I've decided recently that, even if I don't end up learning Irish, I'd at least like to once and for all figure out the pronunciation of it. I've been encouraged to create a thread on it, so here I am doing so.
Just a warning: a lot of my 'information' is going to come from the IPA Handbook. It ought to be fairly accurate, but it's by no means a language-specific book.
So far I have several questions:
1) I've heard from another Unilanger that /a/ is [æ] when between two palatalized consonants. However, the IPA book gives several examples of [æ] between various other types of stuff:
[bɣæd̪ɣ] bád 'boat' (nom. sg.)
[bɣæd̠j] báid 'boat' (gen. sg., and in some dialects, nom. plur.)
[mɣæɾɣah] 'márach 'tomorrow'
[kæɾjah] cáireach 'dirty'
I also don't really understand how one would represent a vowel flanked by two palatalized consonants. Suppose you had a word pronounced [cæd̠j] (which for all I know does in fact mean something). Would that be written <ceaid>, <caid>, <cáid>, or some other way?
2) I originally assumed that non-palatal <ch> was pronounced [x]. The handbook gives it as being [h] in an awful lot of non-initial positions, though. Is this in fact accurate, and if so, what is the rule for when you pronounce it as [h]?
3) I was under the impression that there were palatalized consonants over here and velarized consonants over there, and that that was all there was to it. The handbook claims that there are also 'plain' consonants, i.e., ones without any secondary articulation, and I've never heard this anywhere else. I'm not just talking about things like [c] and [k] either; there are supposedly a number of three-way distinctions such as [l̠j l l̪ɣ]. Is this true? If so, when exactly do you have plain consonants? I can't at all make out a general rule.
4) What are the rules for pronouncing <gh> and <dh>? I've never come across any.
5) Is it really possible to distinguish [ɲ] and [n̠j]? They seem awfully close.
6) Why is gail [gɪl] and not, say, [gal̠j]?
7) Is there any sort of rule for pronouncing final unstressed 'e'? It seems to be either [ə], [ɪ], or [i].
8) When exactly do you reduce vowels? Which ones do it? Can you have stressed [ə]? (For that matter, what determines stress? I think it depends on dialect.)
9) What's the situation with rhotics? I've heard rumors that you get [ɹ] or something in initial position, and nothing else there. Is this so? Can you have it elsewhere?
That's all for now. Thanks in advance for your replies.