Okay. I have so many questions about one word, that it is frightening. Basically, i have a question for every phoneme except the one at the end already under discussion because everyone here is waaay more sophisticated at picking up on the nuances of leabhar and leabhair.
I'm at the very first step of wondering why the initial L sounds like the y in you - for two forvo speakers except the one man in the Leinster area and the Cork guy in the UK. The woman from Connacth uses a sound I can't even ascribe almost like a trill. Is the standard the Y sound and I just didn't notice until now?
Next the ea sounds like rounded o from the back of of ones mouth. In some. Others its like ow. My brain had intuited that the vowels bookending the consonants in the middle get ignored unless adorned by a fada. But the o and ow are way off base from what I would have guessed. If there's a question in there -- I guess it's: what the set of rules that make that sound from ea?
I'm also wondering how I would know to skip over the bh, rather than making a sort of v sound I thought I heard in other words. Some forvo peops skip over it. Others make it sound like that's where the r is or w. Is it a broad/slender thing?
This is the only word so far that just makes me panic like the first time I ever laid eyes on an Irish prononciation guide - and then hid under a rock for 20 years. I guess I should dig that out.
But this thread has totally explained the singular vs plural non-rhotic aspirated r stuff at the end of the word, which I didn't even know how to put into words and pretend I knew what to ask. Thanks everyone.
The problem with using forvo.com for anything but very, very general guidelines is the lack of standardization. This is particularly an issue with the initial sounds in a word like leabhar - some of the examples are just badly cropped, so you're losing the initial part of the sound (that could be because of manual clipping, or because of a noise reduction algorithm that doesn't recognize the start of the real sound until it has already discarded some of it as noise - not a problem for ordinary speech, because your brain fills in the gaps, but that doesn't work for a language that you aren't already familiar with).
Before anyone posts a lengthy reply to my very needy suite of questions, I found a site that answers most of them: http://www.standingstones.com/gaelpron.html#Aspcons
It explains the ea as being a short diphthong, and therefore taking on the vowel sound in mass.
It explains the bh surrounded by broad vowels, not being a v as it would if surrounded by slender vowels, but being an aspirated w, which works for what I am hearing.
If keep reading, I'll probably find the initial l sound and why it sounds like an actually y.
Sorry to take up so much real estate. ~
The "y" sound you're hearing is actually a palatalized "l". It's somewhat similar to the English "ly". Though the woman from Connemara on forvo is a native speaker, this word wouldn't be present in her dialect; instead they'd use leabhar and leabhra/leabhartha. I'd still trust her over the rest, who likely aren't natives.
What I've managed to glean about Irish orthography is that the vowels immediately surrounding consonants don't count if there are other consonants available; otherwise they just trigger the broad/slender quality of the consonant. So the sounds in leabhair are divided like le-a-bh-a-ir; so the l is slender because of the e that follows it, the first actual vowel is an a, that's a broad vowel so the bh sounds like w, another a unstressed turns into almost a schwa sound, and lastly the r is palatalised bybtye preceding i. The hardest part of this course for me is definitely learning the spelling rules. Most languages aren't in the habit of using vowel letters to spell consonant sounds, but Irish seems to do so habitually.
Yes, the slender r in leabhair and the broad r in leabhar are quite distinct, but as the slender r isn't a natural part of regular English phonetics, English speakers often don't notice, unless they are paying specific attention.
People may find the sound files at focloir.ie more helpful. This is the Foras na Gaeilge English-Irish dictionary. There are dialect-specific sound files for leabhar and labhair here: http://www.focloir.ie/en/dictionary/ei/book#book__2