Caibidil a Cúig Déag:

Root Inflexion (Infhilleadh na fréimhe)

Caolú Palatalisation
Leathnú Depalatalisation
Coimriú Syncopation
Díghlórú change from voiced to an unvoiced consonant

There are many changes of the final sound or inflexions (infhillteacha) some with various flexion suffixes, e.g. plural suffixes like -tha, -a, -í, -anna, -acha or verb suffixes like -im, -ann, -tar etc. This is known as outward flexion.
This is the case in all inflected languages.
The more importantly described flexions are those in the word stem or word root , which many languages demonstrate. In German these are the phonetic mutation progressions (Ab- and Umlaute) like "lauf, lief, ging, gegangen", etc. One terms this as inner flexion
Those root changes typical in Irish are similar to the German mutations through old, yet often lost suffixes, which once affected the word root (comp. dt. Fuß - Füße, ir. fear - fir [originally: fer - firi])
As opposed to German, in Irish the changes in slenderness of the final consonants are in the foreground and not the vowels (comp. bord - boird [bord - bord'])
Syncopation ist also to be found in German (e.g. wechseln, ich wechsle)

Palatalisation (an Caolú)

Caolú (ir.) = slenderisation (of a consonant)
Palatum (lat.) = palate; slender consonants are formed more in the hard (bony) part of the palate.

This is no more than that a "broad" consonant is replaced with its "slender" component.
Because slender and broad consonants are denoted orthographically by appropriate vowels in their proximity, it follows that:
In written Irish this is mostly noted by an inserted i.

e.g.     bád (a boat) becomesid (of a boat or boats)
So, the broad d in bád becomes slender d in báid.

Partially there are also certain mutations necessary for the preceding vowels, that then again almost remind one on the German Ablaute and Umlaute:

vowel -ea- -ea- -éa- -ia- -ío- -io- -iu-
becomes -i- -ei- -éi- -éi- -í- -i- -i-
example man horse bird fish chirp fair wet
nom. fear each éan iasc bíog fionn fliuch
palat. fir eich éin éisc bíge finn fliche

e.g.:    fear (a man) becomes fir (of a man or men)
So, the broad r in fear becomes slender r in fir
Additional vowel mutations (real Ablaute e.g. mac - mic) are more the exception than the rule.

Caolú aids in the formation of

Depalatalisation (an Leathnú)

Leathnú (ir.) = broadening (of a consonant)
Synonyms: velarisation, attenuation.

This means a "slender" consonant is replaced with a "broad" consonant.
(opposite principle of palatalisation)
In written Irish mostly only an i is omitted :

e.g.   abhainn (a river) becomes abhann (of a river)
So, the slender -nn in abhainn becomes broad -nn in abhann

Sometimes more complex mutations need to be taken in the vowels (i zu ea, etc., partially the reverse of palatalisation, s.o.)

vowel -ei- -éi- -i- -í- -ui-
becomes -ea- -éa- -ea- -ío- -o-
example bite tinker honey whistle blood
nom. greim tincéir mil feadaíl fuil
depalat. greama tincéara meala feadaíola fola

e.g.: Éirinn (Ireland) becomes Éireann (of Ireland)
so, the slender -nn in Éirinn becomes a broad -nn in Éireann

Leathnú aids in the formation of:

Syncopation (an Coimriú)

Coimriú (ir.) = (syllable-)shortening, also Meánchoimriú = middle(syllable-)shortening
syncopation (griech.) = shrinking, shortening

Syncopation occurs in bi- and polysyllabic words.
Syncopation means that the vowel of the last syllable of the stem is omitted . (e.g. inis zu insíonn)
So, the originally bisyllabic word stem is shortened and monosyllabic (inis zu ins-)

This always occurs when the following 3 characteristics come together:

  1. the vowel of the last syllable is unstressed and without accent
    (e.g. the second i in inis = tell )
  2. this vowel is between a liquid (l, m, n, r) and another consonant
    (e.g. n in inis)
  3. to such a polysyllabic word an additional conjugation, declension, plural or other suffix is added
    (e.g. inis + suffix -íonn: insíonn)
There are a few rules:

a few important examples:

Some words resist syncopation: e.g. freastail: freastalaíonn instead of incorrectly *freastlaíonn (possibly because -stal- sounds better than -stl-). The only thing that helps here is a feel for the language.

change from voiced to unvoiced (an Díghlórú)

This only occurs before an ending that begins with [h] beginnen. It is especially the future suffixes with f- and verb- and verbal adjective endings with th-.
The voiced consonants b, d, g, bh, mh are devoiced by the [h], which [h] mutes, -bth- is then spoken [p].
Often, even the spelling is simplified since the spelling reform: dth > dt, mhth > f, bhth > f

ending with f- -bf--df--gf--bhf--mhf-
ending with th- -bth--dt- (-dth-)-gth--f-(-bhth-)-f-(-mhth)-
examplesscuabfaidh sé
goidfidh sé
pógfaidh sé
scríobhfaidh sé
snámhfaidh sé
translation he will sweep
he will steal
he will kiss
he will write
he will swim

One should not confuse the consoant cluster -bhf- within a word with the bhf- as an eclipsis of f-. The latter is spoken [v/w].

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© Lars Braesicke 1999 / 2000

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