Part I: Orthography
§ 1. — The Alphabet
The ordinary Irish Alphabet consists of eighteen letters: there are—
It must be borne in mind that all the attempts to illustrate the Irish sounds by English are only approximations ; the true sound must be learnt by intercourse with those who speak the language. Aḋ is pronounced in the West as oo, as peacaḋ, sin. In other places it is pronounced as a in negative in nouns and infinitives, while in 3rd sing, past passive as ag and aċ.
§2. — Vowels; and Rule Caol le Caol, 7c.
a, o, and u are called broad vowels; and e and i slender. The most general rule of the Irish language is that called caol le caot agus leaṫan le leaṫan, " a slender with a slender, and a broad with a broad ;" which is, that the vowel preceding a consonant, or combination of consonants, and that which follows it, must be of the same class ; sc. both broad, or both slender : e. g. Nom. sgológ, Gen. sgolóige, not sgológe. Nom. fiġeadóir; Gen. fiġeadóra, not fiġeadóina; mol, molaim; buail, ḃuaileas, bualaḋ. The reason of this rule is, that in Irish the two classes of vowels have a decided influence on the pronunciation of the consonants in immediate contact with them ; a, o, u, giving them a broad sound, and e and i a slender. As this influence on the consonant is exercised both by the preceding as well as the following vowel, the pronunciation would be rendered uncertain if the two vowels were not of the same kind. This delicacy of the organs of speech, though partly known elsewhere, has not been carried out to the same extent by any of the Indo- European languages, nor was it fully developed in the older shape of the Celtic itself, as Welsh does not partake of it. This rule has caused a rather cumbrous orthography, as a large number of vowels are now written for the mere purpose of insuring either the broad or slender pronunciation of the consonants, and these vowels which in reality have no sound, are distinguished in no way from those vowels which are sounded. This creates a difficulty in reading correctly Irish words. If every one of these silent vowels were marked, for instance, with a point, it would be of great assistance to the reader. Such an innovation, however, we cannot undertake to introduce.
§3. — Diphthongs.
There are in Irish thirteen diphthongs, which are: ae, ao, ai, ea, ei, eo, eu, ia, io, iu, oi, ua, ui. AE, ao, eu, eo, ia, iu, and ua, are generally long, the remaining are sometimes long and sometimes short. The diphthongs and triphthongs in Irish frequently are not real, but owe their rise to the operation of the rule caol le caol, 7c., e.g., aingeal, an angel, &c.
Those diphthongs which have their first vowel long are generally pronounced like dissyllables; as táim, I am. The following is a Table of the diphthongs and their pronunciation:—
ei short is pronounced in Munster like e in sell, m is pronounced. Iu is pronounced like o in done, in Connaught, &c.
It must be borne in mind that the English sounds are approximations. An accent is placed over vowels when they are long, as bás, death. Also over the variable diphthongs when long.
§4. — Triphthongs
The following five triphthongs are used in the Irish language, and are always long:—
§5. — Contractions
The following contractions are frequently used in printed books: —