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Centres and Peripheries in Celtic Linguistics

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Edited By Maria Bloch-Trojnar and Mark Ó Fionnáin

This book examines various aspects of Celtic linguistics from a general and more specific point of view. Amongst the topics investigated is the system of Irish initial mutations from both a linguistic universal and contrastive perspective. Other contributions analyse and cast new light on deverbal adjectives and assertive and declarative speech acts in Irish, communication and language transmission, change and policy, Breton and Sorbian grammars, as well as other issues of sociolinguistics in Irish, Welsh and Breton.

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Sonority and Initial Consonant Mutation in Modern Celtic (Martin J. Ball / Nicole Müller)

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Martin J. Ball and Nicole Müller

Sonority and Initial Consonant Mutation in Modern Celtic

Abstract: Sonority can be thought of as the perceived loudness, or clarity, of a specific speech sound. This is correlated with the degree of obstruction within the supralaryngeal vocal tract. Thus, a low vowel (with the least amount of obstruction) has a very high degree of sonority, as compared to a plosive (the greatest amount of obstruction) which has a very low degree of sonority. Sonority has in recent years become again the focus of some attention within phonology. In this chapter we outline the main concepts behind the notion of sonority. In particular, we describe the debate around how many sonority classes there should be, and we outline the Sonority Sequencing Principle (that attempts to account for syllable shapes in natural language), and the Sonority Dispersal Principle (that deals with ideal consonant clusters). We then look at the phenomenon of initial consonant mutation within the Celtic languages, where word-initial consonants are subject to sets of phonological changes triggered by morpho-syntactic contexts. The different sets of changes are described for Welsh, Breton, and Irish. The effect of initial consonant mutation is then examined in terms of the changes in sonority profiles between the unmutated initial consonant and its mutated reflexes. First, this is considered in terms of syllable shape, thus testing the Sonority Sequencing Principle. Mutations in all three languages generally change syllable shapes such that they become...

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