The Corner

Re: Cuchulain

Controversy rages in my e-mail bag over the pronunciation of “Cuchulain.” I

finally got round to reading the PDF supplied by my Ancient Irish Phonology

Guy, but it wasn’t as helpful as I had hoped, so I am going to throw up my

hands here and let you all pronounce “Cuchulain” any darn way you please.

On the general matter of Irish spelling, my AIPG said this:

“It would be more accurate to say that Irish spelling is so impossible

because the Old Irish language was so impossible and was ill-suited to the

Latin alphabet it borrowed. One of my Indo-European professors had studied

about 18 languages (including Chinese and Sanskrit) and ranked Old Irish the

most difficult by far. The stage at which we have Old Irish documents was

later than we would want for maximal Celtic assistance in the reconstruction

of Proto-Indo-European. If we had texts that were a few centuries older,

they would probably tell us much more about what Proto-Indo-European was

like in comparative study with other ancient Indo-European langauges and the

Irish language itself at that stage would likely have been easier to

comprehend as a system. The system of the language continued to change, of

course, and I’m not sure how much easier the system of Modern Irish is

compared to Old Irish.

“The chief difficulties in reading Old Irish are that the spelling system

may or may not reflect internal word changes and changes at word boundaries.

Sometimes you find odd consonants popping up internally or in the next word

indicating processes of nasalization, lenition, etc. occurring in the Irish

language. Often it is a great mystery what the written words are telling you

about pronunciation…”

Everybody got that? I hereby close the thread.


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