Why can't it be "month of September"? I mean there's no article, so why is it definite?
Genitive case. It's because it's saying "The Month of September." (Literally saying: "The Month of the Middle of Fall."
It can also mean 'The Month of the Middle of Harvest', in the same way that October is 'End of Harvest'. The etymology of the word (like so many Irish words) is fascinating.
From Middle Irish fogamur (“harvest”), from Old Irish fogamar, fogomur (“autumn”), from Proto-Celtic wo-giamur (“under winter”), from Proto-Celtic giamur (“winter”). Akin to geimhreadh. Cognate with Welsh cynauaf. Compare Scottish Gaelic foghar.
The name Sean as we spell it here in America should technically be written as Seån to get that "aww"n sound. Otherwise, Sean without a fada would be pronounced like "Shan". So I pronounce bhean like "van" and mheån like v-aww-n. Hopefully that's not confusing, and I'm new to this so I welcome any corrections. But that's how I look at it. I always think of the name Sean and the missing fada!
Except in Ulster and Munster, apparently.
They might be drawn out slight longer, but a "long a" isn't just a regular "a" drawn out longer, it's a distinctly different vowel sound - "aw" rather than "ah". The Munster speaker on the "Meán Fómhair" example uses a "long a" sound.
Well a short "a" in Irish isn't really an "ah" sound. It's more like the sound in "ban" (the genitive plural of "bean") or the sound in the Irish word "gan". To compare bán and ban:
- bán sounds like "bawn"
- ban sounds like "bon" in "bon-bon".
There is a good description of long vowels in Irish given in Graiméar Gaeilge na mBráithre Críostaí which I translate here:
The sound of a long vowel is longer than the sound that a short vowel of the same type would have in the same position in the word or sentence.
It is customary that a long vowel is a vowel that is indicated by:
- a letter that is accented as in áit, dó, garsún.
- one of the group ae, ao, eo, omh(a), umh as in Gael, caor, beo, chomh, comhairle, umhlaím.
- i or u before á, ó, as in fiáin, sióg, fuáil, ruóg.
- a before rd, rl, rn, and often before rr at the end of a word: as in bard, tharla, carnán, barr.
In the word meán there are two sounds to be run together:
- the sound of the slender "m"
- the án sound
So meán ought to sound like "meh-awn" but run together smoothly and with the stress on "awn".
Is anyone else bothered by the pronunciation of 'fómhair'? I would have said it like 'four', is this a Connemara thing?