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Lesson by "The Irish People"
The letter "a"
has several sounds in Irish. If the "a" has a síneadh
(SHEEN-uh) over it -- "á"-- pronounce it like the
vowel in the English word "tot", but sound it for a longer
time. The sound will be between an English (aw) in "paw"
and an English (ah) in "ma".
Make sure that
you open the mouth wide and place the tip of the tongue just below
the lower teeth. The lips should be spread to the sides more than
for English "aw". Practice on: ál, ádh (aw*),
ár, bá, cá, dá, fá, bláth
(blaw*), arán (uh-RAW*N).
We use the letter
group (aw*) for this sound, indicating that it is similar to but not
exactly like English "aw".
In many cases where the "a" has no síneadh but is
alone in the accented syllable, the sound is more likely to resemble
English (ah) in "ma". Examples: mac (mahk), capall (KAH-puhl),
cad (kahd), fada (FAH-duh), cara (KAH-ruh). It will be easier for
you to give it this sound at first rather than a short (aw*) sound,
which is actually what it gets in most of Ireland. Later, you can
gradually switch to the more correct sound, as you hear Irish speakers
An "a" in an unaccented syllable often sounds like (uh)
in English "uh-huh" or "love". Examples: fada
(FAH-duh), aníos (uh-NEES), capall (KAH-puhl).
When other vowels,
such as "e" or "i", or aspirated consonants, such
as "bh, dh, gh, mh" are next to "a", the pronunciation
of the letter group may differ from (aw*), (ah), or (uh). we will
review this next week.
For the irregular
verbs, the past-tense saorbhriathar (say*r-VREE-huhr), or free form,
is fairly irregular. Learn these four this week:
(HAW*NG-uh-huhs), people come
(NEE0uhr HAW*NG-uh-huhs), people didn't come
(r HAW*NG-uh-huhs), did people come?
(naw*r HAW*NG-uh-huhs), didn't people come?
chuathas (K*OO-uh-huhs), people went
(nee YAK*-huhs), people didn't go
(un NYAK*-huhs), did people go?
nach (nahk*) ndeachthas?,
didn't people go?
chualathas (K*OOL-uh-huhs), it was heard
it was not heard
was it heard?
wasn't it heard?
chonacthas (K*UHN-uhk-huhs), it was seen
(nee AHK-huhs), it was not seen
(un VWAHK-uhs), was it seen?
wasn't it seen?
To make conversation
easier, you need words that reduce or increase the force of adjectives.
For example, it helps to be able to say that something is "fairly
good" or that weather is "very cold".
One way to do
this is by addition of a prefix. "An - " (ahn) means "very".
It aspirates all consonants except "d, t, s". Examples:
(AHN-HYOO-in), very quiet
"Ró" (roh) means "too". It aspirates all
(roh-VWAY*-luhk*), too dangerous
(roh-K*AY*L), too narrow
(roh-YAK-ir), too difficult
(roh-HIR-im), too dry
(ray*-SOON-tuh), fairly, reasonably
____ go hiomlán
(goh HUM-law*n), quite, entirely
____ ar fad (er
FAHD), quite, entirely
There are other and longer expressions for some of these meanings
that are in better style and are more Irish, but they are more difficult,
and we will not take them up here. An example is "Is beag nach
bhfuil mé marbh", meaning, "I am almost dead",
literally "It is little that I am not dead".
Dia dhuit, a Liam. Hello, William.
Muire dhuit, a Phádraig. Conas tá tú inniú?
Hello, Patrick. How are you today?
Ó, táim cuíosach maith. Conas tá tú
féin? Oh, I'm fairly well. How are you?
marbh leis an obair. Agus tá an aimsir an-te (AHN-te). Nearly
dead with the work. And the weather's very hot.
Ach níl sé rothirim, ar aon chuma (er AY*N K*U-muh).
But it's not too dry, anyway.
sé cineál tais (KIN-aw*l tash) inné. It was somewhat
Tais ar fad. Beidh (be) sé measartha fuar i gceann tamaill.
Quite damp. It will be fairly cold in a while.
orainn bheith (ve) an-churamach in aimsir mar sin. We must be very
careful in weather like that.
Tá an ceart (kyart) agat. Bhí an-slaghdán (AHN-sleye-DAW*N)
orm ag an am seo anuraidh (eg un oum shuh uh-NOOR-ee). You are right.
I had a terrible cold this time last year.
Note: "An - " can precede a noun, too, and give it
an intensified meaning. "An-slaghdán" means an outstanding
or bad cold. "An-scoláire" (AHN-skuh-LAW*-re) is
an outstanding or excellent student.
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(c) 1998 The
Irish People. May be reprinted with credit.