In today’s blog we’ll look at how to pronounce words and phrases like “leathbheart” and “i mbeart.” “Leathbheart” is a classic example of “lenition,” or the “softening” (séimhiú) of the sounds of certain Irish consonants. And the phrase “i mbeart” is a classic example of “eclipsis” (urú), which is covering over the sound of the original consonant, much like the covering of the sun or the moon during an eclipse.
Let’s start with lenition. As you may already know, when you see an Irish word with a consonant followed by the letter “h,” the consonant has usually been “lenited.” This can apply to nine consonants in Irish: b, c, d, f, g, m, p, s, t. Today’s blog will primarily be concerned with the combination “bh,” since that applies to the compound words based on “beart” (byte).
When this “bh” cluster is followed by the vowel “e,” it is pronounced like a “v.” You might have already seen and heard this in phrases like “mo bhean” (my wife, my woman) or “mo bhéirín” (my teddybear). So remember all those “byte” words we did last time? Here they are again with a pronunciation guide:
leathbheart [lyæ-vyart, with the vy pronounced like the “v” in “view,” not as in “voodoo“]– nibble, nybble (in computing), lit. “half-byte”
The ” vy ” sound will apply to all the compound words below. BTW, there is a similar approach to pronouncing “leath-” — the “l” is like the double “l” in “million” or “billion.” So we have this sound in English but we usually don’t see it at the beginning of a word. The “-th” in this word is silent. “Leath-” means “half” and is found in numerous compound words, like “leathuair” (a half hour), “leathcheann” (profile of the head, lit. half-head), and “leathdhuine” (half-wit, lit. half-person).
The “ea” sound in “leath-” isn’t quite the same as the “ea” sound in “bheart.” In “leath-,” it’s like the “ea” in Irish “bean” or “deas,” or like the English “bat” or “cat.” In “beart,” it’s like the “ea” in Irish “neart” or “ceart” or like the “a” in English “art” or “cart.”
beart, no lenition here unless we skip to the “tuiseal ginideach” form, where we could have a phrase like “giotáin an bhirt” (the bits of the byte).
As you may recall, I couldn’t find an official Irish term yet for “exabyte” or “yottabyte.” I don’t think it’ll keep me “i mo shuí” all through the night, but I am fiosrach to see what emerges.
One of the other major changes that happens to the beginning of Irish words is “urú” (eclipsis). The phrase “i mbeart” is a good example, as are phrases like “i mBostún” and “i mBaile Átha Cliath.”
With urú, the new consonant covers over the sound of the original consonant. So for “i mbeart,” the ‘b” is no longer pronounced and the “m” is the only consonant sound at the beginning of the word. It sounds like “ih myart,” with the “my” sound like the “m” in “muse” or “museum,” not like English “my” or “moo.”
In other blogs, we’ve already looked at eclipsis for other consonants besides “b,” but for now, “b” is our emphasis. In a nutshell, the others are (c, i gcaife; d, i nDoire; f, an bhfágann sé…?, g, ocht ngiotán, p, i bPeiriú, and t, seacht dteach) and no doubt, we’ll be seeing them arís agus arís eile.
Of those additional examples, “ocht ngiotán” is the most relevant to our current discussion. Remember what it means? If not, here’s a “leid“:
Tá ocht ngiotán i mbeart. There are eight ________ in a byte.
Still stumped? Check an ghluais thíos. Bhuel, I guess I’ve used my share of giotáin and bearta in writing this, so for now, I’ll sign off. SGF — Róislín
Gluais: ceann, head; duine, person; fágann, leaves (verb); giotán, a bit (in computing; based on “giota,” a small bit or piece of something.