Scottish Gaelic Phonology
This article is about the phonology of the Scottish Gaelic language. There is no standard variety of Scottish Gaelic; although statements below are about all or most dialects, the north-western dialects (Hebrides, Skye and the Northwest Highlands) are discussed more than others as they represent the majority of speakers.
Gaelic phonology is characterised by:
- a phoneme inventory particularly rich in sonorant coronal phonemes (commonly 9 in total)
- a contrasting set of palatalised and non-palatalised consonants
- strong initial word-stress and vowel reduction in unstressed syllables
- The presence of preaspiration of stops in certain contexts
- falling intonation in most types of sentences, including questions
- lenition and extreme sandhi phenomena
Due to the geographic concentration of Gaelic speakers along the western seabord with its numerous islands, Gaelic dialectologists tend to ascribe each island its own dialect. On the mainland, no clear dialect boundaries have been established to date but the main areas are generally assumed to be Argyllshire, Perthshire, Moidart/Ardnamurchan, Wester Ross and Sutherland.
... Lewis and Sutherland in the extreme north of the Gaelic-speaking area ... In Lewis Gaelic, it is difficult to find minimal pairs ... differences are not to be found in Ireland or elsewhere in the Scottish Gàidhealtachd ...
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—18th-century Scottish proverb, collected in James Kelly, Complete Collection of Scottish Proverbs, no. 351 (1721)