Length is a feature associated with consonants and vowels alike and refers to the duration of the utterance. In some dialects of Gaelic, vowel length is phonemic and such segments can be short or long. Long vowels are about twice as long as short vowels in the same environment but the distinction is usually neutralized in unstressed syllables. In the orthographic script, long vowels are are indicated with a grave accent on the vowel (à, è, ì, ò, ù).
There also exists a phonemic contrast in length for sonorants in some dialects of Gaelic (e.g. /L:, N:, R:/). When the length distinction is not observed in the consonant, it is often observed on the vowel instead. See Sounds of Scottish Gaelic for a more in-depth description.
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- Ladefoged, D. (2010) A Course in Phonetics. 6th Edition. Wadsworth Publishing.
- Lamb, William (2003) Scottish Gaelic. 2nd edition. Munich: Lingcom Europa