Diacritic Discrepancy

Ciamar a chanas mi.... / How do I say...
Mairead
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Diacritic Discrepancy

Unread post by Mairead » Thu Jul 24, 2014 9:54 am

It is my understanding that while Gaelic used to have accents going bòth wáys, now they only go òne wày. However, I keep running into é. I've seen it on Wikipedia and Am Faclair Beag, to name just two. Is the é diacritic an exception to the general rule of going left, or is it just a more persistent remnant of the old system? I have been correcting it in my notes to è but I thought I should check here in case there's an exception I'm missing.


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Níall Beag
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Re: Diacritic Discrepancy

Unread post by Níall Beag » Thu Jul 24, 2014 10:02 am

Am Faclair Beag's policy is to use both, as they are useful and meaningful in indicating the correct pronunciation of a word. They're right to do so, and the Scottish Exam Board were wrong when they decided to eliminate the acute.

akerbeltz
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Re: Diacritic Discrepancy

Unread post by akerbeltz » Thu Jul 24, 2014 11:05 am

What Niall said. Not everyone follows GOC (Canadians not at all) and even those who do often end up spelling things differently because GOC has more holes than an Aero bar. That's why especially places like Wikipedia which are not 'policed' often use a mix of spelling systems.

To expand Niall's decision a bit, AFB uses both for two reasons. One is that it is easy to change the linguistic data from a system that uses both to one that only uses one. Because the debate on Gaelic orthography is still far from settled, we didn't want to find ourselves in a position one day where a language academy one day might decide to return to using both and suddenly having to manually re-insert them, that would be a horrendous task. But it's the easiest thing in the world to run a script over the data to convert all é to è, should that be needed one day.

It also allows you to (potentially) search for all words have é but not è or ó but not ò. Which is an interesting exercise on its own and brings me to the second point. As Niall says, the way the accent goes shows differences in pronunciation which are not predictable. Or at least not unless you're aware of the unequal distribution of è/é and ó/ò. Because most folk aren't and because we knew many learners would use the Faclair Beag, it was another reason to write them both - it's easy enough for anyone to just use the grave in their own writing, irrespective of what's on screen.
So what do I mean with unequal distribution? Words with è /ɛ:/ and words with ó /o:/ are quite rare. So if you learn by heart which words have /ɛː/ and /o:/, then you will know that by default, every other word will have /e:/ and /ɔː/. Easy enough but you have to know this trick and because most people I've taught (including tutors) didn't, it makes more of a case for using both in a dictionary.

It's actually not uncommon for dictionaries to mark features for the benefit of learners which people don't use in the actual orthography. Many languages mark tone and/or length in dictionaries but don't actually write them usually. Chichewa dictionaries for example mark tone but nobody writes the tone markers.

Hope that helps!

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Re: Diacritic Discrepancy

Unread post by Mairead » Thu Jul 24, 2014 1:43 pm

Oh okay, this is very interesting, and I'm glad I checked because this is quite different than what I'd been understanding from the "authorities" I'd read.

I am a bit confused now though about how to move forward. Has this "official" change then been widely ignored by the Gaelic-speaking community, and will sources such as Am Faclair Beag or other dictionaries reflect that by effectively ignoring the changes? Or have the community in general changed some things about diacritics in response to the official change and left others as they were? It's tricky enough trying to figure out whether a word I find is archaic in usage or spelling. Should I now also try to figure out whether the way the diacritic is used is up to scratch with most of modern Gaelic usage? How inconsistent are sources now in their use of the diacritics going different ways? For example, will a book about Gaelic pronunciation cover the è and the é or will they no longer cover the é because it has been "officially" gotten rid of?

I know this seems like a lot of vague questions, and it's not a matter that has been settled, but I am wondering how this spelling rule that has been enforced de jure but, as you say, mostly ignored de facto, should affect my approach to learning Gaelic. After what you guys have said I am wondering if I should go back and change all the è in my notes back to é (where I "corrected") or if in daily practise it is common to use the GOC change even if on the dictionary it makes sense to have the old ways too.

(This is further complicated for me because my teacher doesn't use the diacritics at all...)
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Re: Diacritic Discrepancy

Unread post by akerbeltz » Thu Jul 24, 2014 5:15 pm

Has this "official" change then been widely ignored by the Gaelic-speaking community, and will sources such as Am Faclair Beag or other dictionaries reflect that by effectively ignoring the changes?
It's hard to quantify. As a rule of thumb, the more a body or an organisation is dependent on funding from Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the more likely they are to adhere to GOC in some shape or form. I would say perhap 80% of output in Scotland follows GOC broadly, the rest something else.
Or have the community in general changed some things about diacritics in response to the official change and left others as they were? It's tricky enough trying to figure out whether a word I find is archaic in usage or spelling. Should I now also try to figure out whether the way the diacritic is used is up to scratch with most of modern Gaelic usage? How inconsistent are sources now in their use of the diacritics going different ways? For example, will a book about Gaelic pronunciation cover the è and the é or will they no longer cover the é because it has been "officially" gotten rid of?
In terms of accent adherence, virtually all output is only using the grave in Scotland these days. There is only one book which teaches pronunciation specifically and that uses the 'old' spelling for the aforementioned reasons. But I wouldn't kill myself over issues beyond the grave/acute thing... if your Gaelic gets so good the only thing someone can find to quibble about is that you write cha dàinig instead of GOC tàinig, then that should put a happy smile on your face!
as been enforced de jure but, as you say, mostly ignored de facto, should affect my approach to learning Gaelic
Apart from having your funding cut off, there is no agency which can enforce any of this. Even GOC says in its foreward that their rules are not rules but recommendations. Of course lots of folk gloss over that bit and treat is as the bible... Again, if you model your spelling broadly against sources like AFB or Colin Mark's dictionary, you'll be fine. Even signage in schools tends to be full of errors...
After what you guys have said I am wondering if I should go back and change all the è in my notes back to é (where I "corrected") or if in daily practise it is common to use the GOC change even if on the dictionary it makes sense to have the old ways too.
If you're writing stuff for someone else, you will spend less time arguing about it if you only use the graves. For your personal learning notes, use whichever you find more helpful?

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Re: Diacritic Discrepancy

Unread post by Mairead » Thu Jul 24, 2014 5:28 pm

Mòran taing!! I will keep all of this in mind. Really helpful, thank you. :)
Tha avatar agam à dhealbh aig mo phiuthar anns an Cellardyke. Tha trì videothan Ghàidhlig agam anns an Youtube.
My avatar is from a photo that my sister took in Cellardyke. I have three Gaelic videos on Youtube.

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