Appendix:Scottish Gaelic pronunciation

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The Scottish Gaelic language (called Gàidhlig in Gaelic) has 18 letters. The Latin/English letter set is used, but Gàidhlig assigns its own sounds and usages to the letters. It is this difference that confuses English speakers when they see "impossible" combinations like raon, dealbh, and cridhe. Fortunately, the pronunciation of Gaelic words is fairly regular and it is usually possible to predict the pronunciation from the spelling.

The letters J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y, and Z are not included in the Gaelic alphabet, but are sometimes found in borrowed words. When present, these letters have their English sounds.

There are regional differences in Scottish Gaelic pronunciation, but standard Scottish Gaelic is understood by Scottish Gaelic speakers everywhere. The pronunciation guide below approximates the Gaelic letter sounds by using standard English examples.

Vowels[edit]

Gaelic vowels have a grave accent, with the letters à, è, ì, ò, ù. Traditional spelling also uses the acute accent on the letters á, é and ó, but texts which follow the spelling reform only use the grave.

A table of vowels with pronunciations in IPA
Spelling Pronunciation English equivalent As in
a, á [a], [a] cat bata, lochán
à [aː] cad bàta
e [ɛ], [e] let, late le, teth
è, é [ɛː], [eː] led, lade sèimh, fhéin
i [i], [iː] tin, sweet sin, ith
ì [iː] evil mìn
o [ɔ], [o] top, boat poca, bog
ò, ó [ɔː], [oː] jaw, door pòcaid, mór
u [u] brood tur
ù [uː] brewed tùr

Vowel digraphs[edit]

A table of digraphs with pronunciations in IPA
Spelling Pronunciation As in English equivalent
ai [a], [ə], [ɛ], [i] caileag, iuchair, geamair, dùthaich wall, answer, air, pick
ài [aː], [ai] àite, bara-làimhe father, kite
ao(i) [ɯː], [ᵚi] caol, gaoil, laoidh no true equivalent; try saying "cool" without rounding the lips, wheel
ea [ʲa], [e], [ɛ] geal, deas, bean y'all, great, hen
[ʲaː] ceàrr y'all
èa [ɛː] nèamh ever
ei [e], [ɛ] eile, ainmeil jail, gel
èi [ɛː] cèilidh ever
éi [eː] fhéin rain
eo [ʲɔ] deoch jock
eò(i) [ʲɔː] ceòl, feòil lock
eu [eː], [ia] ceum, feur became, Maria
ia [iə], [ia] biadh, dian Maria
io [i], [ᴊũ] fios, fionn fit, young
ìo [iː], [iə] sgrìobh, mìos sheet, Camille
iu [ʲu] piuthar you
iù(i) [ʲuː] diùlt, diùid few
oi [ɔ], [ɤ] boireannach, goirid top, ugly
òi [ɔː] fòill lost
ói [oː] cóig alone
ua(i) [uə], [ua] ruadh, uabhasach, duais wash, squash
ui [u], [ɯ], [ui] muir, uighean, tuinn to, we
ùi [uː] dùin two

Consonants[edit]

Many consonants come in plain and lenited varieties, and also in slender (palatalized) and broad (non-palatalized or velarized) varieties, giving four combinations. Lenition is denoted with a h following the letter. A consonant or group of consonants is slender when they are next to e or i, broad when next to a, o or u. A consonant is never preceded by one kind of vowel and followed by the other kind at the same time, to avoid ambiguity. However, this does often lead to extra "silent" vowels being added to adhere to this rule.

A table of consonants with pronunciations in IPA. Based on Gillies (1993).
Plain Lenited
Orthography Broad Slender English equivalent Orthography Broad Slender English equivalent
b (initial) [p] [pj] ban bh [v] [vj] veil
b (final) [p] [jp] lap bh [v] [jv] give
c (initial) [kʰ] [kʰʲ] or [cʰ] cold, king ch [x] [ç] loch, ich
c (final) [xk] [kʰʲ] or [çkʲ] rack, pick ch [x] [ç] loch, ich
d [t̪] [tʲ] dare, jet dh [ɣ] [ʝ] lago, yes
f (initial) [f] [fj] fall, fear fh silent silent
f (final) [f] [jf] laugh, grief fh silent silent
g [k] [kʲ] or [c] good, give gh [ɣ] [j] rojo, yes
l (initial) [l̪ˠ] (velarized) [ʎ] full, million l [l̪ˠ] [l]
m [m] [mj] mad, mean mh [v] [vj] vain
n (initial) [n̪ˠ] [ɲ] name, annual n [n] [n] annual, name
p (initial) [pʰ] [pʰj] passion, pew ph [f] [fj] fashion, few
p (final) [hp] [jhp] wrap, cape ph [f] [jf] roof, reef
r (initial) [rˠ] [rˠ] (no difference) perro r [ɾ] [ɾ] pero
s [s̪] [ʃ] sing, shine sh [h] [hj] hang, Hugh
t (initial) [t̪ʰ] [tʃʰ] tread, check th [h] [hj] hang, Hugh
t (final) [ht̪] [htʲ] hat, hatch th [h] or silent [jh] or [j] raw

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