Cuirpthean language

Cuirpthean language
Native to Cuirpthe
Native speakers
ca. 34,245,000 (2018)
Fiorentine alphabet
Official status
Official language in
Regulated byComann na Guilleig (Cuirpthean Language Society)
Language codes
ISO 639-1cu
ISO 639-2cui
ISO 639-3cui

Cuirpthean (guilleag pronounced: [ˈgɯ̯͡iːʎəg]) is a Thiaric language spoken in the Republic of Cuirpthe by over thirty four million people, with first-language communities across the border in Newrey and Ainhar. It is a Peripheral Thiaric language, deriving from Old Maíreidh but splitting off before the Middle Maíreidh period, and thus forming a distinct sub-branch from languages such as Modern Maíreidh which derive from Middle Maíreidh. A much greater degree of contact with speakers of Newreyan and the Fiorentine languages, particularly speakers of Lilledic and Midrasian, have led to Cuirpthean's significant divergence in comparison to the other Peripheral Thiaric languages of tir Lhaeraidd and the Mardin Isles.

Cuirpthe has been inhabited since prehistory, and Fiorentine records show that by the classical period the region of Cuirpthe was inhabited by a people similar to the Lhaeraidd, whom the Fiorentines called Mari, probably from the local root már meaning "great". Direct rule by the Fiorentines over Cuirpthe lasted until 453CE and had significant effect on the local language. Contact with Fiorentine peoples did not end, and there is strong evidence of contact with the people who would become the Lilledics. Around this time Cuirpthean began to diverge from Old Maíreidh, and by the end of the first millennium CE had a distinct identity as Middle Cuirpthean. Later Newreyan rule from the fifteenth century further affected the development of the language in various ways.

Cuirpthean is the first language of the Cuirpthean people who primarily inhabit the Republic of Cuirpthe, where Cuirpthean is the sole official language and one of the two national languages alongside Newreyan. In Newrey, there is a first-language Cuirpthean community speaking the Dauisce dialect in the region near to the Cuirpthean border, but the language has no recognition whatsoever and faces active marginalisation and persecution.


The area corresponding to modern Cuirpthe has been inhabited since prehistory. Since the beginning of written records, the people of Cuirpthe have been identified as a people closely related or identical to those of neighbouring tir Lhaeraidd, referred to as the Mari or Marri by Fiorentine writers. This reflects a common element Mar- seen in the names of local tribes, which in turn derives from Old Maíreidh már "great". For a significant length of time writings by these Cuirptheans were rare and short, written both in Óm and Fiorentine scripts and so it is difficult to make linguistic generalisations about these people. However, the dominant language amongst them was clearly Old Maíreidh, and it is from this that Cuirpthean itself descends.

Old Maíreidh is the ancestral language of Cuirpthean as well as Modern Maíreidh and Gaelaidh, spoken in the Mardin Isles and tir Lhaeraidd. However, whereas Maíreidh and Gaelaidh are descendants of Middle Maíreidh, Cuirpthean branched directly from Old Maíreidh. It did however have contact with Middle Maíreidh, evidenced by reborrowings and couplets such as inherited déide "boy" and borrowed giolla "conscript", both ultimately from Old Maíreidh gilla.

As a result of the early split, Cuirpthean has retained grammatical elements that Middle Maíreidh did not, although it has lost many other elements. For example, although the neuter gender was largely lost in Middle Maíreidh it has been well preserved in Cuirpthean and is just as important as the masculine and feminine genders. On the other hand, the verbal system has been greatly simplified, with the loss of all synthetic tenses but the preterite or perfect (now a simple past) and present. Besides this, the greater duration of separation has led to Cuirpthean being far more phonetically different than its nearest relatives. While there is some amount of mutual intelligibility between Maíreidh and Gaelaidh, particularly the written forms, this is often not the case in Cuirpthean. Compare the following translations of "I have no money":

  • Cuirpthean: Ní birim mé di ghaold [ɲĩː ˈbiɾəm mjẽː d͡ʒəˈɣɯ̯͡ɛld]
  • Maíreidh: Níl airgead agam [nʲiːlʲ ˈaɾʲɪɟədˠ ˈagəmˠ] or chan fhuil airgead agam [xanˠ ɪlʲ ˈaɾʲɪɟədˠ ˈagəmˠ]
  • Gaelaidh: Chan eil airgead agam [xanʲ elʲ ˈaɾʲakʲət ˈakəm]

Cuirpthean here has a distinction between generic possession and current possession; since the translation in question requires reference to current possession the verb bréach in its conjugated form birim is used instead of the more similar construction bí... liom (negative: cho mbí... liom) or in western dialects bí... agam which is syntactically like chan fhuil/eil... agam used in Gaelaidh or dialectally in Maíreidh. In addition, the common word for "money" is gaold, a fairly recent loan from an Alemannic language, or the plural noun mapa (literally "papers"), rather than the slightly antiquated argad "silver".

The date during which Cuirpthean split from Old Maíreidh is difficult to ascertain precisely, but is generally placed after the fall of the Fiorentine Empire in Cuirpthe but before the foundation of the Cuirpthean Confederation, thus between 453 and 906CE.

Middle Cuirpthean

Many of the developments which occurred in or after the Middle Cuirpthean period are similar to those observed in Lilledic, and it is generally agreed that this is no coincidence, but that speakers of each language had significant contact with one another and therefore shared these changes with one another. Two notable examples are traceable to Middle Cuirpthean and Old/Middle Lilledic.

First is a significant reduction in verbal complexity, with both languages moving towards the loss of all synthetic tenses bar present and past, constructing other tenses with more analytic means. However, whereas Cuirpthean took based its past tense on the Fiorentine imperfect, Cuirpthean based its on the Old Maíreidh preterite or perfect: Lilledic mandeve from Fiorentine mandēbat but Cuirpthean -dú- from ·dúaid, perfect stem of ithid "eat". Cuirpthean retained both perfect and preterite forms in the Middle period, with the latter used for imperfective aspect and the former taking over for the original aorist sense of the preterite. A memorable example of both past tense forms is found in a translation of the Orations of Gaius of Laterna: nonn·glástar é aċ níċonn ro·ġlas "he was persuading us, but did not convince us". Compare modern Cuirpthean é raghlasta sní, ach chodann bhí seach galla, where raghlasta is the synthetic third person singular indicative independent past form of "persuade" and the perfect is expressed with the analytic construction bóch seach galla lit. "be after persuading". The syncretism of these verb forms is already apparent in Middle Cuirpthean due to the merging of most personal inflections throughout the past tense (only the third person singular remained distinct in each tense).

Besides this, other verbal changes include the total loss of deponent and passive verbs (shared with Lilledic): OM deponent labraithir → MC non-deponent laḃraċas "he speaks" with the -as ending deriving from the Old Maíreidh non-deponent relative, cf. modern Cuirpthean gríos "he works" from OM gnís "he who works". The merging of the second and third person plural forms of verbs also has a parallel in Lilledic; this change was complete already by Middle Cuirpthean: céa in na·ċreidead sisi "ye who believe such a thing", cf. fásad éad isean caille "they grow in the forest". The broad ending -ad is used already for both second and third persons. Middle Cuirpthean retained a distinction between dependent and independent verbs which has mostly been lost in the modern language. The independent conjugation of "kill" (modern verbal noun oran) follows to exemplify. This verb is useful for illustration since the perfect and preterite forms shared a stem, but the perfect added the prefix ro (note the interpunct · is conventionally used to distinguish prefixes in Maíreidh studies, but was not written):

Present Past
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person *orġum orgḃa, *orġḃa (ro·)oirdeas, (ro·)oirdis *(ro·)oirdeam, (ro·)oirdeaḃ
Second Person *orġa orġad *(ro·)oirdis (ro·)oirdead
Third Person orġ, orġa (ro·)oirḋter

By the end of the Middle period, the first and second person singular past forms had merged while the first person plural past ending was generalised as -ḃ throughout the first conjugation.

Second is the reduction, but not complete loss, of nominal case. This differs between the two languages more than the changes to the verbal system. Lilledic distinguishes direct and genitive cases, but Cuirpthean distinguishes direct and oblique, with the latter used after any preposition. Both languages distinguish additional cases on some words, but again not identically; while some Lilledic nouns and adjectives distinguish nominative, accusative-oblique and genitive cases, Cuirpthean has direct, genitive and dative-oblique cases marked on all adjectives. Cuirpthean does not have case marked on its pronouns, but the definite article distinguishes all of nominative, accusative, genitive and dative, as it did in Old Maíreidh. In Middle Cuirpthean, the nominative and accusative had already merged into the direct case, but the genitive remained extant in many instances, leading to fossilised modern phrases such as aigen ucht réada "first thing's first" lit. "at the front (breast) of matters"; réada is from the genitive plural of réad which has otherwise been replaced with di réadabh.

Modern Cuirpthean

As a term, "Modern Cuirpthean" or rarely "Neo-Cuirpthean" refers to the language from the unification wars onwards, although the startpoint is sometimes placed slightly earlier. While Cuirpthe was under Newreyan rule, the native language faced suppression, being barred from the political sphere but also forbidden in many schools as well as other public contexts, with often violent punishments decreed for speaking Cuirpthean. The language persisted however, with a significant amount of influence from the Newreyan language. This Newreyan superstrate lasted throughout the commonwealth period until 1722 when it was ended.

Other than those changes mentioned so far, important developments continued to occur within the verbal system in the late Middle period resulting in the loss of yet more verb forms: the conditional form was lost outside of the single relic form béa, now used as an invariable particle, while outside the third person singular form of verbs the independent/dependent distinction was also lost: ghais "it is" → an fhaol? "is it?" but gham "I am" → an gham? "am I?". Additionally, the relative clause system was rebuilt similarly to Newreyan, with the exception of the third person indicative present of "be": ghad "(they) who are" but céa coidiod "(they) who help".

With Cuirpthe independent once again the language was restored to official status in all spheres, and a renewal of nationalist fervour led to a golden age in Cuirpthean literature. Such foundational works as In Fígheach (The Debt) and In Seinn-bhfeolla (The Violinist) were written in the decades following Cuirpthean independence, and the Cuirpthean Language Society, then called the Fellowship of Cuirpthean Literati (Muinnter na Colltraighebh Cuirptheach), was founded to standardise, regulate and promote the language.


Cuirpthean is a member of the Thiaric branch of the Cataisuran language family, the major language family of Asura and Sifhar. Amongst the Thiaric languages, it belongs to the Peripheral Thiaric subgroup which contains all descendants of Old Maíreidh. It contrasts with other such languages in splitting directly from Old Maíreidh and therefore not deriving from Middle Maíreidh. This position is visualised below:

The position of Cuirpthean in relation to other Thiaric languages

The details of the divergence between (Middle) Cuirpthean and Middle Maíreidh are unclear. Even after the split it is clear that there was significant exchange between the Cuirptheans and Maíreidh, seen in doublets of words from Middle Maíreidh such as giolla "conscript" from MM gilla, which exists alongside the inherited word déide "boy", both tracing back to Old Maíreidh gilla "servant-boy". However, from grammatical changes it is apparent that the Cuirptheans had a significant amount of contact with migratory Fiorentine peoples, ancestors of the Lilledic people. Interestingly, loanwords from this period are less numerous than such a degree of contact would suggest, which has led to debate on its precise nature.

Despite the aforementioned changes, many near-unique grammatical elements of the Thiaric languages remain prevalent in Cuirpthean, and the core lexicon retains a distinctly Peripheral Thiaric flavour. The following sentence demonstrates the lexical correspondence between Cuirpthean and some of its relatives. Maíreidh and Gaelaidh are both Peripheral Thiaric languages, while Mânaidh is a Central Thiaric language. Lilledic is included to demonstrate the lexical difference to non-Thiaric languages.

  • Newreyan: "Four small fishes were swimming down the river"
  • Cuirpthean: Céar mbig éas rathángama síos forsan aibhinn
  • Maíreidh: Bhí ceithre iasc beag ag snámh síos arn abhainn
  • Gaelaidh: Bha ceithir èisg beaga a' snàmh sìos air an abhainn
  • Mânaidh: Oedd pedwar pysgodyn yn nofio hwnt ar yr afon
  • Lilledic: Cættjer parves piskjes nouve akyn per rivale

Cuirpthean shares cognates for every word but the main verb: céar "four" to ceithre and ceithir, big "small" to beag, éas "fish" to iasc and (here in its plural form) iasg, síos "away" to síos and sìos, for "along" to ar and air and ábh (in the oblique case aibhinn) "river" to abhainn.



A phonemic inventory of the consonants of Cuirpthean is presented below. Bracketed entries are allophones of other sounds.

Cuirpthean consonant phonemes
Labial Dental Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n nˠ ɲ (ŋ)
Stop p b () t d () t͡ʃ d͡ʒ (t͡ʃʰ) k g ()
Fricative consonant f v (ɸ β) s z ʃ ʒ ç ʝ (ɟ) x ɣ h
Approximant consonant (w) l ɫ r ɾ ʎ j
  • The consonants /n nˠ ɲ/ and /l ɫ ʎ/ form groups of consonants where there is a contrast between lenis /n l/, broad fortis /nˠ ɫ/ and slender fortis /ɲ ʎ/. An additional distinction amongst the rhotics has been reduced in most dialects to lenis /ɾ/ and fortis /r/, though see below for discussion of the rhotics. The pronunciation of the fortis sounds is quite variable amongst dialects, and the given pronunciations represent the standard values. For more information see the section "Slender and broad sounds".
  • The velar nasal [ŋ] occurs as an allophone of /n/ before a velar consonant, including across word boundaries: teanga "tongue, language" [ˈt͡ʃʰɛ̃͡ɑ̯ŋgə]. This sound affects some vowels similarly to the fortis consonants: ghionga "lad" is [ˈjʊ̃͡ɑ̯ŋgə] not *[ˈjɔ̃͡ɑ̯ŋgə].
  • The bilabial fricatives [ɸ β] are used instead of /f v/ by some speakers. Similarly, [w] varies with /v/, although here they are not free variants but mostly conditioned allophones. [v] always occurs word-initially, when slender before front vowels except after /u/ and before consonants or word boundaries while [w] occurs elsewhere in free variation: a Bhrain! "O Bran!" [əˈvɾɑ̃n]; aibhín "brook" [əˈvĩːn]; cráibh "bone" [kʰɾæ̃͡ːœ̯v]; clubhain "meadow" [ˈkʰlũvən ~ ˈkʰlũwən]. However, when /v/ occurs as a mutation of /f/ it is always pronounced [v] except word-initially where [w] is used in western dialects and [v] in eastern: núibhfiosa "to remember" [nˠũ͡ːʉ̯ˈvisə] and never *[nˠũ͡ːʉ̯ˈwisə].
  • The consonants /z ʒ/ occur only as the eclipsis mutations of /s ʃ/, and are not usually distinguished in writing: sollas "light" [ˈsoːɫəs] but sollas suinnseach "bright light" [ˈsoːɫə‿ˈzĩːʃəx]. In some southeastern dialects this distinction has been lost and the voiced sounds are always used word-initially. Word-internally the distinction is maintained in compounds when the first element causes eclipsis in the standard language, though most speakers do not maintain this and [s~z] are in free variation within words.
  • /ʝ/ is the slender value of /ɣ/, but except in some conservative dialects it has merged with /j/. The two are not distinguished in writing: ríghe "kings" [ˈriːʝə] or [ˈriːjə] but ghionga "lad, boy" [ˈjʊ̃͡ɑ̯ŋgə] and never *[ˈʝʊ̃͡ɑ̯ŋgə]. Word-finally /ʝ/ has the allophone [ɟ] in western dialects: conáigh "forwards" [kʰəˈnæ̃ːɟ]. Otherwise, /j/ can occur at the start of a small number of words: Eallsabh "Elsouf (river)" [ˈjaʊ̯ɫsəv], though note the older pronunciation [ˈiːɫsəv] is still sometimes heard.
  • /h/ only occurs word-initially, primarily as a result of H-prosthesis or lenition of /s/: a h-ach "her horse" [əˈhɑx], in shúill "the eye" [ə̃ˈhuːʎ]. It may also occur as an allophone of /x/ in eastern dialects and of /p/ in southwestern dialects: a chráibh "his bone" E. [əˈhnæ̃͡ːœ̯v]; corp "person" SW. [kɯ̯͡ɔɾh].
  • Outside the word-initial position, /ɣ/ is marginal, occurring primarily in regularised forms of words where it would otherwise have been historically lost: ágh "side" [ɑː] but ágha "sides" [ˈɑːɣə]. Word-finally this sound is usually not pronounced, though western dialects sometimes pronounce it as [g]: ágh [ɑːg]. Word-initially on the other hand it is frequent as the lenition of /g/ and /d/: in ghuilleag "the Cuirpthean language" [əŋˈɣɯ̯͡iːʎəg]; cáid dhubh "black forest" [kʰɯ̯͡ɑ͜ːæ̯d͡ʒ ɣɯ̯͡uː].

The pronunciation of the lenis rhotic /ɾ/ varies significantly amongst dialects, though a coronal tap or flap is standard and common across the country. The most common dialectal variant is [ɹ], which is quite widespread in eastern dialects. Most dialects have lost the distinction between broad and slender for this sound, but a handful of western dialects retain the contrast. In these, there is a north/central/southern divide. In the most northern dialects, the slender value is [ð], while elsewhere it is [ɾʲ]. In the most southern dialects, the broad value is [ɹ] while elsewhere it is [ɾ]. In other words, north dialects have [ɾ ð], central dialects have [ɾ ɾʲ] and southern dialects have [ɹ ɾʲ]. Additionally, after a vowel, in all but a few southern and western dialects, /ɾ/ is reduced to a semivowel like [ə̯] or [ɐ̯] or deleted entirely. Thus, a word like fer "man" (note that the final consonant is historically broad) can be pronounced in any of the following ways: [fjɛə̯ ~ɛɐ̯ ~ɛɾ ~ɛɹ].

The fortis rhotic /r/ has similarly lost the broad-slender distinction, though the resulting pronunciation is more uniform. The most widespread value is a coronal, usually alveolar trill [r]. The most common alternative is [ɹ]. This is in fact never ambiguous, although it is also a possible pronunciation of the lenis sound: as an allophone of the lenis rhotic it occurs mainly in eastern dialects, while as an allophone of the fortis sound it is confined to northwestern dialects and therefore usage never overlaps. Another, rarer pronunciation for the fortis sound is [ʐ], found mainly in the southeast. Unlike the lenis rhotic, the fortis rhotic is always pronounced, including in the syllable coda.

Aspiration of the voiceless plosive consonants when they occur word-initially is widespread everywhere except in the most southern dialects and some transitional dialects in the northwest. Elsewhere in a word light aspiration may occur before any vowel except after a consonant, when they are pronounced with an earlier voice onset time: puirtín "small port" [ˈpʰɔə̯t͡ʃʰĩːn] but follteach "university" [ˈfuːɫt͡ʃˣəx]. Voiced plosives in contrast have a negative VOT and so are always contrastive: déad "tooth" [d͡ʒeːd]. At the end of a word, there is a strong east/west division between full release of plosives in the east (manifested with strong aspiration) and lack of audible release in the west (manifested with light glottalisation): corp "person" E. [kʰɯ̯͡ɔə̯pʰə̥] but W. [kʰɯ̯͡ɔə̯ˀp̚].


A phonemic inventory of the vowels of Cuirpthean is presented below. Each phoneme is contrastive for one of two lengths, short and long.

Cuirpthean vowel phonemes
Front Central Back
Close iː i uː u
Mid eː e (ə) oː o
Open aː a

The schwa [ə] occurs as a reduction of vowels in unstressed syllables. Typically these vowels are orthographically neutralised as <a> or <e>, as in the oblique plural noun ending -abh or -ebh, though there are exceptions to this, such as the verbal ending -im. The reduced vowel may contextually occur as [ɨ] in some western dialects. More recent loanwords may resist vowel reduction.

The short vowel /a/ has front and back allophones [æ] [ɑ]. The front vowel occurs before a slender consonant, as well as after a slender consonant when not followed by a broad coronal consonant. Elsewhere the back allophone occurs. Note however that the long vowel /aː/ always has a back pronunciation [ɑː] or [ɔː], except when between two slender coronal consonants or between a slender coronal onset and a slender dorsal coda, in which case it is [æː]: leáigh "he/she/it melted" [ʎæːʝ]. Long [ɑː] is often rounded to [ɔː] in northwestern dialects: "two" [dɔː], but is unrounded in the standard language.

Short vowels have distinct allophones in closed syllables. When deletion of coda [ɾ] causes an underlying closed syllable to become phonetically open, the vowels are still changed. The allophones are lower and laxer than the cardinal vowels: mise "me" [ˈmĩʃə] but dios "right" [d͡ʒɪs]; focal "word" [ˈfo͡ɑ̯kəl] but poblach "public" [ˈpʰɔbləx]. Lax /a/ is often back [ɑ] but as often central [ä] and is often transcribed simply as [a] in laxing position as a result.

Before fortis consonants in closed syllables short vowels undergo tensing and lengthening. Additionally, the central vowels /e o/ merge with the high vowels [i u] as [iː uː] respectively: teinn "soldier" [t͡ʃʰĩːɲ]; foll "he/she learns" [fuːɫ]. In some instances vowels can dipthongise: oill "all" [uːʎ ~ ɔɪ̯ʎ]. This is particularly common with the vowel /a/ which becomes [aʊ̯] before a broad consonant and [aɪ̯] before a slender consonant: call "church" [kʰɯ̯͡aʊ̯ɫ]; baillte "towns" [ˈbɔ̯͡aɪ̯ʎt͡ʃə]. Diphthongisation is widespread but not universal.

Despite the simplicity of the vowel system when viewed from a purely phonemic perspective, Cuirpthean phonology is complicated by a system of assimilation which occurs in stressed syllables, full open syllables and syllables containing a long vowel (in other words, all syllables except unstressed, short, closed syllables, or open syllables with a schwa). This assimilation manifests as the insertion of allophonic vowels with a smooth glide between sequences. These inserted vowels are noticeably shorter than the nucleic vowel. The changes which occur depend on the nature of the surrounding consonants.

Consonants can be divided into six groups based on the effect they have on vowels. The primary division is between labial, coronal and dorsal consonants, and the secondary division is between broad and slender consonants. A full discussion of the vowel system is beyond the scope of this article, but in the most simplistic terms labial consonants induce the insertion of a rounded vowel while dorsal consonants induce the insertion of an unrounded vowel, and broad consonants induce back vowels while slender consonants induce front vowels. Coronal consonants do not generally cause any vowel to be inserted.

The specific changes which occur in a given environment are dependent on the nucleic vowel. For illustrative purposes, the following table shows the changes which affect the cardinal vowels /a i u/ in some archetypical positions.

Coda consonant
Broad Slender
p t k p t k
Onset consonant Broad p pɔ̯͡ɑ͜ɒ̯p
t tɑ͡ɒ̯p
k kɯ̯͡ɑ͜ɒ̯p
Slender p pjæ͡ɒ̯p
t t͡ʃæ͡ɒ̯p
k kæ͡ɒ̯p

Vowel insertion occurs mainly in dialects in the northwest and southeast to break up many consonant clusters, particularly (as in Maíreidh) after a sonorant. Typically, an inserted vowel is phonemically identical to the preceding vowel, though always short and lax. With regards to the orthography, epenthetic vowels do not alter the usual pronunciation of vowels in closed syllables: pri oillebh céamnabh "every step of the way" [pʰɾi ˈoːʎəv ˈkʰẽːmɛ̃nəv], ainm "name" [ˈɛ̃nɛ̃m].

Nasalisation occurs as a non-predictable quality of vowels in some words, but has a minimal functional load. Vowels in proximity to nasal consonants are nasalised, but this also affects vowels in proximity to historical /w̃/ which has since been lost and this is unpredictable: talla "land" [ˈtʰɑ̃ːɫə] from talam /ˈtaɫaw̃/; coille "council" [ˈkʰõːʎə] from comairle /ˈkow̃aɾlʲe/ and so on. Nasalisation is contrastive in distinguishing the lenition of /m/ as [v] from other occurrences of [v], but rarely contrastive otherwise: céa bhór "who bores" [ˈkʰeːə voːə̯] but céa mhór "who feeds" [ˈkʰeːə võːə̯]. Unpredictable nasalisation is rarely written, though there are a handful of exceptions: báins "we were (subjunctive)" [bɔ̯͡æ̃ːʃ], imhe "around him" [ˈĩːə].


Stress in Cuirpthean overwhelmingly falls on the first syllable of a root. This frequently equates to the first syllable of a word, but inflectional and derivational prefixes do not cause the stress to shift, thus resulting in stress on a later syllable: basic abairt "to say" is [ˈɑ͡ɒ̯bət͡ʃ] but nubhabairt "reiterate" with the prefix nubh- is [nˠuːˈwɑ͡ɒ̯bət͡ʃ]. This fixed stress can cause syncope when a word is inflected: doras "door" → doirse "doors"; árach "beginning" → árcha "beginnings". Syncope is not always predictable, and there is sometimes variation between speakers with use of syncope, for example aireacha or archa are both possible as an inflection of aireach "careful".

In a number of words, a long vowel in the second syllable causes stress to shift away from a short, open initial syllable: aibhín "stream" [əˈvĩːn], lorán "florin" [ɫəˈɾɑ̃ːn]. This does not occur when the final syllable is open: deachá "tenth" [ˈd͡ʒe͡ɑ̯xɯ̯͡ɑː]. There are also unpredictable instances of second syllables being stressed: indé "today" [əɲˈd͡ʒeː], dabhaille "homeward" [dəˈvɔ̯͡æːʎə]. These words are often phrases which have been reanalysed as single words; in this instance indé derives from the now-obsolete in dé "the day" or Old Maíreidh indé "yesterday", but the normal word for "day" in modern Cuirpthean is . Lastly, some loanwords have totally unpredictable stress: Frigideár "Frigidarum" [fɾi͡æ̯gæ̯͡iˈd͡ʒɑː].

Slender and broad sounds

Old Maíreidh possessed a consistent distinction between so-called "broad" (velarised) and "slender" (palatalised) sounds. This system has been reduced to a significant extent in Cuirpthean, but it is still present and is important in understanding the language's orthography and vowel system. Furthermore, even for consonants which otherwise do not possess the distinction, mutation may cause distinctly broad or slender sounds to manifest; for example, /k/ does not have broad and slender variants, but it lenites to /x/ when broad and /ç/ when slender, even though the value of /k/ proper is unchanged. As for vowels, cf. the variant plurals of "river": aibhne [ˈɛ͡œ̯vnə] but abhna [ˈɑ͡ɒ̯vnə].

For phonemic transcription, scholars disagree over whether to distinguish broad and slender consonants or to posit additional vowel phonemes to explain these phonetic phenomena. As a result one may encounter the plurals of "river" transcribed as /ˈavʲnʲə/ and /ˈavˠnˠə/ or as /ˈa̟vnə/ and /ˈa̠vnə/ respectively depending on the analysis used.

A broad consonant can only be preceded or followed by the written vowels <a o u> while a slender consonant can only be preceded or followed by <e i>. This rule is followed whenever possible, even in compounds: "beauty" + blách "flower" → líobhlách "darling (term of endearment)" not *líbhlách. Rarely, following this rule is impossible: follteach "university" has a broad and slender sound together as a result of compounding and the spelling rule cannot be followed. In these cases original spelling is maintained. Very recent loanwords also tend to be spelt as in the source language rather than adapted: bruder "bro (as a term of address)" [ˈbɾuːdə] would be nativised as brúdar.

The pairs of sounds with distinct pronunciations in the modern language are as follows:

Basic sound Slender Broad
Value Example Value Example
/p/ [p] pobal "people" [ˈpʰobəl] [pj], [p] (before /i/) piur "sister" [pʰjʊə̯]
/b/ [b] baille "town" [ˈbɔ̯͡æːʎə] [bj], [b] (before /i/) ben "woman" [bjɛ̃n]
/f/ [f] foll "blood" [fuːɫ] [fj], [f] (before /i/) fer "man" [fjɛə̯]
/v/ [v] bhá "he was" [vɔ̯͡ɑː] [vj], [v] (before /i/) búibhe "victories" [ˈbu͡ːʉ̯vjə]
/m/ [m] magh "field" [mɔ̯͡ɑ̃ː] [mj], [m] (before /i/) meón "middle" [mjõːn]
/t/ [t] talla "land" [ˈtʰɑ̃ːɫə] [t͡ʃ] teinn "soldier" [t͡ʃʰĩːɲ]
/d/ [d] doras "door" [ˈdorəs] [d͡ʒ] déad "tooth" [d͡ʒeːd]
/s/ [s] souill "eye" [suːʎ] [ʃ] "six" [ʃeː]
/N/ [nˠ] tonn "wave" [tʰũːnˠ] [ɲ] neart "power" [ɲɛ̃ə̯t]
/L/ [ɫ] "day" [ɫɑː] [ʎ] "stone; beauty" [ʎiː]
/x/ [x] in chall "the church" [əŋˈxaʊ̯ɫ] [ç] in chlé "the left" [ə̃ˈçʎeː]
/ɣ/ [ɣ] ghas "is" [ɣɯ̯͡ɑs] [ʝ], [j] gráigheach "citizen" [ˈgɾæːʝəx, -jəx]

As the table shows the distinction is maintained for most dental consonants, velar fricatives, and labial sounds, though palatalisation within the latter group has yielded to clusters with [j] as in Gaelaidh.

Although other sounds do not experience a phonetic shift when broad or slender, as this is still often important in understanding the effect on vowels, many scholars choose to consistently transcribe for example aice [ˈɛ͡æ̯kə] and aca [ˈɑ͡ɑ̯kə], the present and past stems of "see", as /ˈakʲə/ and /ˈakˠə/ respectively so as to avoid having to posit more vowel phonemes for the language.

Alternation between broad and slender consonants is involved in some inflectional processes, such as the formation of first declension feminine oblique nouns: ágh "side (direct case)" [ɑː]áigh "side (oblique case)" [æːʝ]; call "church (dir.)" [kʰaʊ̯ɫ]cill "church (obl.)" [kʰiːʎ]; foll "blood (dir.)" [fuːɫ]foill "blood (obl.)" [fɔɪ̯ʎ]. Some nouns experience slenderisation in the plural: doras "door" [ˈdoɾəs]doirse "doors" [ˈdɔə̯ʃə]; magh "field" → [mɔ̯͡ɑ̃ː] maighe "fields" [ˈmɔ̯͡æ̃ʝə]. Many verbs also alternate between broad and slender: aicí "he sees" [ˈɛ͡æ̯kæ̯͡iː]aca "he saw" [ˈɑ͡ɑ̯kə]; rafhall "I saw" [ɾaːʊ̯ɫ]rafhaillte "he saw" [ˈɾaːɪ̯ʎt͡ʃə]. As one can see this frequently causes spelling changes.

Note that when a fortis consonant is subject to lenition, there is no phonetic distinction between slender and broad, but the underlying pronunciation is maintained in the orthography: "stone" [ʎiː]da lí "your stone" [dəˈliː] but lorán "florin" [ɫəˈɾɑ̃ːn]da lorán "your florin" [dələˈɾɑ̃ːn]. Other consonants maintain a distinction where possible: da ghúch "your voice" [dəˈɣu͡ːɯ̯x] but da ghéall "your jaw" [dəˈʝeːɫ].

The pronunciations of the fortis consonants varies between dialects. Often they are transcribed simply as /Nˠ Nʲ Lˠ Lʲ/ to avoid specifying any particular pronunciation over another. The traditional distinction, as with other slender/broad pairs, is velarisation v. palatalisation but the manifestation of this today is variable. The standard values are velarised [nˠ ɫ] and palatal [ɲ ʎ]. However, some speakers in the west use palatalised coronal sounds [nʲ lʲ] rather than true palatals. For yet other speakers, the palatalised sounds have merged with the lenis sounds and the velarised sounds are distinguished by tenseness, giving /Nˠ Nʲ Lˠ Lʲ/[nː n lː l]. Some speakers merge the fortis sounds with one another, distinguishing them from lenis sounds by their place of articulation: fortis sounds are alveolar or postalveolar while lenis sounds are dental: plain neart "power" [nɛə̯t] but lenited da neart "your power" [dəˈn̪ɛə̯t].


Cuirpthean has retained the Old Maíreidh mutation system largely intact, with three mutations: lenition (séibhe, transcribed L), eclipsis (ardhuibhe, also called nasalisation, transcribed N) and H-prosthesis (hé-nasca, also called aspiration, transcribed H). Each mutation occurs in specific morphophonological environments. For example, nouns may have cases which are pronounced identically except that they cause a different mutation on the following word, while some verb forms may be marked for tense only by the presence or absence of a given mutation. Compare the following:

  • In corpN gcórach [əŋˈkʰɯ̯͡ɔə̯p ˈgɯ̯͡õːɾəx] "The foreign person"
  • InL chorpL chórach [əŋˈxɯ̯͡ɔə̯p ˈxɯ̯͡õːɾəx] "Of the foreign person"
  • NaH cáideH h-arda [nəˈkɯ̯͡æːd͡ʒə hɑːdə] "The tall forests"
  • NaN gcáidebh ard [nəˈgɯ̯͡æːd͡ʒəv ɑːd] "Of the tall forests"

Superscript letters show the mutation a given form causes on the next word. This is the only means by which in corp gcórach in the nominative-direct case is distinguished from in chorp chórach in the genitive-oblique case. The full set of mutations is given below. Note that H-prosthesis only occurs before words starting with a vowel, and does nothing otherwise. Eclipsis of /N L/ either does nothing or is identical to lenition.

Basic sound Broad mutations Slender mutations H-prosthesis
Lenition Eclipsis Lenition Eclipsis
/p/ [f] [b] [fj] [bj] No change
/t/ [x] [d] [ç] [d͡ʒ]
/k/ [x] [g] [ç] [g]
/b/ [v] [m(b)] [vj] [m(b)j]
/d/ [ɣ] [n(d)] [ʝ] [ɲ(d͡ʒ)]
/g/ [ɣ] [ŋ(g)] [ʝ] [ɲ(d͡ʒ)]
/m/ [ṽ] [m] [ṽj] [mj]
/N/ [n] [] or [n] [n] [Nʲ] or [n]
/L/ [l] [Lˠ] or [l] [l] [Lʲ] or [l]
/f/ Silent [v] [j] [vj]
/s/ [h] [z] [hj] [ʒ]
/a/ [a] [na] N/A [ha]

Two types of mutation are observed in Cuirpthean. Phrasal mutation occurs only on the next word within a given phrase (such as a noun phrase); after the final word in said phrase, mutation cannot occur on any following word as it belongs to a different phrase. For example, when a noun precedes a verb, the noun does not cause mutation to the verb: inLH ích inN bhfléaghL "the king eats the meal"; here causes a phrasal H-prosthesis but since ích is not within the same phrase this mutation does not occur (*h-ích). However the eclipsis mutation does occur to fléagh as in bhfléagh is a single phrase. The exception to this is that a noun can cause mutation to a following preposition: in ferN n-ón scáigheL "the man in the mirror".

A much rarer mutation is the jumping mutation. This is believed to have arisen as a result of syntactic changes occurring to the language without any changes to the mutations which occur. A jumping mutation causes mutations to apply out of the usual order: they may affect a word which does not immediately follow, or even a word which precedes. The primary situtation in which this mutation occurs is when an adjective precedes its head noun rather than follows. The mutation of the definite article applies to the noun while the mutation of the noun applies to the adjective. For example: inN thapach dtúchL "the educated society"; here the eclipsis of the article applies to the noun túch while the lenition of that applies to tapach. A small number of jumping mutations trace back to Old Maíreidh; for example, the possessive a "his, her, its, their" causes mutation to a following numeral, with the exception of "two" which is ignored: aL dá chos "his two legs".


Cuirpthean orthography is based on the traditional Maíreidh orthography and thus contains many quirks making a concise description difficult. Digraphs and trigraphs are common due to the rule of coél pra coél as léan pra léan "slender with slender and broad with broad": the letters <a o u> are broad vowels and the letters <e i> are slender vowels. The only exceptions to this rule are compounds where following the orthographic rule is otherwise impossible, such as follteach [ˈfuːɫt͡ʃəx] "university", where the cluster [ɫt͡ʃ] cannot be written in accordance to the rule. In older spelling such words were hyphenated, viz. foll-teach, but this is now superseded. Additionally, digraphs of a consonant plus <h> are common as a means of showing lenition, though one may alternatively encounter the overdot used in more traditional spelling styles (eg. ġaḃa or ghabha "we are").

All mutations are indicated orthographically. Mutations before a vowel are separated with a dash: a fer "her husband" but a h-ach "her horse", a n-anmann "their names". Otherwise, the initial consonant of the mutated word is altered. Generally, lenition is shown by inserting a <h>: <b> becomes <bh>, <t> becomes <th> and so on. Lenition of the fortis consonants, however, is not indicated: a ghúch "his voice" but a lí "his stone". Therefore, in writing, only context can tell whether one of these sounds is unlenited or lenited. Eclipsis of plosives is shown by prefixing the new sound to the old sound: <p> becomes <bp>, <g> becomes <ng> and so on. Eclipsed <f> is written as <bhf> as in Maíreidh. Eclipsed <s> is rarely written as <zs> and this spelling is accepted in the standard but usually there is no orthographic distinction made.

The possible ways of writing given consonant sounds follow. Compared to vowels, consonants are quite simple and their writing predictable. Note that there are some instances of voicing assimilation which are not mentioned in the following table, such as gt[kt]:

Letter(s) Pronunciation Examples
b broad [b] [boː] "cow", bran [bɾɑ̃n] "raven", scúba [ˈskɯ̯͡uːbə] "brushes"
slender [b] before [i] bía [ˈbiːə] "there is", birim [ˈbiɾəm] "I carry"
[b] word-finally róib [ro͡ːø̯b] "dress (oblique)"
[bj] ben [bjɛ̃n] "woman", béall [bjeːɫ] "mouth"
bh broad [v ~ w] bhó [voː ~ woː] "cow (lenited)", bhá [vɔ̯͡ɑː ~ wɑː] "was", clubhain [ˈkʰlũwən ~ ˈkʰlũvən] "meadow"
slender [v] before [i] aibhín [əˈvĩːn] "stream", bhime [ˈvĩ͡ʉ̯mjə] "we were (subjunctive)"
[v] word-finally sibh [ʃɪ͡ʏ̯v] "you (plural)", loébh [ɫe͡ːø̯v] "days (obl.)"
[vj] bhearn [vjɛ̃ə̯n ~ vjɑ̃ːn] "gap (lenited)", Ílbhe [ˈiːlvjə] "Vaellenia", gaibhim [ˈgɯ̯͡æ͜œ̯vjəm] "I hold"
See vowel chart for obh, ubh
bhf broad [v ~ w] word-initially bhfár [vɔ̯ɑː ~ wɑː] "better (eclipsed)"
[v] chobhfainn [xəˈvɔ̯͡ãɪ̯ɲ] "unhappy"
slender [v] before [i] núibhfiosa [nˠũ͡ːʉ̯ˈvisə] "remember"
[vj] bhfeolla [ˈvjoːɫə] "violin (ecl.)"
bp broad [b] bpoblach [ˈbɔbləx] "public (ecl.)"
slender [b] before [i] bpíos [biːs] "piece (ecl.)"
[bj] bpiur [bjʊə̯] "sister (ecl.)"
c [k] cása [ˈkʰɯ̯͡ɑːsə] "reason", colltur [ˈkʰɯ̯͡uːɫtə] "culture", céam [kʰæ̯͡ẽ͜ːɒ̯m] "step", [kʰæ̯͡iː] "what", focal [ˈfo͡ɑ̯kəl] "word"
ch broad [x] char [xɯ̯͡ɑː] "across", chos [xɯ̯͡ɔs] "foot (len.)", grách [gɾɑ͡ːɑ̯x] "normal"
slender [ç] chéam [çẽ͡ːɒ̯m] "step (len.)", chist [ˈçɪʃt] "question (len.)", maich [mɔ̯͡æ̃ç] "good"
d broad [d] [dɑː] "two", drom [dɾɔ̃m] "ridge"
slender [d͡ʒ] déide [ˈd͡ʒeːd͡ʒə] "boy", indé [əɲˈd͡ʒeː] "today"
dh broad silent in forms of one preposition chodha [ˈxɯ̯͡oə] "not... her", chodhad [ˈxɯ̯͡oəd] "not... you"
silent before a consonant beardhda [ˈbjɛə̯də, ˈbjɑːdə] "brought"
silent after a consonant ardhuibhe [əˈɾu͡ʉ̯vjə] "eclipse"
[ɣ] dhubh [ɣɯ̯͡uː] "black (len.)", radhúa [ɾəˈɣɯ̯͡uːə] "he ate"
slender silent before a consonant oirdhde [ˈɔə̯d͡ʒə] "killed", búidhde [ˈbuːd͡ʒə] "conquered"
[ʝ] dhios [ʝɪs] "right", dhéad [ʝeːd] "tooth (len.)"
dt broad [d] chodtapach [xəˈdɑ͡ɒ̯pəx] "unintelligent"
slender [d͡ʒ] dtíos [d͡ʒiːs] "north (ecl.)"
f broad [f] fás "to grow" [fɔ̯͡ɑːs], fúam [ˈfũːəm] "sound"
slender [f] before [i] fiche [ˈfiçə] "twenty"
[f] word-finally scairf [skɯ̯͡æə̯f] "scarf (obl.)"
[fj] feolla [ˈfjoːɫə] "violin", fer [fjɛə̯] "man"
fh silent mé fhén [mjẽː ẽːn] "myself", d'fhios [dɪs] "your message"
g [g] galla [ˈgɯ̯͡ɑːɫə] "to persuade", guilleag [ˈgɯ̯͡iːʎəg] "Cuirpthean language", géall [geːɫ] "jaw", grín [gɾĩːn] "to do", coga [ˈkʰɯ̯͡o͜ɑ̯gə] "war"
gc [g] gcoél [gɯ̯͡eːl] "thin (ecl.)"
gh broad silent before a consonant raghlas [ˈɾɑːɫəs] "he persuaded", aghnabh [ˈɑːnəv] "next to the (plural)"
[ɣ] ágha [ˈɑ͡ːɑ̯ɣə] "sides", trághann [ˈtʰɾɑ͡ːɑ̯ɣɯ̯͡ɑ̃ːnˠ] "coasts"
slender [j] required in some loanwords ghionga [ˈjʊ̃͡ɑ̯ŋgə] "lad"
[ʝ] lúigh [ɫuːʝ] "calf", lígheach [ˈʎiːʝəx] "beautiful"
See vowel chart for agh, agha, aigh(e) and igh(e)
h [h] hacaín [ˈhɑ͡ɑ̯kɯ̯͡ĩːn] "to hack", a h-oichte [əˈhɔ͡æ̯çt͡ʃə] "her breasts"
l broad [ɫ] when word-initial and unlenited [ɫɑː] "day", lubhra [ˈɫuːɾə] "to say"
[ɫ] after [x] or [ɣ] chlubhain [ˈxɫũwən] "meadow (len.)", ghlann [ɣɫãʊ̯nˠ] "valley (len.)"
[l] [lɑː] "day (len.)", la [lə] "with", pobal [ˈpʰobəl] "people"
slender [ʎ] when word-initial and unlenited [ʎiː] "beauty", léan [ʎẽːn] "broad"
[ʎ] after [ç] or [ʝ] chlé [çʎeː] "left", ghleinnighe [ʝʎẽːɲĩː] "yokel"
[l] [liː] "beauty (len.)", liom [lɪ͡u̯m] "with me", speil [ʃpɛl] "sickle (obl.)"
ll broad [ɫ] sollas [ˈsoːɫəs] "light", Eallsabh [ˈjaʊ̯ɫsəv] "River Elsouf"
slender [ʎ] soillse [ˈsɔɪ̯ʎʃə] "lights", mille [ˈmĩːʎə] "thousand"
m broad [m] magh [mɔ̯͡ɑ̃ː] "field", muinnter [ˈmu̯͡ĩːɲt͡ʃə] "nation", fúmann [ˈfũːmɔ̯͡ɑ̃ːnˠ] "sound"
slender [m] before [i] miosa [ˈmĩsə] "to measure", fúimín [ˈfũ͡ːʉ̯mĩːn] "whisper"
[m] word-finally im [ɪ̃͡ʏ̯m] "butter", creidim [ˈkʰɾed͡ʒəm] "I see"
[mj] meón [mjõːn] "middle", coimeach [ˈkʰɯ̯͡ẽ͜ø̯mjəx] "when"
mb broad [m(b)] mbaille [ˈm(b)ɔ̯͡æːʎə] "towns (ecl.)", mbratach [ˈm(b)ɾɑtəx] "flag (ecl.)"
slender [m(b)] before [i] cho mbí [xəˈm(b)iː] "there is not", mbía [ˈm(b)iːə] "living things (ecl.)"
[m(b)j] cho mbéad [xəˈm(b)jeːd] "there are not", mbeolla [ˈm(b)joːɫə] "mouths (ecl.)"
mh broad [ṽ ~ w̃] mhaich [vɔ̯͡æ̃ç ~ wæ̃ç] "good (len.)", lámhór [ˈɫɑ͡ːɒ̯võːə̯ ~ ˈɫɑ͡ːɒ̯wõːə̯] "parliament"
slender [ṽ] before [i] mhise [ˈvĩʃə] "me (emphatic)", mhille [ˈvĩːʎə] "thousand (len.)"
[ṽj] mheónach [ˈvjõːnəx] "central", mheán [vjɑ̃ːn] "desire (len.)"
silent in forms of one preposition umhnabh [ˈũːnəv] "around the (pl.)", imhe [ˈĩːə] "around him"
n broad [nˠ] when word-initial and unlenited [nˠũː] "new", naíghe [ˈnˠĩːʝə] "child"
silent before [s] teánsa [ˈt͡ʃʰɑ̃ːsə] "chance"
[n] [nũː] "new (len.)", nám [nɑ̃͡ːɒ̯m] "than me", meón [mjõːn] "middle"
slender [ɲ] when word-initial and unlenited neart [ɲɛ̃ə̯t ~ ɲɑ̃ːt] "power", [ɲĩː] "is not"
silent before [ʃ] báins [bɔ̯͡æ̃ːʃ] "we were (subjunctive)"
[ɲ] before [t͡ʃ] or [d͡ʒ] indé [əɲˈd͡ʒeː] "today", in teinn [əɲˈt͡ʃʰĩːɲ] "the soldier"
[n] neart [nɛ̃ə̯t ~ nɑ̃ːt] "power (len.)", nine [ˈnĩnə] "we (emph.)", daíne [ˈdĩːnə] "people"
nd broad [nˠ(d)] ndoras [ˈnˠ(d)oɾəs] "door (ecl.)", ndubh [nˠ(d)uː] "black (ecl.)"
slender [ɲ(d͡ʒ)] ndéad [ɲ(d͡ʒ)eːd] "tooth (ecl.)", ndios [ɲ(d͡ʒ)ɪs] "right (ecl.)"
ng broad [ŋ(g)] word-initially ngúch [ŋ(g)ɯ̯͡u͜ːɑ̯x] "voice (ecl.)", ngrá [ŋ(g)ɾɑː] "peer (ecl.)"
[nˠ] before a consonant when not a mutation of /g/ teangda [ˈt͡ʃʰãʊ̯nˠdə] "tongues"
[ŋg] teanga [ˈt͡ʃɛ̃͡ɑ̯ŋgə] "tongue", chongrách [xəŋˈgɾɑ͡ːɑ̯x] "abnormal"
slender [ɲ(d͡ʒ)] word-initially ngéall [ɲ(d͡ʒ)e:ɫ] "jaw (ecl.)", ngleinne [ˈɲd͡ʒʎeːɲə] "valleys (ecl.)"
[ɲ] before a consonant when not a mutation of /g/ teingde [ˈt͡ʃʰĩːɲd͡ʒə] "soldiers" (superseded spelling)
[ŋg] aingeast [ˈɛ̃͡æ̯ŋgəst] "cowardice"
nn broad [nˠ] cann [kʰãʊ̯nˠ] "head", tonn [tʰũːnˠ] "wave"
slender silent before a sibilant suinnseach [ˈsĩːʃəx] "bright"
[ɲ] fainn [fɔ̯͡ãɪ̯ɲ] "happy", seinne [ˈʃẽːɲə] "to sing"
p broad [p] port [pʰɔə̯t] "port", pobal [ˈpʰobəl] "people", corp [kʰɯ̯͡ɔə̯p] "person"
slender [p] before [i] píos [pʰiːs] "piece", pían [ˈpʰiːən] "wound"
[p] word-finally maip [mɔ̯͡æ̃͜œ̯p] "paper (obl.)"
[pj] péana [ˈpʰjẽːne] "to punish", peachra [ˈpʰjɛ͡ɑ̯xɾə] "sisters"
ph broad [f] phort [fɔə̯t] "port (len.)", phobal [ˈfobəl] "people (len.)"
slender [f] before [i] phíos [fiːs] "piece (len.)", phían [ˈfiːən] "wound (len.)"
[fj] phéan [fjẽːn] "pain (len.)", phiur [fjʊə̯] "sister (len.)"
r [r] when word-initial and unlenited [ruː] "dark red", [riː] "king"
[ə̯] or silent in the syllable coda derg [d͡ʒɛə̯g] "light red", lár [ɫɑː] "bottom"
[ɾ] [ɾuː] "dark red (len.)", priom [pʰɾɪ̃͡u̯m] "alongside us"
rr [r] tearra [ˈt͡ʃʰɑ̃ːrə] "army", arra [ˈɑːrə] "for her", corr [kʰuːr] "point"
s broad [z] when eclipsed sollas [ˈzoːɫəs] "light (ecl.)"
[s] saighead [ˈsæʝəd] "arrow", souill [suːʎ] "eye", scách [skɯ̯͡ɑ͜ːɑ̯x] "reflection, shadow"
slender [ʒ] when eclipsed séall [ʒeːɫ] "story (ecl.)"
[ʃ] [ʃeː] "six", sibh [ʃɪ͡ʏ̯v] "you (pl.)", sní [ʃnĩː] "we"
sh broad [h] shaighead [ˈhæʝəd] "arrow (len.)"
slender [hj] sheon [hjɔ̃n] "here, now"
sp broad [sp] spáit [spɔ̯͡æːt͡ʃ] "space", aspra [ˈɑspɾə] "difficulty"
slender [ʃp] speal [ʃpɛl] "scythe", taispéne [ˈtʰæʃpẽːnə] "to show"
st broad [st] stán [stɑ̃ːn] "tin", aingeast [ˈɛ̃͡æ̯ŋgəst] "cowardice"
slender [ʃt] steát [ʃtɑːt] "authority", cist [kæ̯͡ɪʃt] "question"
t broad [t] tabhairt [ˈtʰɑ͡ɒ̯vət͡ʃ] "to give", [tʰuː] "you (singular)", trá [tʰɾɑː] "coast"
slender [t͡ʃ] téar [t͡ʃʰeːə̯] "west", tíos [t͡ʃʰiːs] "north", trí [t͡ʃʰɾiː] "three"
th broad silent in one word áthar [ɑː] "father"
[x] thrá [xɾɑː] "coast (len.)", síothalla [ˈʃi͡ːɑ̯xɯ̯͡ɑ̃ːɫə] "overseas territory"
slender silent after a consonant cuirptheach [ˈkʰɯ̯͡ɔə̯pjəx] "Cuirpthean"
[ç] thíos [çiːs] "north (len.)", áither [ˈæːçə] "fathers"
ts broad [t] in tsádra [ənˈtʰɑːdɾə] "the downpour"
slender [t͡ʃ] in tsíosacht [əɲˈt͡ʃʰiːsəxt] "the otherworld"
zs broad [z] zsollas [ˈzoːɫəs] "light (ecl.)"
slender [ʒ] zséall [ʒeːɫ] "story (ecl.)"

Certain spellings in the above table require additional explanation. The following set of graphemes represent lenitions, though they may occur in non-initial position: bh ch dh fh gh mh ph sh th. Word initial fortis sounds and their lenitions as lenis sounds are not distinguished from one another and the correct pronunciation must be deduced from context. The following graphemes represent eclipses: bhf bp dt gc mb nd ng zs. When mb nd ng represent the eclipsis of b d g respectively many speakers pronounce them as simple nasal consonants with no plosive sounds, but otherwise they always represent consonant clusters. The use of zs is tolerated but not generally used except where context is not sufficient; otherwise, s is used and thus the eclipsis is not distinguished. Finally, ts is a special mutation of s which occurs after some forms of the definite article.

The letter h occurs alone in native Cuirpthean words only as a result of H-prosthesis before vowel-initial words (with the sole exception of , the name of the letter itself), and is always written with a dash. However, it also occurs in loanwords. Loanwords (except for the most recent to enter the lexicon) are generally adapted to Cuirpthean spelling, but some proper nouns resist this and may retain their original spelling, therein using letters which do not otherwise occur: Vescovi [vɔ̯͡ɛsˈkɯ̯͡o͜ːø̯viː].

Vowels are far more complicated due to the broad/slender spelling rule, although in some words this rule is not strictly followed as the relevant contrast has been lost in the standard language (although Cuirpthean is arguably stricter in adhering to this rule than Maíreidh): fer "man" originally ended with a broad consonant (and still does for some speakers). This means that many digraphs and trigraphs are in use, as well as graphemes which incorporate consonant letters. Certain rules always apply:

  • Vowels with an acute accent (gúchfhúmann agútacha) are always pronounced: á é í ó ú
  • Vowels next to agútacha are used to adhere to the broad/slender rule and do not generally specify a particular phoneme, with the main exception of vowels indicating a schwa as in the spelling ía: snía "to drip" [ˈʃnĩːə]
  • The letter i after another vowel is usually for spelling reasons and not pronounced with the exception of ui before a fortis consonant: coideas "support" [ˈkʰɯ̯͡o͜ø̯d͡ʒəs] but guilleag "Cuirpthean language" [ˈgɯ̯͡iːʎəg]
  • Except for i as described above, before a fortis consonant the last written vowel usually determines the phoneme: dionn "out of us" [d͡ʒũːnˠ]
  • Various graphemes have multiple pronunciations depending on the surrounding consonants, particularly before fortis consonants
Simple vowels
Letter Pronunciation Examples
a stressed [ɑː] before fortis consonants in an open syllable canna [ˈkʰɯ̯͡ɑ̃ːnˠə] "heads", talla [ˈtʰɑ̃ːɫə] "country"
[aʊ̯] before fortis consonants in a closed syllable cann [kʰɯ̯͡ãʊ̯nˠ] "head", tall [tʰaʊ̯ɫ] "that"
[ɑː] before /ɾ/ in a closed syllable sar [sɑː] "forwards", char [xɯ̯͡ɑː] "across"
[ɑ] in open syllables agam [ˈɑ͡ɑ̯gəm] "beside me", bratach [ˈbɾɑtəx] "flag"
[ɑ ~ a] in closed syllables map [mɔ̯͡ɑ̃͜ɒ̯p ~ mɔ̯͡ã͜ʊ̯p] "paper", lasc [ɫɑsk ~ ɫask] "whip"
unstressed [ɑː] before fortis consonants comann [ˈkʰɯ̯͡õmɔ̯͡ɑ̃ːnˠ] "council", síothalla [ˈʃi͡ːɑ̯xɯ̯͡ɑ̃ːɫə] "overseas territory"
[ə] poblach [ˈpʰɔbləx] "public", óchtar [ˈo͡ːɑ̯xtə] "top", fiosa [ˈfisə] "to know"
e stressed [e] in open syllables rene [ˈrẽnə] "straits"
[ɛ] in closed syllables fer [fjɛə̯] "man"
unstressed [ə] coirpe [ˈkʰɯ̯͡ɔə̯pjə] "people", aice [ˈɛ͡æ̯kə] "to see, beside her"
i stressed [iː] before fortis consonants mille [ˈmĩːʎə] "thousand", innde [ˈĩːɲd͡ʒə] "in them"
[i] in open syllables mise [ˈmĩʃə] "me (emph.)", di [d͡ʒi] "of"
[ɪ] in closed syllables rin [rɪ̃n] "strait", im [ɪ̃͡ʏ̯m] "butter"
[iː ~ eː] in forms of one preposition imhe [ˈĩːə ~ ˈẽːə] "around him", imhibh [ĩːv ~ ẽːv] "around you (pl.)"
unstressed [iː] before fortis consonants naíghinn [ˈnˠĩːʝĩːɲ] "children", iminn [ˈĩ͡ʉ̯mĩːɲ] "butters"
[ə] creidim [ˈkʰɾed͡ʒəm] "I think", íchim [ˈiːçəm] "I eat"
o stressed [oː] before fortis consonants in an open syllable tonna [ˈtʰõːnˠə] "waves", follan [ˈfoːɫən] "to learn"
[uː] before fortis consonants in a closed syllable nonn [nũːnˠ] "to there", foll [fuːɫ] "he learns"
[o] in an open syllable coga [ˈkʰɯ̯͡o͜ɑ̯gə] "war", tonach [ˈtʰonəx] "to wonder"
[ɔ] in a closed syllable bog [bɔ͡ɑ̯g] "bog", ocht [ɔ͡ɑ̯xt] "eight"
unstressed [u] in one word áo [ˈɑːu] "grandson"
[uː] before fortis consonants áonn [ˈɑːũːnˠ] "grandsons", choronn [ˈxɯ̯͡oɾũːnˠ] "across us"
[ə] chobhfainn [xəˈvɔ̯͡ãɪ̯ɲ] "unhappy"
u stressed [uː] before a fortis consonant ullar [ˈuːɫə] "floor"
[u] in an open syllable tusa [ˈtʰusə] "you (sing. emph.)", druma [ˈdɾũmə] "ridges"
[ʊ] in a closed syllable sun [sʊ̃n] "to here", ucht [ʊ͡ɑ̯xt] "chest"

Vowels with the acute accent are always pronounced as long vowels, and are always pronounced when part of di- and trigraphs.

Acute vowels
Letter(s) Pronunciation Examples
á [ɑː] [ɫɑː] "day", grá [gɾɑː] "peer"
ái [æː] cáid [kʰɯ̯͡æːd͡ʒ] "forest", áir [æːə̯] "air, sky"
[iː] daíne [ˈdĩːnə] "people", naíghe [ˈnˠĩːʝə] "child"
aío caíoga [ˈkʰɯ̯͡i͜ːɑ̯gə] "fifty", maíobh [mɔ̯͡ĩ͜ːu̯v] "to boast, to threaten"
áo [ɑːu] in one word áo [ɑːu] "grandson"
/aːo/ áonn [ɑːũːnˠ] "grandsons"
é [eː] indé [əɲˈd͡ʒeː] "today", fér [fjeːə̯] "grass"
éi déide [ˈd͡ʒeːd͡ʒə] "boy", éis [eːʃ] "fishes"
coél [kʰɯ̯͡eːl] "thin", soér [seːə̯] "free, variable"
éa [eːə] word-finally céa [ˈkʰæ̯͡eːə] "who", déa [ˈd͡ʒeːə] "god"
[eː] béall [bjeːɫ] "mouth", éas [eːs] "fish"
[ɑː] leán [ʎɑ̃ːn] "rock", caisleán [ˈkʰɯ̯͡æʃlɑ̃ːn] "castle"
eái [æː] leáigh [ʎæːʝ] "it melted"
[oː] meón [mjõːn] "middle"
éoa [eːə] béoabh [ˈbjeːəv] "living beings (obl.)"
í [iː] [ʎiː] "beauty", tígheabha [ˈt͡ʃʰiːəvə, ˈt͡ʃʰiːvə] "we go"
ío píos [pʰiːs] "piece", síosacht [ˈʃiːsəxt] "spirit world"
ía [iːə] bía [ˈbiːə] "living things", remhía [ɾəˈvĩːə] "he measured"
ó [oː] ór [oːə̯] "gold", [nˠõː] "nine"
ói dóid [doːd͡ʒ] "they choose", óim [õ͡ːø̯m] "from me"
óa [oːə] bóa [ˈboːə] "bend", dóa [ˈdoːə] "to choose"
ú [uː] fúmann [ˈfũːmɔ̯͡ɑ̃ːnˠ] "noises", gúch [gɯ̯͡u͜ːɑ̯x] "voice"
[uː] ciún [kʰæ̯͡ũːn] "quiet", siúlas [ˈʃuːləs] "he walks"
iúi ciúinse [ˈkʰæ̯͡ũ͜ːʉ̯nʃə] "quiets, obediences", Tiúibhe [ˈt͡ʃʰu͜ːʉ̯vjə] "Lhedwin (obl.)"
úi [uː] fúimín [ˈfũ͡ːʉ̯mĩːn] "whisper", lúigh [ɫuːʝ] "calf"
úa [uːə] fúam [ˈfũːəm] "sound", gúa [ˈgɯ̯͡uːə] "voices"

Digraphs and trigraphs are particularly complex, with numerous positional pronunciations. Moreover, some spellings may have variant pronunciations depending on dialects, such as ao.

Di- and trigraphs
Letter(s) Pronunciation Examples
ai stressed [aɪ̯] before fortis consonants in a closed syllable baillte [ˈbɔ̯͡aɪ̯ʎt͡ʃə] "towns", fainn [fɔ̯͡ãɪ̯ɲ] "happy"
[æː] before fortis consonants in an open syllable or /ɾ/ in a closed syllable baille [ˈbɔ̯͡æːʎə] "town", ainnem [ˈæ̃ːɲəm] "anthem"
[ɛ] word-initially aicí [ˈɛ͡æ̯kɯ̯͡iː] "he sees", aingeast [ˈɛ̃͡æ̯ŋgəst] "cowardice"
[æ] caisleán [ˈkʰɯ̯͡æʃlɑ̃ːn] "castle", maich [mɔ̯͡æ̃ç] "good"
unstressed [æː] before fortis consonants clubhainnte [ˈkʰluwæ̃ːɲt͡ʃə] "meadows", parlamainnte [ˈpʰɑːləmɔ̯͡æ̃ːɲt͡ʃə] "parliaments"
[ə] archais [ˈɑːxəʃ] "because", tabhairt [ˈtʰɑ͡ɒ̯vət͡ʃ] "to give"
ao [ɛ] in closed syllables gaold [gɯ̯͡ɛld] "cash", faol [fɔ̯͡ɛl] "is (dependent)"
[iː] or [eː] saoracht [ˈsiːɾəxt ~ ˈseːɾəxt] "kingdom", nao [nˠiː ~ nˠeː] "than her"
aoi [iː] or [eː] órsaoigh [ˈoːə̯siːʝ ~ ˈoːə̯seːʝ] "golden", naoide [ˈnˠiːd͡ʒə ~ ˈnˠeːd͡ʒə] "than them"
ea stressed [jaʊ̯] or [iː] word-initially before fortis consonants in a closed syllable Eallsabh [ˈjaʊ̯ɫsəv, ˈiːɫsəv] "Elsouf river", eang [jãʊ̯ŋg, ĩːŋg] "flute"
[aʊ̯] before fortis consonants in a closed syllable teangda [ˈt͡ʃʰãʊ̯nˠdə] "tongues"
[ɑː] before fortis consonants in open syllables tearra [ˈt͡ʃʰɑ̃ːrə] "army"
[ɛ] or [ɑː] before /ɾ/ in a closed syllable bearn [bjɛ̃ə̯n ~ bjɑ̃ːn] "gap", bearbha [ˈbjɛə̯və ~ ˈbjɑ͡ːɒ̯və] "we carry"
[e] in an open syllable spealán [ˈʃpelɑːn] "sickle", bearaid [ˈbjeɾəd͡ʒ] "they carry"
[ɛ] in a closed syllable teach [t͡ʃʰɛ͡ɑ̯x] "house", seach [ʃɛ͡ɑ̯x] "beyond"
unstressed [ɑː] before fortis consonants cisteann [ˈkʰæ̯͡ɪʃtɑ̃ːnˠ] "questions", imeann [ˈi͡ʏ̯mjɑ̃ːnˠ] "butters (nonstandard)"
[ə] aireach [ˈɛɾəx] "careful", inem [ˈĩnəm] "in me"
ei stressed [iː] before fortis consonants in a closed syllable teinn [t͡ʃʰĩːɲ] "soldier", seinn [ʃĩːɲ] "he sings"
[eː] before fortis consonants in an open syllable gleinne [ˈglẽːɲə] "valleys", seinnim [ˈʃẽːɲəm] "I sing"
[e] in open syllables creidim [ˈkʰɾed͡ʒəm] "I think"
[ɛ] in closed syllables eich [ɛç] "horses", creidbhe [ˈkʰɾɛd͡ʒvjə] "we think"
unstressed [ə] soéreis [ˈseːɾəʃ] "freedoms", aingeist [ˈɛ͡æ̯ŋgəʃt] "cowardice (obl.)"
eo [oː] before fortis consonants feolla [ˈfjoːɫə] "violin", beolla [ˈbjoːɫə] "mouths"
[ɔ] seon [ʃɔ̃n] "this", sheon [hjɔ̃n] "here"
ia [ɑ] siasca [ˈʃɑskə] "sixty"
io stressed [uː] before fortis consonants in a closed syllable reshionn [ɾəˈhjũːnˠ] "he sang"
[iː] before fortis consonants in an open syllable giolla [ˈgæ̯͡iːɫə] "conscript"
[ʊ] before [ŋ] ghionga [ˈjʊ̃͡ɑ̯ŋgə] "boy"
[i] in open syllables diosa [ˈd͡ʒisə] "rights", fiosa [ˈfisə] "to know"
[ɪ] in closed syllables dios [d͡ʒɪs] "right", fios [fɪs] "knowledge"
unstressed [uː ~ iː] before a fortis consonant airionn [ˈɛɾũːnˠ ~ ˈɛɾĩːnˠ] "for us"
[ɪ ~ ə] creidiod [ˈkʰɾed͡ʒɪd ~ ˈkʰɾed͡ʒəd] "they think", airiom [ˈɛɾɪm ~ ˈɛɾəm] "for me"
iu [ʊ] piur [pʰjʊə̯] "sister"
oi [ɔɪ̯] before fortis consonants in a closed syllable oill [ɔɪ̯ʎ] "all", oinn [ɔ̃ɪ̯ɲ] "from us"
[oː] before fortis consonants in an open syllable coille [ˈkʰɯ̯͡oːʎə] "council", foillim [ˈfoːʎəm] "I learn"
[e] before [m f v] in open syllables coimeach [ˈkʰɯ̯͡ẽ͜ø̯mjəx] "when"
[ɛ] before [m f v] in closed syllables oibh [ɛ͡œ̯v] "from you (pl.)"
[o] in open syllables oise [ˈoʃə] "water", coide [ˈkʰɯ̯͡od͡ʒə] "to support"
[ɔ] in closed syllables doirse [ˈdɔə̯ʃə] "doors", coid [kʰɯ̯͡ɔd͡ʒ] "he supports (dep.)"
oui [uː] souill [suːʎ] "eye"
ui [iː] before fortis consonants suinnseach [ˈsĩːʃəx] "bright", guilleag [ˈgɯ̯͡iːʎəg] "Cuirpthean language"
[ɔ] before /ɾ/ in closed syllables Cuirpeath [ˈkʰɯ̯͡ɔə̯pjəx] "Cuirpthe", cuirpe [ˈkʰɯ̯͡ɔə̯pjə] "Cuirptheans"
[u] in open syllables duibhe [ˈdu͡ʉ̯vjə] "blacken"
[ɪ] in closed syllables suin [sɪ̃n] "meaning", duibh [dɪ͡ʏ̯v] "black (feminine dative)"

Some vowel spellings incorporate the consonant digraphs bh and gh but have distinct pronunciations. The spellings below may include additional vowels to fit with the spelling rule without any effect on the pronunciation, cf. liubhra and lubhra. The spellings aighe and ighe appear to have an extra syllable, but this is often not pronounced and in the former is often used to permit the writing of diphthongs in loanwords such as Haigheada.

Spellings with bh and gh
Letter(s) Pronunciation Examples
obh [oː] cobh [kʰɯ̯͡õː] "as", diobh [d͡ʒoː] "out of you (pl.)"
ubh [ʊv] word finally in certain endings dubh [dʊv] "towards you (pl.)", bubh [bʊv] "cows (obl.)"
[uː] word-finally dubh [duː] "black"
[uː] before a consonant liubhra [ˈʎuːɾə] "books", lubhra [ˈɫuːɾə] "to say"
[ɔː] in a few words liubhar [ʎɔːə̯] "book", tubhal [tʰɔːl] "table"
[u(w)] bhubha [ˈvuwə] "we were", nubhabairt [nˠũˈwɑ͡ɒ̯bət͡ʃ] "reiterate"
agh [ɑː] before a consonant raghlas [ˈɾɑːɫəs] "he persuaded", aghnabh [ˈɑ̃ːnəv] "at the (pl.)"
[ɑː] in monosyllables magh [mɔ̯͡ɑ̃ː] "field"
[ə(g)] word-finally fléagh [ˈfleːə(g)] "meal", poblagh [ˈpʰɔblə(g)] "public (fem. dat.)"
agha [ɑː] raghailseam [ˈɾɑːlʃəm] "we persuaded", raghabhais [ˈɾɑ͡ːɒ̯vəʃ] "he held"
aigh(e) [iʝə] word-finally in certain endings meónaighe [ˈmjõːniʝə] "middle (fem. genitive)"
[əʝ] word-finally in certain endings áraigh [ˈɑːɾəʝ] "spring (obl.)", brataigh [ˈbɾɑtəʝ] "flag (obl.)"
[iː] word-finally súraighe [ˈsuːɾiː] "nobleman"
[ai̯] in some words Haigheada [ˈhaɪ̯də] "(a woman's name)"
[ə] before a consonant folltaighbh [ˈfuːɫtəv] "universities (obl.)"
[æʝ] saighead [ˈsæʝəd] "arrow", taighe [ˈtʰæʝə] "houses"
igh(e) [iː] folltigh [ˈfuːɫt͡ʃiː] "university (obl.)", gleinnighe [ˈglẽːɲĩː] "yokel"

Hyphenation occurs in Cuirpthean to show mutations before vowel-initial words: in t-ach "the horse"; a h-ach "her horse"; a n-ach "their horse". Hyphenation formerly was far more common, but many words which were formally hyphenated are now written as separate words: nom-coideas "(he) helps me" → nom coideas; ann-choél "very thin" → ann choél. This has been resisted in words where each part retains a strong link, such as ordinal numbers: dá-chéada "two-hundredth" and never *dá chéada.

Mutations cause complication when words are written entirely in upper case. Mutations which precede the initial consonant are always written in lowercase, and a hyphen may be dropped before vowels: a h-ach "her horse" → A h-ACH or more often A hACH; a bpobal "their people" → A bPOBAL. Mutations which occur after the initial consonant, ie. lenitions, are usually now written in upper case, but traditionally the <h> was written in lower case: a phobal "its people" → A PHOBAL or formerly A PhOBAL.


Cuirpthean retains many of the complexities of Old Maíreidh which have been lost in other languages, while other elements of the morphology have been simplified to a greater extent than in related languages. Cuirpthean retains continues to inflect verbs for person and number, unlike modern Maíreidh for example which usually distinguishes only the first person morphologically: Maíreidh ithim "I eat" but itheann tú/sé/sí "you eat/he/she eats"; Cuirpthean íchim "I eat", íche "you eat", ích "he/she eats". Verbs also distinguish indicative, subjunctive and imperative moods as well as past and present tenses. Nouns, meanwhile, distinguish singular, plural and rarely dual numbers, as well as direct and oblique case. Nouns have one of three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. Adjectives agree with nouns in number (singular and plural), gender, and case (the oblique is divided into genitive and dative, also called prepositional). The definite article further divides the direct case into nominative and accusative. As in other Thiaric languages, prepositions in Cuirpthean use suffixes, which are not always predictable, to mark pronominal objects.


All nouns in Cuirpthean have either masculine, feminine or neuter gender; knowing the gender of a noun is key not only for adjective and article agreement but also for correctly inflecting a noun. Gender is predictable from the presence of certain suffixes or from semantic factors, but otherwise is arbitrary. Nouns inflect for singular and plural number, though a very small number of noun also have a dual: souillN "eye", dá souillL "two eyes", in thrí souilleH "the three eyes" (note the different mutation caused by the singular and dual forms). In speech the dual tends to replace or be replaced by the plural: dá souilleH or in thrí souillL. Nouns distinguish two cases: the direct which functions as a nominative and accusative and the oblique which functions as a genitive and dative. Some analyses add a third case, the vocative, identical to the direct but with a slenderised final consonant. The vocative always collocates with the particle a and so is not classed as a case herein: a mháir! "O mother!".

Nouns have four main paradigms with a number of subclasses. All paradigms have slight differences between masculine, feminine and neuter nouns. The most numerous declension is the first declension, into which many distinct Old Maíreidh nouns merged. Within this are subcategories for the following Old Maíreidh noun types: feminine i-stem, neuter i-stem and neuter u-stem. The distinctiveness of feminine i-stem nouns within this paradigm is being lost. The second declension continues Old Maíreidh velar-stem nouns and includes no neuter nouns, the third declension continues nt-stem and dental-stem nouns and seems to be merging with the first declension (masculine, feminine) and fourth declension (neuter), and the fourth declension continues n-stem nouns. Outside these paradigms are a few truly irregular nouns such as "cow" and mís "month".

An important aspect of nominal inflection in Cuirpthean is the mutations caused by a given form; cases may be distinguished not by suffix but by mutation. As a result, all mutations are listed in the tables below, and where there is variation in mutations, that is also discussed.

Regular first declension masculine nouns decline identically, though the following points must be noted. Spelling changes may occur depending on whether the final consonant of a stem is broad or slender, but the pronunciation is not otherwise affected (this is true throughout the language). Thus, one writes géalla but cráibhe, both words being regular first declension masculine direct plural forms. This also applies to some forms which experience slenderisation of a consonant; even though the pronunciation may not change, the spelling is always altered where possible. When the word ends in a vowel, the direct plural has no ending: bóa "bend(s)", but historically vowel-final words may lengthen the final vowel: cogá "wars" ← Old Maíreidh cocada, however often they are treated like other vowel-final nouns: coga "war(s)".

A major point of dialectal variation in the first declension for masculine nouns is the mutation of the direct singular. Most frequently, and in the standard language, this form causes eclipsis. However, many speakers in the west instead have no mutation. This is somewhat important when considering a similar variation amongst feminine first declension nouns.

The declension of the regular first declension broad masculine noun géall "jaw" is as follows:

N1MB Singular Plural
Direct géallN géallaH
Oblique géallL géallabh

All nouns ending in a broad consonant experience slenderisation when preceded by the vocative particle a (which is only used before consonants). For the above word this results in a ghéill! "O jaw!". In other paradigms slenderisation is used in other situations.

The declension of the slender noun cráibh "bone" follows; as mentioned above, the only difference is in how the inflections are spelt to conform with spelling rules:

N1MS Singular Plural
Direct cráibhN cráibheH
Oblique cráibhL cráibhebh

To exemplify a noun ending in a vowel coga "war" is given below. Since the historic form of this noun ends with a consonant it is one of the few nouns which can distinguish the direct plural with vowel lengthening, but most speakers have ceased to distinguish it from other vowel-final nouns:

N1MV Singular Plural
Direct cogaN cogáH, cogaH
Oblique cogaL cogabh

Ablaut is quite common in noun inflection, though to a far lesser extent than amongst verbs. The majority of ablauting nouns are first declension masculine nouns. Most common is ablaut in the plural, though some nouns also have ablaut in the oblique singular. In the latter instance the oblique plural always has the same ablaut, but in the former instance it may occur with or without it. The noun fer "man" is given below to exemplify the former type of ablaut:

N1MSAi Singular Plural
Direct ferN fireH
Oblique ferL ferebh, firebh

To exemplify the latter, the noun bran "raven" is given. This type of ablaut is uncommon and outside the written language is often being lost entirely. Therefore, the common spoken forms are also given:

N1MBAii Singular Plural
Direct branN bronaH, branaH
Oblique bronL, branL bronabh, branabh

Adjectives ending in -ach are declined slightly differently when used as nouns to when used as adjectives. Historically, these match to the first declension, and so form an additional subset of this paradigm. These decline more like feminine nouns (see below), but cause the mutations that are expected based on their gender; since most happen to be masculine, the declension of córach "foreigner" (note the syncope in the plural) is given now to illustrate this:

N1MG Singular Plural
Direct córachN córchaH
Oblique córaighL córchabh

First declension feminine nouns, excluding i-stem nouns, decline much like first declension masculine nouns but cause different mutations. There is an important morphological distinction, however, in that broad consonants at the end of a word are slenderised in the oblique singular, which otherwise has no ending: ágháigh. This is irrelevant when the final consonant is already slender or when the word ends with a vowel.

As with masculine nouns, feminine nouns in the first declension have dialectal variation in the mutation occurring after the direct singular. The most common, and again standard, mutation is lenition, and this is given in the tables below. However, some speakers instead use eclipsis, creating a near-merger with the masculine paradigm. Speakers who do not use eclipsis in the masculine will always use lenition in the feminine. In the direct plural, the standard is for no mutation to occur, but as with masculine nouns H-prosthesis is often heard.

The noun ágh "side", which ends with a broad consonant, is given below:

N1FB Singular Plural
Direct ághL ágha
Oblique áighL ághabh

The oblique singular is differentiated above by slenderisation of the final consonant; the declension of amaid "fool" which follows shows that this cannot occur when the consonant is already slender:

N1FS Singular Plural
Direct amaidL amaide
Oblique amaidL amaidebh

This also does not apply to nouns ending in a vowel, as coille "council" below illustrates:

N1FV Singular Plural
Direct coilleL coille
Oblique coilleL coillebh

Feminine i-stem nouns form a peculiar subset. The mutations they cause are usually identical to masculine nouns rather than feminine nouns, though the use of lenition in the direct singular appears to be increasing. Slenderisation occurs not only in the oblique singular but also throughout the plural where possible. Finally the oblique singular is marked with a suffix identical to that of the direct plural; this last feature however is often lost in speech. The declension of foll "blood" is given below:

N1FBJ Singular Plural
Direct follN, L foilleH
Oblique foilleL, foillL foillebh

Slender nouns naturally experience no change in the slenderising environments, as shown by cáid "forest" below:

N1FSJ Singular Plural
Direct cáidN, L cáideH
Oblique cáideL, cáidL cáidebh

First declension neuter nouns have not been levelled quite as much as masculine or feminine nouns, with two additional subsets reflecting i-stem and u-stem neuter nouns.

The primary paradigm for first declension neuter nouns is almost identical to that of masculine nouns; the only difference is that the direct plural is either marked with zero suffix and H-mutation or by a suffix with lenition, both possibilities being distinct from the masculine. The declension of cann "head" exemplifies:

N1NB Singular Plural
Direct cannN cannaL, cannH
Oblique cannL cannabh

The same occurs with slender nouns such as fér "grass" below:

N1NS Singular Plural
Direct férN féreL, férH
Oblique férL férebh

Like feminine i-stem nouns, neuter i-stem nouns are characterised by an ending in the oblique singular, which once again is often dropped in speech. The direct plural always occurs with an ending and lenition here as well. The noun drom "ridge" below experiences ablaut, but the endings are regular:

N1NBJ Singular Plural
Direct dromN drumaL
Oblique dromaH, dromL dromabh, drumabh

Neuter u-stem nouns are similar to regular first declension neuter nouns, but in the standard language the direct plural does not cause any mutation. Some speakers use lenition by analogy to other nouns in the first declension. Moreover, the plural is characterised by slenderisation, as in doras "door" which follows:

N1NBU Singular Plural
Direct dorasN doirse
Oblique dorasL doirsebh

The first declension contains numerous irregular nouns. These irregularities may involve irregular inflectional forms and/or irregular mutations. The latter in particular is a very unstable irregularity and outside the most common nouns speakers tend to apply more predictable mutations.

An example of an irregular masculine noun is ach "horse" below. This word has an unusual ablaut pattern, and the direct plural eich traditionally causes lenition. However, demonstrating the instability of many irregular nouns, this is often replaced with H-prosthesis or regularised entirely to ocha:

N1MI Singular Plural
Direct achN eichL/H, ochaH
Oblique ochL achabh

A common irregularity in the first declension is the insertion of a consonant in the plural forms. Some nouns have a consonant change before this ending as well, but most often this change is regularised away, unless the change is from a lenis to fortis consonant (see below). An example of such a noun is baille "town" as shown here:

N1MI Singular Plural
Direct bailleN baillteH, bainnteH
Oblique bailleL bailltebh, bainntebh

Numerous nouns ending in -ch experience the loss of this sound in the plural. The vowel in the following inflection is lost after some vowels and retained in others; the oblique plural ending may occur without the vowel even when the direct plural retains it. The noun gúch "voice" is an example of this:

N1MI Singular Plural
Direct gúchN gúaH
Oblique gúchL gúabh, gúbh

The above irregular nouns are all masculine, but irregularities also exist for feminine and neuter nouns, with similar peculiarities. For example, the feminine i-stem noun clubhain "meadow" gains a consonant in the plural: clubhainnte while the neuter noun teach "house" experiences both vowel and consonant changes and has a distinct mutation pattern: taigheL "houses".

The second declension contains no irregular nouns, nor any neuter nouns. It continues velar-stem nouns from Old Maíreidh. The velar part of the stem is not present in the singular; it may be written as a silent consonant, but this is not common. It surfaces in both plural forms. The only difference between masculine and feminine second declension nouns is that in the direct singular masculine nouns cause H-prosthesis while feminine nouns cause lenition.

The masculine noun "king", rarely written rígh, is given below:

N2M Singular Plural
Direct H rígheH
Oblique L ríghebh

The feminine noun cáchra "castle", rarely written cáchragh, is given below. Note that despite the apparently broad ending in the alternative spelling, when the velar element is pronounced it is always slender:

N2F Singular Plural
Direct cáchraL cáchraigheH
Oblique cáchraL cáchraighebh

The third declension continues Old Maíreidh nt-stem and dental-stem nouns. Masculine and feminine nouns are identical except for their mutations. In older Cuirpthean, whether the plural forms had a broad or slender consonant was unpredictable and lexically-conditioned, but today the tendency is for it to match the preceding stem. Neuter nouns however are morphologically distinct in this declension.

Masculine nouns are notable for having no mutations other than lenition in the oblique singular. The noun teinn (formerly spelt teing) follows to exemplify:

N3MS Singular Plural
Direct teinn teinnde
Oblique teinnL teinndebh

Note the above noun is slender. The following feminine noun, teanga "tongue", is broad and the endings reflect this. Final vowels in this declension are lost in the plural forms:

N3FB Singular Plural
Direct teangaH teangdaH
Oblique teangaL teangdabh

Third declension neuter nouns, aside from their mutations, are exceptional for various reasons. The oblique singular and for some speakers plural experience slenderisation. Neither plural form adds a consonant, and the paradigm looks rather like the first declension; however, there is increasing tendency to mark the direct plural with -ann or infrequently -inn which has spread from the fourth declension. The noun déad "tooth" is given below:

N3NB Singular Plural
Direct déadN déada, déadannL
Oblique déidL déadabh, déidebh

The fourth declension contains the descendants of Old Maíreidh n-stem nouns. Between genders, only the direct case has distinct mutations, while neuter nouns are morphologically distinct in the oblique singular.

The masculine noun talla "land" is given below. This is a broad noun, and so the direct plural uses the ending -ann:

N4MB Singular Plural
Direct talla tallannH
Oblique tallannL tallanabh

The feminine noun naíghe "child" meanwhile is slender, and so the direct plural ends in -inn. Note, however, that in the oblique singular only -ann is ever used. Also, some speakers lack mutation after the direct singular, thus merging masculine and feminine nouns in this declension:

N4FS Singular Plural
Direct naígheL naíghinnH
Oblique naígheannL naíghnebh

Fourth declension neuters nouns are distinguished by the abscence of -ann in the oblique singular as well as distinct mutations in the direct case. The noun céam "step" is given below:

N4FS Singular Plural
Direct céamN céamannL
Oblique céamL céamnabh

Some nouns are so irregular as to defy categorisation into any of the four cardinal declensional paradigms. Descendants of the few Old Maíreidh r-stem nouns are examples of such nouns. They have identical mutations, though they do not pattern with each other. One example, áthar "father" (which also has an irregular pronunciation) is given below:

NMI Singular Plural
Direct áthar áitherH
Oblique áitherL áithrebh

Some nouns are even more irregular. One example, which was irregular in Old Maíreidh, is "cow", which declines as follows; note the two variants for the oblique singular:

NFI Singular Plural
Direct L baíH
Oblique bonN, bóH bubh

After a noun, an adjective is mutated in accordance with the mutations listed above. When multiple adjectives follow a noun, they all experience the same mutation: corp dtapach gcaiseach "a clever and careful person". For the small number of adjectives which precede the noun, the mutation applies backwards: shean map "old paper". When no adjectives follow a noun, a following preposition may be mutated: in trá ndin tallann "the coast of the country".


Adjectives in Cuirpthean decline to agree with their head noun in number (singular and plural), gender (only in the singular; usually masculine-neuter and feminine, with the neuter distinguished in only a few irregular adjectives) and case. Unlike nouns, adjectives distinguish three cases, dividing the oblique case into a genitive and dative. Adjectives tend to pattern similarly to first declension nouns. There is a different declension which continues i-stem and yo-stem/ya-stem adjectives; this patterns more like first declension i-stem nouns. There is another paradigm for u-stem adjectives, as well as a number of irregular adjectives.

The very common adjective-forming suffix -(e)ach is considered to be first declension, but has some irregularities. The adjective meónach "middle" is declined in the following table to illustrate. Note that the variants of the masculine-neuter genitive and feminine dative are both acceptable:

Masculine-Neuter Feminine Plural
Direct meónach meónacha
Genitive meónagh, meónaigh meónaighe meónach
Dative meónach meónagh, meónaigh meónachabh

More regular adjectives decline like first declension nouns, though with some exceptions. Since nouns do not distinguish the genitive case, this must be learnt as a solely adjectival property. Also, the masculine-neuter dative form always has an ending, and both the feminine and plural dative forms experience slenderisation. The regular adjective súr "noble" is given below:

Masculine-Neuter Feminine Plural
Direct súr súra
Genitive súr súra súr
Dative súra súir súirebh

The so-called i-stem adjective declension (a slight misnomer as it also continues yo-stem adjectives) are distinguished by the use of an ending in the feminine direct as well as both genitive singular forms. The common i-stem adjective maich "good" is as follows:

Masculine-Neuter Feminine Plural
Direct maich maiche
Genitive maiche maich
Dative maiche maich maichebh

In most forms of u-stem adjectives it is the broadness or slenderness of the final consonant that determines case rather than the presence of endings. Those three forms which do have an ending can be pronounced either with a broad or slender consonant depending on the speaker. The common u-stem adjective dubh "black" follows to demonstrate:

Masculine-Neuter Feminine Plural
Direct dubh dubha, duibhe
Genitive duibh dubha, duibhe dubh
Dative dubh duibh dubhabh, duibhebh

Some adjectives have a completely irregular declension, such as which follows now:

Masculine-Neuter Feminine Plural
Direct naí
Genitive núa
Dative nobh

The distribution of forms amongst irregular adjectives vary; compare the above paradigm with that of "alive" below:

Masculine-Neuter Feminine Plural
Direct bía
Genitive bía
Dative bía béoabh

Adjectives also possess three additional inflected grades which are only used predicatively, not attributively. The comparative is formed with slenderisation or lenition and a suffix -e, which triggers a consonant change for -ach adjectives: grách "usual" → gráighe "more usual". Some adjectives experience ablaut in this grade: sean "old" → sine "older", tréan "strong" → tríne "stronger", lúch "fast" → laoiche "faster". Some adjectives did not traditionally cause slenderisation: arda "taller", but these have now largely been regularised: airde. After a vowel, the suffix used is -sa: "new" → núsa "newer". The adjective maich "good" has the totally irregular comparative grade fár "better", and likewise olch "bad" and miasa "worse". These forms are all indeclinable.

The regular superlative is formed by adding the broad ending -nn to the comparative adjective: gráigheann "most usual", sineann "oldest", tríneann "strongest", laoicheann "fastest", ardann or airdeann "tallest", núsann "newest". The completely irregular superlative of maich is deach "best" while that of olch is formed normally from the comparative: miasann "worst". Once again, all of these forms are indeclinable.

The final grade, the equative, is formed by adding the ending -ía after the comparative stem: gráighía "as usual", sinía "as old", trínía "as strong", laoichía "as fast", ardaía or airdía "as tall", núsaía "as new". There are no truly irregular equative adjectives: from the comparative fár "better" comes fáraía "as good" while from miasa "worse" comes miasaía "as bad". Once more, these are indeclinable.

These forms can be used predicatively in the following constructions:

  • Complement of "to be"
    • Ghais in rí fár. [ɣɯ̯͡æʃ ə̃ˈriː fɔ̯͡ɑː] "The king is better."
    • Ghais in rí'n deach. [ɣɯ̯͡æʃ ə̃ˈriːn d͡ʒɛ͡ɑ̯x] "The king is the best."
    • Ghais in rí fáraía. [ɣɯ̯͡æʃ ə̃ˈriː kʰɯ̯͡õːˈfɔ̯͡ɑːɾiːə] "The king is as good."
  • Targeted comparison as a complement of "to be"
    • Ghais in rígheán fár n rí. [ɣɯ̯͡æʃ ən ˈɾiːʝɑ̃ːn fɔ̯͡ɑː nɑ̃ːn riː] "The queen is better than the king."
    • Ghais é deach dinebh ríghebh. [ɣɯ̯͡æʃ eː d͡ʒɛ͡ɑ̯x ˈd͡ʒĩnəv ˈriːʝəv] "He is the best of the kings."
    • Ghais in rí fáraía's in rígheán. [ɣɯ̯͡æʃ ə̃ˈriː ˈfɔ̯͡ɑːɾiːəs ən ˈɾiːʝɑ̃ːn] "The king is as good as the queen."
  • Definite nouns with an implied referent (usually with mhá "alone")
    • Mé daígheas a bhfár mhá. [mjẽː ˈdiːʝəs əˈvɔ̯͡ɑː vɔ̯͡ɑ̃ː] "I chose the better (one)."
    • Go búibhíé'n deach mhá. [gəˈbu͡ːʉ̯viːeːn d͡ʒɛ͡ɑ̯x vɔ̯͡ɑ̃ː] "May the best (man) win."
    • Bía go pósá mé'n bhfáraía's íse mhá. [ˈbiːə gəˈpʰoːsɑː mjẽːn ˈvɔ̯͡ɑːɾiːəs ˈiːʃə vɔ̯͡ɑ̃ː] "I only want to marry one as good as her."

Note that when used alone, the equative generally takes a prefix có- which carries no additional meaning. This prefix is less common when the equative meaning is indicated in other ways.

None of the above forms may be used attributively with a noun. Instead, the basic grade of an adjective is used with qualifying particles to express degree. The comparative particle is lín, the superlative is óch or och and the equative is cobh:

  • In rí tapach [ə̃ˈriː ˈtʰɑ͡ɒ̯pəx] "The wise king"
  • In rí línN dtapach [ə̃ˈriː lĩːn ˈdɑ͡ɒ̯pəx] "The wiser king"
  • In rí h-óch tapach [ə̃ˈriː ho͡ːɑ̯x ˈtʰɑ͡ɒ̯pəx] "The wisest king"
  • In rí cobhH tapach (as) [ə̃ˈriː kʰɯ̯͡õː ˈtʰɑ͡ɒ̯pəx (əs)] "The as-good (as...) king"

There are some adjectives which do not decline to agree with their head at all. This set of adjectives includes numerals and demonstratives and precede (if they are placed before the noun) or follow (if after the noun) any other adjectives which may occur: ún mhaich chaillín mhá [ũːn vɔ̯͡æ̃ç ˈxɯ̯͡æːʎĩːn vɔ̯͡ɑ̃ː] "one good girl"; in dhéide maiche tall [ə̃ɲˈʝeːd͡ʒə ˈmɔ̯͡æ̃çə tʰaʊ̯ɫ] "those good boys".

Definite article

Cuirpthean has no indefinite article, but does have a definite article ("the"). Whereas nouns only mark direct and oblique case, and adjectives mark direct, genitive and dative, the definite article continues to distinguish four cases: nominative, accusative, genitive and dative, though the dative article only occurs suffixed to prepositions. The article also shows number and gender. There are only three distinct independent forms of the article: in, a and na; however, the various cases cause distinct mutations to occur. The full declension is given below:

Singular Plural
Masculine Neuter Feminine Masculine Feminine-Neuter
Nominative in, in t-1 aN inL, in t-2 inL naH
Accusative inN inN naH
Genitive inL, in t-2 naH naN
Dative -n, -n t-2 -nabh, -nebh

Two types of special mutations occur after certain forms of the definite article. After the masculine nominative singular (1) T-prosthesis occurs before a vowel-initial word: in t-ach "the horse". Like all pre-vowel mutations, this is attached to the word with a hyphen. In the nominative singular feminine and masculine and neuter singular genitive, as well as the dative singular (2), a special T-mutation occurs to s at the start of a word, becoming ts which is pronounced /t/: in tsouill "the eye". This does not apply to certain occurrences of s in clusters: in tsráid "the road" but in scoll "the school" not *in tscoll.

After a preposition the article occurs in its dative form as a suffix rather than as an independent word. Mutations never occur in this environment. For more information, see the relevant section on prepositions. After conjunctions which function like prepositions, but do not conjugate, the nominative case is used: fáraía's in t-ach "as good as the horse".


There is something of a paradox in that the Cuirpthean verbal system is both where the simplifications that have affected the language are most apparent, but also where those conservatisms which distinguish Cuirpthean from its sibling languages are most easily observed. Compared with Old Maíreidh, there has been an overwhelming trend towards simplification in the Cuirpthean verbal system. The wide array of inflections on the Old Maíreidh verb have been collapsed, and in Cuirpthean verbs conjugate for only two tenses (present and past), three moods (indicative, subjunctive and imperative) and only one voice (active). Besides these, verbs also have a verbal noun and a past/passive participle. The third person singular of regular verbs continues to distinguish between an independent and dependent form (traditionally "absolute" and "conjunct" respectively), and the third person present tense of "to be" further retains relative forms.

Beyond the aforementioned synthetic verbal system however, Cuirpthean has shifted to more analytic methods for conveying elements such as the passive voice and non-progressive aspects. In the spoken language this switch to analytic language is more prominent than in literary Cuirpthean; for example, whereas one would write mé néada for "I am not", with "not be" expressed using a suppletive verb, in speech one is likely to hear the analytic constructions mé ní gham or mé cho gham.

Verbs in Cuirpthean fall into one of two conjugational paradigms with distinct endings. Most verbs of the first conjugation are regular (with the common exception of an unpredictable verbal noun form) while most verbs in the second conjugation are irregular with regards to the verb stem. Only the verb bóch "to be" is irregular both in stem and in endings, but being used in many analytic constructions, this is the most important verb in the language. The conjugational paradigms are referred both as first and second conjugation and as type-A and type-B conjugation, depending on the terminology. Each has slightly different patterns depending on whether the stem ends with a broad or slender consonant or vowel.

The present tense of verbs carries a progressive, habitual or gnomic meaning. It can also be used to express a future tense. In speech, it is most common to express the progressive aspect periphrastically with the structure bóch ag + verbal noun. The future tense is still often expressed with the plain present form, but using the phrase tígheach do + verbal noun is also widespread; see below.

In the first conjugation, the singular present indicative endings are basically identical throughout, with some minor spelling differences. In the plural, after a broad stem the first person is broad while the non-first person is slender; the inverse is true after a slender stem. The dependent third person form is marked with zero ending in contrast to the second conjugation. The subjunctive endings are characterised by the insertion of a long vowel before the person inflections, á after a broad consonant and é elsewhere. Person is not distinguished in the singular, while the first person plural ending is identical to the indicative and the non-first person plural ending is always broad.

The present tense conjugation given below is that of the following four first conjugation verbs: fiosa "to know", dóa "to choose", creide "to think", aice "to see". The present stem of aice is aicí- while for the other verbs it is the verbal noun without the final vowel:

Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person fiosam
2nd person fiosa
3rd person Independent fiosas
Dependent fios


The second conjugation is not significantly different in the present tense with regards to its personal endings. The most notable differences are that the dependent third person is marked here with an ending and the independent with a zero ending, opposite to the first conjugation, and that broad consonants experience slenderisation in the first and second person singular, as well as for the singular subjunctive. For both moods, vowel stems have a non-first person plural ending in -da. The dependent and independent third person are not contrasted after a vowel stem.

Second conjugation verbs frequently have unpredictable stems, though this is more common in the past tense. The following second conjugation verbs are used to illustrate: follan "to learn", galla "to persuade", íche "to eat", búibhín "to win". The stem of these verbs is respectively foll-, glá-, ích- and búibhi-. The short vowel in the final word is lengthened before the subjunctive endings.

Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person foillim
2nd person foille
3rd person Independent foll
Dependent follaí

The uses of the subjunctive are discussed in the section on syntax. In the third person singular there is a distinction between an independent and dependent form. The dependent form is used after a variety of particles such as negative and interrogative an: é ní h-íchí di naráidebh "he doesn't eat oranges", ana n í ca lúch? "will she choose it soon?". Compare these with the plain positive equivalents which use independent forms: é ích di naráidebh "he eats oranges", í na dhóas ca lúch "she will choose it soon". The particle no which occurs as na in the latter example is exceptional in not requiring the dependent form, and most speakers use the independent. The the section on pronouns for more information on this particle.

The present tense can function alone as a future tense, but an alternative construction is to use the present tense of the irregular verb tígheach "to go" with the preposition do and a verbal noun. The present tense of this verb is given below; not that the subjunctive forms use an irregular stem.

Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person téagham, téam tígheabha, tiobha tísé tíosábha
2nd person téagha, téa tígheada, tíoda tíosád
3rd person Independent téid
Dependent téad

The preceding example can thus be replaced with í na théid do dhóa ca lúch or í téid do dhóa ása ca lúch. This makes the possible interpretation of "she is choosing it quickly" impossible as the phrase is clearly future tense.

Using the present tense of bóch "to be" with the preposition ag (before a consonant a, but only with verbal nouns) and a verbal noun creates a distinct progressive present (ie. not habitual or gnomic). This verb is extremely irregular and the conjugation will be given later. An example of a present progresive phrase is gham mé a' grín inN siosa "I am going to work".

The past tense of verbs carries a progressive or preterite (depending on the verb) or past-habitual meaning. The progressive aspect can be indicated unambiguously with the same construction as in the present tense, but using the past forms of bóch instead of the present. The preterite can be shown with a separate construction, also used for a perfective aspect, involving the past tense of bóch and the preposition seach: bhasa mé seach siosa "I worked; I had worked".

The past tense of first conjugation verbs is very simple in comparison to the second conjugation. All indicative forms apart from the third person singular contain a common element s which traces to the s-past formations of Old Maíreidh, but in Cuirpthean this has been generalised to all first conjugation verbs. A consonant alternation occurs in the past tense wherein broad vocalic stems become slender and slender vocalic stems become broad. This change is often, though not always accompanied by an unpredictable change to the stem. Like second conjugation present tense verbs, first conjugation past tense verbs do not distinguish dependent and independent forms after a vocalic stem. In the indicative, the first and second person singular are not distinguished. Subjunctive forms are more distinct than in the singular.

The same verbs as those given in the present are used to exemplify the past tense conjugation. Note, however, that dóa and aice both have irregular stems, respectively daíghe- and aca-. These show the alternation previously described.

Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person fiosas
2nd person fiossad
3rd person Independent fiosaí
Dependent fios

Although some of the above forms are homophones of present tense forms in isolation, in context confusion is rarely an issue. Since Cuirpthean does not usually allow dropping pronouns, the similarity between (for example) both meanings of fiosa are not ambiguous, while the presence or absence of lenition on fios is usually enough to determine the correct tense.

The second conjugation past tense is significantly more complicated. Unlike in the first conjugation, there is not one consistent affix marking the past tense; verbs either have no distinct marker, or an unpredictable marker, primarily s or d. More distinct however is the past prefix, written as (unstressed) ra- or re- before a consonant and r- before a vowel (without the hyphen). This occurs before all independent past verbs and some past verbs preceded by a particle (such as the interrogative an, which combines with the prefix to give ar) and causes lenition by default. In some instances it disappears; in this instance, absent any other mutations, it causes eclipsis in its absence.

The past tense stem of a second conjugation is either identical to the present stem or totally unpredictable. The third person singular independent form ends in -ta or -te depending on the preceding stem, while the dependent form has a zero ending. However, the third person singular is frequently itself irregular; even where otherwise regular, it often experiences slenderisation or broadening. The non-third person singular ending is -a or -e after a consonant cluster but zero ending otherwise. The non-first person plural indicative endings are undergoing a merging in speech, illustrated by the alternatives shown below. The older first person plural ending with m persists in the indicative here.

The model verbs used below are follan, íche and galla as in the first conjugation, as well as miosa "to measure". The past tense stems of these respectively are fall- (3s faill-), dhú-, ghails- (3s ghlas) and mhé- (3s mhí-). They are shown with the past prefix in the table below.

Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person rafhall
2nd person rafhallaid, rafhallad
radhúide, radhúda
raghailsead, raghailsid
remhéada, remhéide
3rd person Independent rafhaillte
Dependent ·fhaill

Perfect and pluperfect are formed with the construction bóch seach and a verbal noun, literally "be after doing". The present tense of bóch makes a present perfect "have done" while the past tense makes a past perfect "had done" and implies the completed action is relevant to the contemporaneous time frame: gham mé seach íche'n n-arán "I've eaten the bread (and therefore am not hungry yet)".

All verbs have two imperative forms, except for bóch which has four. These forms are second person singular and plural. In older speech the plural imperative was used for polite requests, but polite requests today tend to be formed with ag and the verbal noun: a' tabhairt airiom in shallann "please pass me the salt".

The singular imperative is always identical to the bare present stem of a verb, with any appropriate spelling changes to reflect final short vowels being pronounced as schwa. The plural imperative is marked with the suffix -(a)ich. Imperatives are very often preceded by the particle á and optionally but frequently lenited. This is not used before a vowel, and lenition never affects f-. The imperative forms of all hereto mentioned verbs are given below.

Singular Plural
fiosa fios, á fios fiosaich, á fiosaich
dóa dó, á dhó dóich, á dhóich
creide creid, á chreid creidich, á chreidich
aice aicí aicích
follan foll, a foll follaich, a follaich
galla glá, á ghlá gláich, á ghláich
íche ích íchich
búibhín búibhe, á bhúibhe búibhich, á bhúibhich
miosa mios, á mhios miosaich, á mhiosaich

The conjugation of the verb bóch "to be" is extremely irregular and contains dimensions of inflection which have been lost in other verbs. Its importance to the language makes it deserving of special attention. Cuirpthean has only one verb for "be" plus a defective, but related existential verb bía "there is". As a result, whereas for example Maíreidh contrasts tá mé luath "I am fast" with is mé bean "I am a woman", Cuirpthean uses the same verb for both: gham mé lúch and gham mé ben.

In the present tense, both the singular and plural third person forms of bóch have retained relative forms which are used without a relative pronoun in relative clauses: in chaillín ghas lígheach "the girl who is beautiful", cf. in chaillín céa ích in bhfléagh "the girl who is eating the meal". Note that except in less formal speech the indicative present tense of this verb is not negated in the usual way; instead, a suppletive negative verb is used. This is also shown below.

Positive Negative
Indicative Subjunctive Indicative
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person gham ghabha beim néada néadan
2nd person ghá ghaid beid néadad
3rd person Independent ghais
Dependent faol
Relative ghas ghad

The past tense lacks many of the complications of the present tense, with no relative forms and a regularly-formed negative. However, it is still completely irregular.

Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person bhasa bhubha bách báins
2nd person bhaid báid
3rd person Independent bhá

The imperative forms of bóch are also irregular. Exceptionally, the verb has retained third person imperative forms meaning "let be". These are in fact homophones of the existential verb forms, but due to collocating with the particle á this is never a source of ambiguity.

Singular Plural
Second person bí, á bhí bá, á bhá
Third person bía, á bhía béad, á bhéad

Non-second person imperatives of other verbs are expressed through two means. For third person imperatives, the third person imperatives are used with the preposition ag and a verbal noun: á bhía a' dóa co h-úiné "let him choose first". For first person imperatives and as an alternative for third person imperatives, the phrase no léige bóch ag lit. "let smo. be at" is used: á nomL léig bhóch aca aice "let me see it". After a singular imperative bóch is lenited while after a plural imperative there is no change.

The existential verb forms are singular bía (variants and bíghe) and plural béad (variant bigheád): bía fléagh aigen cann in thubhal "there is a meal on the table", béad cóg chorp isen tigh sheon "there are five people in this house". This verb has no other forms, including no past tense forms. The past tense is expressed with the construction bhá go shisé (singular) or bhá go shiosád (plural), meaning literally "it was that there stood...".


Cuirpthean retains two sets of personal pronouns, traditionally called absolute and emphatic forms. The absolute forms are unmarked and largely occur as enclitics directly flanking a finite verb (with or without an intervening particle such as no, for which see below) whereas emphatic forms are syntactically free (disjunctive). Often, emphatic pronouns are also used to emphasise a contrast : tusa "you (in contrast to me, or someone else)".

In addition to these, Cuirpthean retains pronominal adjectives used to indicate possessors of a noun. These cause mutations to the following noun; of note are the third person possessive adjectives, which are superficially identical. However, they are distinguished by the mutation which the following noun takes.

The two sets of person pronouns as well as possessive adjectives are as follows:

Absolute Emphatic Possessive
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person sní mise nine maL, m' árN
2nd person sibh tusa sise daL, d' úrN
3rd person Masculine é éad éasa, éasó éadsó aL aN
Neuter ad ása
Feminine í íse aH

Reflexive forms of the above pronouns are formed by adding fén, which in this position is always lenited to fhén: mé acais mé fhén chairsen scáighe "I saw myself in the mirror". This cannot be used with the particle no or other object-bearing particles: *mé nom fhén acais chairsen scáighe is an ungrammatical sentence.

Absolute pronouns can only occur in proximity to a verb; as a result, mé aicím é "I see him" is correct but *go aicíé mé é is not a correct way to say "that I see him". In this instance, either the emphatic pronoun must be used (go aicíé mé éasa) or an object prefix must be used (go na n-aicíé mé). The former is more common in speech, as object prefixes are declining in usage in the spoken language, often now thought of as being formal. In some constructions where the object prefix is forbidden the object may be shown with the preposition ar, though this is largely literary.

Object prefixes are always bound to a preverbal particle; when none otherwise occurs the particle no is used. Other common particles are interrogative an, negative cho and partitive di. Clitics can cause mutations on a following verb. As with all prepositions, the endings are for the most part not predictable. The inflected forms of no, an and cho are given below.

Singular Plural
1st person nomL
chomL, comL
chodannL, codannL
2nd person nodL
chodhadL, codhadL
chodabh, codabh
3rd person Masculine naN
chonN, conN
chodhaL, codhaL, chodaL, codaL
Neuter naL
chonN, conN
Feminine nosN
chodhaL, codhaL

Cuirpthean has three relative pronouns, two of which are direct and the other of which is indirect. The direct pronouns distinguish gender and are identical to the interrogative pronouns: masculine-feminine (also called "common" or "animate") céaL and neuter N. These are used, like the direct case, to refer to subjects and direct objects (see the syntax section for usage). The sole indirect pronoun is a, which lenites present tense verbs and exceptionally prevents past tense verbs from mutating. This refers to any noun which is (or is assumed to be) part of an oblique phrase.


Cuirpthean prepositions remain about as complex as those of Old Maíreidh. Most dialects of Cuirpthean have inherited two forms of many plain prepositions, depending on the phonological environment in which the preposition occurs. Generally, this involves an alternation between a clear vowel before another vowel and a schwa before a consonant, with an appropriate change in spelling. For example, the preposition co "to, until" is pronounced [kʰɯ̯͡o] but has the form ca [kʰə] which is used before consonants. In a few instances the use of an alternative form is largely confined to speech. This is the case for the preposition seach "beyond" [ʃɛ͡ɑ̯x] which is often pronounced [ʃe] before a consonant but only rarely written as se'.

Cuirpthean has also inherited the so-called conjugating preposition system of that language, meaning that prepositions take suffixes to indicate pronominal arguments. For the majority of prepositions, some or all of these suffixed forms are not predictable from the citation form. Although some irregularities in the Old Maíreidh system have been levelled out in modern Cuirpthean, some exceptional forms still occur. Presented below are the personal forms of the prepositions pri "towards" (OM fri) and í "in":

pri (pra) í
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person priom [pʰɾɪ̃͡u̯m] preinn [pʰɾĩːɲ] ineam [ˈĩnəm] inionn [ˈĩnũːnˠ]
2nd person priod [pʰɾɪd] pribh [pʰɾɪ͡ʏ̯v] inead [ˈĩnəd] ineabh [ˈĩnəv]
3rd person Masculine/Neuter pris [pʰɾɪʃ] pré [pʰɾeː] an [ɑ̃n] innde [ˈĩːɲd͡ʒə]
Feminine pría [ˈpʰɾiːə] ine [ˈĩnə]

Of particular note here is the third person masculine/neuter (no distinction is made between the two genders, except on the object-bearing particle no above) and feminine/plural forms (often, though not always conflated) which are largely unpredictable. Other forms are mostly predictable, though some vowel alternations are not. The use of broad or slender endings is also variable and subject to some speaker variation.

Many prepositions cause mutation. Some prepositions, such as pri above, have variation, with some speakers using mutation and others not. Mutation never occurs after a form bearing a pronominal suffix, except for those object-marking suffixes mentioned in the preceding section. Mutations also do not occur after article forms (see below), except for the special mutation of s which occurs after the singular article.

When a preposition precedes a noun phrase consisting solely of a noun preceded, rather than followed, by an adjective, the preposition causes mutation to the noun rather than the adjective: íN bhige dtighL "in(to) a small house".

Distinct conjugated emphatic forms have been lost, with the bare preposition plus free pronoun used instead. Mutation of the full pronoun is optional, more common in speech than writing: pra mise/mhise "to me". Reflexive forms consist of the conjugated preposition followed by fén which is not subject to mutation: priom fén "to myself".

Many prepositions also have distinct combining forms before the definite article, although the form of the definite article itself never changes in this position. Once again, these forms tend to be unpredictable. Of the aforementioned prepositions, pri becomes singular preisen and plural prasnabh while í becomes singular isen and plural isnebh. Note how the plural form is broad in one preposition and slender in the other.

Although Old Maíreidh distinguished dative arguments from accusative arguments in the third person and when combined with the definite article, as well as in relation to noun agreement, this distinction has been lost in Cuirpthean where the dative forms have been generalised in all instances. These are used even where an accusative meaning (such as motion towards) is intended, and the noun usually takes the oblique case regardless of semantics: gham mé isen mor "I am in the sea" but mé téagham isen mor "I go into the sea".


Cuirpthean syntax shares many similarities to that of the other Thiaric languages, though influence from Newreyan and Fiorentine languages have also triggered a number of changes to the syntax.

Normal word order

Syntactically, influence from non-Thiaric languages has caused Cuirpthean to partially move towards a subject-verb-object word order rather than the traditional verb-subject-object order characteristic of other Thiaric languages: Maíreidh itheann an fear an t-im but Cuirpthean in fer ích a n-im "the man eats the butter". However, in many environments the original order is maintained: mé creidim go íchí'n fer a n-im "I think that the man eats the butter". Pronouns are never dropped in Cuirpthean.

A clause with a syntactical order of SVO has a normal word order of: subject — preverbal particle — verb — conjunctive object — adverb I — direct object — adverb II — indirect object — adverb III — adverb of time. An adverbial phrase may never precede a conjunctive pronominal object, and an indirect object follows any direct object but may follow adverbs. Time adverbs are usually always placed at the end of a clause.

A clause with a syntactical order of VSO has a normal word order of: preverbal particle — verb — subject — adverb I — direct object — adverb II — indirect object — adverb III — adverb of time. The only difference is the inversion of the verb phrase and subject, which prevents the use of conjunctive pronouns to mark objects.

The unmarked word order of Cuirpthean is SVO, that is, subject-verb-object. However, in many non-main (ie. dependent) clauses the older order of VSO is used instead, and this is often analysed as the underlying word order of Cuirpthean. This order returns in two main instances: with the verb bóch "to be" and related verbs which are always placed first in the clause, even in main clauses, as well as in subordinate clauses such as content clauses. In the following examples, S is subject, V is verb, O is object and C is complement:

  • Basic (SVO): In talla móras in dtúch. [ənˈtʰɑ̃ːɫə ˈmõːɾəs ənˈdu͡ːɑ̯x] "The land feeds the people."
  • Predicative (VSC): Ghais in talla mór. [ɣɯ̯͡æʃ ənˈtʰɑ̃ːɫə mõːə̯] "The country is large."
  • Existential (VS): Bía rin aigen meón Cuirpeidh as Tiúibhe. [ˈbiːə rɪn ˈɛ͡æ̯gən mjõːn ˈkʰɯ̯͡ɔə̯pjəʝ əs ˈt͡ʃʰu͡ːʉ̯vjə] "There is a channel between Cuirpthe and Lhedwin."
  • Content (SV - VSO): Mé fiosam go íchid na baí a bhfér. [mjẽː ˈfisəm gə ˈiːçəd͡ʒ nəˈbɔ̯͡iː əˈvjeːə̯] "I know that cows eat grass."
  • Relative (SVO - VS): Mé acais in ndéide a lubhras tú arbhaindé pri. [mjẽː ˈɑ͡ɑ̯kəʃ əɲˈɲeːd͡ʒə əˈɫuːɾəs tʰuː ˈɑːvəɲd͡ʒeː pʰɾi] "I saw the man with whom you were speaking yesterday."

Peripheral arguments can generally be placed before or after the direct object, with no change in meaning. Placing such an argument elsewhere however is marked: mé móras in mbó laisen fléigh or mé móras laisen fléigh in mbó "I fed the cow with the meal" ("with the meal" is the peripheral argument). Adverbs of time, however, almost always go at the end of a clause: gham mé seach íche'n bhfléagh indé "I ate the meal today". In indirect relative clauses, a preposition agreeing with the relative pronoun is exceptionally moved to the end of the clause (see pri in the above example).


Clauses are negated using one of two particles, and cho. The latter is used: with object suffixes; with indicative verbs in subordinate clauses; to negate the existential verb bía; dialectally to negate the verb bóch. In other situations is used. The present tense of bóch is usually negated with a suppletive verb , for which see the section on verbs. Note that the negative particles are some of the exceptional words which may occur between a non-emphatic pronoun and a finite verb. Examples of these particles follow:

  • Mé ní h-íchim di fheoill na bon. [mjẽː ɲĩː ˈhiːçəm d͡ʒi jɔɪ̯ʎ nəˈbɔ̃n] "I don't eat any beef."
  • Mé chon n-íchim. [mjẽː xɯ̯͡ɔ̃n ˈniːçəm] "I don't eat it."
  • É aibeir goch lubhar é arra ca menec. [eː ˈɛ͡œ̯bjə gɯ̯͡ɔ͜ɑ̯x ˈluwəɾ‿eː ˈɑːrə kʰəˈmjẽnək] "He says that he doesn't speak to her often."
  • Cho mbéad coirpe dhubha isen baillín sheon. [xəˈmjeːd ˈkʰɯ̯͡ɔə̯pjə ˈɣɯ̯͡uwə ˈiʃən ˈbɔ̯͡æːʎĩːn hjɔ̃n] "There are no black people in this village."
  • Néadan sní núraígheacha. [ˈɲẽːdən ʃnĩː ˈnˠũːɾiːʝəxə] "We are not Newreyans."

Some particles can combine with cho to produce particular compound words. Goch above is such an example, being the combination of go with cho. Another example is chan from cho an, used in asking negative questions (see below); note how here the negator precedes while in goch it follows.


Questions can be formed in various ways. Perhaps the most common is to simply use the structure of a declarative sentence with a rising intonation. However, two alternative methods exist in the spoken language. To form formal or polite questions, it is most common to simply use a subjunctive verb; in the absence of any other particles, this verb takes the prefix ga- or ge-, written as the independent go before a vowel (and not to be confused with the related subordinating particle go, used to form jussive verbs; the subjunctive go can follow a subject in an SVO clause while jussive go precedes the verb and forces VSO order).

The other possibility, and the only form usually permissible in the written language, is to use a sentence-initial particle an which forces the following clause to take a VSO syntax (and dependent verb, where possible). Before the past tense prefix ra-/re-/r-, if not bearing an object suffix, the prefix merges with an to give the particle ar. However, the verb is still lenited: ar bheard? "did you bring?". When an carries an object suffix, the past prefix is dropped and the verb undergoes either lenition or eclipsis: ana bheard/mbeard? "did you bring it?". The following examples all mean "did you see the church?":

  • Tú acais in gcall? [tʰuː ˈɑ͡ɑ̯kəʃ əŋˈgɯ̯͡aʊ̯ɫ] (rising intonation only)
  • Tú go acainn in gcall? [tʰuː gɯ̯͡o ˈɑ͡ɑ̯kɑ̯͡æ̃ːɲ əŋˈgɯ̯͡aʊ̯ɫ] (subjunctive verb)
  • An acais tú'n gcall? [əˈnɑ͡ɑ̯kəʃ tʰuːŋ gɯ̯͡aʊ̯ɫ] (particle an)

Cuirpthean lacks words for "yes" and "no" in response to questions, although the use of invariable for "no" is reported to be spreading. Instead, the finite verb (usually without the pronoun, in the only instance of Cuirpthean allowing pronoun-dropping) is repeated either alone or with the negator :

  • Génis tú'n siasá? [ˈgæ̯͡ẽːnəʃ tʰuːn ˈʃɑsɑ̃ː] "Did you do the work?"
    • Génis. [ˈgæ̯͡ẽːnəʃ] "Yes, I did it." (lit. "Did.")
    • Ní ghénis. [ɲĩː ˈʝẽːnəʃ] "No, I didn't do it." (lit. "Did not.")
  • Ar tharrad é'n liubhar airiod? [ɑː ˈxɯ̯͡ɑːrəd eːn lɔːɾ‿ˈɛɾɪd] "Did he give you the book?"
    • Ratharradaí. [ɾəˈxɯ̯͡ɑːrədiː] "Yes, he gave it." (lit. "Gave.")
    • Ní tharrad. [ɲĩː ˈxɯ̯͡ɑːrəd] "No, he didn't give it." (lit. "Did not give.")

Interrogative words can be placed in the unmarked position or (mainly in writing) fronted for emphasis; if a question word is fronted causing the object to precede the subject, the verb is exceptionally required to be placed at the end of the clause (OSV order), though it may precede any adverbs: tú bire cí nonn? or cí tusa nonn bire? or cí tú bire nonn? "what are you carrying (to) there?". Note that if a subject pronoun is separated from the verb it must take its emphatic form.


Second-person commands are normally formed using the imperative mood of a verb. Traditionally a polite imperative was simply the plural imperative; today however, a polite imperative (understood more as a request than a true command, but without a rising intonation) is usually formed with ag and the verbal noun. As this is a non-finite construction it cannot be used with the particle no; pronominal objects are instead shown with the emphatic pronouns or the preposition ar:

  • Á thabhar di fhígheach. [ɑː ˈxɯ̯͡ɑ͜ɒ̯və d͡ʒi ˈiːjəx] "Give (me) the money you owe."
  • Á thaibhrich di fhígheach. [ɑː ˈxɯ̯͡æ͜œ̯vɾəç d͡ʒi ˈiːjəx] "Give me the money you owe." (polite)
  • A' tabhairt di fhígheach. [əˈtʰɑ͡ɒ̯vət͡ʃ d͡ʒi ˈiːjəx] "Could you give me the money you owe?"
  • A' tabhairt aire. [əˈtʰɑ͡ɒ̯vət͡ʃ ˈɛɾə] "Could you give me it?"

Commands and requests are also softened using the phrase la da thoill "with your will", ie. "please". This follows the command: á thabhar di fhígheach, la da thoill etc.

Third person commands may be formed in two ways. Either the third person imperative forms of bóch are used with ag and a verbal noun, or the phrase no léige bóch ag "to allow smo. to be at" with a verbal noun is used. The latter is also used as the only means to form first person imperatives:

  • Á bhía a' góibhe ar a Dhéa. [ɑː ˈviːə əˈgɯ̯͡o͜ːø̯vjə ɑɾ‿əˈʝeːə] "Let him pray to his God."
  • Na léig bhóch a' góibhe ar a Dhéa. [nəˈle͡ːæ̯g vo͡ːɑ̯x əˈgɯ̯͡o͜ːø̯vjə ɑɾ‿əˈʝeːə] "Let him pray to his God."
  • Nom léig bhóch ag íche di arán. [nəmˈle͡ːæ̯g vo͡ːɑ̯x əˈgiːçə d͡ʒi əˈɾɑ̃ːn] "Let us eat some bread."

Passive voice

The equivalent of a passive voice can either be expressed using an impersonal verb or with the past participle. The impersonal verb is identical to the third person singular independent form followed by the particle as, while the past participle is the past stem with a suffix -da or -de:

  • Oirdhte as in cú. [ˈɔə̯t͡ʃə ɑs əŋˈkʰɯ̯͡uː] "Someone killed the dog." → "The dog was killed".
  • Ghais in cú oirdhde. [ɣɯ̯͡æʃ əŋˈkʰɯ̯͡uː ˈɔə̯d͡ʒə] "The dog has been killed."

Note the aspectual differences in the above examples. The former is aorist, the latter is present perfective. Impersonal constructions have the same aspect as the plain verb, while the past participle always has a perfective aspect.


Partitive objects in Cuirpthean are marked by the preposition di. These are generally translated as "some" in positive statements and "any" in negative statements:

  • Mé radhú din arán. [mjẽː ɾəˈɣɯ̯͡uː d͡ʒɪ̃n əˈɾɑ̃ːn] "I ate some of the bread."
  • Mé ní dhú din arán. [mjẽː ɲĩː ɣɯ̯͡uː d͡ʒɪ̃n əˈɾɑ̃ːn] "I didn't eat any of the bread."

This preposition is used for other partitive expressions besides a direct object: a h-ún diobh go acadais in bhfer seon? "did any of you see this man?".


Subordinate clauses are always marked by some subordinating particle. Declarative content clauses generally begin with go, while interrogative and relative clauses begin with the appropriate adverb or pronoun. The clause following has a default VSO word order, though any subordinating pronoun is placed before the verb which can lead to an order of SVO or OVS:

  • Mé creidim go bé a dtall failt. [mjẽː kʰɾed͡ʒəm gəˈbjeː əˈdaʊ̯ɫ fɔ̯͡ælt͡ʃ] "I think that that's incorrect." (VSC)
  • Mé fiosam cí n-abhairde tú arra. [mjẽː ˈfisəm kʰæ̯͡iː ˈnɑ͡ɒ̯vəd͡ʒə tʰuː ˈɑːrə] "I know what you said to her." (OVS)
  • An fhiosa tú cí n-abhaird é arra? [əˈnisə tʰuː kʰæ̯͡iː ˈnɑ͡ɒ̯vəd͡ʒ eː ˈɑːrə] "Do you know what he said to her?" (OVS)
  • Mé fiosam céa ghas in tall. [mjẽː ˈfisəm ˈkʰæ̯͡eːə ɣɯ̯͡ɑs ənˈtʰaʊ̯ɫ] "I know who that guy is." (SVO)
  • Mé acais í a tarrdas tú in liubhar ar. [mjẽː ˈɑ͡ɑ̯kəʃ iː əˈtʰɑːrdəs tʰuː ənˈlɔːɾ‿ɑː] "I saw her to whom you gave the book." (VSO after an indirect relative pronoun)

As the above examples demonstrate, in subordinate clauses second conjugation verbs do not occur with the past prefix ra-, re- or r-. Also note the use of a subjunctive verb in the first sentence, where there is doubt in the subordinate clause. This is a common usage of the subjunctive. Other uses include expressions of want or desire, conditions (with either the condition, outcome or both in the subjunctive depending on semantics) and jussives, as below:

  • Bía méan liom go tísé mé ca dTiúibhe. [ˈbiːə mjẽːn lɪ̃͡u̯m gəˈt͡ʃʰiːʃeː mjẽː kʰəˈd͡ʒu͡ːʉ̯vjə] "I want to go to Lhedwin."
  • Béa tísé tú sheon, béa téagham mé risen. [ˈbjeːə ˈt͡ʃʰiːʃeː tʰuː hjɔ̃n ˈbjeːə t͡ʃʰeːm mjẽː ˈɾiʃən] "If you go now, I will go too."
  • Go tíosábha sní dabhaille sheon. [gəˈt͡ʃʰiːsɑ͡ːɒ̯və ʃnĩː dəˈvɔ̯͡æːʎə hjɔ̃n] "Let's go home now."

Purpose clauses are expressed with a preposition ar with a verbal noun. With an object suffix, it can mark the verb's object, but this is a rare and mostly literary usage.

  • Mé téagham seachan rin ar aice ma líobhlách. [mjẽː t͡ʃʰeːm ˈʃe͡ɑ̯xən rɪn əɾ‿ˈɛ͡æ̯kə məˈli͡ːu̯vlɑ͡ːɑ̯x] "I will cross the channel to see my beloved."
  • Mé téagham seachan rin arra aice. [mjẽː t͡ʃʰeːm ˈʃe͡ɑ̯xən rɪn ˈɑːrə ˈɛ͡æ̯kə] "I will cross the channel to see her."


The core vocabulary of Cuirpthean traces back to Old Maíreidh. Most of these words are native to Old Maíreidh, though a number were borrowed into Old Maíreidh from foreign languages, especially Fiorentine. The inherited vocabulary includes: basic terms for humans and animals such as fer "man", caillín "girl", "dog" and "cow"; geographical terms such as ábh "river", port "port", sléabh "mountain" and baille "town"; core verbs such as bóch "to be", grín "to do", tígheach "to go" and aice "to see"; grammatical words such as as "and", la "with", "not" and é "him"; family terms such as áthar "father", már "mother", piur "sister" and áo "grandson"; basic social relations such as cara "friend", teinn "soldier", "king" and déa "god"; basic descriptive adjectives such as maich "good", big "small", grách "normal" and sen "old" and so on. The majority of derivational devices used in Cuirpthean such as noun-forming -acht and -sine, adjective-forming -ach and -ál or verb-forming -a are also derived from Old Maíreidh.

After the Cuirpthean-Maíreidh split Middle Cuirpthean speakers had contact with Middle Maíreidh speakers and there are some loanwords dating to this period of contact. Examples include giolla "a conscript" (cf. déide "boy"), pían "wound" (cf. péan "pain") and possibly caisleán "castle". Other languages of tir Lhaeraidd have also lent a few words, such as cáir "hill fort" from Middle Mawrish caer, gló "coal" from Mawr Lhaeraidd glo and clachan "block (of buildings)" from Maíreidh or Gaelaidh clachan.

Cuirpthean contains loans from Fiorentine which appear to date back to Old Maíreidh but are not attested in other languages descended therefrom. Most likely these were borrowed during the Old Maíreidh period but only in eastern (ie. Cuirpthean) dialects. Examples of such words are aspra "difficulty" from aspera, pós "wedding" from sponsus, sáint "saint" from sanctus, merceid "mercy" from merces and gláid "sword" from gladius. Cuirpthean has relatively few modern loans from Fiorentine, preferring instead to borrow from languages like Midrasian, as with foédireacht "federation", combining the Midrasian-origin root foédir- from fédération with the native suffix -acht.

There has been contact between Cuirpthean and Lilledic people since long ago, though the details of this interaction before the Lilledic people crossed to Lhedwin is unclear. Since then, trade across the Lhedwin Channel led to an influx of loanwords in both directions. Lilledic loans in Cuirpthean include many early words relating to the Trúathi religion, some of which later entered common use, such as búch "Bók" from Bok, coés "Trúathi church" from eckesj, fún "shrine" from fon "forest shrine" and parál "myth" from paroul "story". There are also a variety of loans covering other semantic spheres such as eang "flute" from jønk "reed", liun "maple tree" from løn, umal "demon" from omber "evil spirit" and map "paper" from mapp.

During the period of Newreyan occupation, Newreyan became the sole official language of Cuirpthe and Cuirpthean itself was suppressed in many contexts. Newreyan became a source for a significant amount of lexical items during this period, both in learned and basic vocabulary. Mundane borrowings from Newreyan include the nouns báll "ball", núifhios "news" (with reanalysis as "new" + fios "knowledge"), píos "piece", scarf "scarf" and daibhíos "device" as well as verbs such as grobhán "to mature" from growen, bóran "to cause boredom" from boren and fríotán "write" from writen. Learned vocabulary from Newreyan includes parlamant "parliament", partaigh "(political) party", crón "crown", ainnem "anthem" and ulmanacht "official record" from almanac.


Various nuances regarding the usage of the numerals of Cuirpthean, particularly with regards to mutations, will not be given here. However, discussion of certain aspects is necessary. The number ún cannot be used alone to modify a noun; usually, the noun is followed by mhá "alone". Numbers from trí up may be able to take either a singular or a plural noun. Indefinite nouns use the singular after a number, while definite nouns use the plural. Multiples of ten always govern a singular noun. Numbers in the teens contain an element deag "-teen" which follows the noun it governs and in any mutating environment experiences lenition: ún fher dheag "eleven men". Finally, numbers may not be used alone as nouns, but are preceded by a particle a which causes H-prosthesis if possible: a h-ún "one".

Ordinal numbers ("first", "second" etc.) function as regular adjectives, and are usually shown with the suffix -(mh)á or , though note that dallá is irregular and some numbers experience an unpredictable slenderisation or consonant insertion.

Cuirpthean Old Maíreidh Translation Ordinal
ún óen one úiné
dau two dallá
trí trí three tríomhá
céar cethair four céará
cóg cóic five cóigé
six séamhá
seacht secht seven seachtá
ocht ocht eight ochtá
nói nine nómhá
deich deich ten deachá, deiché
ún deag óen deac eleven úiné deag
dá dheag dau deac twelve dallá deag
trí deag trí deac thirteen etc tríomhá deag
fiche fiche twenty ficheadá
fiche's ún fiche ocus óen twenty one etc fichead-úiné
tríocha trícho thirty tríochadá
céarcha cethorcho forty céarchadá
caíoga coíca fifty caíogadá
siasca sesca sixty siascadá
seachmó sechtmoga seventy seachmódá
ochmó ochtmoga eighty ochmódá
nócha nócha ninety nóchadá
céad cét hundred céadá
dá chéad dau cét two hundred dá-chéadá
trí céad trí cét three hundred etc trí-chéadá
mille míle thousand milleadá


Excerpt from In Seinn-bhfeolla "The Violinist":

  • Cuirpthean

Mé siúlas[1] isen ádar channál[2] thall. Bhá go siosaid piánó n-ann-mhór agas[3] ún fheolla mhá fhorsnabh daínebh. Bhá'n piánó chóra ón cann in tsaon, co h-éirte'n t-aicemheón téid don feolla co h-uras. Bhá í dhearbh feolla in shene fhios, in thall in Mhisneál úann Chinge, céa nom-spreag[4] la measabh agas bléanabh ach aca'n síosacht aigen ucht a lá. Bhasa mé seach anach; in theánsa nom-thánagta aigen cann.

  • Narrow transcription

[mjẽː ˈʃʉ̯͡uːləs ˈiʃən ˈɑːdə ˈxɯ̯͡ɑ̃ːnˠɑ̃ːl xɯ̯͡aʊ̯ɫ : vɔ̯͡ɑː gəˈʃisəd͡ʒ pʰiˈɑ̃ːnõː nãʊ̯nˠˈvõːɾ‿ˈɑ͡ɑ̯gəs ũːn ˈjoːɫə vɔ̯͡ɑ̃ː ˈɔə̯snəv ˈdĩːnəv : vɔ̯͡ɑːm pʰiˈɑ̃ːnõː ˈxɯ̯͡õːɾə õːn kʰɯ̯͡ãʊ̯nˠ ənˈtʰɛn : kʰəˈhẽːə̯t͡ʃən ˈtʰɛ͡æ̯kəvjõːn t͡ʃʰeːd͡ʒ dɔ̃n ˈfjoːɫə kʰəˈhuɾəs : vɔ̯͡ɑː iː ʝɛə̯v fjoːɫə ə̃ˈhjẽnə ɪs : əŋˈxɯ̯͡aʊ̯ɫ ə̃ˈvɪ̃ʃnɑ̃ːl ˈuːɑ̃ːnˠ ˈçĩːɲə : ˈkʰæ̯͡eːə nəmˈʃpɾɛ͡ɑ̯g ləˈmjẽsəv ˈɑ͡ɑ̯gəs ˈblẽːnəv əx ˈɑ͡ɑ̯kən ˈʒiːsəxt ˈɛ͡æ̯gən ʊ͡ɑ̯xt əˈlɑː : ˈvɔ̯͡ɑsə mjẽː ʃɛ͡ɑ̯x ˈɑ̃nəx : ə̃ˈçɑ̃ːsə nəmˈxɯ̯͡ɑ̃ːnəktə ˈɛ͡æ̯gən kʰɯ̯͡ãʊ̯nˠ]

  • Broad transcription

/mʲeː ˈsʲuːləs ˈisʲən ˈaːdˠəɾ ˈxˠanˠãːl xˠalˠ : vˠaː gˠo ˈsʲisˠədʲ pʲiˈaːnoː nanˠˈṽˠoːɾ ˈagˠəsˠ uːn ˈjolˠə ṽˠaː ˈoɾsˠnəv dˠiːnəv : vˠaːn pʲiˈaːnoː ˈxˠõːɾə oːn kˠanˠ ənˈtˠen : kˠo ˈhẽːɾtʲən ˈtˠakʲəṽʲoːn tʲeːdʲ dˠon ˈfʲolˠə kˠo ˈhuɾəsˠ : vˠaː iː ɣʲeɾvˠ ˈfʲolˠə ənˈhʲenə isˠ : ənˈxˠalˠ ənˈṽʲisʲnaːl ˈuːanˠ ˈxʲinʲə : ˈkʲeːə nomˠˈsʲpʲɾegˠ lə ˈmʲesˠəv ˈagˠəsˠ ˈbʲleːnəv axˠ ˈakˠən ˈzʲiːsˠəxˠtˠ ˈagʲən uxˠtˠ əˈlaː : ˈvˠasˠə mʲeː sʲexˠ ˈanaxˠ : ənˈxʲaːnsə nomˠˈxˠaːnəgtə ˈagʲən kˠanˠ/

  • Morpheme boundaries

Mé siúl-as is-en ádar-L chann-ál-× thall. Bhá go sios-aid piánó-N n-annL-mhór-× agas únL fheolla-× mhá fhors-nabh daín-ebh. Bhá-'n piánó-N chór-a ó-n cann-L inT2 tsaon-L, coH h-éirt-eL-'nT1 t-aice-mheón-N té-id do-n feolla-L coH h-uras. Bhá í dhearbh-× feolla-L inL shen-e fhios-L, inL thall inL Mhisneál-× ú-annL Ching-e, céa no-mL-spreag-× laH meas-abh agas bléan-abh ach aca-×-'nN síos-acht-L aig-en ucht-L aL lá-L. Bhasa mé seach an-ach-L; inL theánsa-L no-mL-thánag-ta aig-en cann-L.

  • Gloss

1s go-1s.past.ind in-def.s hall-obl.s <len>head-adj-ns.dir there be.3s.past.ind.abs that stand-3p.past.ind piano-dir.s <ecl>very-<len>big-ms.dir and one <len>violin-dir.s alone over-def.p person<p>obl.p be.3s.past.ind.abs-the.m.nom piano-dir.s <comp~>near~comp from-def.s farthest_point-obl.s the.m.gen <tp>stage-obl.s to <hp>result-obl-the.m.nom <tp>look<len>center-dir.s go-3s.pres.ind.abs to-def.s violin-obl.s to <hp>easy be.3s.past.ind.abs 3s.f <len>same-fs.dir violin-dir.s the.n.gen <len>old-ns.gen <len>knowledge-obl.s the.f.nom <len>that the.m.gen <len>courageous-ms.gen grandson-obl.s <len>warrior-gen.s who obj-1s-inspire-3s.past.ind.abs with month-obl.p and year-obl.p but see-3s.past.ind.abs-the.f.acc <ecl>beyond_this_world-nomin-dir.s at-def.s front-obl.s of.3sm day-obl.s be.1s.past.ind 1s after wait-vn-obl.s the.f.nom <len>chance-dir.s obj-1s-come<past>3s.past.ind.abs at-def.s end-obl.s

  • Translation

I then went into the main hall. Overlooking the audience was a grand piano and a single violin. The piano was nearer to the back of the stage, so one's attention easily fell upon the violin. It was the same violin so familiar to me: that of Misneál ú Cinge, he who inspired me so many years ago, yet passed before his time. I had waited; at last the chance had come to me.

  1. This verb is archaic in this sense today and tígheach is used instead
  2. Modern Cuirpthean would use dative channála here
  3. Now archaic, with as preferred in all instances
  4. would now be written with a space as nom spreag