Твердый с твердым и мягкий с мягким — swapping the orthographies for Gaelic and Russian



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Originally uploaded by IrenicRhonda

Scottish Gaelic has a lot in common with Russian on a phonological level: Most consonants have two variants: a plain (or perhaps somewhat velarised) one and a palatalised one.

However, their orthographies handle this situation in different ways: In Gaelic, any consonant is palatalised (“slender”) if it is next to ‘e’ or ‘i’, and it’s plain (“broad”) otherwise (in Gaelic, this is expressed as “caol ri caol is leathann ri leathann”, which means “broad with broad and slender with slender”). In Russian, a consonant is palatalised (“soft”) if followed by ‘?’ (‘ye’), ‘?’ (‘i’), ‘?’ (‘ya’), ‘?’ (‘yu’), or ‘?’ (the “soft sign”).

This means that if we look at a word with consists of a slender/soft consonant, a back vowel and another slender/soft consonant, Gaelic will insert extra front vowels (e.g., ciùil /k?u?l?/ “of music”), while Russian will use one of the vowels listed above and a soft sign at the end (e.g., ???? /p?at?/ “five”).

Now, there’s nothing preventing Gaelic from using the Russian system, or Russian from using the Gaelic one (“??????? ? ??????? ? ?????? ? ??????”). That is, the Gaelic word above could in theory be written as ????, and the Russian one as piait.

I’m not sure there are many Gaelic speakers who would like to switch to Cyrillic, but in theory this Gaelic-style orthography for Russian could replace the current transliteration schemes — piait arguably looks neater that pjat’, which is how it’s normally handled at the moment.

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