GC's Gaelic for Beginners

Lesson 7 - Can you hiss like a cat?

Some more pronunciation notes first. I explained how to pronounce broad and slender stops in lesson 5. Let's now look at what happens when you lenite them.

Print View

Spelling-wise, you mark them as lenited by adding an <h>, e.g. lenited <p> is , lenited <g> is <gh>, and so on. This spelling method is also used to represent the same sounds in the middle and at the end of words, although that of course isn't a case of lenition. Let's start with the aspirated stops:

ph [f] broad and slender
th [h] broad and slender
ch [x] broad, [ç] slender.

All these are voiceless fricative sounds. [f] and [h] will be no problem, but [x] and [ç] will be unfamiliar to English speakers. If you have a bit of German, [x] is the sound in "ach", and [ç] is the sound in "ich". [x] is the final sound in "loch". If you have trouble pronouncing it, this word will probably come out as "lock". That's because [x] and [k] are pronounced in the same spot (point of articulation). The [ç] sound is pronounced more towards the front, in the same spot as the <k> in "keep". you can listen to these sounds (and some more) at Fuaimean na Gàidhlig - Fricatives @ akerbeltz.

In order to practice [x] and [ç], you can attack them from two fronts:

1. Produce a [k] first, then try to open your mouth. The difference between a [k] and a [x] is the same as the difference between a [t] and a [s]. You can also try opening the mouth slowly to go from one sound to the next, say [ts] first, and then try to reproduce the same thing with [kx]. Once this is working reasonably well, you can try the same for the [ç]-sound.

2. Start with an [s], then slowly slide back until you reach the initial sound in English "she", then slide even further back, passing [ç] until you reach [x].

Don't be discouraged if this doesn't work well at first, it may take some practice. If you can't make these sounds (yet), try to substitute them with an [h] rather than with a [k]; you'll be more easily understood that way.

Now for the unaspirated stops:

bh [v]
slender dh, gh [ʝ], both have the same sound.
broad dh, gh [ɣ], both have the same sound.

3. [ʝ] and [ɣ] are the voiced equivalents of [ç] and [x], respectively. Repeat exercises 1 and 2, and when you have found the sound, put your fingers on your throat, then let your vocal chords vibrate. Once you feel the vibration, you've got it.

4. Some more Beag air Bheag: Go to lesson 3. Now let's find out more about each other! Is mise GunChleoc agus tha mi às a' Ghearmailt. Cò às a tha sibh?
Last edited: 16 June 2022 12:28:47