20 July 2008


One of the things I did with my spare time (yes, I'm compulsive) is to transcribe a series of books called Simple Lessons in Irish by Rev. Eugene O'Growney, which were published in 1904. These pamphlets use an archaic font for the Irish, that I attempted to reproduce with modern fonts so the online versions are as similar to the books as possible.

In these older fonts, you'll often see consonants with dots over them. This is used to show pronunciation changes in the word (a change that denotes aspiration, called lenition). In modern script, this is shown by adding an H (remember the conversation about that fact that 'h' is not a letter?) after the consonant instead of the dot-notation.

While it's easy to swap over your keyboard so that you can easily produce the fada over long vowels, the "old" forms for the consonants are a bit harder, since they are not usually a part of the normal character set for a font.

However, if you want to write in an Irish script with the "fancy" S and R and use the dots over the letters, it is possible, but a bit more cpmplicated. As far as I know, there is no easy way of writing them using a standard keyboard, even if it's mapped to Irish Gaelic. You have to use the alt-key combinations that are supported in Word (and some other applications). I'm on WinXP and using MS Word, so that is what follows. I have no idea how to get this all to work on Linux or Mac, for example. (If you have any hints, drop me a note).

The alt-key combinations are a bit different for the consonants, but these work for Bunchlo Arsa, the Gaelic font I have been using:


In this case, you simply type the 4-character code, then press alt-x to print the letters. What I've done in documents is write the version with the h and then write quick macro to replace the letters one by one -- tedious, but unless someone know how to edit keyboard files to produce these 'combination" letters, that's what I'm stuck with.

Not that I suggest you write much in these old forms, mind you. It might look nice, but the majority of people will not be familiar with them, and will be looking for the standard spellings.

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