Alphabet | An Aibítir[edit | edit source]
Modern Irish uses the Latin alphabet. The basic alphabet consists of 18 letters:
a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, u
Variations of a, e, i, o and u written with an acute accent (Irish: Síneadh fada or just fada for short) also exist in Irish. They denote both a longer pronunciation and a different vowel quality:
Á á, É é, Í í, Ó ó, Ú ú
There are, however, some instances where letters outside the normal 18 letter alphabet are used. An example of this would be the Irish word for "zoo" which is "zú" even though the Irish alphabet lacks a letter Z. "Sú" means juice so it would not be possible to translate "zoo" with the letter S.
In addition to these letters others are used in words borrowed from other languages. The letters are usually called by their English names, except that the letter a is called "ah". The names of the vowels with accents take the formula "name of vowel" + "fada, thus the name "Ciarán would be spelled out loud as "C, I, A, R, A-fada, N".
Older Writing Systems[edit | edit source]
Ogham[edit | edit source]
The oldest known Irish writing uses Ogham, an early alphabet that resembles tally marks. For more information, see the Wikipedia article on Ogham. Ogham is interesting culturally but not relevant for most modern Irish students.
Gaelic Type[edit | edit source]
From the 16th century until the end of the 1940s, most Irish language books were printed in what is now known as Gaelic Type. This was a font based on the handwritten letters found in medieval manuscripts. There were very few books published in Irish until the Irish Language Revival started in the late 19th/early 20th Century.
Gaelic Type used special marks to indicate sounds that were not well represented with Roman letters. These included the punctum delens, a dot over a consonant letter, such as ċ or ġ, to indicate a séimhiú. Eventually these fonts were replaced by Latin fonts for practical reasons, and the punctum delens was replaced by a 'h' after the consonant.
The Gaelic script is still used decoratively. With the ease of use of true type fonts on PCs the old fonts, known as "seanchló" (Old Type) or Cló Gaelach (Gaelic Type) have undergone a renaissance.
The Old Spelling and Punctum Delens | An Seanlitriú agus an Ponc Séimhithe[edit | edit source]
The Gaelic typeface and punctum delens are strongly linked with the older spelling, which was less phonetic than the spelling we use today, and more about being historically correct. Thus, it was cluttered with mute letters. Modern spelling can be used with the Gaelic typeface and punctum delens, but this is extremely rare - mostly you can count on all books in Gaelic type being in the old spelling. In fact, there seems to be just one book around printed in Gaelic type with punctum delens, but using a modern spelling - Niall Ó Dónaill's Na Glúnta Rosannacha.