Ar Dienga Galedonag
1. Sounds, Orthography, Mutations, Word Order

Chapter 1: Sounds, Orthography, Mutations, Word Order


There are 19 letters in the Caledonic alphabet:

a b c d e f g h i l m n o p r s t u v

The letters j, k, q, w, x, y and z are not used. except in words of foreign origin.

Vowels are either long or short. Generally, long vowels are denoted with an acute accent, i.e. á, é, í, ó, ú. The acute accent can also denote stress or that the sound should be a disctinct sound (see below).

Generally, letters are pronounced consistently, i.e. a word's pronunciation can be deduced from its spelling.


The vowels are pronounced as per the table below:


pronounced like ‘a' in c'cat'



like ‘a' as in ‘father'

[ah, aa]


like ‘e' in ‘bed'



like ‘ai' in ‘air'



like ‘i' in ‘sit'



like ‘ee' in ‘seen'



like ‘o' in ‘top'



like ‘o' in ‘sort'



like ‘oo' in ‘book'



like ‘u' in ‘prune'


Diphthongs are generally simple in that they are the two distinct sounds one after the other:


pronounced like ‘eye'


pronounced like ‘ow'

When an unaccented ‘i' is followed by another vowel, it is pronounced like English ‘y'. Likewise, an unaccented ‘u' followed by another vowel is pronounced like English ‘w':


pronounced like ‘shop'


pronounced like ‘wath'


pronounced like ‘yan'


pronounced like ‘wer'

When an ‘i' or a ‘u' are to be pronounced distinctly from the following vowel, an accent is used:


pronounced like 'too-uh'


pronounced like 'ree-oon'


The letters b c d f g h l m n p r s t v are pronounced largely as in English. However, the following must be considered:

like 'c' in 'cat', never as in 'centre'
as in Scots 'loch'


voiced ‘th' as in ‘ this'



like ‘g' in ‘ gift', never as in ‘gaol'



like ‘ng' in ‘singer', never as in ‘finger'


like 'ph' in 'photograph'


unvoiced ‘th' as in ‘ thin'



like ‘s' in ‘sin', never as in ‘rise'



initially pronounced like ‘v' in ‘ very', medially and finally sometimes silent or like a short 'u' or 'w' sound


Note that si followed by another vowel changes the s to a 'sh' sound, e.g. siop is pronounced like 'shop'. Similarly, ti followed by a vowel is pronounced like English 'ch', e.g. tian is pronounced like 'chan'.


In common with the other insular Celtic languages, Pictish has a system of mutations, which means that the initial letter of words can change according to position in a sentence or grammatical purposes. Irish has lenition and eclipsis, Scots Gaelic has lenition, Manx has aspirate and nasal mutations, and Welsh has soft, nasal and aspirate mutation.

In Caledonag, there are three mutation systems; soft mutation (sm), aspirate mutation (a) and nasal mutation (n). How these mutation systems behave is shown in the table below, followed by some examples of the situations in which they are used. In this grammar, indicators will be used to show when words cause or are affected by the different types of mutation: ° = soft mutation; a = aspirate mutation; n = nasal mutation. These superscripts when following a word indicate that that word causes the following word to be mutated. When the symbols are shown in front of a word, this means that that word undergoes the mutation.

Original Letter

Rules for soft mutation

Soft mutation is the most common form of mutation in Kaledonag. Some of the most common reasons for soft mutation are:

  1. Feminine nouns following the definite article: blídhan 'year'; ar vlídhan 'the year'
  2. Adjectives following feminine nouns: krag 'rock'; már 'big'; krag vár 'big rock'
  3. Following the numerals ún 'one' and dau 'two' (note that nouns following dau are in the singular): kath 'cat', dau gath 'two cats'; krag 'rock', ún grag 'one rock'
  4. with adverbs of time saying when something happens: blídhan 'year', dhig vlineth hin 'ten years ago'; dith Lún 'Monday', dhith Lún 'on Monday'
  5. On the second part of a compound noun: prív 'top/main', burth 'table', prív-vurth 'top table'
  6. After the subject of the sentence. This is a complex issue that is covered later under Word Order
  7. Indefinite nouns following certain prepositions, e.g. do 'from' (list incomplete): do Galedon 'from Pictland'.
  8. Nouns following the 2nd person, singular possessive adjective ta 'your': pel 'ball', ta bel 'your ball'; bát 'boat', ta vát 'your boat'; garth 'garden', ta arth 'your garden'.
  9. Nouns following the 3rd person, singular, masculine possessive adjective é 'his/its': dinneir 'dinner', é dhinneir 'his dinner'; tíg 'house', é díg 'his house'; guest 'guest', é uest 'his guest'.

Rules for aspirate mutation

  1. Nouns following the 1st person, singular possessive adjective ma 'my': pel 'ball', ma phel 'my ball'; tíg 'house', ma thíg 'my house'; kath 'cat', ma khath 'my cat'.
  2. Nouns following the 3nd person ,singular, feminine possessive adjective í (her): kath 'cat', í khath 'her cat'
    pel 'ball'; í phel 'her ball'; tíg 'house', í thíg 'her house'.
  3. Nouns following the comparative conjunction a 'as':
    tíg 'house', go már a thíg 'as big as a house'

Word Order

General principles

The general principle of word order in Caledonag is verb-subject-object (VSO):

Oskoth ar dín ar dorus
[Opened] [the man] [the door]
'The man opened the door'

In English, word order is used to determine whether the sentence is affirmative (AFF), e.g. 'John is here', interrogative (INT), e.g. 'Is John here?', or negative (NEG), e.g. 'John is not here'. In Kaledonag, the verb always comes first in these situations, but the verb itself changes to indicate the meaning:

(AFF) Es Sion anó.
(INT) An vel Sion anó?
(NEG) Ná vel Sion anó.
(NEG/INT) Nan vel Sion anó?

Use of complement-markers

Where the verb at the beginning of the sentence is a part of both ('to be'), a complement-marker on is inserted between the subject and the complement:

Esan ho on gaith á'r siopai
[verb] [subject] [an] [complement]
'They are going to the shops'

Use of mutation in word order

Mutation is used to mark the boundary between the subject and the complement. So, the complement is mutated, unless a) it begins with an immutable letter or b) it is permanently resistant to mutation.

a) Bennoth Sion °dhau levar
John bought two books
[John is the subject of the sentence]

b) Klath he °aith
He must go

c) Klath Sion °aith
John must go

d) Teig °dhig °bunt á mi!
Give me £10!
[The subject is not expressed after a command, but it is implied and, if stated, would follow the verb]

Complement marker 'on' with 'both'

The complement marker on is used in sentences beginning with some part of the verb both 'to be' to indicate the beginning of the complement to the subject of the sentence:

  1. Kathon ho °aith á'r skol
    They had to go to school
  2. Esan ho'n gaith á'r skol
    They are going to school

In the first sentence, kathon is athe preterite of the verb kathi 'to have to', therefore there is no complement marker and the verb gaith 'to go' marks the beginning of the complement and therefore undergoes soft mutation. However, the second sentence begins with a part of both 'to be', which requires use of the complement marker on, which blocks the mutation sof the object verb. This only applies if the beginning of the complement is a verb-noun, however. The rule is that in sentences that begin with some part of both 'to be':

on before a complement beginning with a verb-noun;
on° before a complement beginning with a noun or adjective;
no on in all other cases (usually an adverb).


  1. Esi mi on obri adith
    I am working today
  2. Es hí on °vedig
    She is a doctor
  3. Es hé an °glau
    He is ill
  4. Esan ho amas
    They are outside

Focused sentences

Because the verb normally comes first, any change to this word order is noticeable, and thus a change in word order can be used to emphasise that part of the sentence that is the focus. In Caledonag, the focus is shown by placing the focused element at the beginning of the sentence, where the verb usually is. The following two sentences show how this is done.

a) Piad deguoth gara? Vrisoth Sianed ar fenester.
[pyad degg-woth garruh. vriss-oth shann-ed urr fenn-est-er.]
What happened next? Janet broke the window.

b) Piu vrisoth ar fenester? Sianed vrisoth ar fenester.
Who broke the window? Janet broke the window.

In the second sentence, the subject comes first, thus showing that it is the focus of the sentence instead of the verb.


© Alex Middleton 2009