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Silent letters in Irish (was: RE: Re(2): German Spelling Reform (fwd))

From:Josh Brandt-Young <jby@...>
Date:Saturday, August 21, 1999, 3:11
On Monday, August 09, 1999 6:38 AM R. Nierse wrote:

> How about Irish? I was told that it has a lot of silent letters as well. > Since we have a lot of Celtic enthousiast on the list, can you give me > examples of Irish with silent letters?
If what I've learned from my limited experience with the language is accurate, there really aren't *that* many silent letters. Here's what I know: There are a great many digraphs (bh, ch, dh, fh, gh, mh, ph, th, &c.), bu= t since it directly influences a sound change, I don't think the "h" can really be called silent. "Fh" from above is realized as zero, but since it's simply a lenited form= of "f," I'm not sure if that deserves the title either. There's a large class of consonants which undergo eclipsis and take on th= e sound of the consonant affixed to them, effectively "silencing" them (mb, gc, nd, bhf, ng, bp, dt, &c.); do these qualify? There are many, many written vowels that are not pronounced as vowels per se, but are far from silent...for example, in the word "buioch," the "u" indicates velarization of the "b," and "o" indicates that "ch" should be pronounced velar or uvular rather than palatal. Suchlike occurs very frequently because of a rule specifying that any given consonant can be touched only by either back or front vowels. There are a few vowel combinations in which vowels are effectively silent..."ei" is pronounced "e," "aoi" is just "=ED," "ao" is "=ED" or "=E9= ," &c. Quite a few words begin with vowels that appear, at first glance, to be silent, such as the first letter of "oifig," "uimhir," "eolas" which is usually ignored. *But*, when a consonant is prefixed, one sees that the other vowel is very much present: "d'uimhir" is pronounced with a velariz= ed "d," and "an t-eolas" with a palatalized "t." And this is just about all I can come up with. It's my understanding that= , before the spelling reform of some years ago, Irish did indeed have a mos= t impressive number of silent letters...but most of these have been eliminated. Hope that answers your question... ---------- Josh Brandt-Young <jby@...> "After the tempest, I behold, once more, the weasel." (Mispronunciation of Ancient Greek)