Formal names for married women are more complicated - Seán Ó Conaill's wife, Máire, could be formally addressed as Máire Bean Uí Chonaill - literally 'Moira, woman of O'Connell'. Other name forms are even more complex. Fortunately for us, in traditionally Irish speaking areas, married women tended to be known informally by their maiden names.
|Ó Conaill||O'Connell||Ó Mathúna||O'Mahoney|
|Ó Dochartaigh||Doherty||Ó Cinnéide||Kennedy|
|Ó Riagáin||Re(a)gan||Ó Murchú||Murphy|
|Ó Ceallaigh||Kelly||Mac Mathúna||McMahon|
|Mac Cárthaigh||McCarthy||Mac Craith||McGrath|
Female versions of male names like those above, will often have an h added as the secong letter - resulting in a change in pronunciation:
|Ó Conaill||Ní Chonaill||Nee Chonuil|
|Ó Murchú||Ní Mhurchú||Nee Wurachoo|
|Ó Ceallaigh||Ní Cheallaigh||Nee Chyala|
|Ó Sé||Ní Shé||Nee Hay|
Long Vowels are 'pure' vowel sounds as in German, French or Italian, and do not end with y or w glides as do the corresponding sounds in English.
|í||like English ee in meet||sí = she (she)|
|é||like French é or German eh||mé = meh (I or me)|
|á||like English aw in bawl||lá = law (day)|
|ó||like French au or German oh||bó = beau (cow)|
|ú||like English oo in pool||tú = too (you)|
|i||like English short i in pit||sin (that) sounds like English shin|
|e||like English short e in get||te (hot)|
|a||either as in English tap or top||fada = fodda|
|o||like English book, but with the mouth more open|
|u||like the English oo in look||tugann (gives)|
As in English, vowels are often combined to procuce another sound:
ei = e in get, e.g. ceist (question) (pron. kesht)
ea = a in hat, e.g. bean (woman) sounds rather like English ban
ai = between a in hat and o in hot, e.g. baile (town) (pron. bolle)
ui = ui , e.g. cuid (part) is like quid; muid (we) sounds like mwid
oi = a sound between e and o, e.g. scoil (school)
io = i between consonants, e.g. mion (tiny).
... or composite sounds:
ceol (pron. kyol) (music)
píosa ceoil (a piece of music) (pron. pisa kyoil)
feoil (meat) (pron. fyoil)
cíuin (quiet) (pron. kyuin)
buíoch (grateful) (pron. bweeoch)
When they occur at the beginning of a word, some combinations lose their first vowel:
eo is pronounced like o - eolas (information) (pron. ohlas)
iu is pronounced like u - Iúil (July) (pron. uil)
ui is pronounced like i - uisce (water) (pron. ishke)
oi is pronounced like i or e - oifig (office) (pron. ifig or efig)
In some areas, t and d sound like English ch and j respectively:
te (hot) pron. che
deoch (drink) pron. juch.
A symbol called a sí buailte (she boo-ilta) was once used to change the sound of some consonants in written Irish. With the advent of the typewriter, the letter h was substituted for this purpose, but often retains the Irish name.
|bh||v||Sean Bhan Bhocht = Shan Van Vocht|
|ch||gutteral ch or k/q||Taoiseach = Teeshock|
|dh||silent or g||ceilidh = kayli|
|fh||silent||Fhear Muí = Are Mwee|
|gh||g or y or silent||Bean an Tigh = Ban a' Tee|
|mh||v, w or silent||Niamh = Neev|
|ph||f||Stíophán = Stefawn|
|sh||silent or h||Ní Shé = Nee Hay|
|th||h||thug (gave) = hoog - pron. as in hook|
There are many, many more rules - 'broad' and 'slender' consonants, vowels written but not pronounced, vowels pronounced but not written, beginnings or endings of words 'mutated' by what comes before or after them, capitals inside words ....... It has even been suggested, in certain quarters, that they only do it to confuse the English!
This has been nothing but the most basic of guides. I hope it may have helped a little.
My sincere thanks to friends Ruarí Ó Caomhanach and Alain De Búrcha for their help in putting it together.
Please let us know if it has been helpful - and if you think that sound clips of some of the pronunciations would be a useful addition.
Rod Stradling - 15.8.98
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