Irish Language Blog

An Carn Consan i nGaeilge: Séimhiú nó Gan Séimhiú (Cuid a hAon) Posted by on Jan 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

Lately we’ve been practicing lots of phrases that involve “séimhiú” (lenition).  Most of the examples shown have involved words that happen to begin with a single consonant (like “carr”).  Here are some more examples, starting with the way to say “one” of the item.  That’s the simplest, since no lenition is involved.  This will be followed by phrases for two through six of the items, which do involve lenition.

banana amháin, dhá bhanana

cat amháin, trí chat

madra amháin, ceithre mhadra

moncaí amháin, cúig mhoncaí

carr amháin, sé charr

What happens if the word happens to begin with a “carn consan” (consonant cluster), like “br” or “dr”?  In most cases, we still apply lenition at the beginning of the word.  A few exceptions, with the letter “s,” will be treated an upcoming blog.

bratach amháin, dhá bhratach (one flag, two flags)

cnoc amháin, dhá chnoc (one hill, two hills)

dreancaid amháin, trí dhreancaid (one flea, three fleas – of course, normally we see “na céadta” of them, ach sin scéal eile)

fleiscín amháin, ceithre fhleiscín (one hyphen, four hyphens)

gloine choise amháin, cúig ghloine choise (one goblet, five goblets)

práta rósta amháin, sé phráta rósta (An bhfuil aistriúchán de dhíth anseo?)

So that took us from “b” to “p” and from 2 through 6.

To continue down the alphabet, we’ll go back to 2 and 3, not 7 or 8.  Remember why?  From 7 through 10, we don’t use séimhiú but urú (eclipsis, as in “ocht mbád”), and that is ábhar blag eile, or more likely ábhar cúpla blag eile

We only have two more letters to work with, since the letters “r,” “v,” “w,” “x,” “y,” and “z,” don’t involve consonant clusters.  Very few Irish words actually start with “w,” “x,” “y,” or “z,” and there aren’t many that start with “v,” since these letters were not historically part of the Irish alphabet.  Of the words that do exist, like “wigwam,” “xéinilit,” yóyó,” “zóplanctón,” or “vitimín,” most are borrowed from English and they never get lenited.  “R” is certainly part of the traditional Irish alphabet, but also does not take lenition.  So, only “s” and “t” are left.  Here are some samples of “s” and “t” combinations:

sluasaid amháin, dhá shluasaid (one shovel, two shovels)

sliotar amháin, dhá shliotar (one hurley ball, two hurley balls)

tligtheoir amháin, trí thligtheoir (one projector, three projectors; the word “tligtheoir” is actually a dialect variation of the more standard word “teilgeoir” but I used it here so we’d have an initial consonant cluster). 

trumpa amháin, trí thrumpa (one trumpet or jaw-harp, three trumpets or jaw-harps)

But we’re not done yet, at least not with the letter “s.”  More to come, comparing “sl,” “sn” and “sr” to “sc,” “sm,” “sp,” and “st,” and pondering some borrowings like “svaeid” and “sfioncs.”  Tá súil agam go bhfuil suim agaibh ann.  Más amhlaidh go bhfuil, feicfidh mé i mblag eile thú (to loosely paraphrase a “mana clúiteach” from ABC’s Lost). 

P.S. Don’t forget, all these rules for “séimhiú” will also come into play when we use the personal number  “beirt,” so if you like, you can be thinking ahead about how to say “two gluttons” or “two slanesmen.”

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