(This article is from ‘Iextis Galation‘, which was developed and compiled by Iuomâros Cunouellani.)
By using a wide range of evidence, scholars have been able to gain a fairly complete idea of how Gaulish was spoken. However, as Gaulish is no longer used as a vehicle of oral communication, we do not need to devote as much attention to its pronunciation as we would with a modern language. Some more nuanced features are of interest only for historical linguistics and can be ignored for present purposes.
Historical, Gaulish has been written in several different alphabets, including Greek, Lepontic and Latin. The Latin alphabet, which is the basis for our own, has the largest number of Gaulish inscriptions and is the alphabet used in this grammar. Gaulish uses the following letters:
A B C D Ð E G I L M N O P R S T V X
Like Latin, Gaulish today is written in both upper- and lower-case, although this distinction was not made in ancient times. The letters F, H, K, Q, Y, Z, used for writing Latin, are not used in standard Gaulish orthography, but appear in variations on the normal spelling, such as QVTIOS instead of CVTIOS, and in Latin loanwords and personal names. I and V were each given two values, one as a consonant, the other as a vowel. The letter U developed later as the vocalic variant of V, and is used in this grammar for both values, although many use [w] or [v] to distinguish it from the vowel [u]. [i] is used here for both values of I, although there are a few authors who prefer j or y for the consonantal value. Notice the additional letter Ð, representing the dental affricate /t͡s/.
Of the Gaulish consonants, b, d, l, m, n, p and t should be pronounced the same way as they are when occurring by themselves in English (dad, lad, mad, etc.; on p, t, c see below). The pronunciation of the other consonants is as follows:
ð : always like ts in “hits” (never as d in “dad” or th in “these”)
c (= k): always as in “come”, “call” (never as in “city”, “civil”).
g : always as in “game”, “go” (never as in gesture, ginger).
i (consonantal; = j, y) : always as in “yes”, “yellow” (never as j in “jam”).
r : always rolled as Spanish “perro”, or tapped as in Spanish “pero” or “tt” in American English “butter”.
s : always as in “sun”, “sing” (never /z/ as in “was”, “is”). The consonant cluster sr was likely pronounced as “thr” in English “three” (but with a trilled r).
u (consonantal; = v, w) : always as w in “wish”, “want” (never as normal English v).
x : pronounced as ch in Scottish “loch” or German “Bach” (never as normal English x). This sound appears only before t and s. The combination xs is often written simple as x, e.g. rîx = rîxs.
Ideally, repeated consonants should, as in prennos (pren-nos), aballon (abal-lon) should both be pronounced, but this can be difficult for English speakers as it only occurs in compound words like “bookkeeper”.
Note on voiceless stops: The sounds /p/, /t/, and /k/ are pronounced with extra aspiration in English, but not in Gaulish. Pronounce these sounds as in Romance languages like French or Italian, or else as in English when following /s/, e.g. “spy”, “sty”, “sky”.
As we shall see, Gaulish words have a stress accent as in English. In many modern European languages, including English, a stressed vowel tends to be lengthened and an unstressed one shortened, e.g. extínction, accentuátion, ingenúity. In Gaulish, however, each vowel, irrespective of where the accent fell, received a lengthened or shortened pronunciation, and vowels are classified accordingly as either long or short.
In dictionaries and work references, long vowels are indicated by a circumflex (e.g. â, ô) or else a macron (e.g. ā, ō). This work opts for the former. Short vowels are left unmarked.
â : as in “father” or French “pâte”, German “sah”
a : (short) a shortened version of â, like u in “but” or, better, French “rate”, German “alles”
ê : as a in “Mary” or better, as in French “été”, German “gehen”
e : (short) as in “net”, French “mettre”, German “Ende”
î : as ee in “keep” or French “si”, German “liebe”
i : (short) as in pit or better, French “habite”, German “ist”
ô : as in “note” or better, as French “saut” German “oder”
o : (short) as in RP “not”, or better as french “sort”, German “kommen”
û : oo as in food, or French “bouse”, German “Kuh”
u : (short) as in “put”, or better, French “bourse”, German “und”
A diphthong is a combination of two vowels (as oi in “noise”), and in Gaulish the more common are:
ai : as in “light”
au :as in “how”
ei : as in “weight” (becomes ê in later stages of the language)
eu : as in say oops without the y-glide; Spanish “neutro” (becomes ou in later stages of the language)
oi : as in “toy”
ou : as in “know”
ui : pronounced as u followed by i. Occurs in very few names and words, such as Arduinna
Prosody and Stress:
If the final vowel of a word is short, stress falls most often on the antepenultimate (third to last) syllable. E.g.: cáuaros
If the final vowel of a word is long, stress falls on the penultimate (second to last) syllable. E.g: abónâ
Stress falls on the first syllable of disyllabic words: e.g., dágos.
Stress always falls on the second element of compound words, falling usual words, regardless of the actual number of syllables: e.g. dagouíros, catuuéllaunos, nantuabónâ.