3: The Lismore Gaelic dialects
Photo and article by Linden Alexander Pentecost, written December 2021
This article includes, in brieft, photo of Loch Linne and mainland in winter sun, close to Lismore, introduction to the island of Lismore, to the Gaelic and its phonology, example sentences with Lismore Gaelic and standard spelling Gaelic, other resources. Section contains 956 words.
Note that the information I have collected on the Lismore Dialect has been greatly helped by the Survey of the Gaelic dialects of Scotland: questionnaire materials collected for the Linguistic Survey of Scotland - edited by Cathair Ó Dochartaigh. Most of the unique, Lismore Gaelic words below are words from this book, which I have then re-spelled according to my Lismore Gaelic orthography.
Photo below: Loch Linnhe and the mainland, close to Lismore
Note that a lot of the information in this article is checked according to the Survey of the Gaelic dialects of Scotland.
Written in awe of all that is sacred, natural and holy on the island of Lismore, to the people, to the ancestors, to the land itself, the spirits of nature and of the air, and to God.
The Lismore dialects of Scottish Gaelic, belong to the geographical Argyll Gaelic 'sprachbund' or 'dialect area', Lismore itself, like all the islands, had internal variations from place to place. Lismore is a small, but long island, in the center of Outer Loch Linnhe, a large sea-loch, and technically a fjord, in Western Scotland. This makes Lismore north of islands like Arran, Islay and Jura, but south of Skye and the Outer Hebrides.
The Lismore Gaelic dialect shares a lot in common, including general Argyll dialect features, with other dialects on neighbouring islands and on the nearby mainland. The island of Lismore is unusual for being made up partially of limestone, the island has no mountains. From the relative flatness of Lismore, one can see the high mountains on the mainland on both sides of Loch Linnhe, offering beautiful views, with the contrasting closeness of Lismore to the sea level, compared with the stark mountains to the north and south, those to the north, often being capped with snow during the coldest parts of winter.
Lismore Gaelic is an endangered dialect, with its own features which are unique to the island. When I write about Lismore Gaelic, I write some of these spelling differences. This includes writing v commonly for the broad velarised l, some examples of which can be seen below, followed by their standard spelling equivalents . The survey of dialects shows that this sound does not occur always however, it does not always occur after vowels in a word, e.g. coinneal - 'candle'; another variation is that, sometimes the sound [v], is instead given as [ʊ]. Examples of velarised l, include gvan, glan - 'clean', vuar, làr - 'floor', cvadach, cladach - 'shore', ván, làn - 'full', svàinte, slàinte - 'cheers', uatha, latha - 'day', væimh, làmh - 'hand', and uȧmhȧn/*vȧmhȧn, làmhan - 'hands'. Another difference in Lismore Gaelic is a tendency to shorten vowels in certain positions, for example: righ, næbaidh, mor, mæir for rìgh, nàbaidh, mòr, màthair. The letter u in certain words, may also be written v in this spelling, because I believe that at least to some extent, the two sounds are interchangeable, or related to differences within Lismore. The above words have been written according to pronunciation in Survey of the Gaelic dialects of Scotland: questionnaire materials collected for the Linguistic Survey of Scotland - edited by Cathair Ó Dochartaigh.
The glottal stop is quite common in Lismore Gaelic, making the dialect sound somewhat like some of those in Mull, Ardnamurchan and Lochaber. In Lismore Gaelic I may write this in order to help learners to grasp the prosody, as, like with Estuary dialects of English for instance, the glottal stop is very important in relation to word-connectivity, stress and general prosody. Whilst the Lismore dialect has a stød-like variation between louder and quiter syllables, the glottal stop, from what I heard in Lismore Gaelic, is not as important a phoneme as it is on parts of Mull for instance.
chan eæil a' bheinn àrd, tha i ìosav - the mountain is not high, it is low
chan eil a' bheinn àrd, tha i ìosal
tha an vàr/uàr agam 'dov dhachaidh - my mare is going home
tha an làir agam a' dol dhachaidh
tha Cnoc Aingil faisg air a' bhaile - Angel Hill is close to the settlement
tha cnoc aingil faisg air a' bhaile
tha vaogh a' damhsadh air a' chvadach - a calf is dancing on the shore
tha laogh a' damhsadh air a' chladach
vaogh, ìosav, dov and vaogh are re-spelled according to the phonetics represented in Survey of the Gaelic dialects of Scotland: questionnaire materials collected for the Linguistic Survey of Scotland - edited by Cathair Ó Dochartaigh.
Other resources on Lismore Gaelic, written by the author:
.Blas Ghàidhlig Lios Mhóir - by Linden Alexander Pentecost, available on archive.org and published in the book:
An introduction to language – with particular focus on the Celtic languages and upon Scottish Gaelic dialects - by Linden Alexander Pentecost.
(Update 2023): an easily findable form of Blas Ghàidhlig Lios Mhóir is included on pages 89 and 90 of my free ebook: Languages and dialects of Northwestern Europe, and their heritage. This ebook also includes some basic information about the 'w'- dialect of Lismore Gaelic on page 21 of Languages and dialects of Northwestern Europe, and their heritage more notes about Lismore Gaelic on page 95, in the article Scottish Gaelic dialects and ancient languages in Scotland – Dualchainnteanna Gàidhlig agus cànanan àrsaidh ann an Alba, included in Languages and dialects of Northwestern Europe, and their heritage.