Except for a few common words with an unstressed prefix, all words are strongly accented on the first syllable.
Irish has both short vowels and long vowels. The long vowels are generally indicated in writing by an acute accent.
The long vowels are:
- á like aw in dawn
- é like a in May
- í like ee in seen
- ó like oe in toe
- ú like u in rude
There are three combinations of letters that are always pronounced as long vowels, even though they do not have the acute accent:
- ae pronounced "lay"
- eo pronounced "ohl" (to rhyme with "hole")
- ao pronounced either "lay" or "lee", depending on dialect
The short vowels are:
- e like the e in bet
- i like the i in din
- o like the o in pot
- u like the u put
Irish consonants can be either broad or slender. This quality is determined by the vowels that follow or precede it.
Except in the case of compound words, a slender consonant or consonant group will always have either an "e" or an "i" on both sides of it--after it if it's the first consonant in a word, before it if it's the last in the word.
Likewise, a broad consonant will always have an "a", "o", or "u" before and after it.
A consonant can also change sound completely when followed by an "h":
- bh or mh like v
- ch like the Scottish word loch
- dh or gh like y or guttural g (depending upon broad or slender)
- fh like h or silent
- ph like f
- th like h
When the above combinations are found in the middle of a word, they are usually silent.
Words beginning with bp, dt, mb, nd, ng or gc - the second letter is silent except for nd and ng which are nasal. "S" before or after "e" or "i" is pronounced sh.
Consonant Example Broad/Slender Translation b bád (bawd) Broad boat beoir (byohr) Slender beer bh mo bhád (muh WAWD) Broad my boat an bheoir (un VYOHR) Slender the beer
Broad "bh" is almost always "w", Before "l" and "r" is is often "v" and can also be "v" at the end of words. This varies according to dialect. Slender "bh" is always "v",
c cat (kot) Broad cat ceann (kyawn) Slender one, head ch mo chat (muh KHOT) Broad my cat mo cheann (muh HYAWN) Slender mine (or my head) Broad "ch" is a rough sound not found in English, but common in German, Russian, Hebrew, Greek. If you pronounce the sound for "k", you will feel a closure in the back of your throat as you articulate the consonant. To pronounce the broad "ch", don’t close of the sound, but let the air continue to pass through. Think of Scottish "loch", German composer Bach, the Jewish holiday Chanukkah. Slender "ch" is pronounced further forward in the mouth, and is similar to the English sound in "hew", "Hugh", and "human", only breathier. If you are familiar with German, it’s the same sound as in "Ich", d doras (DOR-uss) Broad door deoch (jukh) Slender drink Broad "d" sounds more or less just like English. Slender "d" can sound like an English "j" dh mo dhoras (muh GHOR-us) Broad my door mo dheoch (muh YUKH) Slender my drink
Slender "dh" sounds exactly like English "y", Broad "dh" is a sound not found in English, but common in Dutch and Greek. It is the voiced counterpart to the broad "ch", and is a very deep, guttural, throat-clearing sound.
f fada (FAH-duh) Broad long fear (fyar) Slender man fh an-fhada (un-AH-duh) Broad very long don fhear (dun AR) Slender for the man "fh" is silent everywhere. g gairdín (GAR-jeen) Broad garden geata (GYAH-tuh) Slender gate gh sa ghairdín (suh GHAR-jeen) Broad in the garden mo gheata (muh YAH-tuh) Slender my gate "gh"-- both broad and slender -- behaves just like "dh". h hata (HAH-tuh) Broad hat l lón (loan) Broad lunch leabhar (lyowr) Slender book ll balla (BALL-luh) Broad wall billeog (BILL-yogue) Slender leaf, leaflet m máthair (MAW-hur) Broad mother méar (myair) Slender finger mh mo mháthair (muh WAW-hur) Broad my mother mo mhéar (muh VAIR) Slender my finger "mh" -- both broad and slender -- behaves exactly like "bh" n naomh (neev) Broad saint neamh (nyav) Slender heaven nn donn (down) Broad brown binne (BIN-yuh) Slender ng rang (rangue) Broad class daingean (DANG-gyun) Slender fort p Pádraig (PAW-drig) Broad Patrick Peadar (PYAH-dur) Slender Peter ph a Phádraig (uh FAW-drig) Broad addressing Patrick (calling him) a Pheadar (uh FYAH-dur) Slender addressing Peter r rothar (ROH-hur) Broad bicylcle rince (RING-kuh) Slender dance Slender "r"-- when it does not come at the start of a word -- has a strange "rzh" quality to it that can’t be easily described. The best way to pick it up is to listen to native speakers. s salach (SAH-lukh) Broad dirty sean (shan) Slender old Slender "s" is pronounced "sh" sh ró-shalach (roh HAH-lukh) Broad too dirty ró-shean (roh-HAN) Slender too old "sh" is always pronounced like "h" t Tomás (TUM-awss) Broad Thomas teach (chakh) Slender house
Slender "t" is pronounced very close to English "ch", It is the unvoiced counterpart to "d",
th a Thomáis (uh HUM-awsh) Broad addressing Thomas mo theach (muh HAKH) Slender my house
"th" is always pronounced like "h"