As a peace-offering between my Gàidhlig-speaking and non-Gàidhlig-speaking friends, a thread. (Corrections welcome.)

*If* your starting point is English spelling, you may find Gàidhlig spelling tricky. That's OK.

The problem isn't either system: it's the gap between them.

This matters because the alleged weirdness of Gàidhlig spelling is a common slander.

It tends to go along with claims that Gàidhlig is a "made-up" or barbaric language with no written tradition.

This notion, which that prat Sam Johnson did a lot to spread, is pure keech.

In fact, many of the reasons English speakers initially find Gàidhlig spelling hard to grasp have parallels in English spelling.

Here are four that I found it helpful to be told about.

[Disclaimer: I'm a learner, not a linguist. Be gentle with my errors, please.]

1. It isn't perfectly phonetic, and can't be because there's no single "standard" accent and no central authority — praise be!

2. The written tradition is ancient, with roots in Old Irish. Like English, Gàidhlig spelling carries some history with it.

Ergo: a few anomalies.

3. Letters don't represent phonemes in isolation. (That's probably true for all languages.)

In particular, "h" modifies the sound of a preceding consonant — as it does in English, but in different ways.

These changes have grammatical roles, which we'll ignore here.

Additionally, some consonants are modified by the adjacent vowel.

For example, before "e" or "i", "d" sounds more like English "j".

English does this too, but less regularly. In Gàidhlig, keep track of slender vowels e/i and broad vowels a/o/u and you're normally OK.

4. Svarabhakti vowels.

Gàidhlig likes to insert these wee unstressed vowels between consonants, e.g. "Alba" comes out more like "Al-uh-pa".

(Note also that slight difference in the plosive, but that's not important right now.)

English speakers shouldn't find this too weird either.

English does something similar quite frequently with consonants, e.g. the phantom "p" in "ham[p]ster" in most English accents.

It helps speech flow more smoothly. That's all.

I hope that's demystified things a wee bit.

Gàidhlig spelling is no worse than English spelling — on average it's probably a bit more regular.

The principles are familiar, but the coding is very different.

Tha mi an dochas gum bith seo feumail!

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