Mutations of Consonants
§6. — Aspiration, &c
b, c, d, f, g, m,p, s, t are called mutable consonants, because by aspiration or eclipsis they either entirely lose or change their sound.
l, n, r are called immutable consonants, because they are incapable of aspiration or eclipsis.
As the mutable consonants have very different sounds when aspirated, it seems proper to give them here, with their variety of pronunciation : —
ḃ in the beginning or end of a word sounds like v; as, mo baile, my village ; siḃ, , you. In the middle of a word between broad vowels it is generally sounded like w; as, a leaḃar, his book.
ċ before and after a broad vowel is pronounced like the Greek x or as gh in lough, as, mo ċara, my friend; loċ, a lake; but if it precede or follow a slender vowel it receives a less guttural sound, as, ċḋim, I see. The same diversity of sound prevails with regard to the German aspirate ch, ach being broad, ich, slender.
§7. — Eclipsis.
This term has been invented by Irish grammarians to denote one class of those alterations by which the initial letters of words are affected under certain conditions, as we shall see below. The term is taken from the peculiar orthographical contrivance, viz., as some of the alterations are so considerable that they would greatly disguise the word to the eye, the original letter, although silent, was allowed to remain in writing while the altered sound, which in reality is alone to be pronounced, was placed before it : the second letter is then, as the phrase is, eclipsed by the. first. Hence arise the following cases : —
These are pronounced as, ár maile , &c.
m suffers no eclipsis.
n can scarcely be said to eclipse g, but rather to coalesce with it ; the pronunciation being like ng in singing.
Instead of the above method, in older orthography the initial letter is doubled to indicate the eclipse ; as, cc, tt, &c., instead of gc, dt ; thus, a cclann, their children, for a g-clann.
The origin of the eclipsis is now well understood : it originally took place only after certain words, and was in every case owing to an n, in which these words ended in the earlier period of the language. Vid. §§ 8, 24, 28, 35.