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Re: samhain?

From:Joe <joe@...>
Date:Sunday, October 31, 2004, 19:08
joshua tanaka wrote:

> why is 'samhain' pronounced 'saUen' ? > > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
Irish has a very, very complicated spelling system, to cut a long story short(though quite regular). 'mh' is [v] in Irish, as well as [w] in some positions, in some dialects. It's spelt like this because it's a lenited version of /m/. Another feature of Irish spelling is that, in any given series of vowels, only one of them need represent the actual vowel spoken. I'm not clear on whether it's pronounced /savaJ/ or /saviJ/(J being a palatal nasal, I think), but the (orthographic) vowels surrounding a consonant affect its pronunciation. Vowels are divided into to categories for this purpose: broad vowels - a, o,u slender vowels - i, e As I said, these change the pronunciation - slender vowels palatalise a consonant, broad vowels velarise(or don't affect) it. But, to avoid ambiguity here, if a slender (phonological) consonant is followed by a broad phonological vowel, a slender (orthographic) vowel is inserted, and vice versa. If it's /savaJ/(am not sure if it is), the spelling 'Samhan' would be wrong, because the palatal /n/ would not be shown. If it's /saviJ/, it would be potentially ambiguous to have 'samhin', because, in some dialects, broad <mh> is pronounced /w/, as opposed to /v/, and this distinction would be lost(and it would break the rules, anyway).


Keith Gaughan <kmgaughan@...>