The Pronunciation of Cork Irish

My dictionary of Cork Irish used the pronunciation system of the book The Irish of West Muskerry, by Brian Ó Cuív, first published in 1944. The phonological rules set out in that book provide some degree of accuracy in predicting the pronunciation of words in Cork Irish. I am
not intending to reproduce the details of the phonological system shown in that book, but rather a key to the phonetic script.

Audio files were read by Eoiní Mhaidhc Ó Súilleabháin, native speaker in the Cork Gaeltacht, August 12th 2010.



ím, dlí, fírinne, píosa, buí, Muimhneach, maíomh.


uisce, minic, fios, buile, beannaithe, Éire, oileán, billeog, ciotóg, farraige.


éigin, inné, céile, léann.

Note that this sound is quite different initially before broad consonants or after a broad consonant:

aonach, réidh, Gael.


oibre, aige, breibe, meisce, bheadh, raibh, saibhir.


(with slight variations in realization in the presence of either broad or slender consonants)

aifreann, ceathair, taithí, cailleach, reatha, teacht


breá, caisleáin, fearr


(with slight variations in realisation in the presence of either broad or slender consonants)

eaglais, capall, bainne


áfach, fágaint, áit, Seán, báisteach


obair, doras, deoch, scoil


eolas, fónamh, óige, seoladh, móin


iomarca, priocadh, cuid, tusa


údar, marú, bunús, Iúil, ciúin, siúl, dúiseacht


aduaidh, bacacha, beagán, bradán



iasc, dian, fia, diabhail


(the speaker clearly uses the /iə/ diphthong here, reflecting a tendency for the two diphthongs to fall together in more recent Cork Irish)

éan, féar, fiáin


ualach, dua, buachaill, uaigneach, fuaim


aighneas, leá, deimhin, leigheas, adhmad, gadhair, fadhb


aimhleas, caint


ampla, treabhadh, seabhaic, feall, namhaid, rang

/ou/ [replaced by /au/ in the speech of younger speakers]

Ultach, togha, leabhair, leabhar, modhúil, bodhar






beo, beann


braon, bolg


peann, plé


póca, plaosc


This sound is alveolar in most cases in younger speakers, under the influence of English.

deora, dealg

Note that /dlʹ/ is quite distinctive, being laterally exploded:

dlí, dlithe.

Note that a dental /dʹ/ is generally used before slender r and when unstressed and before slender r:

dréimire, láidir.


A dental sound.

dubh, doren


This sound is alveolar in most cases in younger speakers, under the influence of English.

tigh, teann

Note that /tlʹ/ is quite distinctive, being laterally exploded:

tslí, tsléibhe.

Note that a dental /tʹ/ is generally used before slender r and when unstressed and before slender r:

trí, leitir.


A dental sound.

tuí, taobh, tlú, tnúth


geit, geata, gné, grian


guala, grá


cíos, cleas, cneasta, cré


cú, cnoc, Corcaigh


Traditionally bilabial, rather than labiodental. The speaker here has a clear labiodental pronunciation.

ana-bheag, uimhir


Traditionally bilabial, rather than labiodental. The speaker here has a clear labiodental pronunciation.

mhaise, admháil

Note: at the beginning of a word or breath-group or after a g /v/ approaches /w/:

gabháil, sábháil.

Note pronounced friction (ie a v rather than a w) at the end of a word or syllable or before l, n or r:

marbh, tiubh, amharc, mo bhlúire, droch-mhná, mo bhróg.


Traditionally bilabial, rather than labiodental.

file, fearg


Traditionally bilabial, rather than labiodental.

faobhar, fuar


a very rare phoneme in Irish (this is an English word, rós, taken into Irish and given a genitive):



síocháin, seans


an infrequent sound:

rós, Múscraí


suí, saol


a Dhia, ana-dheas, deá-ghníomh, do ghléas, sa ghleann, mo ghreim, an ghrian, mo dhriotháir


dhá cheann, a dhuine, de gnáth, mo ghrá


chím, a Sheáin, le chéile, sa chliabhán, ana-chneasta, do chreid sé, sa chré


chuaidh, choíche


sheasaimh, cheana, rithfead

Note the following, where the h is often heard only slightly, merely partly devoicing the previous letter:

/lh/: molfad, díolfad
/lhʹ/: caillfead, oilfead

There is a clear /mh/ in cúmtha below, but the speaker prefers stuama without an h; stuama was spelled stuamdha in the old spelling and transcribed as /stuəmhə/ in the Irish of West Muskerry, but the standard Irish spelling does not indicate any hint of an h.

/mh/: cúmtha, stuama
/mʹh/: léimfead, géimfidh
/nh/: dúnfad, leanfad, tráthnóna, Breathnach
/nʹh/: caoinfidh, múinfead
/ŋh/: teangthacha
/ŋʹh/: taithnim, taithneamh
/rh/: muinteartha
/rʹh/: búirth, cheithre


baitsiléar, duitse




muing, mála

(the first syllable of inniu below was not captured by the recording, but the slender n was)

inniu, coinnleach



(this recording needs to be redone, because é shníomh was not captured at all, and the t of toirneach was missed, but the /hnʹ/ is audible)

a devoiced equivalent of /nʹ/: é shníomh, toirneach

(this recording needs to be redone, because do shnámh was not captured at all)

a devoiced equivalent of /n/: do shnámh, mo shnáthad


aingeal, fuinneog, Suibhneach, taithneamh, teinn


ceangal, teanga, long, comhgar


leis, leor, fiacail, fáilte



/hlʹ/ (notice how the speaker prefers to pronounce the t in meilt below; some of these lt examples being pronounced as lh are optional)

a devoiced equivalent of /lʹ/:

shleamhnaigh, mo shlí, meilt, muinchille /minʹirhlʹi/


a devoiced equivalent of /l/: do shloinne, banaltra, alt, shloig


do rug, Laoghaire, cuir, láithreach, breab, grinn


rian, rogha, cara, tabharfar


a devoiced equivalent of /rʹ/: mo threise, a thrian


a devoiced equivalent of /r/: mo shrón, mo thráth

Traditional sources say that these are differentiated by the absence or presence of nasalization, but my speaker had no nasalization, so no examples were recorded.

Compare the following:

lá, lámha
ní, nimhe
fóir, fómhair
cú, cumha
abhras, amhras

Other examples: geimhreadh, comhairle, reimhirse, aimhleas, amhlaidh, amhastar, scanradh, samhradh, leamh, neamh, Róimh, amhrán



These have a falling intonation with a rise on the final word:

an maith leat misleáin?
cá rabhais inné?
ar mhaith leat siúl?
cá bhfuil an gadhar?
conas tá Seán?

or when the principal syllable is non-final, the intonation is a falling one until the prinicipal syllable, which forms the lowest note, followed by a rise:

cé hé sin ar an mbóthar?
cé léigh an t-aifreann ar maidin?
cé tá ag ceangal?
cár fhágais í?
cad na thaobh nár dheinis é?
an raibh an aimsir go maith?

the principal stress may vary with the meaning, thus shifting the intonation too:

cé bhí ag BAINT inné?
cé bhi ag baint INNÉ?

sometimes there are two strongly stressed syllables, both forming low points, followed by rises:

ar airís Seán a bheith pósta?
an ag baint a bhí Dónall?


These start high and fall sharply on the syllable with principle stress, remaining low thereafter.

(some of the recordings in this section are better than others, but the general principles should be clear)

dún an doras, a Mháire
las an lampa
oscail an fhuinneog
faigh cathaoir dó
éist do bhéal
inis scéal dúinn
tabhair leat í

Syllables before the main stress can gradually rise, building up to the main stress:

bígis go maith anocht (the speaker said bígí, probably because bígis is not used any more)

Where more than one word is stressed, the intonation can gradually step down, plateauing on each stressed word:

bailígis na ba ar an mbóthar (the speaker said bailídh, as bailígis is not used any more)
tair abhaile go luath
ná loit orm é

Special emphasis is shown by a lengthening of the stressed syllable where the voice falls:

ná creid in aon chor é


These also have a falling tone, beginning high, falling on the stressed syllable and thereafter remaining low. (This is referred to a Tune 1 by Brian Ó Cuív.)

do scríobh an file páipéar dó
d’fhill sé abhaile go brónach
siúd chun an tsagairt é
sidé go léir agat

The intonation pattern can climb before the first stressed syllable, which would be the high point, and then fall on the last stressed syllable:

do deineadh an pósadh
dhein sé ana-shioc aréir

An emphatic reply to a question can have a sharp down tone:


Special emphasis is shown by lengthening the down tone:

ní dhéanfad
níorbh fhearr, mhuise
bhí go deimhin, mhuise

A variant is where the overall falling pattern is broken by a phrase at a higher tone before resuming the descent:

ní raibh sé ro-chruinn ar fad ann féin

A sing-song tone is adopted for less emphatic statements. (This is referred to as Tune 2 by Brian Ó Cuív.) The first stressed syllable is low and thereafter the intonation begins to climb, falling before the last stressed syllable, which then rises sharply:

dhíol Diarmaid an bhó bhán

In more complex variants of this pattern, each stressed syllable is low, with a wave, first high then falling, between them, and a rise on the last stressed syllable:

dhíol Séamas an capall agus cheannaigh Tadhg asal dubh
dúirt Tadhg Crón liom ná raibh na cearca ag breith ag a mhnaoi
b’fhéidir gurbh fearr leat do cheisteanna féin anois
tá an méid seo dhuitse

Monosyllabic statements have a rising tone:



Tune 1 and Tune 2 may be combined in complex sentences, as with the following, where Tune 2 first occurs and the sentence ends with Tune 1:

bhíodh sé i gcónaí ag cuimhneamh ar phósadh ach níorbh aon chabhair do é, mar ná pósfadh éinne é

Doubt or surprise is expressed by Tune 2, often with great stress:

ní raibh
an raibh?
ar dhein?
cad chuige?
ní chreidfinn go ndéanfadh

14 Responses to pronunciation/intonation

  1. Eain says:

    an ag baint a bhí Dónall?

    почему здесь он произносит g в ag?

    las an lampa
    почему он произносит n в артикле?

  2. admin says:

    Well, Eain, he is a native speaker of Cork Irish and pronounced the words as he saw fit. You see to think that the pronouncements of a man in Lithuania are of any relevance to Irish – Romanas is passionate about Irish, but has created his own Caighdeán… The slower and the more deliberate speech is, the more likely it is that the n’s and g’s will be pronounced.

  3. Eain says:

    Понятно. Но в любом случае для меня в плане спеллинга кэйдян Романуса ближе, чем официальный кэйдян, ибо человек с трезвой головой взглянул на недостатки кэйдяна и пытается их устранить, при этом Романус также в своих уроках употребляется формы, которые есть в кэйдяне, потому что в некоторых местах у кэйдяна есть и плюсы.

  4. Eain says:

    если говорить о кэйдянской грамматике, то здесь я категорически против. Я за диалекты. Но! Нужно иметь ввиду, что в плане спеллинга тут нужно быть внимательными и смотреть на все диалекты и выбирать форму спеллинга такую, которая будет охватывать все возможные диалектные произносительные формы. Например:
    croí на юге и западе произносится кры:, но не на севере – там кры:е. То есть подходит как раз пре-кэйдянская форма croidhe, которая, согласитесь, охватывает все три произносительные нормы, в отличие от croí.

    Далее, trá, которая на юге произносится трагь, а на севере – трай. И как эти формы выводимы из trá? Так что я за traigh.

    Так что прежде чем вырезать “ненужные” буквы, надо смотреть, а произносимы ли они во всех диалектах? Если хотя бы в одном диалекте какая-то буква произносима, эти буквы вырезать нельзя.

    Такова моя точка зрения. Поэтому в плане спеллинга (только в плане спеллинга!)кэйдян отменять не надо. Его надо лишь пересмотреть, реформировать и сделать стандартом, который будет последователен, и которым все будут довольны.

  5. admin says:

    Eain, if you support the dialects, pick one and learn that, instead of trying to devise a new Caighdeán…

  6. Eain says:

    Я не занимаюсь созданием нового кэйдяна. Я учу южный, люблю этот диалект. Но просто иной раз раздражает непоследовательность спеллинга стандарта, на который приходится опираться.

  7. admin says:

    Eain, you are mistaken – Romanas does not teach the southern dialect. Otherwise why would “house” be “teach” in the nominative. That is the Western dialect, not the Southern. Southern Irish has “tigh” in the nominative – you are learning a new Caighdeán.

  8. Eain says:

    tigh is novinative, so what form it has in dative?

  9. admin says:

    It is tigh in both the nominative and the dative – it is simply not the southern dialect if you say “teach”. If you say “teach”, it is just a new caighdeán – Munster mixed in with a bit of Connacht.

  10. Eain says:

    well, agree with you, i need a little research.

    By the way, I know that in vocabulary Connacht forms much more closer to Munster ones then to the Donegall ones.

    Also, I know that freisin is Connacht form, but! looking tg4, i noticed that persons who pronounce iontach as untach, also oftent use freisin, so i think it’s not that matter of pure forms of exactly dialects, but the way of passing the words from different dialects to each other.

  11. david says:

    I was delighted i found this page, then gutted as soon as I found the links dont work. is there anywhere else I can find them ?

    • djwebb2010 says:

      Well, I am in the process of closing down my old site and transferring the material – but the links work on my old site at . Blogs on the Internet are provided by way of a hobby – no has to provide these resources. And as you are in Ireland, it is a simple matter for you to find a speaker of Munster Irish and hear the words pronounced in person.

  12. Slava says:

    Hello djwebb2010. I wondwer whether you know some good textbook of Western or(and) Southern dialect for self learning. Irish is really impressive, but since Romanas’ course is new caidean I gonna to find another way of studing. Can you help?

    • djwebb2010 says:

      There is Learning Irish by Mícheál Ó Siadhial for Galway Irish and Teach Yourself Irish by Myles Dillon for Cork Irish.

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