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Lesson by "The Irish People"
One of the characteristics
of modern printed Irish is the frequency of the letter "h" after consonants
"h" is not sounded by itself but instead indicates a pronunciation
change in the consonant directly ahead of it. This change, called
"aspiration", occurs in other languages, too. In English, for example,
you know that the word "philosophy" is pronounced with "f" sounds,
not "p" sounds. The "h" after the "p" tells you this, as it does in
"Philip" and "triumph." A German pronounces "ach" differently from
"ac" or "ak", too, because he knows that the "h" indicates a change,
which we call "aspiration" in Irish.
nothing more than a relaxation of the tongue as you say a consonant,
so that air can flow out of the mouth more easily. Aspiration can
occur for initial consonants under the effect of preceding words or
word groups, such as "my" or "in the". Aspiration can also occur in
the middle or at the end of a word. We will now give you an "aspiration
vocabulary," so that you will be able to pronounce aspirated consonants
more easily as you read them.
Nearly all the
aspirated sounds are close to English sounds, but the aspirated "c"
sounds are somewhat different. Learn them separately first:
unaspirated "c" is next to "a", "o", or "u", pronounce it like the
"c" in "coat" or "coal." This is called "broad c." Notice that your
tongue rises at the back and touches the roof of your mouth for the
"c" sound. Try these Irish words: cáil (kaw*l), cóta
(KOH-tuh), cúpla (KOOP-luh).
To make the aspirated
sound, pronounce the "c" without letting the tongue rise so high.
Try the German word "ach" first. Then try the aspirated sounds in:
lach (lahk*), loch (lohk*), dúchas (DOOK*-uhs).
Next, try the
sound at the start of words: cháil (k*aw*l), chóta (K*OH-tuh),
chúpla (K*OOP-luh). We will use the symbol (K*) for the aspirated
"broad c" sound.
next to "e", "i", or before "ea" like the "k" in "kill" or "kit".
Notice that the tongue top touches the roof of the mouth farther forward
than for "broad c." Try these Irish words: ceil (kel), cíos
(kees), ceannaigh (KAN-ee).
say the "c" without letting the tongue touch the roof of the mouth.
The sound will be like a "y" in English with a slight "h" sound before
it; we will use (hy) as the symbol.
Try: cheil (hyel),
chíos (hyees), cheannaigh (HYAN-ee). In parts of Ireland, the
sound is closer to English "h."
Now learn this
aspiration vocabulary. ("Mo" means "my" and aspirates the nine aspirable
consonants after it.):
mo bhéal (bay*l, muh VAY*L) mouth, my mouth.
bád, mo bhád (baw*d, muh VWAW*D) boat, my boat.
cistin, mo chistin
(KISH-tin, muh HYISH-tin) kitchen, my kitchen.
cóta, mo chóta (KOH-tuh, muh K*OH-tuh) coat, my coat.
deis, mo dheis
(desh, muh YESH) opportunity, my opportunity.
dóthain, mo dhóthain (DOH-hin, muh GOH-hin) enough,
enough for me.
fear, mo fhear
(far, mar) man, my man.
fáinne, mo fháinne (FAW*-nye, MAW*nye) ring, my ring.
mo ghéag (GAY*-ugh, muh YAY*-uhg) arm, my arm. gairdín,
mo ghairdín (gahr-DEEN, muh gahr-DEEN) garden, my garden.
mian, mo mhian
(MEE-uhn, muh VEE-uhn) wish, my wish. mála, mo mhála
(MAW*-luh, muh VWAW*-luh) bag, my bag.
peata, mo pheata
(PAT-uh, muh FAT-uh) pet, my pet.
póca, mo phóca (POH-kuh, muh FOH-kuh) pocket, my pocket.
mo shéire (SHAY*-ruh, muh HAY*-ruh) supper, my supper.
sál, mo shál (saw*l, muh HAW*L) heel, my heel.
thír (teer, muh HEER) country, my country.
talamh, mo thalamh (TAH-luhv, muh HAH-luhv) land, my land.
After you have learned this conversation, go over it again to look
for examples of aspiration in it, and see how the pronunciation is
(SHAY*-muhs): Dia duit, a Nóra (DEE-uh git, uh NOH-ruh) Hello,
Dia's Muire duit, a Shéamais (DEE-uhs MWIR-uh git, uh HAY*-mish)
Conas tá tú inniu? (KUN-uhs TAW* too in-YOO) How are
Tá mé go maith, agus conas tá tú féin?
(TAW* may* goh MAH, AH-guhs KUN-uhs TAW* too fay*n) I am well, and
how are you yourself?
Tá mé go maith leis, ach níl mé ag obair
anois (TAW* may* go MAH lesh, ahk* NEEL may* eg UH-bir uh-NISH) I
am well, too, but I am not working now.
Níl an aimsir go maith inniu (neel un EYEM-sheer goh MAH in-YOO)
The weather isn't good today.
Tá an ceart agat. Tá sé fuar anseo (taw* un KART
uh-GUHT. taw*shay* FOO-uhr uhn-SHUH FRESH-in) You're right. It is
cold here too).
Níl an seomra te, pé scéal é (neel un
SHOHM-ruh shuh te, pay* SHKAY*L ay*) The room isn't warm. anyway.
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(c) 1997 The
Irish People. May be reprinted with credit.