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Lesson by "The Irish People"
You have already
noticed the frequent use of what looks like an accent mark over vowels
in Irish words. The slanting line (síneadh fada (SHEEN-uh FAH-duh)
or sometimes "síneadh") is not really an accent mark, however,
but instead basically indicates the length of time that you pronounce
the vowel. For example, the word "pósta" (POHS-tuh), meaning
"married", has the same (oh) sound that is in the word "cnoc" (kuh-NOHK),
meaning "hill", but for "pósta" the (oh) sound is held longer.
Often a short
vowel in an Irish word will sound to an American somewhat like the
(uh) in "unfit". We have represented the sound by (uh) in some cases,
because Americans will find the (uh) sound closer to their pronunciation
experience. The Irish word "clog" is an example. We represent it by
(kluhg), but as your pronunciation improves, you will learn to pronounce
it with a short (oh) sound, rounding your lips more than for (uh).
Irish makes less
use of the (uh) sound than does English, and this is important to
remember as you refine your pronunciation.
fada can indicate significant pronunciation differences. For example,
"Seán" is a name, but "sean" means "old". "Fear" (far) is "man",
but "féar" (fay*r) is "grass". The word "Éire" (AY-re)
means "Ireland", but "eire" (E-re) is "burden". On Irish stamps a
few years ago, Ireland was called "Eire", through either ignorance
In Irish, nearly all adjectives follow the noun, and if the noun is
feminine, the initial consonant of the adjective is aspirated. Learn
these examples thoroughly:
an lá mór (un law* mohr), the big day
an fear beag (un far byuhg), the little man
bus dearg (bus DYAR-uhg), a red bus
an bord mór (un bohrd mohr), the big table
mo bhord mór (muh vwohrd mohr), my big table
do bhord beag (duh vwohrd byuhg), your little table
do bhád beag (duh vwaw*d byuhg), your little boat
bean mhór (ban vwohr), a big woman
an bhean mhór (un van vwohr), the big woman
fuinneog bheag (fwin-YOHG vyuhg), a little window
an fhuinneog bheag (un in-YOHG vyuhg), the little window
tír fliuch (teer lyuk*), a wet country
an tír fhliuch (un teer lyuk*), the wet country
cos fhada (kuhs AH-duh), a long foot
an chos fhada (un k*uhs AH-duh), the long foot
oíche mhaith (EE-hye vwah), a good night
an oíche mhaith (un EE-hye vwah), the good night
A few adjectives
come before the noun. "Sean" (shan), meaning "old", is one of these.
It aspirates the initial consonant of the noun. Learn these examples:
vwohrd), an old table
an sean-bhord (un shan vwohrd), the old table
an sean-fhear (un shan ar), the old man
"Tá X sa chistin (taw* X suh HYISH-tin) means "X is in the
With this as
the basic sentence, go through the progressive drill that you learned
in Lesson 4, inserting these word groups for "X":
(ban vwohr), a big woman
an bhean bheag (un van vyuhg), the little woman
cailín álainn (kah-LEEN AW*-lin), a beautiful girl
an fhuinneog mhór (un in-YOHG vwohr), the big window
mo bhord íseal (muh vwohrd EE-shuhl), my low table
do chat ramhar (duh k*aht ROU-wuhr), your fat cat
Start with: An
bhfuil bean mhór sa chistin? (un VWIL ban vwohr suh HYISH-tin)
Is there a big woman in the kitchen? Níl bean mhór sa
chistin. Tá an bhean bheag sa chistin. An bhfuil an bhean bheag
sa chistin? And so on. The last two sentences will be: Níl
do chat ramhar sa chistin. Tá bean mhór sa chistin.
You should now know some basic pronunciation of the simpler words.
The words that you have learned were given chiefly to illustrate pronunciation.
We will devote more space henceforth to vocabulary and grammar. The
emphasis will always be on building your speaking ability, with phrases
rather than separate words as the basic units. You should also be
able to initiate a conversation by now, if you have studied the conversation
for each lesson.
Brian (BREE-uhn): Dia duit, a Phádraig (DEE-uh git, uh FAW*-drig).
(PAW*-drig): Dia's Muire duit, a Bhriain (DEE-uhs MWIR-uh git, uh-VREE-in.)
Conas tá tú? (KUN-uhs taw* too) Hello, Brian. How are
mé go maith (TAW* may* goh MAH). Agus conas tá tú
féin? (AH-guhs KUN-uhs taw* too fay*n) I am well. And how are
Tá mé go maith, freisin (FRESH-in). Tá báisteach
air anois (taw* BAW*SH-tuhk* er uh-NISH). I am well, too. It looks
like rain now.
sé ag cur báistí aréir (vee shay* uh kur
BAW*SH-tee uh-RAY*R). Féach! Tá an t-sráid fluich
fós (FAY*-ahk*! taw* un traw*d flyuk* fohs). It was raining
last night. Look! The street is still wet. Pádraig: Tá
an aimsir fuar fliuch, go cinnte (taw* un EYEM-sheer FOO-uhr flyuhk*,
goh KIN-te). The weather is cold and wet, certainly.
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(c) 1997 The
Irish People. May be reprinted with credit.