it. "a, o, u" indicate it is broad, "i, e" that it is slender.

Every consonant (except h) has a broad and slender version.


I'm in Co. Louth and in school we don't use the 'w' sound in it. I guess it depends on Irish accents...


the w sound comes from the ae.


Would "Gaelic" be an acceptable translation for this as well? I'm assuming this is referring to the Irish Language, and not to anything of or related to Ireland.


'Gaelic' would be too broad a term as it could refer to any of the three languages in the Gaelic family: Irish, Scots Gaelic or Manx.


Yes, I know all three Irish, Scots, and Manx were of the Gaelic family, so why is it not rather "Gaelic" than "Irish?" Among the three languages, do you differentiate Scots Gaelic as Gaeilge Scots or Gaeilge Manx and just Gaeilge for Irish Gaelic? This has bothered me for a while.
I just thought that plain "Gaelic" should have been accepted here.


It is better to think of the word "Gaelic" as referring to a group of languages; it does not refer to a single language. The Gaelic languages are na teangacha Gaelacha. Irish is Gaeilge, Scottish Gaelic is Gaeilge na hAlban, and Manx is Gaeilge Mhanann or Manainnis.


And, to clarify, those names are in Irish.

Scottish Gaelic calls itself Gàidhlig [kaːlikʲ] Manx Gaelic calls itself Gaelg [gilk]

Just to confuse everyone, in Munster they also call the Irish language ... Gaelainn


Thank you. :) That makes more sense to me and answers my question.


My position would be that calling Irish 'Gaelic' would be like referring to Italian as 'Romance', Polish as 'Slavic' or Danish as 'Germanic'. Those are language family names but confusing when applied to individual languages, dar liomsa.


I definitely see this point, and I'm glad it's been brought to my attention. But I still think the course should in some way notice the fact that in American English, Gaelic is used by many speakers to refer to Irish. It could even be a learning opportunity, something in the notes or whatever... but to just ignore the discrepancy or the usage breeds confusion imho.

So even if its not correct to call this language "Gaelic," the course should teach users that, not just ignore the fact that a lot of people think that is correct.

By the way, Fingolfin, elen siluva lúmenna omentielva... :) I heard you had been killed by Morgoth; must have been a misunderstanding.


No offense, but also as an American, just because we call a language something, it does not mean that term is correct. ;) Fingolfin1346 is right when he says that Gaelic is an umbrella term, not the correct word for the Celtic language spoken in Ireland. It's a tricky distinction but the effort is appreciated by Irish speakers.


I'm actually glad the course rejected my "Gaelic" answer: I got to read all these comments and learnt a lot in the process. :)


As an American: The fact that American speakers managed to muck up something from a foreign culture should not be particularly surprising. ;)


As an American, I would use ‘Gaelic’ for the whole family and ‘Irish Gaelic’ for the Irish language. (Of course, just plain ‘Irish’ is shorter, but people don't always understand what that means.)

This doesn't discount your experience, of course.

PS: In Tokien's legendarium, Elves reuse names often. (This allowed Tokien and his son to retcon earlier versions of characters in his unpublished work as different characters in the published works.) Apparently, you (currently in the Seventh Age, if I recall correctly) are talking to the 1346th person to use that name!


This is very off topic... but actually, Tolkien himself said that elves didn't reuse names at all! Tolkien did reuse names, but not in finished works (he would change them around as he worked through who he really wanted to do what and have what name.) This is in fact the main reason most people think Glorfindel in Rivendell must be the same one that killed the Balrog... :D


As a heads up, Scots is a completely different language, unrelated to the gaelic languages. Scots is a germanic language and the closest relative to English. It’s spoken in some parts of Scotland but many people are not well informed about its existence and believe they’re speaking “broken english”, even though their language is not mutually intelligible with english and has been distinct from it for centuries.


"Irish vs Gaelic" short explanation, 10 min.



Is the preference for calling Irish Gaelic just Irish an effort to avoid confusion with Scottish Gaelic or Welsh Gaelic? I know 2 family members who learned this language, my maternal grandma and cousin, and they at least have always called it just Gaelic.


No, not really. We have always called our language "Irish" in Ireland. "Gaelic" is mostly used by Americans I think. When we do say "Gaelic" in Ireland we are referring to the Scottish language. Actually I don't believe Welsh is know as Gaelic at all. It is a Celtic language but a different branch, closer related to Breton. The"Gaelic" languages are spoken in: Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man.


Just to clear things up: -Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx are technically not "Gaelic languages", they are "Goidelic languages", although many people use the term "Gaelic" to define them. -Breton, Welsh and Cornish are "Brittonic languages".

All these languages form the "Celtic languages" group.

In the end, only "Scottish Gaelic" has the "Gaelic" in it. :)


Odd, I've always associated Gaelic with Ireland, whilst I recently learnt that the Scots language* is Gallic (or at least pronounced that way) which to my mind confuses it with the ancient language used in what is now France (Gaul in Roman times)

*or at least one of them. Highland and Islands (Islands in particular) owe as much if not more to their Scandinavian ancestors than any Celtic invaders/immigrants.

I love tracing how languages diverge and then meet and share things again!


That concerns particularly Orkney & Shetland—the Western Isles and the Highlands are very much predominantly Celtic throughout history (and certainly predominantly Gaelic since about the 5th century, with the Gaelic absorption of Picts and their culture). Even as part of Suðreyjar (which was a non-continuous period of Norse rule in the Western Isles, or the Southern Isles as it was in their tongue), the common culture in the Western Isles was Gaelic with Norse influence.

Orkney & Shetland on the other hand were certainly Norse since the 8th century, although Celtic (Pictish) prior to that, since as far back as we can possibly tell.

As to the pronunciation, I think we pronounce Gaelic as such, /ˈɡalɪk/, simply because the equivalent term for the language in Gaelic, Gàidhlig, is pronounced roughly as such. You can differentiate it from the language of the Gauls because the latter is widely known as ‘Gaulish’, rather than ‘Gaulic’ or anything like that—but also in that the vowel is different, with Gaelic's vowel sounding more like the ‘a’ in ‘car’, and the vowel in Gaulish, /ˈɡɔːlɪʃ/, being more like the ‘a’ in ‘ball’. If your dialect is one of those that conflates those two vowels, well... perhaps it's trickier to differentiate! :P


Thanks for the input :o)

Interesting comments on pronunciation. I've heard "Gaulic" pronounced in Received Pronunciation as Gallic...as in "our Gaulic ( Gallic ) cousins" when referring to the French.

So perhaps I should be looking a diffentiating the vowels as "al", "ale" and "awl"...LOL


Omniglot says that we can pronounce it as /'geɪlɪk/. Is that to do with the dialects again?


No, that's definitely an error by Omniglot. /'geɪlɪk/ is the dictionary pronunciation for 'Gaelic' in English (it doesn't match Irish phonology at all), not 'Gaeilge' in Irish.


Definitely not! While Omniglot is a great site, it's not perfect, and that's one thing it's got wrong. I'll submit a correction when I get a chance.


I always thought it was pronounced gay-lig


It is in English. In irish I have heard it pronounced like "Gayl ga" though


I love how different all three dialects sound on this word! http://www.teanglann.ie/en/fuaim/Gaeilge


Gwale-geh? Im hearing it like this.

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