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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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Variation in the Initial Consonants of Some Irish Pronouns (Magdalena Chudak)

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Magdalena Chudak

Variation in the Initial Consonants of Some Irish Pronouns

Abstract: The alteration of initial segments in Irish, also found in other Celtic languages, is a reanalysis-based process which mostly targets words morphologically classified as open-class items, i.e. nouns, verbs, adjectives. In its course, certain etymological forms acquire dialectal variants with altered initial segments, e.g. pléasc → bléasc ‘explosion, bang’, faomh → aomh ‘accept; agree to’, gearb → cearb ‘scab’. The crucial aspect of the change is that it does not involve a change in the meaning or the grammatical function of the word. The previous studies of this phenomenon (Fowkes 1977, Kelly 1978, Ó Siadhail 1989, Hannahs 2013a, 2013b) have shown that this reanalysis process is usually based on mutation patterns (lenition or eclipsis), i.e. consonantal replacements triggered by morphosyntactic context, as in mála ‘bag’ vs. a mhála ‘his bag’.

A well-known fact, however, is that closed-class items, such as prepositions and pronouns, also vary in their initial segments in Celtic languages. For instance, the Irish reflexive pronoun ‘self’ has the by-forms féin, héin, and péin, the interrogative pronoun ‘what’ is céard or téard, and the 1st person plural personal pronoun is either sinn or inn.

The chapter shows that, in contrast to the mutation-based reanalysis involved in the derivation of the secondary forms of most of the nouns and verbs, the initial changes in Irish pronouns result from a range of...

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