|Last updated 12 Dec 2004
|©2003-2004 by Sharon L. Krossa. All rights reserved.
The grammar involved in medieval Gaelic names often includes lenition, a "softening" of the initial consonant sound of words or names required by Gaelic grammar in certain situations [Note 1]. Lenition can be difficult for those unfamiliar with it to figure out, and this is complicated by the fact that in medieval Gaelic naming there are three distinct and independent lenition issues involved:
Whether or not a word/name should be lenited (determined by Gaelic grammar rules, which sometimes varied over time and dialect)
If a word/name is lenited, whether that lenition is shown in the spelling of the word (determined by Gaelic spelling rules, which varied over time and dialect)
If a word/name is lenited, how that lenition affects the pronunciation of the word (determined by Gaelic pronunciation rules, which varied over time and dialect)
This article is intended as a step by step guide to the process of figuring out the lenition issues for a medieval Gaelic name using existing articles that address the various different aspects.
The article Quick and Easy Gaelic Names (by Sharon L. Krossa) indicates which words/names in various Gaelic name constructions need to be lenited. Check the section of this article that discusses the relevant name construction to see whether or not a particular word/name in a particular name construction should be lenited:
If the relevant section of Quick and Easy Gaelic Names indicates a word/name does not need to be lenited, stop here. You're done.
The article The Spelling of Lenited Consonants in Gaelic explains how lenition was shown in medieval Gaelic spelling in different periods.
Currently, there isn't a good single article that discusses the pronunciation changes caused by lenition for all periods. However, there are two articles that may be of some help. The article Old-Irish Spelling and Pronunciation (by Dennis King) explains Early Gaelic pronunciation in general, including how the various lenited consonants are pronounced. The article Pronunciation of Scottish Gaelic Consonants (by Sharon L. Krossa) explains the pronunciation of Modern Scottish Gaelic consonants in general (which can reasonably be used as an approximation of the pronunciation of consonants in late medieval/early modern Gaelic), including how the various lenited consonants are pronounced.
For a name for the period before roughly 1200 A.D., check Old-Irish Spelling and Pronunciation to see how a lenited word/name should be pronounced.
For a name for the period after roughly 1200 A.D., check Pronunciation of Scottish Gaelic Consonants to see (approximately) how a lenited word/name should be pronounced.
|Older books often refer to lenition as "aspiration". This terminology is misleading and outdated. (In modern linguistics, "aspiration" is a term that refers to something very different from lenition.)
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