Lingule is a game I've been playing to identify a language based on a sample word. This morning the word was "leadránach", which I correctly recognized as an Irish word. However they give the phonemic transcription /lʲædrɑ:nax/ which doesn't seem all that Irish. As I learned it, /d/, /r/ and /n/ are not phonemic and based on the spelling they should be /d̪ˠ/, /ɾˠ/ and /n̪ˠ/ respectively. I would pronounce it /lʲəd̪ˠɾˠa:n̪ˠəx/.

Now I've gotten over my initial sourness that this transcription tricked me into guessing Manx instead of Irish, and I'm really just curious about this transcription. Why does it look like that? Lingule seems to keep the source for this data secret, (perhaps to prevent cheating?).

Instead I've had a look at the phonologies for the major dialects of Irish on Wikipedia as a start, if something looks close I would start drilling into specific sources. However none is very close at all, none of them have a phonemic plain /d/ or /r/ and each seems to have additional disqualifying features:

  • In Ulster Irish the terminal /x/ would become /h/ or null.
  • Munster and Connacht Irish don't have phonemic plain /n/.

However these are just one analysis and Irish obviously has complexities not captured in a cursory scan of Wikipedia. It's possible to analyse things differently. User Tristan has pointed out that when analysing certain dialects it can be reasonable to leave broad consonants unmarked in phonemic transcriptions. That would still leave a couple of questions:

  • The vowels are still incongruous with familiar analyses of the three major dialects.
  • /r/ instead of /ɾ/ is not an analysis I've seen of Irish.

In short is /lʲædrɑ:nax/ a correct phonemic transcription of "leadránach"? Is it maybe some phonetic transcription mislabeled as a phonemic transcription? What logic might underly it? Ideally a positive answer would provide a citation of an author whose analysis of an Irish dialect which congruent with this transcription. A negative answer would

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    @Tristan "Broad" and "phonemic" are not synonymous neither are "narrow" and "phonetic". This is a common misconception. Broad and narrow transcriptions can occur either phonemically or phonetically and depend on the context invoked. If the velar nature of the phoneme can be dropped as you claim then I would like to see a citation. May 12 at 11:11
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    you wouldn't expect either a broad or phonemic transcription of English to mark aspiration for instance, why should an Irish one mark details that are exactly as predictable to anyone who knows the language as that? The real question is why this site is using such a broad transcription rather than a narrower one when, given the purpose of the game, you are denied the information to correctly interpret a broad or phonemic transcription
    – Tristan
    May 12 at 11:59
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    slashes absolutely are used for broad phonetic transcriptions, regardless of if such use is endorsed. I agree that I have pretty much only seen Irish transcribed with dental and velarisation marks, and you're probably right as to the reason. I'm just saying that their absence (when describing dialects without three-way distinctions) is not inherently any weirder than the absence of aspiration in English. I should also add that I'm only talking about the transcription of the consonants. The vowels are surprising to me
    – Tristan
    May 12 at 12:34
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    I agree that it would be within reason to omit either velar or palatal marks systematically, however I'm interested in a citation of an author actually doing this, and this is definitely not the only eyebrow raising aspect of the transcription, the /r/ is odd and the vowels are not congruent with any analysis I have seen. May 12 at 12:53
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    Ulster Irish can be ruled out immediately for the given transliteration, since the vowels are all wrong. Setting aside for a moment the question of velarity, an Ulster pronunciation would be along the lines of /l̠ʲadˠɾˠanaxˠ/, corresponding phonetically to roughly [ˈl̠ʲadˠɾˠɐnɐ]. Note that I do not use the dental markers for /dˠ ɾˠ nˠ/, since they are lenis and generally not actually dental. Conversely, /l̠ʲ/ is fortis and therefore marked as alveolo-palatal. Not all dialects distinguish fortis and lenis everywhere, but most Ulster dialects do, at least for d, n and l. May 12 at 14:47


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