Thursday, January 10, 2013

How to pronounce Meharg?

Words over the time loose the characteristics of the source language. That's how natural languages evolve and have evolved. So, forget about the original Irish pronunciation. Just look it from English sound system, and its history.

Whenever you see < h > between vowel graphemes, English treats it in two different ways: it deletes /h/ when the vowel following /h/ is not stressed; /h/ is pronounced when the vowel following it is stressed. Compare VE-(h)i-cle vs ve-HIC-ular, GRA-(h)am. 

The other aspect of < h > in Germanic languages is length: in German, whenever you see a < h > followed by a vowel, you treat that vowel as lengthened. In English, phonemic length disappeared; thanks to the great vowel shift, those lengthened vowels became diphthongs in some cases. For instance, look at how VE-(h)i-cle and a-NNI- (h)i-late are pronounced, how old English long vowels were transformed in these two words.

In the case of Meharg, same thing happened: the second syllable is stressed, thats why /h/ is pronounced; as a consequence, the first syllable is not stressed, thats why the first vowel < e > is omitted.

The other issue is how < g > should be pronounced. English has a tendency of fake foreignisms. That's why when they see < a > in foreign words, they use a vowel heard in words like "LOT, COT"; in native words, when they see close syllables with < a > , they use a vowel heard in words like TRAP. They also shift the stress to keep the fake foreignism: ber-'LIN, se-'VILLE. They don't use the same stress pattern in native words. Same thing with < g >: they just use a foreignism with that french /zh/ for  sound. In fact, English /zh/ came from French, anyway.

So, stop worrying about how Meharg was pronounced in Irish. Just pronounce the way you do when you encounter a foreign word.


No comments: