Monday, November 22, 2004

I want to talk today about some of the pronunciation of the Gaelic name for Scotland "Alba". Most English speakers who are ignorant of Gaelic sound rules will often mispronounce Alba as Al-ba. In Gaelic, there is the idea of empathetic vowels, which are voiced in the word but for various reasons that I do not fully grasp yet, are not spelled in the word. This is true for most Gaelic words that begin with AL and AR. Thus, Alba is not pronounced AL-ba but is pronounced ALA-pah because "b" in Gaelic is the same as "p" (remember that Gaelic is q-Celtic language and thus does not have the letter "p" except for loan words so the letter "b" is both the sound /b/ and /p/ depending on where the stress of the word falls). This also happens for the Irish Gaelic word airgead. Because ai is a diphthong for the long vowel /ā/, the letter "i" is not sounded and if you remember from before the combination AR becomes ARA, thus airgead is not sounded AIR-ge-ad but instead is sounded ARA-gat ("d" and "t" are similar to "b" and "p" because they are sounded in the same area in the mouth and ea is a diphthong for the short /a/ sound in Gaelic).

The reason I wanted to talk about it is because I went up to the Royal Mile today to get my tickets for Hogmanay. I saw this t-shirt that had both "Alba" and "Scotland" on it and it triggered my memory of learning the word Alba and Airgead.

posted by Chris  #1:57 PM | 0 comments |