5: Introduction to St Kilda Gaelic
Written by Linden Alexander Pentecost in December 2021 and January 2022
This section includes things such as: introduction to St Kilda, the church and the 'older language', phonetics of St Kilda Gaelic, possible background and connections, example sentences. This section includes 1596 words.
This article has separate information to my omniglot article on St Kilda Gaelic dialects, a link to which is located at the bottom of this page
Note that the information I have collected on the St Kilda dialects 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, St Kilda Gaelic words below are words from this book, which I have then re-spelled according to my St Kilda Gaelic orthography. This is referenced as  in certain places.
The islands of St Kilda are now uninhabited islands, to the west of the main chain of Outer Hebridean islands, meaning that St Kilda is far out to sea, and exposed to the wildest of the Atlantic's weather. These islands rise steeply from the sea, and were, until some decades ago, the home to communities of people, with their own music, oral history and language. Precisely when or how their language became Gaelic is completely unknown to me, although the evidence I have come across of the St Kilda dialects, suggests to me that the 'older' language of these people plays a great influence in how they spoke the Gaelic language of the church.
In some regards, the St Kilda dialects of Gaelic were phonetically quite similar, or more or less identical even, to some of the other dialects of the Outer Hebrides. In certain other respects however, the dialects of St Kilda are very different from those dialects. One of the most noticeable differences seems to be that the broad velarised l is either [w] or a variant of [u] on St Kilda. Similar variations between the broad, velarised l, and [w] are also found in parts of Harris, Lochaber and in some other parts of Argyll, and to a limited extent elsewhere in Scotland. The examples here are written in a special form of spelling for St Kilda Gaelic, which I have based upon the language of speaker 16 in the Survey of the Gaelic dialects of Scotland. 
In this form of St Kilda Gaelic, we have the words eouas, suuagh, uoung, uamh, uàigir, saoghu, which, in standard Scottish Gaelic spelling, would be: eòlas, sluagh, long, làmh, làidir, saoghal - meaning, 'knowledge', 'crowd', 'ship', 'hand, 'strong', 'world'. In some, non-initial instances, the broad velarised l is represented as [ɸ] on St Kilda, similar to the English 'f', such as in the words geuɸtadh, faɸt and coinneuɸ, written in standard Scottish Gaelic spelling, as: diùltadh, falt, coinneal - standard Scottish Gaelic spelling. The above words have been re-spelled, but I learned their pronunciation from Survey of the Gaelic dialects of Scotland. 
From what I have learned, there is perhaps some similarities in how St Kilda Gaelic, Rathlin Irish, and to some degree, Cléir Island Irish, treat slender consonants, aka, the distinction does not seem to be as great as in other dialects. All these dialects are very insular, and represent islands which show clear divergence in language from that of most of the mainland, although this boundary does not necessarily coincide with the mainland. Rathlin Irish is similar in many ways to the Irish of the Glens on the mainland, but these dialects are collectively different from other dialects of East Ulster and West Ulster. Similarly, the St Kilda dialects seem to bare some phonetic similarity to Gaelic dialects in West North Harris. Although the similarities are not huge, there is a noticeable pattern, in that West Harris shows a different phonetic environment from South Harris and from Lewis. This is not the same phonetic environment as St Kilda, but St Kilda Gaelic does seem somehow, historically more linked to West North Harris, than to the other Western Isles' dialects. The Survey of the Gaelic dialects of Scotland  also shows that western dialects of North Harris Gaelic, appear to have the sound [l̪ˠw] for a broad velarised l, at least in certain places. Some parts of North Harris appear also to have the phoneme [q], a consonant common in Semitic or Indigenous languages of North America, but pretty unusual in an Indo-European language. 
St Kilda Gaelic has some examples of mutation which are a secondary process not found in other dialects, such as snȧiv for snaim . The letter ȧ is written for where [ɛ] occurs after a broad consonant in the dialect.
I am very curious about the ancient history of St Kilda, and I cannot help but wonder whether or not a previous layer of language played a large part in the arrangement of St Kilda Gaelic phonology, and in the seemingly unpredictable changes in liquid sounds, which may be connected to influence by unknown phonetic and prosodic patterns from the ancients. Frequently the slender r becomes l in the language of speaker 16, I write in my St Kilda spelling gobil, muil and clìdh, which in standard spelling would be: oibrich, muir, cridhe, 'to work', 'sea' and 'heart'. The above words have been re-spelled, but I learned their pronunciation from Survey of the Gaelic dialects of Scotland. 
Some other dialects of Scottish Gaelic do interchange slender l and r in certain word-medial places, these dialects are spoken in the north of the mainland, and they also change n to r more frequently than in other dialects, which, like the Connaught and Ulster dialects of Irish, change 'n' to 'r' after c, g and m, in the word mnathan 'women', Irish mná, Manx mraane. The Gaelic spoken on Rathlin Island, off the north coast of Ulster, also changes n to r in words such as airm for ainm - 'name'. This may indicate a pre-Gaelic feature in language, with a particular distribution in modern dialects. Perhaps in the ancient language, n and r, and l and r, were less distinguishable as phonemes, perhaps only the Gaelic dialectal pronunciations are close to these original phonemes. I feel that further evidence of a different liquid and nasal consonant system in pre-Gaelic, can be found in that the liquid sounds have so many variants in Goidelic languages. What exactly this indicates I am unsure, but here we have an example of where the phonetic system in 'Celtic' is different to that within Scottish Gaelic dialects.
Another very noticeable difference between St Kilda Gaelic and other Scottish Gaelic dialects, is that variants of [t] and the voiced [d], often become [k] and [g], for example, I write licil for litir - 'letter', and mæigi for maide - 'a stick'. The standard Gaelic word deoch for 'drink', would become geoch, and drochaid - 'bridge', would become drochaig. The above words have been re-spelled, but I learned their pronunciation from Survey of the Gaelic dialects of Scotland. 
.The slender s in St Kilda is not a 'sh' sound for some speakers, instead it is more like 'sy', [s'], [sj], this is very audible in speech.
From the recordings of St Kilda Gaelic which I have listened to on Tobar an Dualchais, a fantastic resource for Scottish history and language, I have heard that the examples of St Kilda Gaelic seem to show many features which do not normally occur together. Sometimes St Kilda Gaelic prosody reminds me a little of Argyll Gaelic, Uist Gaelic, and sometimes of Wester Ross Gaelic. Some examples of the language at Tobar an Dualchais, make visible a language that has a similar prosody to some Irish dialects. Speakers of Wester Ross Gaelic sometimes seem to have this same prosodic pattern. But what exactly these patterns mean, and which are native to St Kilda, I am completely unsure at this time.
Examples of St Kilda Gaelic sentences, created from what I have learned of the dialect from various sources
Tha uoung mor faisg air Eile-Nis
Tha long mór faisg air Inbhear-Nis
Theig sinn a dh'Uibhist a-màireach
Théid sinn a dh'Uibhist a-màireach
chunnaic sibh cuach aotaig air an tràigh -you (plural) saw a magic stone on the beach
chunnaic sibh clach bhuaidh air an tràigh
tha ceoach mór aig an croitear/*croicear? - the crofter has a big family
tha teaghlach mór aig an croitear
han-eil ìos am - I don't know
chan eil an fhios agam
The forms Eile-Nis and ceoch, standard Gaelic spelling Eile-Nis and teaghlach, re-spelled from the phonetic data in the the Survey of the Gaelic dialects of Scotland: questionnaire materials collected for the Linguistic Survey of Scotland.
clach aotaig is a St Kilda Gaelic term specifically for a venerated semi-transparent stone, reported by Mackenzie (1911: 6), the general Gaelic term for which is written to be clach bhuaidh. In St Kilda Gaelic, cuachan is a 'small stone'.
The form *croicear is given with a presumed sound change as in ceoach, but I am unsure of this word's pronunciation in St Kilda Gaelic thus far.
Thank you! Tahpadh leibh!
(Update January 2023): another article about St Kilda Gaelic with separate information is also available in my ebook, A Journey Of Languages Around The Northern Seas With Discussions On Germanic Celtic And Salishan Languages Second Edition, pages 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, this is updated information from the original form of this article posted on omniglot titled The Gaelic dialects of St Kilda and available here: https://omniglot.com/language/articles/stkildagaelic.htm