Slenderisation

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We've seen that for most consonants, there's a broad and slender form, each one representing a separate sound in the language. For any consonant, broad or slender forms frequently alternate at the end of words e.g. cat a cat and cait cats. We say that t in cait is the slenderised form of t in cat. To put it another way, cait is the slenderised form of cat. In written Gaelic, a word is slenderised by inserting an i before the last consonant or group of consonants. The i before a final consonant tells us that the letter is to be pronounced differently i.e. as a slender consonant. The change of broad t to slender t is called slenderisation. It's important to note that the process of slenderisation only occurs at the end of words. Slenderisation is used to form the plural form of some nouns. Listen to the difference between:

Broad Slender
[kahd] cat cat [kahdʲ] cait cats
[duːn] dùn fortress [duːNʲ] dùin fortresses
[baLəx] balach boy [baLɪç] balaich boys
[bɔrʲəNəx] boireannach woman [bɔrʲəNɪç] boireannaich women
[ɔːran] òran song [ɔːraNʲ] òrain songs


Slenderisation of a final consonant can in some cases cause the preceding vowel to change form. Here are a few examples where the preceding vowel is affected by the process of slenderisation:

Broad Slender
[maxg] mac son [miçgʲ] mic sons
[fɛr] fear man [firʲ] fir men
[krɔ͂xg] cnoc hill [krũçgʲ] cnuic hill
[bɔːRʃd] bòrd table [buːRʃdʲ] bùird tables
[fiəɣ] fiadh a deer [feː] féidh more than one deer


Slenderisation is extremely important in Scottish Gaelic and you will meet many further instances of it as you progress.



Fuaimean na Gàidhlig
Vowels - Consonants - Fricatives - Slenderisation - Pre-aspiration - Lenition - Helping vowel - Diphthongs
Hiatus - l n r - rt & rd - Vowels before rr ll nn - Unstressed vowels


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