Letiriú Shímplí

Leitiriú Shímplí

Más âuluig ná tuigean tú a vuil shgríofa ansò, ná bíoch cesht ort; rod ish ea é ná cuirean a lán duíni muarán suimi aun!

Shán Ó Cuív’s leitiriú shímplí was used, and approved by PUL too. I use the leitiriú shímplí edition of Séadna to check Muskerry pronunciation. The system was geared solely to Muskerry Irish pronunciation, regardless of spelling.

The charts belows show the system, with IPA (as given in The Irish of West Muskerry) on the left and LS on the right.

Consonants: the broad/slender quality of consonants is shown purely by vowels, with the exception of slender s, which is written sh. Dh and gh are both written gh; sh and th are both written h. The marginal consonants /z/ and /ʒ/ don’t appear to represented. The affricate /tʃ/ is not represented either (t sh would be used). The devoicing of l, n and r is shown by an h before the letter (hl, hn, hr). Incorrectly, /sk/ and /ʃkʹ/ are written sg and shg.

b b
k c
x ch
d d
f f
g g
ɣ gh
j gh
h h
l l
m m
n n
ŋ ng
ŋʹ ng
p p
r r
s s
t t
v v

Vowels: silent vowels are not written, eg gabháil becomes gváil. Epenthetic vowels are written: leitriú becomes leitiriú. Broad vowels are flanked by e and i as necessary to show the quality of surrounding consonants. Similarly, slender vowels can be flanked by o and u. The vowels are shown in the first column below in a broad-vowel-broad environment, then slender-vowel-broad, broad-vowel-slender, slender-vowel-slender. An exception is where the use of sh for slender s already shows the slender quality. In this case, you would write shúl and not shiúl for siúl.

a, ɑ a, ea, ai, eai lag, teag, tais, geaitire
a:, ɑ: á, eá, ái, eái bás, breá, páirc, ileáin
e -, èa, oi, e -, bhèadh, roiv, ber
e: ä, ae, éa, é näv, raeg, buidéal, céli
i -, i, io, ui -, fios, min, buin
i: y, i:, ío, uí cyra, sí, síos, luí
o o, eo, oi, – cos, deoch, toil, –
o: ó, eó, ói, eói óg, deór, cóir, feóil
u u, ui, iu, – muc, cuisle, piuc, –
u: ú, úi, iú, iúi cú, úil, ciún, ciúin
ə a

You will notice that, although reputedly phonetic, ui is used twice above, making it unclear if Shán Ó Cuív believed cuid should be pronounced with /i/ or /u/. In fact both pronunciations are found. The only examples I can find of a broad consonant followed by /e/ are saibhir (transcribed sevir, but this would be shevir in this system had the s been slender and so doesn’t count as an example), and raibh, which is transcribed roiv in the LS edition of Séadna. So it is likely that the LS system used oi twice too.


ia ià, -, ià, iài iàdach, -, bias, fiàin
ia, -, ia, ie iad, -, cial, blien
ua, ue, -, – suas, uer, -, –
əi ay, ayi, ?, ei Tayg, cayil, ?, dein
ai -, ay, -, – -, ayimshir, -, –
au au, aui, eau, eaui aun, auing, geaul, meauir
ou ou, oui, eou, eoui poul, louir, leour, leouir

Note that ay is used twice for the dipthong in Tadhg and the diphthong in aimsir. Also in the transcription in Séadna, au and ou are frequently confused, with abhainn appearing as ouing instead of auing. It is not clear what Shán Ó Cuív had for /iə/ flanked by slender and broad consonants. Riamh is written ryav to show the r remains broad at the beginning of the word.

ã, ɑ̃ â lâv
ĩ î
ô fôr
ũ û
ãi ây âyileas
ãu âu âuluig
õu ôu dôun

As shown above LS choosed to show nasalised vowels and diphthongs, although these have been dropped in the modern-day Cork Irish. These would also be flanked by vowels to show the slender or broad quality of consonants surrounding them (as in âyileas above, but examples of every possible permutation are hard to find). IWM shows that /ə̃i/ is also a possible nasalised diphthong, but Shán Ó Cuív didn’t seem to realise that, writing dein for deimhin.

Finally, grave accents were used in LS to differentiate some words, and were also used to show a word that was stressed on a non-initial syllable that nevertheless had a short vowel:

as às (out of)
de dè (from him)
di dì (from her)
do dò (to him)
amuigh amùh

It is clear Shán Ó Cuív had no knowledge of phonetics, but the LS editions of PUL’s books can be used to look up many pronunciations used in Muskerry Irish.

The following is a list of PUL’s works published in LS, as edited by Shán Ó Cuív and Osborn Bergin, with the ones I have obtained asterisked:

*Don Cíchóté, part I. (Parts II and III are on this site here and here.)
*Aithris ar Chríost, book I. (PDF on this site) Book II (PDF here), Book III part 1 (PDF here), Book III part 2 (PDF here), Book III part 3 (PDF here), Book III part 4 (PDF here).
*Sliabh na mBan bhFionn. (PDF on this site)
*Aesop a Tháinig go hÉirinn, I-V. (PDF on this site)
*Mo Sgéal Féin, part I. (PDF on this site)
*An Teagasc Críostaí (PDF at archive.com)
*Ár nDóithin Araon.
*Muire Mháthair i Lourdes – has the Lourdes hymn by PUL with ordinary and simplified spelling (PDF on this site)
*An Choróinn Mhuire – PUL’s Rosary with ordinary and simplified spelling (PDF on this site).
* Gein gan Teimheal – PUL’s version of the Immaculate hymn with ordinary and simplified spelling (PDF on this site).
*11 Fables from Cnósach a Dó of Aesop (PDF on this site).
*PUL’s translation of For he’s a jolly good fellow in ordinary and simplified spelling (PDF on this site).

Other things in LS are Pádraig Ó Laoghaire’s Cayint na Nuíni, Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chónaill’s Cuíni Airt Í Laere (some pages of the version linked to are badly scanned), Shán Ó Cuív’s own short stories incl Cúirt na Dála, and the monthly newspaper in LS Glór na Ly, which I have photocopies of and which gives LS versions of a number of other texts on a serialised basis.

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2 Responses to Letiriú Shímplí

  1. A chairde, Dia daoibh!
    After a conversation with the proprietor of the Literary Café in Dingle, I found, and downloaded some files from Archive.Org.
    Many of these files are associated with Peter Ó Leary, and Shán Ó Cuív, but there are some by The Christian Brothers, and others, teaching the Real Irish.
    Many of these files are in the old script, and can be difficult to read, but most of the stuff by Ó Cuív is in LS, and with a little effort, is quite simple, as it was intended.
    I have obtained, (from eBay) a copy of Ó Cuív’s ‘Sounds of Irish’, where he gives a definitive account of LS, as well as some exercises in phonetics. He explains why, when IPA was at that time, in use, why, he and his team laboured to produce this system, and why they rejected IPA. You may disagree, but if you compare text written in IPA with the same text in LS, his points are quite cogent.
    Since LS is strictly phonetic, then quite clearly, the spellings will vary from dialect to dialect. This was one of the condemnations made for its rejection, but if you read ‘IrishSpellingLecture’ in the same, (Ó Cuív), folder, you will find a cogent counter argument to this short-sighted rejection.
    Yes, there are some peculiarities remaining in LS. The confusion between diphthongs and glides was never fully navigated, and indeed, the nasalization of vowels has mostly fallen out of favour, except where it happens naturally, when a vowel is adjascent to a nasal consonant. Indeed, the broad/slender destiction of many consonants is purely accidental upon the adjascent vowels, only a few specific gross variations being found.
    I have cleaned up many of the books from Archive.Org, and put them in my little library. You are free to download as you please. The library is at:
    Le meas,

  2. Actually, I think anyone, who after reading ‘The Sounds of Irish’ considers that Ó Cuíve had no knowledge of phonetics, should examine his own judgement. It is quite clear, that although much of his knowledge may be self taught, and contrary to ‘accepted theory’, it is non-the-less valid, specially in its adaptation to Irish pronunciation, using the Hiberno-English as a base point, rather than ‘Oxford’.

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