Gaelic Goblin Cognomen Glossary
September 1, 2017 8:45 AM   Subscribe

I'd like Irish/Gaelic speakers to tell me, in as much detail as possible, about the correct way to pronounce an uncommon name.

The name is 'Fitheal'. I've looked up spelling conventions & it seems like it should be 'Fee-hal' but I'm not entirely sure I'm getting the actual vowels correct or the stress in the right place. This question is anonymous because the name is uncommon and can potentially be connected to my IRL identity.
posted by anonymous to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You've got it basically right, but I think the -h- wouldn't be pronounced distinctly in that context—in other words, it would sound pretty much like the English word feel (pronounced, as it usually is, as two syllables: /fi-əl/). The stress is definitely on the first syllable, because the -a- is short (a, not á).
posted by languagehat at 9:11 AM on September 1, 2017

I would pronounce that "fih-al", where the i is pronounced like "fifth", and the h is not strongly pronounced at all. To pronounce it fee-al would require there to be an accent on the i in the original word, which I don't think there is.
posted by LN at 9:56 AM on September 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm Irish but not a gaeilgeoir and I would pronounce it like LN. If you want to hear how a true gaeilgeoir would pronounce it (with regional variations!) try this. (I tested it with some common phrases and it was spot on.)
posted by roolya_boolya at 10:23 AM on September 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

My partner's daughter (a fluent Irish speaker and Irish language teacher) says Fee-hal. There are of course regional variations in Irish as in any other language, so as languagehat says there may be some places where the h in hal isn't pronounced. We're in the North of Ireland, so for example we would also pronounce Mícheál as Me-hall.
posted by billiebee at 10:50 AM on September 1, 2017

Building on what billiebee said, there are regional variations. We used to laugh about being able to tell where someone was from in Ireland by the way they pronounced the word "milk". You'd be amazed at all the different ways to pronounce the letter i in that word. :)
posted by LN at 11:09 AM on September 1, 2017

I'm Irish and would pronounce that with a short i assuming it's not a name that's lost it's fadas (´). So for me, just on reading, Fih-hall (wait, is this another how do you pronounce mefite thread?!) . To be Fee-hal, it would be for me spelled Fítheál, like Mícheál above. But then billiebee says, there can be dialectal variations.
posted by Iteki at 1:40 PM on September 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by billiebee at 1:48 PM on September 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

roolya_boolya's link sounds good to me (the Dingle version). I'd go with something like "fih-hel' /fɪ-həl/ with the stress on the first syllable, a lightly pronounced h that feels like it's more to separate the syllables than anything else, and an unstressed final vowel.

For context, I learned Munster Irish but am very out of practice. Connemara and Ulster Irish can be pretty different but I think billiebee has that covered.
posted by irishalto at 2:38 PM on September 1, 2017

Just got an update from partner's daughter. When I had first asked her she said she had never heard of the name so she was guessing at the pronunciation. She came back this morning with this:

"Ok I found Fíothiol. He was a judge in the poem about the activities of Fionn Mac Cumhaill. Old Irish is pronounced slightly differently, so the "th" may have been pronounced back then, but in modern Irish it's Fee-o-chal. Fíothiol is the correct spelling, Fitheal is an Anglicised version."

She sent me a screenshot of a page of the poem where he's mentioned and here's a link to the image. (I don't have a link to the text of the poem itself but if you're interested it's called Duanaire Finn.) And here is a link to her pronouncing it.
posted by billiebee at 2:06 AM on September 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Alas, Google Books has the first half of Duanaire Finn in full-view form (it was published in 1908), but not the followup that would have section XLVII (it only goes up to XXXV)! I don't know whether it wasn't published, or (more likely) Google Books just digitized the first volume and called it a day.

At any rate, I want to quibble a bit with this:

> Old Irish is pronounced slightly differently, so the "th" may have been pronounced back then, but in modern Irish it's Fee-o-chal. Fíothiol is the correct spelling

In Old Irish, th was pronounced like modern English th (as in think); Thurneysen says "The modern pronunciation of th as simple h is well attested from the 12th century on." And that brings up the second point: it's not the "kh" sound represented by Modern Irish ch (= German ch as in Bach), it's simple h (as in English hill), which is often elided or lost between vowels.
posted by languagehat at 8:22 AM on September 5, 2017

So I can just about say the Hail Mary in Irish, and she was doing her PhD in ancient Irish poetry (written in Irish) until a Life Thing occurred, and also she speaks Ulster Irish which maybe is different, so I'm going to have to admit all I can do is pass on her message and if you'd like an email conversation with her about it memail me for her contact details. I'm actually serious about that - having been out for drinks with her when the subject has come up there's nothing she'd love more!
posted by billiebee at 8:33 AM on September 5, 2017

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