Irish: the sound of the language

Discussion in 'Other Languages' started by Ben Jamin, May 6, 2011.

  1. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    A couple of days ago I watched some twenty film clips with persons presenting themselves as native Gaelic speakers and speaking Irish Gaelic. Listening to them I had the impression that their way od speaking was very English. Most of the sounds were just like in English, the melody of the langauge (rhytm, intonation, pitch, etc) were like of one English dialect. Now i am wondering: was it because the genuine Irish Gaelic pronunciation is actually so close to English because English was under the influence of Celtic speakers in the time of forming as a new language from Anglo-Saxon, or are the self proclaimed native Irish Gelic speakers unable to reproduce the original sound of Irish because they are actually native English speakers?
    By the way, the Scottish Gaelic pronounced by Scots sounds much more like a non English language.
     
  2. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    Irish, pronounced correctly by native speakers, sounds absolutely nothing like English. It is probable that those who you heard speaking were individuals who learnt Irish as a second language (sadly, there are more of these, than actual natives, in the Ireland of today).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2011
  3. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    As Pedro says, since Irish has been adopted as a national language by native English speakers, it is spoken in a heavy Irish accent, so that you would have to go to the Gaeltacht to hear it spoken properly. Scottish Gaelic is indeed pronounced a lot less like the Scottish English accent since most people who speak it have it as a first language alongside English, or learn it from people who do. That's not to say that the Scottish and Irish accents are not influenced by Gaelic though, certainly there are clear areas where we take the Gaelic pronounciation, for example the Scottish 'r' which changes from the French/German one to the Romance rolled one depending on where it is in the sentence.
     
  4. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    I think I heard a pretty clear example of that very trend last night on the BBC's election coverage. An SNP representative from the Western Isles was interviewed and I noticed he had a very curious way of pronouncing his Rs, his accent in general sounded far more "Gaelic" than other Scots I've heard.
     
  5. Copperknickers Senior Member

    Scotland - Scots and English
    Some people say Glaswegians sound very Gaelic too, since we had such a big Gaelic invasion after the clearances.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2011
  6. pcplus Senior Member

    Spanish
    I, as a non English native speaker, listen to Irish and it seems to me like unintelligible English

    for you the native speakers could sound different, but the phonetics and rythm make the impression that although both languages doesn't have anything in common, for the foreigners the sound is English sounding.
     
  7. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hi psplus,
    'fraid I can't agree with you, since the English we speak is already very different from the received pronunciation (RP) which is considered standard English. When a native speaker "babbles" on in Gaelige it doesn't sound anything like English to my ears. Imagine for a moment that I were to speak in Spanish, I would do so with many traits of an English-speaker - this is perhaps what you are noticing when you listen to the Irish you've heard, ie non-native speakers. See post #2, for further details. I should post a couple of video links to prove the point, however permisson needs to be sought first. Trawl Google videos for native Irish speakers, to get a better idea.
     
  8. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    I have tried, but all the so called native Irish speakers sounded like native Irish English speakers: the vowel sounds, the rhythm, the melody, quite identical. Not the case with Scottish Gaelic speakers, completely different from Scottish English. There are two possible explanations: no genuine native Irish speakers have recorded their speech, or the English speakers acquired Celtic phonetic features long time ago.
     
  9. TitTornade

    TitTornade Senior Member

    Hi,
    I don't if this will help:
    Once, when I was in Brittany, France, I listened to a Breton radio. And I noticed exactly the same, the guy was speaking Breton with vowel sounds, rhythm, and melody identical to French! He also used the typical French hesitating mark "euh!".
    First I thought he was a non-native Breton speaker... but now I wonder if this is not the "normal" native accent ;)
     
  10. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    It's not. I have heard a true native Breton speaking the language and the pronunciation is nothing like French. As most speakers have French as their first language these days though, the pronunciation has understandably, if sadly, become corrupted. If you hear a proper Irish-language native speaker speaking Irish, it is very different to English, or even Irish English as spoken in the West of Ireland, unfortunately they're becoming ever more rare as the years pass by.

    I guess even in Alsace-Lorraine the native German dialects are dying out and as such, to the casual passer-by, it might seem like they have become more "Frenchified" than say 50 years ago.
     
  11. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Adelaide
    Australia English
    Without actual examples, it is very hard to say.

    English, as spoken in Ireland, has been heavily influenced by Gaelic sounds, rhythm and idioms.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 15, 2011
  12. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hello Brioche,
    I agree that the English spoken in Ireland has been heavily influenced by Gaelic sounds, & accept what others have said that (in general) the Irish spoken by those who are of English mother tongue (a majority of us) sounds less Gaelic than that spoken by native speakers. Since the advent of TG4 there is a wealth of native Irish speakers who have recorded their speech. However I've chosen a couple of audio examples from our National broadcaster :
    Compare to Guy Pearce doing the "Abdication speech" in the recent film "The King's speech, which gives an idea of the authentic sound of English. Perhaps you will begin to see what I'm on about, Irish sounds nothing like English. Sorry I'm not versed in vowels sounds, etc... to prove that point beyond any shadow of a doubt.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2011
  13. bzu Senior Member

    English
    It doesn't surprise me that a native speaker of a Slavic language would think that the rhythm and intonation of the voices in those two clips sounded something like English. I would bet that most Romance language speakers would think the same. In fact, I asked a Spanish friend to listen to those clips, and to quote him: "it sounds like some kind of weird English". It certainly does not sound Slavic or Latin, but just taking into consideration other Indo-European languages, to me the rhythm and intonation of Gaelic sounds closer to English than anything else.
     
  14. franc 91 Senior Member

    France
    English - GB
    To answer to TitTornade, I can understand what you mean - I've heard quite a difference between the Breton you hear on the radio in Rennes and the more 'authentic' dialects you would hear further west or even south - you probably don't need me to tell you that Vannetais is often quite difficult to understand for Breton speakers from Penn ar Bed. Obviously I agree with the others about the enormous differences between the sounds of Irish Gaelic and English - however (and there has already a discussion on this) the kind of English spoken in Ireland - Hiberno-English or Irish-English - is influenced by Gaelic from the point of view of the way sentences are structured. Per Jakez Helias also observed how Breton speakers used Breton ways of speaking in French and of course there's Gallo. Much the same could be said of Scotland where there is Scots Gaelic and Scots.
     
  15. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    I think that the question is not if someone is a native speaker of a particular language other than Irish or English, but to be a speaker of any language other than Irish or English. For the speakers of one of the compared languages there is a whole world of difference between them, but the outsiders hear that they have much in common. And we are speaking about intonation and articulation of certain sounds (not necessarily all) that give the impression of likeness.
    Lithuanians get angry when told that the intonation and sounds of Lithuanian has much in common with Russian, but it really does for anybody that is neither Lithuanian or Russian.
    People that have never heard Swedish and Norwegian are unable to tell the diference between the two languages if suddenly exposed to a conversation of a Swede with a Norwegian, but somebody that knows at least one of these languages will identify the speakers if they utter only one word each.
     
  16. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hi Ben Jamin,
    I still don't agree ; for me one must be a native speaker of either language to be able to objectively compare the various different sounds.
    That you (or anyone else) thinks both languages sound identical is at best subjective. Let's try to be a little more objective please, in this discussion.
    This makes Hiberno-English sound closer to Gaelic (refer to posts #11 & 14 for further details on that issue.). What it doesn't do however, it does not make proper English sound any closer to Gaelic ; not for one minute.
     
  17. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    If you read my post once again you will see that this is almost the same as I wrote about Swedish and Norwegian.
    But the outsiders have a different perspective, they perceive likeness easier than the native speakers, who in their turn are deaf to resemblances. Neither of them is objective.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 1, 2013
  18. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hello again,
    To carry out any of these 30 or so, studies in Irish phonology a knowledge of Irish was required. In what way does knowing one of the languages impair objectivity?
    What ever way one looks at it, Córas fuaimeanna na Gaeilge (literally ‘The sound pattern of Irish’) is very different from that of English, for many, many reasons. For example : English is considered a "stress-timed" (Germanic) language, which is why it sounds so different. (Just saying that literal translation immediately after the Irish, underlines for me the different sound pattern of English.)
    The use of the word "unintelligible" by pcplus, suggests an attempt to identify words, rather than sounds.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2011
  19. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    I did not mean scholars in phonology, but simply native speakers. And, yes, I would insist that "ordinary" native speakers are more tuned to hear differences between their langauge and another one, than similarities. It's like a human that sees more similarity between a zebra and a horse, than zebras and horses themselves.

    The non native speakers agree with each other: listening to the sound of the the two languages gives an impression that they have a good deal in common, so there must be something in common. Nobody says that Spanish and Chinese sound similar.

    But it is the sound people find similar, the adjective "unintelligible" only proves that they do not find the same words in both langauges.
    The "native Irish speakers" from the youtube recordings speak actually very stress timed, which is probably the major point of similarity for the listeners. (maybe their pronunciation is not quite good?). They also articulate vowels in a similar way as in English. Finally the tone pitch reminds of some English dialects.

    The Scottish Gaelic recordings are more consistently syllable timed. and vowels more "clear cut", i.e. less central (in the vowel quadrangle).
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2011
  20. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hi again,
    To my untrained ear both Spanish and Portuguese sound similar. However I am aware that there are major differences (in both sound patterns) and that my suggesting that both languages sounded identical might be insulting to both Hispanic and Portuguese-speaking people. Similarily Japanese and Chinese are completely different from one another in sound pattern, and for me to suggest otherwise might be seen as provocative.
    There are many Polish University graduates living in Ireland ; some of whom speak Irish proficiently. For example while Anna Paluch, finds Irish grammar easy, she still she found the Irish language quite difficult, as the pronunciation is extremely difficult. She is one of the many Polish speakers who have had much difficulty learning Irish (delightful they took the trouble to do so) while they have not expressed having similar difficulties with their English pronunciation. Simple hazard, or a real indication of a very different sound pattern, as experienced by non-native speakers?

    The Irish Government has published several objective papers on providing workable solutions to this very real difficulty. Source
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2011
  21. Sobakus Senior Member

    These very helpful to the dicussion links, which were deleted for some reason, don't really sound like RP English to me. They sure sound Germanic though, much more so than English itself does. But I agree that in many instances the supposedly Irish speakers do have a strong English accent.

    I'm Russian and to me Lithuanian sounds very Russian.
     
  22. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    Many say that European Spanish and Greek sound extremely similar, and yet, they are nothing alike.
     
  23. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    It is quite plausible, many might hear it so. Both languages share many common sounds (including the th, the x (Spanish J sound), the soft d and g, both are syllable timed, and boyh have many open syllables. If one is unacquainted with neither of the languages they might be undistinguishable, even if the intonation is quite different. I know Spanish fairly well and have learned the rudiments of Greek, and have listened to both languages extensively, so for me one word is enough to tell what language is being spoken.
     
  24. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Well now that we have dug this back up, I am left wondering if my"quoted" point is valid, or not? :arrow: Can non-native speakers (Polish in this case) detect a very different sound pattern between Irish Gaelic and the English, as spoken in Ireland?

    Hello Tegs,
    Unfortunately those links are no longer "live" a keyword search will be necessary to find the recordings on the RTE website. (They are a year old now, after all.)

    To be honest, I find it almost a little offensive, that someone suggest that Irish Gaelic speakers sound English.
    I find it almost offensive, probably for the same reasons that telling Lithuanians they sound Russian, or telling Bretons they sound French might be construed as being offensive to the speaker of that miniority language. While linguistic and cultural boundaries certainly do overlap, this forum is clearly only concerned with linguistic topics. Stirring is to be frowned upon.
     
  25. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    I've had a think about this, l'irlandais, bolstered by discussions with a few native speakers. It's undoubtedly true that Irish is heavily infiltrated by anglicisms (the same anglicisms the Quebeckers do such a strenuous job of eliminating). Like Québécois French speakers, the Irish tend to pronounce English words (in Irish) as they would be pronounced in English. Whilst true blue Irish speakers will retain their distinctive accent, Irish is increasingly being spoken as a sort of debased patois, translated English with Irish verbal forms grafted on if you will. The Gaelscoils are particularly adept at producing this sort of speaker (of course, they are not natives per se).

    This, I feel, is one of Irish's greatest danger going forward. I wonder if the same is true of Welsh given the great revival in that language since 1970 or thereabouts.
     
  26. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    The incriminated topic was "how non-native speakers perceive sounds in two different languages", and not the "real" similarities or differences between the languages as such, and absolutely not the relations between the nations speaking those languages.

    The fact that somebody finds such topics offensive is a sad testimony.
     
  27. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Dear Ben Jamin,
    You confused the issue in your original post by refering to " the genuine Irish Gaelic pronunciation ".
    By comparing the sound of Irish spoken by English mother-tongue speakers (over a million in Ireland alone) from the internet & English spoken by native Irish speakers (few of these 90,000 present on the WWW). Also the sample (20 clips) you gave (or rather didn't give, as it turns out) was far to restricted to be of much value.

    :thumbsdown: Twice now you have ignored the example of Anna Paluch, a non-native speaker who finds Irish pronunciation vastly different from English pronunciation. Her and a good many Polish kids living in the Emerald Isle, I dare say.
     
  28. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hello again,
    I wish to post some new links, since those I previously posted (#12) are no longer live.
    (Thanks to Cherine for giving her permission to post these links. :) )

    RTE audio clip - Irish speakers

    BBC report - English speakers

    This way forum members can make their own minds up about the sound of the Irish language, by listening to the new audio links above.

    In case the jury is still out on this issue, I would like to take a little more time to address Ben Jamin's original post a little more thoroughly.
    At the time of forming as a new language from Anglo-Saxon, English was under the influence other languages :
    We see below that before colonisation, and the subsequent decline of Celtic languages, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon populations lived seperately.

    Source : Short article on language in the Isles of the North
    So I guess that brings us to the second part of your "either/or" in the original post ie. that "the self proclaimed native Irish Gelic speakers unable to reproduce the original sound of Irish"
    Since you have not provided this tiny sample, I wish to propose instead the two links at the start of my post for comparison.
    In this debate, those with little or no knowledge of either language may well agree with you. I however feel compelled to point out that "the melody of the (Irish langauge (rhytm, intonation, pitch, etc)" is very different from that of the English language. Precisely because these two Nations were isolated from one another for such a long period of history.
    Hope this is of help.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2012
  29. whaddayat New Member

    English
    I think Irish has a lot of similarities in sound and grammar to West Country and Geordie accents, moreso than it does to say an Estuary English accent. Maybe because there is less French influence in the west and north of England and in Ireland, perhaps?

    I think the accents you hear in parts of the British Isles that are not South East England or the Midlands tend to preserve older features. For example saying something like "I loves ya me dear" is something I could imagine an Irish, Scottish or Western/Northern English person saying but I think you wouldn't hear that kind of grammar and pronunciation in London or Birmingham.
     
  30. whaddayat New Member

    English
    I believe most of England used to speak Brythonic languages prior to the Germanic cultural influence arriving during the late Roman period and afterwards so early English speech probably sounded somewhat like a Welsh accent as well.
     
  31. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    [...]
    and also that the Norman (French) influence in Ireland is well documented.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 1, 2013
  32. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    The typical Irish accent, in English, bears a substantial resemblance to Elizabethan accents and older English accents still to be found in the West Country, and elsewhere.

    The Irish accent, in Irish, is an interesting one from a variety of perspectives. For instance, Ulster Irish has a pronounced tone which has influenced the English spoken there (as much, I should think, as that of the Lowland Scots). It is substantially akin to Scottish Gaelic, whilst the Irish found in Galway is very different.

    There is no doubt that in the West of Ireland, the accent in Irish has a major impact on how the English there is spoken. Further east, in Dublin, for instance, which has been a majority English speaking city for nearly 900 years, I'd be of the view that the influence of Irish is substantially less.
     
  33. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Thank you. My previous contact with Irish was close to nil apart from a handful of songs. The only similarity I notice is between the Irish pronunciation of "r" and the pronunciation of the same letter in Irish accents of English. Other than that and the occasional recognizeable loanword like "rugby" and "c'mon", it does not remind me of English at all.
     
  34. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hello,
    Perhaps I should point out to overseas forum members that Seán Bán Breathnach (SBB in that clip) is one of the most recognisable voices of the Irish language on radio/TV in my home-country.
     
  35. trewq New Member

    English
    I agree with you on this. I was reading the "Breton vs other Celtic languages" thread where one poster insists that Breton doesn't sound like French, yet the Breton speakers who appeared in the video links he posted all sounded French to me. I knew I wasn't listening to a Romance language, but even so, the "colour" of the language seemed French-like to my ears. Basque people from the French part of the Basque country also sound French when they speak Basque. So it really doesn't surprise me at all that Irish Gaelic could sound English-like to someone from Poland. Even some English accents (West Country, for example) sound a bit Irish.
     
  36. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    It is reassuring that some people think like you. I would like to add also that I have a broad experience with languages, I began learning foreign languages in my childhood, and became more or less familiar with the sound of several dozens of languages, to which* I listened carefully. British English (virtually all dialects I’ve heard) has a special underlaying “sound”, probably due to the special quality of British vowels (but also due to intonation). I was greatly surprised to hear the same “sound” in the Irish Gaelic, but not in the Scottish Gaelic.

    * Sorry for the "old schoolmaster English"
     
  37. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    I think the point is not that one should criticize those who perceive a similarity in Breton and French sounds, or Irish and English sounds, but more so that true native speakers of these languages do not sound English or French whatever.

    I have listened to Alsatian and heard a strong French undercurrent to many people's speech; then I came across a true native Alsatian who barely spoke French at all, and heard what true Alsatian speech is.

    Learners outnumber natives in regard to Irish by something like 7 to 1, and learners grasp of pronunciation is evidently heavily influenced by their native language.
     
  38. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Would you describe the Irish used by the reporters in L'irlandais' link as "true Irish"?
     
  39. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hi Outsider,
    Since I can't very well confirm my own assertion, here's another well-known Irish-Radio celebrity for you to compare yourself.
    I find his manner of speaking English is affected by his native Irish background.
     
  40. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    Most certainly.
     
  41. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    The "radio people" sound to me absolutely least English of all recordings of Irish I ever heard, but the football coach sounds more English than they do. Surprisingly I had an impression after the first 20 seconds, that the language was Dutch, but without the Gs and CHs of Dutch. Continued listening gave me a better opportunity to hear the difference. Anyway, Irish is a strongly stress timed langauge, which is a feature common with English. It would be interesting if I could listen to similar recordings of Scottish Gaelic.
     
  42. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    Same here.
     
  43. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Thank you. Although my contact with Irish has been limited, I have had some exposure to Hiberno-English. I don't doubt that Irish accents have some features traceable to the Irish language. Pedro has said that the recordings you linked to are examples of genuine native Irish. According to Ben the coach sounds a bit English.(*) For myself, I don't notice any obvious similarity with the sound of English in the speech of either of the three people speaking. Undoubtedly this is because I'm not sufficiently familiar with Irish or Hiberno-English. But my point is that the first impression Irish makes on a layman like me isn't necessarily reminiscent of English, or even Hiberno-English.

    I never made a connection with Dutch. Although the presence of the velars [x] and [ɣ] may lead to that impression, I noticed that the dark L of Dutch was absent.

    (*) On second hearing, it's interesting that the way the coach pronounces the "r" does stand out as a bit different and "English" to me...
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2013
  44. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    Here is an excerpt of Scottish Gaelic (skip in 52 seconds from the start for the audio to commence).
     
  45. Cerinwen Junior Member

    Welsh, English - British
    To be fair L'Irlandais, just because it's offensive to some, doesn't mean it's not true. If someone mentions it, it doesn't mean that they're deliberately stirring. Saying this might stifle discussion, in my opinion.


    Yes, Pedro, it is true of Welsh to a certain extent. Particularly regarding the accent in the south East, where English influence has been at its strongest. To me, when they're speaking Welsh, everyone who lives in a 40 mile radius of Cardiff sounds like they're speaking Welsh with an English accent. It's an odd phenomenon, because when they speak English they certainly don't sound English.


    I can clearly hear it in their vowels. To me it's almost as plain as if someone were speaking English with a mild French accent. I can tell within a few minutes if someone has learnt the language as school, and if one, both, or neither parents speak Welsh.


    Before anyone jumps on me, this isn't just me not recognising the south Welsh accent, which I'm now well acquainted with and recognise there are differences within this dialect. There are justified reasons why I can hear this accent when they speak. For example, Welsh vowels are supposed to be sharp, clear and defined. You can hear similar vowels in Italian or Spanish. However, the vowels of the people from the south East, or those who've learnt Welsh, are loose and undefined (difficult to explain), and that's a feature that's very common in English people who've learnt Welsh. They also pronounce 'd' in a sharp way, almost like it's a flatter 't' sound, and this also isn't a feature of the Welsh language.


    All of this has a lot to do with the fact that language has been revived to a certain extent there, so their parents might not be native speakers, and a lot of them will have learnt Welsh at school, from teachers who are not native speakers themselves.

    Also, to my ears a lot of people from the north West, from about Llandudno onwards, speak with a tinge of norther English accent, or Scouser accent. Sometimes this can be very stong in their accents. Unfortunatelty, people from the south are now under the impression that we all speak like that! Lol!
     
  46. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hello Cerinwen,
    I see what you mean, but far from trying to stifle the discussion, I'd like to steer it away from unsubstantiated personal opinion on to cold hard facts. (See #24 & #28 for details.)
    I'm still waiting for a reply on my earlier example of Anna Paluch, a non-native speaker (from Poland like Ben Jamin as it happens) who finds Irish pronunciation vastly different from English pronunciation. (Perhaps I need to start a new thread for a genuine discussion about the sound of the Irish language.) For example ; "aspiration" changes the pronunciation of the consonants in Irish, central to any serious discussion about the sound of Irish. Double consonants and double vowels are also difficult sounds to reproduce for non-native speakers.

    When I holidayed in North Wales I found the accent very different from those I'd heard on the BBC.
     
  47. Cerinwen Junior Member

    Welsh, English - British
    Ok, I'll listen to these clips myself, although I don't think I can give a valuable insight/comment as I'm not familiar wih the language. I wouldn't expect Irish pronunciation to be like English. Irish Gaelic is quite a thick, soft language to my ears, like velvet, so it's possible that people are making a comparison of that softness with certain English accents. It is possible that they listen to the Irish 'r', and decide that it more similar to the English 'r' than it is so the rolled 'r' in Scottish Gaelic or Welsh (and I can see why they would think this, even thought I know the Irish 'r' is far thicker than the English one). To me, if I had to compare it to another language, I would chose Persian combined with a Scandinavian sound (when the male sport presenter is speaking). Persian isn't as soft, but I can hear similarities in some parts.

    < YouTube Links and the comments thereabout are deleted >

    The elderly ladies don't have an English intonation, that's for sure. In fact, in some parts, they sound like they have a north Welsh intonation...........just a tiny bit, although we lengthen are put more stress on certain parts of the sentences. It's very interesting, considering that some people think that the people from the Llyn Peninsula in Wales are descended from an Irish tribe who sailed across the ocean to settle there. It could be why I see my looks and the facial features & colouring of people from that area reflected in a lot of Irish people I've seen.


    I think a lot of languages overlap to a certain extent, out of coincidence if nothing else. We're all human beings with similar mouths so I think it's natural that the same sounds crop up again and again. I can totally see why people would think that Welsh sounds a bit like Swedish or Norwegian (even I think this), mixed with a bit of Hebrew, even though they're really different.

    People like to create patterns and find similarities, because it allows them to identify the subject and compare it with something they are already familiar with. If you heard only Spanish and English all your life, but then one day you heard Swedish, that person might say 'well that's similar to Spanish', not because it is really, but because that is all they know, so they're making comparisons with some thing they already know.

    For me both native speakers, and non-native speakers from other countries have valid viewpoints, but I would say the native speaker standpoint is a bit more informed. For example, I would say I have good eye for colour, as I paint, and I notice that a lot of people either identify something as blue or green. They like to push colours into neat little boxes that are familiar to them. When I look at the same colour, I would say it's neither blue or green, but something in the middle. I wouldn't like to call it blue or green because that would be inaccurate. For me, it's like saying that an orange dress is red, or it's yellow, when it's not - it's orange!

    I think English would have been influence by celtic sounds. You can see the movement of the celts in place names - fro example Cumbria in England comes from the same word as 'Cymru' - the welsh word for 'Wales', which means 'the land of comrades' 'friends/companions' in Brythoneg. As they were pushed more and more westwards, it's not surpsing that they would have left a trail of their accents behind them.


    *************************

    Where did you go L'Irlandais? If you went to the north west (Gwynedd, or maybe Ynys Mon), then yes, the accents you heard there would have been very different from what a lot of people hear on TV, or the BBC. That's because the media and news industry is based down here in Cardiff, so you're more likely to hear the typical valleys or Cardiff/Barry accents than you are any other. I think most English people I've met think we all sound like we're from the valleys for example. A sad thing for me :/

    To put it bluntly, we from the north don't get out much, and there aren't as many of us! That's why you don't hear out accents as often on T.V!

    People have asked me before if I'm Polish, or they think I'm Scottish. Someone asked a previous colleague of mine if she was Russian (she has a very strong accent)..... so that's how unrecognised our accent is!! Lol.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 12, 2013
  48. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    An opinion of one randomly selected person about anything doesn’t matter much. It matters even less if you wish to investigate something so subjective as people’s perception of similarity of two languages. Expecting uniform answers from people that are similar only in one respect – their mother tongue, is pretty optimistic. You could as well ask randomly selected people with English as their mother tongue if they like Hip hop music or Sushi.
    But back to your question about the opinion of similarity of languages: There are hundreds of factors that will influence the respondents vote. I will only mention a few: age, sex, general education, linguistic education, number of languages one is familiar with, quality of hearing, choice of the language samples the respondents were given to listen, and the most important: the subjective way of reacting to a language. The last factor may be the decisive one for the judgment of a particular person. So, if you really wish to make any serious investigation of the phenomenon of “how people judge similarity of the sound of two languages” you should have a statistically relevant sample (probably many hundred people), identify the individual properties of the respondents and group them according to those criteria, let them listen to many different language samples, and finally ask them in what way they find the languages similar or dissimilar. You should also let the respondents listen to a third language and compare the reaction to different pairs of languages.
    If you simply ask a person “do you find those two languages similar or dissimilar?” you will always have to deal with two kind of people, those that look for similarities and those that look for differences. One person may claim that a horse and a donkey are completely different, and another may see a large similarity between a horse and an elephant.
    Finally, I’d like to make my opinion about Irish Gaelic and English more precise: listening to the earlier samples of IG I found the following similarities between them and the English language in general (not any particular kind of English):
    - stress timing
    - presence of central (blurred) vowels (as opposed to peripheral vowels, or “clear” vowels of such languages like Italian or Finnish)
    - a certain intonation pattern that is not found in other languages.
    The last feature was probably due to the fact the so called “native Irish speakers” were actually under a strong influence of English. This was corroborated after listening to the “genuine” native Irish speakers from the clip supplied by you. I found very little similarity to English in those samples. They sounded more similar to Dutch for me, especially in the sentence prosody.
     
  49. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    I suspect we agreed all along, it just took time (for me anyway) to realise that we actually did agree. I feel too that it depends on what one is listening to, Irish native speakers or one of the very many would-be-ers posting Irish-clips on-line.
     

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