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Does Irish Have an Alveolar Trill?

Is there a rolled or trilled r in Irish?

February 14, 2015


  • 2059

No trill, but the r is supposed to be a tap, at least in some dialects. Or, well, the broad one is. I'm not sure if there's a good term for what the slender r is.


There is a trill in Mayo and Donegal Irish for double R.


It's palatalized regularly, it just sounds weird. I think.


Double r, such as:


was originally an aveolar trill and still is in the Irish of older speakers of Ulster and Mayo Irish.


Wikipedia's page on Irish phonology says no, but the final say is down to the native speakers.


Does it vary by dialect and region?


The older edition of Teach Yourself Irish had this to say about the pronunciation of the Irish of west Munster:

One sound about which a special note is required is r. It is always trilled, never flapped or silent as in English. For broad r there is no further difficulty, but slender r is difficult for English speakers. It approaches the sound of z. (In some dialects it has almost become z.) If you sound a z and then trill it, you will get a fair result.

However, this Wikipedia article based its phonemic chart on Ó Cuív’s The Irish of West Muskerry, Co. Cork, and it shows that an alveolar tap was used in that part of Munster rather than an alveolar trill.



Yes, but there's no mention of the alveolar trill anywhere in the article.


See "The Irish of Erris" and "An Teanga Bheo: Gaeilge Uladh", as well Stair na Gaeilge in ómós do Phádraig Ó Fiannachta (Maigh Nuad 1994), there are still dialects and were several with the historical trilled double R.


Wikipedia and pretty much every other source says the Irish rhotics are alveolar taps, but pretty much every person younger than 30 on YouTube pronounces it like a retroflex approximant.


They are almost certainly non-native speakers.

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