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The vowels are five, viz. three broad, a, o, u, often used promiscuously in ancient manuscripts; and two slender, e and 1.
The following are the sounds of the vowels ; and note, that there is but one accent in Irish, to wit, that drawn up from left to right, as bar; and it always denotes a long syllable : it is called, rine fada. Pronunciation.
Example A-1. Long and broad, as in war ;-ban, white. 2. Long and slender, like i in fine ;
-avarc, horn. 3. Short and broad, as in war
4. Short and slender, as in can;—brat, a garment. 5. Short and obscure, as in scomarsa, neighfuneral;
bour. 6. At the end of words, and be
fore s, it has a peculiar
sound, like oo in cuckoo; -peacad, sin. E-1. Long, as in there; -né, the moon. 2. Short, as in ejg;
-fel, strife. 3. Short and obscure, like the
feminine e in French po
etry, or as in broken; --Fillee, folded. 1-1. Long, as ee in feel ;
min, fine. 2. Short, as in pin;
-inir, an island. 0-1. Long, as in store ; -mor, great. 2. Short, as u in buck ;
-rtoc, a trumpet. U-1. Long, as in rule ;
=cv, a hound. 2. Short, as in but ;
-100, the breast.
It is to be observed of vowels_ 1st. That there are no quiescent vowels at the end of words, as in English, ex. done. 2dly. That no vowels are ever doubled in the same syllable, as in poor. And 3dly. That there are never two distinct syllables made out of vowels following one another; but diphthongs and triphthongs always form one syllable, though the several vowels may be heard in the pronunciation
The CONSONANTS are either immutable, as I, n, or mutable, as b, c, d, f, g, m, p, s, and t; so called, because that, by placing over them a mark of aspiration, they either lose their primitive sound, or are altogether, suppressed in pronunciation. The letters thus printed are said to be mortified, and the change thus expressed marks some of the most material inflections of the nouns and verbs. This is indeed a peculiarity in the Irish language, among European tongues, that requires the particular attention of the reader; who, if acquainted with the Hebrew, will perceive something analogous to it, in the dagesch point in that language. When the Irish is printed in the Roman letters, the effect of the point is expressed by the addition of an h. This greatly tends to confound learners, who, when taught the power of h in Irish books printed in Roman character, will have to unlearn this, when they come to read English books in the same letter. Thus they will be told, that th (in Irish) is to be a mere aspirate ; but, when they learn to read English, they find it must be strongly sounded; and, what adds to the confusion, very much in the same manner as they were told to pronounce the simple t, when learning to read the Irish. The point remedies this evil; and therefore Neilson, although he published his Grammar in Roman character, had dotted letters cast for his purpose.
We shall first treat of the mutables-B, F, M, and P, unaspirated, are pronounced as in English.
b is like either the English w or v; it is to be observed, that the difference of the broader or more slender sound of b, forms one provincial difference in the pronunciation of Irish. O'Brien's rules for the pronunciation of b are thus:-At the beginning of words, when followed by a slender vowel, and when it terminates a word, it is usually sounded v; but, in cases where it is connected with a broad vowel, he says, " there is no certain standard ;” neither does there seem to be any fixed rule for its pronunciation in the middle of words.
C is always as K.
ċ has a guttural sound, which has nothing analogous to it in the English tongue, but is quite similar to that
of the Greek % and Spanish x. There are two varieties of this sound; 1. At the beginning and end of words, when followed or succeeded by a broad vowel, or used in the middle of words in connexion with one, it has a sound like gh in the word lough ; strongly pressed out through the throat. 2. When thus connected with a slender vowel, its sound is only that of a very strong aspiration.
V has two sounds :- 1. Like d in Italian, or th in there, but with a greater emphasis—the other like the d in French, more light and liquid, but similar to the former. It seems that the breadth of the following vowel influences the choice of sound.
o is the Irish Y. If followed by a broad vowel at the beginning of a word, it has a pronunciation to which there is nothing similar in the English language; it is then guttural, and like the German Y, and may be expressed by a strong forcing of this letter. 2. In the beginning of a word, and before a slender vowel, or in the middle of a word followed by any vowel, it is simply Y. And 3. Whenever it is followed by a consonant, or terminates a word, it is either silent, or weakly aspirated. This letter, at the end of a word, (not a monosyllable,) gives to the preceding vowel, if a broad one, a pronunciation like oo.
ů becomes quiescent; it is never used but at the beginning of words, or as the initial of the second part of compounds.
G is always pronounced as in gall, never as in gin.
ğ is liable to the same rules as o, only that at the end of words it is always silent.
rin is liable to very much the same rules as 6. Dr. O'Brien in his Dictionary, (remarks on M.) says, “that the vowel or vowels which precede 6 are pronounced with a stronger, clearer, and more open expiration than those which precede rii”—we must allow for provincial varieties. O'Brien the Grammarian says, “that, preceding a slender vowel in any part of a word, or terminating a word, mi is always sounded as v.” (Grammar.)
, always as an F.
S, as in son, and also as sh. It is perhaps impossible to give any fixed rule for the use of these; but the latter pronunciation is most common, where s is preceded or followed by a slender vowel, or when it terminates a word.
p is always as an h.
T is sounded as th in thick, but often somewhat thicker, as if it were preceded by a d. Sometimes more slender.
When aspirated it is pronounced as h. The immutable consonants, l, n, and r, never suffer change from aspiration, or eclipsis.
L, however, has two sounds, simple and liquid : the first as in the English word leap; the second like the last 1 in million.
N has also two sounds; Ist. Like n in never ; the second like n in news.
R has likewise two sounds; the first like r in road, the second like r in clarion. The single p« is formed by slightly touching the sound of ee, before as well as after the r.”—Neilson.
We come now to the consideration of compound letters, as I. Vowels, which are either 1, diphthongs, or 2, triphthongs; and II. Consonants, which are either 1, doubled, or 2, joined to others.
The diphthongs are 13 in number, and the triphthongs 5; of these the following diphthongs, and all the triphthongs, are always long; and in printing or writing them the accent may be omitted
ae, ao, eu, 1a, & ua; O'Reilly adds eo & ju.
The examples are chiefly from O'Brien's Grammar, and Lynch-authorities relied on by O'Reilly.
Example. 1. ae, always long, as ay in say ;-Gael, Irish. 2. aj, long, as aw ;
-tajn, rumour. short, as e in err;
-gainim, I call. 3. ao, always long, as ea in bear ;-caom, beautiful. 4. ea, long, as a in care ; -sméar, a blackberry. short, as a in art;
Example. ea short, as e in leg; -beag, little.
obscure, like the feminine
-rived,stretching out. 5. e long, as in feign;
-dérc, alms. short, as e in egg ; 6. eo long, as eo in yeoman ; -ceól, a song.
short, like you in young ; -Deoc, drink.O'Brien. According to Halliday, there are but six instances in use in which this short pronunciation is used. 7. eu always long, as ay in mayor ;
--meur, a finger. 8. ja always long, as ee in peer ;-gran, the sun. 9. 10 long, as ee in keen ;
-fon, wine. short, as i in kiss ;
-lyos, a fort. 10. ju long, as ew in few ; -fjú, worthy.
short, as the French eu in
feu, but shorter; -fluć, wet.
-ojgreco, inheritance. long, as ee in bee;
-onde, teacher. 12. ua always long, as oo in poor ;-far, cold. 13. u long, as two syllables ;
pronounced as soo-il ; --rúll, the eye. long, as uee in
queen; _búde, yellow. short, as ui in quill; -ful, the blood.
It is to be observed of these pronunciations that some of them are not common.
The five triphthongs all end in i, and are often used to express the genitives, and other inflexions, of words in which diphthongs occur. 401, like ee in queen ;
-caon, tender. 2. eo1, like two syllables, with the
force on o, and the i short; - Eoin, ( Owen) John.