Why do they have to make these so difficult...
Is there some phonetic value the first I adds to the word? Does "Eil" sound differently than "El"? It seems like it would have to, right, because aren't E and I are both slender vowels?
Ei sometimes sounds different than e (depending upon the following consonant), but eil sounds the same as el. Judging by the teanglann.ie recordings of eilimint, it doesn’t sound as though there’s much palatalization applied to the L in eili-.
I'm not really hearing any. Is palatalization what that extra "i" typically adds?
It’s what any slender vowel typically adds. The difference between a broad consonant and its slender equivalent is usually (but not always) palatalization of the slender consonant.
But then back to the original question: what does the first "i" add to the word?
The possibility of spelling it in Irish; there are no Irish words that begin with el-.
Which is interesting. But does that mean the answer to my original question is "the first letter i adds no phonetic value to the word" then?
and I wrote "elelhpant" because I typed too fast.