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Help with Irish eclipsis and lenition

This is a call for expert help. The rules for eclipses and edition are so complicated as to seem haphazard. You basically have to memorize lists.

However, I have a vague idea thst eclipsis and lenition were originally caused by case endings in old irish.

I wonder if it would be easier to learn the modern rules by learning the old irish rules, which might at least bring some logic into the equation. Could somebody who knows old irish set out the case endings, on articles and nouns and how they cause eclipsis and lenition, in such a way as to make them easier to learn?

Or maybe this has been tried before, and it doesn't help.

May 19, 2018



Old Irish declensions are more complicated than those of modern Irish; Old Irish nouns had a neuter gender, a dual number, distinct accusative and dative cases, and more declension classes. The form of the Old Irish article also varied by gender, number, and case, with far more variety than the an vs. na of modern Irish.

Not surprisingly, the lists of when to eclipse and when to lenite are longer in Old Irish than in modern Irish; for example, accusative singular nouns cause eclipsis, and masculine and feminine nominative, accusative, and genitive dual nouns are lenited, in Old Irish; these conditions don’t exist in modern Irish.

In my view, learning Old Irish rules of eclipsis and lenition to apply a subset of them to modern Irish would be more work than just learning the modern Irish rules.


I guess I was imagining, for example, that the genitive of the masc. article 'an', was something different, say, 'ana' from the nominative, so you'd remember why 'an cat' (n) becomes 'an chait' (g) by imagining the lost vowel. But I see it's vastly more complicated than that. Especially when we get into the prepositions which are so hard to get straight. Once you mention declension classes, I felt faint.

Anyway thanks for taking the time, your reply is much appreciated !


It actually seems that Old Irish is still too new to be able to see the origin of the mutations after the article. You can have a look at the Proto-Celtic declension of "sindos" (which meant "this", but is the origin of the modern article): https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Celtic/sindos

I doubt it's easier to learn those forms than the modern mutation rules, but it's interesting to have a look at it and see how the modern mutation rules actually do follow those old forms in most cases.

If you haven't already done so, the GnaG page on the origin of mutations is also worth reading: http://nualeargais.ie/gnag/sindos.htm


I have to admit that as a classics scholar, I'd like to visit a stage of Irish that had declensions that worked like the classical languages and Sanskrit. Irish must have undergone profound changes before its written attestation, from Proto Italic or Proto Celtic (I don't know which subfamily to attach it to)..more profound than these in Italic group, anyway.

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