Here's the classification for the vowels that you'll need for Gaelic. You can also check out the Wikipedia page on vowels
This determines how open or closed your mouth is. [ u] is a closed vowel, [a] is an open vowel.
Is the vowel pronounced more at the front of the mouth or rather towards the back? [ i] and [e] are front vowels, [a] is a middle vowel, [o] and [ u] are back vowels.
Are your lips round or straight? [o] and [ u] are round vowels, [a], [e] and [ i] are unrounded vowels. Note that this feature is present in English whenever you have a non-back vowel. However, this is not so in Gaelic.
English only has nasal consonants, but Gaelic also has nasalized vowels. You're probably familiar with the phenomenon from French, where the -on
in baton is the nasal vowel [õ]. Don't worry if you can't produce these at first, you won't be saying something entirely different from what you intended by accident. Gaelic Example:
(past tense of the verb bi
(lenited version of the adjective math
, we'll get to lenition later): ['vãh]
Note how the first [v] is spelled bh
and the second one is spelled mh
, this signals the nasalized vowel.
Vowels can be long or short. Example: eat
. Vowel length is an important feature of Gaelic and is usually marked with those pesky accents you have trouble getting on your keyboard. Speakers of romance languages will have a bit of trouble with this at the beginning, because their languages don't distinguish long and short vowels.
You can listen to Gaelic vowels at akerbeltz
Stressed vs. Unstressed vowels
Unstressed vowels are usually reduced, so you have less of them than of the stressed set. They are often produced pretty neutrally, neither open nor closed and neither front nor back. If you hear anybody talking about a schwa
or a schwi
, they mean one of these reduced vowels. Gaelic has three unstressed vowels: the schwi [ɪ] is pronounced a bit towards the front, the schwa [ə] is a middle vowel, and [a] is pronounced more openly. You can listen to Gaelic unstressed vowels at akerbeltz