Scottish Gaelic Phonology

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.

Read more about Scottish Gaelic PhonologyHistory of The Discipline, Vowels, Diphthongs, Orthography, Consonants, Stress, Epenthesis, Elision, Tones

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