Revisiting Old Irish: The sounds

The first tough bit of Old Irish is the spelling system and phonology.

There are two issues here, for the native speaker of English

  1. Old Irish uses phonemic contrasts that we don’t (particularly palatalisation)
  2. The Old Irish spelling system doesn’t reflect its phonology in a couple of important places.


Old Irish uses 17 or 18 letters (five vowels and 11 or 12 consonants, depending on how you count <h>): <a>, <b>, <c>, <d>, <e>, <f>, <g>, <h>, <i>, <l>, <m>, <n>, <o>, <p>, <r>, <s>, <t>, <u>.

The “additional” letters in Modern English (i.e. Read the rest of this entry »

Revisiting Old Irish: A new blog series

It’s been twenty odd years since I last studied Old Irish. So when a former student of mine, James Bell, came and asked if I’d work with him on Old Irish, Old Norse, Gothic, or something else old, I thought it sounded like a fun idea.

For our textbook, we’re using An Old Irish Primer by Wim Tigges in collaboration with Feargal Ó Béarra. But unlike 20 years ago, there are also lots of resources around on the Internet.

I’m going to use this blog series as a kind of notebook/reportage about what we are up to. Since this is a case of the blind leading the blind, corrections and suggestions are very much appreciated.

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