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Little by Little Beag air Bheag

Gaelic sounds Fuaimneachadh ghàidhlig

Introduction

There are many sounds in Gaelic that may be new to you, or sound different from how you might expect them to sound. This is not an extensive list of sounds but will give you a short introduction to the most commonly used Gaelic sounds.

Please note that we may refer to a sound as being broad or slender. This means that it has broad, or slender vowels.

A broad vowel is one of the vowels a, o, u.

A slender vowel is either i or e.

Different vowels

Vowels in Gaelic may not sound as you would expect, and grave accents certainly affect the sounds! We’ll give you a quick taster of how vowels differ in Gaelic. Listen to the sounds, words and phrases below.

a

a (with no grave)

agam

Tha baga agam

à

à (with a grave)

àite

’S e àite fuar a tha seo.

i

i (no grave)

a-nis

Dè nì sinn a-nis?

ì

ì (with a grave)

sgìth

Tha mi sgìth.

u

u (no grave)

cur

Tha cur na mara orm.

ù

ù (with a grave)

ùr

Tha còta ùr agam.

Two vowels together

Sometimes Gaelic throws two quite unexpected vowels together, they might not be common in your first language. Listen to the examples to get a feel for these new sounds.

ia

iarraidh

Tha mi ag iarraidh deoch.

ua

fuar

Tha latha fuar ann.

eu

beul

Dùin do bheul.

ao

daor

Bha mo bhrògan daor!

‘A’ with consonants

The letter ‘A’ has a different effect on consonants in Gaelic than it does in other languages. In these examples you will hear these different effects.

ab

rabaid

Chunnaic mi rabaid aig mullach na beinne.

ap

tapadh

Tapadh leat!

ad

dad

Chan eil dad agam.

at

cat

Tha an cat na chadal.

ag

lag

Tha mi lag an-diugh.

ac

acras

Tha an t-acras orm.

Consonants followed by an ‘h’

The ‘h’ often follows consonants. These can be in words that exist in themselves like tha, or bha, or an h can be added to a word when it needs to be lenited. You will learn about lenition in the language units.

dh

dh (broad)

dh’òl

Dh’òl mi an t-uisge.

dh

dh (slender)

shuidhe

Tha mi nam shuidhe.

ch

ch, (broad)

chall

Chaidh mi air chall.

ch

ch, (slender)

choisich

Choisich sinn air a’ bheinn.

th

th / sh

tha

Tha mi air tuiteam.

bh

bha

Bha e glè mhath.

The effect of different vowels on consonants

You may have come across slender or broad vowels. I and E are slender vowels and A,O, and U are the broad vowels. Different vowels affect the consonants, these examples will show you how!

l

l (broad)

lorg

Tha iad a-muigh a’ lorg Lachlainn.

ll

ll (slender)

coille

Tha coille faisg air Iain.

nn

nn, (broad)

Anna

Tha Anna air chall.

nn

nn, (slender)

èiginn

Tha èiginn ann.

rr

rr, (broad)

ceàrr

Chaidh iad ceàrr.

ir

ir (slender)

làidir

Tha Ruairidh làidir.

Consonants with unexpected sounds

Some consonants in Gaelic produce sounds that don’t exist in other languages. If you listen to the following examples, you’ll see what is meant! More importantly, you’ll know how to tackle them!

rt

cunnartach

Tha e ann an àite cunnartach.

cn

cnoc

Tha cnoc àrd faisg.

chd

sneachd

Tha sneachd ann.

arbh

tarbh

Tha an tarbh a-muigh.

fh

fh (there is no sound)

fhuar

Tha e glè fhuar an-diugh.

s

s (slender)

uisge

Tha an t-uisge ann.