May 11, 2013 | Irish
Some Weird Things in Irish
I have just four to discuss today, but I imagine more will pop up.
Here are a few weird things in Irish:
Weird Thing #1. On the eve of Mother’s Day, the word madra in Irish keeps throwing me. I keep thinking it is “mother,” but it is “dog.” Oops.
Weird Thing #2. Irish word order is a challenge. We almost always do subject-verb-object order in English. In Irish, it is verb-subject-object.
Talk Irish, Lesson 27: Some Fancy Sentence Structure
In the screen shown at left, from Lesson 27 in Talk Irish’s online course, chonaic means “taught,” an múinteoir means “the teacher,” and na ceachtanna means “the lessons.” Taught the teacher the lessons. Funny. [Addendum 5/26/13: Except that chonaic is not “taught.” Oops. See third comment at the bottom of this entry, the one from Cian.]
Weird Thing #3. There are so many pronunciation surprises, so I will pick just one that repeatedly strikes me: the treatment of c before the letter e.
For example, take ceachtanna, the word for “lessons.” My instinct, as an English speaker (and as a student of other languages, too), is to pronounce the c as s, because it is followed by the letter e. But no! It is KACH-tuh-nuh. I want to say say-ACH-tuh-nuh. That’s wrong.
Weird Thing #4. Okay, so this is a pronunciation issue, too: I can’t believe what happens, auditorially speaking, to some of these consonants and consonant combinations. They mutate or even disappear!
In the sentence on the Talk Irish screen shown below left, which they translate as “Mammy made the tea at 4 o’clock,” the word ceathair is the “four.” But all that survives of all the consonants and accompanying vowels in that word, at least as far as I can hear it in the Talk Irish application, is something that sounds like kire (one syllable, long i sound).
I went to Forvo and listened to the two pronunciations of ceathair available there. Both of them had vague consonants in the middle, but the three versions all sound quite different to me. Dialect and individual differences naturally affect linguistic outcomes.
More Disappearing Consonants
In the final screen, above right, the pronunciation is given as nee waka may. There is no f sound whatsoever. It’s as though the fh got teleported somewhere else.
Is this an example of lenition? Does the consonant get softened so much it just goes away?
I am well aware that we have our own disappearing consonants in English, but I can’t think of examples with f in them, or th for that matter. I don’t think those are among our permitted quiet letters. We are more of a silent gh language, aren’t we? “Taught,” “though,” etc. And some silent b’s, as in “debt.” And I can’t think of what else right now.
Can anyone think of a silent f or th in an English word?