Irish Alphabet: An Easy Guide To The 18 Letters

November 3, 2021
Samaha Kazmi

Looking for a great place to start learning the Irish alphabet and spelling and their pronunciation? Congratulations, you are at the right place! In today's post, we will walk you through the alphabets of Irish Gaelic and some of the most common Irish spelling rules. After all, learning about the basics such as this one can certainly help set you up for success. If that sits well with you, then let the learning begin!

Irish Gaelic

Irish Alphabet

Irish is the native language of Ireland. The other languages spoken widely in Ireland are English, French, and Spanish. The word "Gaelic" refers to Irish in the Irish language which is the reason why Irish is also known as Irish Gaelic. It is referred to as Irish Gaelic because Gaelic language and culture first originated in Ireland.

Irish Gaelic is usually called Irish inside Ireland however, it is called Gaelic outside Ireland. Most of the non-native speakers also use the same word which is Irish. Traditionally the Gaelic letters were named after a tree or shrub but this concept is not seen much in today's world. There are three dialects of the Irish language: Munster, Connacht, and Ulster. These dialects slightly differ in pronunciation and are best known to be one of the only surviving dialects in Irish.

Latin Alphabet- The Main Script For The Irish Language

Latin alphabet refers to the alphabet written by the Roman people in ancient times. These are also called Roman Alphabets which use Roman letters. Latin alphabets are used in Irish and while writing Gaelic script. For an English speaker, the Irish alphabet can look the same as the Latin alphabet but is pronounced differently.

Traditional Irish Alphabet

There are 18 letters in the traditional Irish alphabet: "a b c d e f g h i l m n o p r s t u".

These eighteen letters are easy to learn. The letter "h" was incorporated later into the alphabet. Initially, the alphabet had these letters only, however, with time other letters also started becoming a part of it to write the loan words from English. It should be noticed that all the Gaelic alphabet are present in the English alphabet but not all English alphabet can be found in the Gaelic alphabet. Most of the letters in the standard Irish alphabet are pronounced the same way as their English equivalent.

What You Need To Remember About The Irish Language

Irish Alphabet

There are several key rules for Irish spelling and how each consonant is pronounced. For instance, if the consonant s is used after the front vowels is pronounced as "sh" while when it is written with the back vowels, it is pronounced as "ss".

Consonants

There are 13 consonant letters in Irish which are further divided into two types;

Slender Consonants

Slender consonants in the Irish are spoken by pushing the tongue upwards, touching the hard palate. The consonants are pronounced this way if they are next to the same type of vowel. For instance, Beag (small) is an Irish word pronounced with a "b-yah" sound.

Broad Consonants

Broad consonants are velarized i.e spoken touching the soft palate, or simply ver in Irish. The consonants are pronounced this way if they are next to the same type of vowel. For instance, Balla (wall) is an Irish word pronounced with the regular "b" sound.

Vowels

The vowels in the Irish are the same as in the English language; a, e, i, o, u. However, there is a slanting line on top of each vowel which is the accent on the vowel. There are various cases in which the only difference between two words in Irish is the presence or absence of the accent. Vowel sounds are based on the presence or absence of an accent mark on them.

These letters in Irish are further classified into two types:

Broad Vowels

The letters "a", "o", and "u" are these kinds of vowels and are also called Leathan in Irish.

Slender Vowels

The two vowels "i" and "e" are these kinds of vowels and are also called caol in Irish.

An Important Rule

One key rule (which can be used in most cases) is caol le caol (slender with slender) and leathan le leathan (broad with broad). For instance, the word chuir (to put) when integrated with the word will become Chuireamar instead of Chuiramar. This is an example of how one word can be written using this rule of thumb.

Tips

In order to write accented vowels on your keyboard, you can press Alt+vowel. For instance to type accented vowel "u", simply press alt+u and it will give you a ú. For the vowel "a", simply press alt+a. However, if you are not using Windows and using mac book then pressing the vowel for a few seconds can provide options and one of them will be its vowel form.

Quick Quiz

  1. How many letters are there in Gaelic Alphabet?
  2. Is the pronunciation of this alphabet different or similar to the English alphabet?
  3. What's the difference between the traditional Irish alphabet and the modern Irish alphabet?
  4. Is the Latin alphabet the same as the Gaelic alphabet?
  5. What is meant by "acute accent"?

Ready To Learn Irish?

Learning Irish can be hard but we will provide you with the easiest ways of learning this language. Irish or Gaelic is a language spoken in many countries including Ireland and the United Kingdom. If you are interested in learning similar words or more foreign words using the Gaelic alphabet along with their accurate pronunciation, then make sure to visit Ling app by Simya Solutions. We have also uploaded blogs on wishing the new year in Irish and saying cheers in Irish. There are countless easy lessons and tutorials along with quizzes to learn Gaelic.

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Samaha Kazmi

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