OT - Irish and German

Anna Zofia Skarzynska ania at gnomic.freeserve.co.uk
Thu Mar 31 20:21:38 EST 2005


> Okay, I am not a trained linguist.  I do not know what you mean by a
"broad"
> or "narrow" consonant (broad and narrow vowels I can just about hack).
Can
> you explain further, please?


Broad and slender are the traditional terms; the correct ones (in reference
to consonants, anyway) are non-palatal and palatal, respectively.
The difference is in the articulation and therefore sound. Palatal
consonants are articulated with the tongue higher up in the mouth and sound
sort of softer. In Irish all consonants have a palatal and non-palatal
version and to distinguish between them (seeing as both versions would be
rendered by the same symbol) the spelling rule of caol le caol 's leathan le
leathan was adopted. So in Irish spelling any consonant placed between
slender vowels (i or e) is also slender or palatal. Like in your name- the
nn there is quite a different sound fron the nn in, say, Anne. You probably
know this anyway, intuitively if not formally (for want of a better word).

Other palatal/non palatal pairs to enunciate and compare: B- been vs bun; N-
need vs nut; K (the sound, not the letter!) key vs cat; etc.


> In the case of <oi> in particular, all the examples I can think of
off-hand
> have the same pronunciation of that vowel-pair: oileann; oirthear;
> oibreach...all have the same narrow more-or-less "ih" sound that
oireachtas
> has (I don't know how to do fadas here, but oileann should have one on the
> A).
>
> Now, vowels *can* modify the sound of a syllable; the I in my real name,
> Grainne (which also needs a fada on the A), causes the "nyuh" sound at the
> end of the word.  And in the names Siobhan and Sinead (both also missing
> fadas, on the A and the E respectively), it's the I after the S that makes
> the S a "sh" rather than a "ss".  But I don't *think* that's the case
> anywhere in Oirechtais.
>
> (Ania, help me out here!)
>
> Dorian.

Strictly speaking, the vowels do not modify the pronunciation; they help
render what is already there. But that quibble aside, there are some
examples when the vowel which you think is only there to make things comply
with the caol le caol rule actually surfaces in pronunciation. Actually, I
can only think of one example. Um. It's obair ('work'). In the genitive it's
oibre, pronounced very approximately OY-bruh.

But yes, I know what you're getting at, and that holds, generally. I do
agree that Irish has fairly consistent pronunciation rules and you get used
to them. Even with the seemingly pointless silent letters (which were
removed by the spelling reform, alas!) when confronted with a word which
contains them, you just lengthen the vowels flanking them and it comes out
OK. It all somehow makes sense.

I hope it made sense to the list...


Ania



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