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VI. — Assimilation of Aspirated Consonants by Yowels.

The broad vowels á, ó, and ú are produced by elevating the back of the tongue towards the soft palate by three different steps. A fourth step would, make the tongue touch the soft palate, producing the contact required for the broad soft palate consonants. When these consonants are aspirated the tongue has to be again slightly lowered so as to leave an opening between it and the soft palate. Thus the position for ch and gh is practically the same as for the vowel u. Ch being a breath consonant retains its separate sound, but gh being voiced is assimilated by a preceding u, merely lengthening the u sound, e.g.. ughdar. For a similar reason gh merely lengthens the medium back vowel o,* e.g., sogh. With the low back vowel, however, it usually forms a compound vowel sound like our pronunciation of the pronoun I. The first portion of the compound is short A, and the second .is the short form of Connacht AO. Both portions are therefore broad, e.g., aghaidh.

While pronouncing the three back vowels, the blade of the tongue approaches the hard palate in three different stages. A fourth step would give the contact for the broad consonant d. Aspirated d requires the blade of the tongue in almost the same position as the vowel u. Hence u and o assimilate a following dh and are lengthened by it, e.g., crudh, obhar. . With a it forms a compound vowel pronounced like agh, e.g, tadhg

While pronouncing the three back vowels the lips also approach each other in three different stages. The position of the lips, therefore, for bh and mh is almost the same as for u. Hence they are assimilated by and lengthen a preceding u and o;* e.g.,dghall romhat. With A they form a compound vowel sound similar to the English ow in how. To realise how this comes about try to say gab without quite closing the lips on b. The result is gabh.

For the three front vowel sounds, the front of the tongue is raised in three different stages. For the vowel sound i the rere half of the tongue is in a position similar to that required for slender gh, and the fore half in a position similar to that required for slender dh ; gh and dh are therefore assimulated by and lengthen the high front vowel i (in and 0i). With the middle and low front vowel sounds ai and ei they form a compound vowel sound, which is like the genuine English sound of the pronoun I, e.g., taidhbhse.

What appears to be the strange pronunciation of such words as congnadh iongnadh, iongantach is merely another case of the assimilation of an aspirated consonant sound by a preceding vowel. Ng, both in Irish and in English, represents a simple consonant sound, which ought to have a single letter to represent it. In the words given this sound, is aspirated, and assimilated by the preceding vowel sounds. The aspiration is not however written, owing, no doubt, to the difficulty of deciding how to write it.



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Irish phonetics - Rev. M. O'Flanagan - 1904