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Total eclipse of the heart? The production of eclipsis in two speaking styles of Irish

  • Pauline Welby (a1), Máire Ní Chiosáin (a2) and Brian Ó Raghallaigh (a3)

We examined the production of the Irish initial mutation eclipsis in two speaking styles. In initial mutation phenomena, a word appears with a different initial sound depending on the lexical or morphosyntactic environment (e.g. croí [kɾɣ i] ‘(a) heart’ (radical form), (a) chroí [xɾɣ i] ‘(his) heart/darling’ (séimhiú-lenition form), and (a) gcroí [ɡɾɣ i] ‘their heart/darling’ (eclipsis form)). The goals of the study were: (i)

to examine whether there are acoustic differences between the initial consonants of radical word forms (e.g. [ɡ] of gruig ‘(a) frown/scowl’) and the corresponding consonants of eclipsis forms (e.g. [ɡ] of gcroí), as has been found for similar phenomena in other languages;


to examine variability in the patterns of initial mutation in the speech of present-day speakers of Irish.

Our analyses offer limited evidence that there may be phonetic differences between radical and corresponding eclipsis consonants, but the current data do not allow us to rule out alternative explanations. The realization of initial mutations in semi-spontaneous speech differed dramatically both from that of read speech and from the expectations of the traditional grammar. The results suggest that the realization of eclipsis and other initial mutations may be style- or register-dependent. We also found some evidence that it may vary by consonant type, in part due to phonological frequency patterns of the language.

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