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Difference between a brogue and a burr?

I Survived the Great Vowel Shift

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Jan 20, 2008, 3:26pm Top

Don't know if I'm posting this question in the right group but I figure that if anyone would know the answers it's the linguists' group :)

Can anyone tell me what the difference is between a "brogue" and "burr"? And why are there two different pronunciations for "celtic"--ie like "keltic" and then as a soft "c"?


Jan 21, 2008, 1:19pm Top

A brogue is a reference to an Irish (occasionally Scottish) dialect of English, with a number of sounds changed that make it distinctive. A burr refers more to the trilling of the r (sometimes in the back of the mouth) that seems to be mostly a Scottish characteristic.

Celtic is from French, from Latin, from Greek. In Greek, and originally in Latin, the c (and in Greek spelled with a kappa) was pronounced as a hard c. "Celt" is not a workd as far as I know derived from a Celtic language word, so the soft c is based on the English preference to pronounce it softly. This is from the Romance language development of chaging the sound of c before e or i into an s sound (French or Spanish) or ch (Italian) something else. English respects the Italian in the word concerto, where the the Italian pronunication of the 2nd c (ch sound) is the normal one. But note the pronunication of the word, concert. For concerto, my mother always pronounced the 2nd c in concerto with an sh sound -- I don't think she's the only one, but it is not a dictionary pronunciation.

Jan 21, 2008, 4:25pm Top

Hi vpfluke

Thank you for the explanation. So would someone say "his brogue is thick" or "his burr is thick"--as in difficult to understand like a heavy accent?

Celtic then can be pronounced with both the soft "c" and the "k" sound right?

Jan 21, 2008, 5:34pm Top

Brogues can be thick. I don't remember the last time I heard a burr as being thick. Maybe people just say, "he has a burr". I'll have to check this out.

The hard or soft C in Celtic is sometmes contextual. The Boston baskletball team is always pronounced with a soft C. When Linguists say "Celtic languages" they always use the hard C. Pehaps the hard C is more academic.

Jan 21, 2008, 5:46pm Top

I googled "thick brogue" and "thick burr". Thick brogue came up 789 times. Thick burr came up 380 times but over half the times it was in reference to non-language use (wood, plaster, or metal burrs), so I estimate that thick burr is used only about 1/5 as much as brogue. The word brogue seems to refer to the whole accent, whereas the burr is for the r sound. But it is so distinctive, that people hear 'Scottish' without hearing another sound.

The poet Robert Burns wrote in 'dialect' and to read it outloud you do have to use a burr.

Jan 21, 2008, 6:00pm Top

As far as I can work out, Celtic is pronounced with a soft C ("seltic") if it's a sports team name; otherwise it's a hard C ("keltic"). There may be exceptions, but I haven't come across them yet...

Jan 22, 2008, 10:56am Top

That's particularly true of sports teams from Boston, especially if they're basketball teams.

Jan 22, 2008, 7:34pm Top

Football (=soccer) teams from Glasgow have the same tendency.

Edited: Jan 22, 2008, 8:55pm Top

Really? But then, as you pointed out, Brooklyn isn't where you'd expect "football" fans to be wild about soccer ;)

Jan 23, 2008, 5:42pm Top

Thanks again vpfluke for the remaining brogue/burr details :)

Jan 24, 2008, 1:27am Top

VPFLUKE: Does it mean the same thing to say a Scottish brogue and a Scottish accent? Is brogue just a bit more technical but essentially means the same thing?

Jan 24, 2008, 5:00pm Top

The burr in the word "brogue" helps to identify the Scottish accent.

Feb 4, 2008, 9:35am Top

A brogue is a shoe. A burr is a little spiny seed that catches in your socks.

Sep 22, 2008, 8:19pm Top

Sandburrs in a child's socks can provoke bloodcurling screams, causing a mother to come running, fearing the worst. Dramatic child 8-)

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