Appendix talk:Scottish Gaelic pronunciation

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I don't intend to learn to speak Gaelic fluently, but I am interested in knowing how to pronounce Gaelic words and place-names to an acceptable standard, especially as we now have so much Gaelic in sign-posts, station signs, names of shops, etc all over Scotland, including areas where Gaelic was never spoken.

This is one of the most useful short descriptions of Gaelic pronunciation I have come across. The use of the International Phonetic Alphabet is a big help (though not much use to people who aren't familiar with it!) - much better than the usual confusing, inaccurate and infuriating English transliterations.

However, it still falls into the same traps as many other Gaelic pronunciation guides, e.g.:

1 As usual, we are assured that 'the pronunciation of Gaelic words is regular and phonetic', then a few paragraphs later we are told that the digraph ai has four different pronunciations, and that ea and ui each have three. Gaelic spelling and pronunciation may well be 'regular and phonetic' (isn't all pronunciation 'phonetic'?), but straightforward it's definitely not. I've learnt three other European languages to a reasonably high level and not one of them (including Russian) has a spelling/pronunciation system as tricky as Gaelic.

2 The terms broad and slender seem to be peculiar to traditional descriptions of Celtic languages and are of little help to the non-specialist. The terms palatalised and unpalatalised are far more widely used and more easily understood, so why not use them instead? To be fair, you do mention somewhere that broad means non-palatalised/velar but this introduces another issue - under what circumstances is an unpalatalised Gaelic consonant velarised?

3 In keeping with other Gaelic pronunciation guides the terms 'lenition' and 'lenited' are also used without adequate explanation.

4 The 'English equivalent' column in the pronunciation tables is better than most I have seen, but even here there are many peculiarities - how exactly do English 'dare' and 'jet' relate to IPA [t] and [tj], or 'good' and 'give' to IPA [k] and [c]? Also I can't say I've come across the 'English' words rojo, perro and ich!

So come on Gaelic-speakers - give us a guide which will help those of us who don't speak Gaelic to do justice to the pronunciation of your ancient language.

Denis McCartney (talk) 21:13, 9 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]