Irish 101

There are three major dialects in Irish, named for the three provinces in the north (Ulster, major cities Derry and Belfast), west (Connacht, major city Galway) and south (Munster, major cities Cork, Limerick, Waterford) of the island. The eastern province, (Leinster, major cities Dublin, Kilkenny), no longer has its own distinct dialect. The Caighdeán Oifigiúl (kaigh-DAWN iffig-OOL, official standard) has been in place since the mid-20th century after spelling was 'regularised' (to an extent). This is the official Irish that appears in phrasebooks and in Government publications. It is largely the same as the Munster dialect, with a very few exceptions). There are great differences in pronunciation between the dialects, with Munster differing the most from the other two. eg 'tá go maith', 'yes indeed' is pronunced 'TAY guh MAIGH' in Ulster and Connacht but 'TAW guh MAH' in Munster. There are also differences in the phrases used in everyday speech. In the phrasebook below, the Munster phrase has been used except where indicated. The conjugation of verbs, too, differs from dialect to dialect. Munster uses a contracted form in the past and present first person and in the third person of all three tenses. For example 'tá mé' ('TAW MAY', I am) is 'táim' ('TAW'm') in Munster, and 'bhí mé' (VEE MAY, I was) is 'bhíos' (VEE-us) in Munster.


like 'o' in "cod"

like 'aw' in "flaw"

like 'e' in "peg"

like 'ay' in "hay"

like 'i' in "tin"

like 'ee' in "heel"

like 'u' in "bud"

like 'o' in "home"

like 'u' in "bud"

like 'oo' in "cool"

Common Diphthongs

Diphthongs are generally irregular and can only be learned with experience. eg, 'ai' in "Corcaigh" (the city and county of Cork) is pronounced like the 'i' in "dig" but the 'ai' in "faic" (nothing) is pronounced like the 'a' in "hack", and the 'ai' in "haigh!" (hi! (transliteration of a loan-word)) is pronounced like the 'i' in "high".

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