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Irish Language Basic Pronunciation Guide - Part 1

Irish Language Pronunciation Guide for Beginners 

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Intro to Irish Pronunciation

The Irish language, also known as Gaelic or Gaeilge, has a unique set of sounds and pronunciation rules. Here's a brief guide to some of the most important sounds and how to pronounce them, along with some examples of Irish words:

The modern Irish language uses the same alphabet as English, which consists of 26 letters. However, there are a few letters that are not used in Irish:

  1. J
  2. K
  3. Q
  4. V
  5. W
  6. X
  7. Y
  8. Z

While some of these letters do appear in loanwords or personal names in Irish, like zú (zoo), they are not considered part of the Irish alphabet. 

 

 

Understanding Dialects

First things first, did you know there are three main dialects of Irish? While this guide provides a general pronunciation that aligns with 'the standard' (an chaighdeán), keep in mind that words can sound different depending on the dialect. If you want to delve into a specific dialect, check out online tools like focloir.ie, teanglann.ie, and abair.ie. For now, let's relax and enjoy the journey!

 

 

Vowels: Short and Long

Irish vowels come in two flavours: short and long. A fada (síneadh fada), (´) over a vowel makes it long. Let's take a look:

Short Vowels; a, e, i, o, u

Short vowels are the 5 vowels without a fada.

 

Long Vowels; á, é, í, ó, ú

When a vowel has a fada ( an accent), it is long.

 

Broad & Slender

a, o and u are broad vowels with or without a fada

i and e are slender vowels with or without a fada.

 

 

Consonants: Broad and Slender

A consonant's pronunciation changes depending on whether it is next to a broad or slender vowel. Here are some examples:

 

Broad Consonants;

If a consonant is next to a broad vowel, we say It is a broad consonant;

can (to sing), mór (big), (you)

 

Slender Consonants;

If a consonant is next to a slender vowel, we say it is a slender consonant;

 (her), Te (hot)

 

 

Diphthongs: Vowels Together

A diphthong is a combination of two vowels in a single syllable. Here are some common ones:

 

 

Consonant Combinations

Consonants together can change the pronunciation of the initial consonant, often in Irish there is a change to a ‘v’, ‘w’, or silent sound.

 

Grammatical Mutations: Urú and Séimhiú

Urú (Eclipsis)

An urú places a letter in front of a word's first letter, altering its pronunciation. For example, "bád" (boat) becomes "ar an mbád" (on the boat).

 

Séimhiú (Lenition)

A séimhiú adds an 'h' after the first letter, softening its pronunciation. For example, "bean" (woman) becomes "an bhean" (the woman).

 

 

Tips for Beginners

Rules are fun, but speaking a language is even more fun. Start using practical Irish phrases you can slip into everyday conversation. Practice makes perfect, so keep at it, and soon you'll be speaking Irish with confidence! You can start your Irish journey for free here with our FREE Irish Quickstart Guide for Beginners & Parents.

 

Check our our new free download which is a full guide to pronunciation of the Irish language;  πŸ“™Free pronunciation guide to the Irish Language Here

 

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