24 July 2008

Dia Duit/Dhuit

Well, now that I mentioned it in the previous post, just a few comments on the greeting 'Dia Duit'

This is posited as a standard greeting, although at least one of my courses (Irish on Your Own) notes that it is considered formal, and most people just use 'hello', like in English. Dia Dhuit means, roughly, 'God to you'. This seems analogous to opening a conversation with "Greetings!"; it seems too formal for normal conversation. However, I have seen a number of posts by native speakers that any learner attempting to speak in one of the Gaeltachts should always start off with this. While you can launch into a conversaion with "How are you?" in its many forms, that might be a bit too abrupt.

Just to be polite and proper -- say 'Hello, pleased to meet you" vs "Hi, how are ya?" when meeting new people. You can always relax the formality a bit, but if you start off too far down that ladder, you do risk offending someone.

Duit is the prepositional pronoun that combines 'do' (to, for) with 'tú' (you) -- do + tú = duit. There are a bunch of these combination forms - I'm sure I'll have some comments on those soon enough!. Most texts show 'Dia Dhuit'; It has to do with making the combination easier to pronounce, I think, and is a dialect difference. Most texts use 'dhuit', while duit is technically proper.

The greeings in question are are:
dia duit/dhuit - God to you
dia daoibh --> God to you all
dia 's Mhuire dhuit --> God and Mary to you (response)
In any case, it's the pronunciation of this that sends people into a tizzy. It's often transcribed (badly) on websites as 'djee-a gwitch' or 'dee-ah gwit'. Sometimes it's 'dee-uh-git', or 'dee-uh-gut', or 'djee-uh-dit'.

And therein begins the kerfuffle. There is no such sound as 'gw' in Irish. There is simply no way to make 'dhuit' suddenly start with gw -- although I have to admit to having a hard time hearing the difference in many cases, so the online examples are not too helpful.
Travlang's Version
Transparent Language
All three dialect's versions
Of course, the pronunciation from Foclóir Scoile has duit [dit'] - roughly 'ditsch'. This is the pronunciation that I first heard from Irish on Your Own -- jee-a ditch. Pimlseur and Rosetta and TYI all have the 'gwitch'-type pronunciation - definitely a difference between Ulster and Munster/Connacht pronunciations. A discussion of regional differences cam be found here.

The sound that is transcribed in pseudo-phonetic English as 'gwitch' on all those websites is really more of a gutteral gh/dh sound, at least to my ear. Rather like I try to say 'gwitch' but don't move my lips for the w sound. It's all in the throat, and has a harsher, half-swallowed, aspirated 'ch' sound. Ghu-it, almost. Yes, I know I should try to represent this as IPA symbols, but since I can't accurately describe the sound I'm hearing, it would be a wee bit difficult! Some speakers have compared the sound to those in German (ch) or Russian (x).

The general consensus is that 'gwitch' is wrong, but there is less agreement on how duit/dhuit is actually pronounced correctly. I get a pass from Rosetta Stone and its voice recognition, but I slip so easily into the Ulster 'djee-a dit' that I'm sure I'm mangling it either way. I'll keep setting the sensitivity up and see what happens!

I take some solace, though, in the fact that in normal speech 'dia dhuit/dia 's Muire dhuit' are said so quickly and slurred together so much, that any attempt is going to be understood -- as would be any "hihowareyuh' in English. At least, that's my hope.


bi0dr0ne said...

Thanks for the discussion. I am a beginner and got very frustrated with the english phoenetic spellings.

I hear Duit pronounced as "ditch" from the Radio Lingua Network podcast. Knowing there are regional dialects is somewhat comforting.

TheSpartacat said...

Hi.. as a native Irish person, taught a combination of Ulster and Connaught Irish growing up (lived halfway between the two places- it depended where your teacher was from at any given time...) I have never ever heard "duit" being pronounced quite as hard as "ditch" (presuming you mean 'ditch' as it would be pronounced in English)- I've only heard it being pronounced as though its a hard 'th', like in "the" or "those"... more of a "thitch" (hard th remember, not a soft one like in "thistle"... the tip of your tongue touches the back of your teeth, rather than the front of the roof of your mouth)

As for putting a h to make it dhuit- this is just for ease to say it, i believe... and its pronounced both Ghwitch and Ghitch, depending on your dialect. (If you have problems imagining a GH sound, its a lot like the sound Homer Simpson makes when he sees a beer)

Hope this was helpful and i didnt just confuse ye more? :-)

TheSpartacat said...

Oh, and I should say that Dia duit/dhuit, IS in common usage, and it's not as formal as it sounds. Don't forget, the irish language often uses two or three words instead of one, and is quite descriptive and colourful. For example, Uisce Beatha (whiskey, pron Ish-ka Ba-ha) translates directly as Water of Life... but we're not thinking "water of life" everytime we order a whiskey. Similarly, we're not saying "God be with you" every time we say hello.

Complicated, i know, but its a language with a poetic license! :-)