Irish: caol

Gavril

Senior Member
English, USA
Hello,

As I understand it, the Irish term caol "slender" is connected to palatalization: in older Irish (perhaps not in Modern), consonants that were caol were palatalized by a surrounding front vowel. (Some examples would be the -l- in céile "companion" and the -ch- in che "20".)

Is the term caol only used to describe the pronunciation of sounds in Irish, or could it also be used for palatalized consonants in other languages (such as Russian, where there is a significant contrast between palatalized and non-palatalized consonants)?

Thanks
 
  • Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    Since it's an Irish word I doubt it would be used to describe any language other than Irish. You'd need to ask a Russian speaker what they call this in Russian ;)

    The term is still used in Modern Irish e.g. in the basic spelling rule caol le caol agus leathan le leathan (i.e. the vowels on either side of a consonant should agree and be either both slender or both broad).
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    I'm with Tegs on this, I doubt any Russian grammarian would even be aware of this Irish word's existence.
    By the way, it's not just a grammaticial term, very much like the word "slender" in English it's meaning depends on context.
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    By the way, it's not just a grammaticial term, very much like the word "slender" in English it's meaning depends on context.

    Oh yes, I hadn't considered that maybe that needed pointing out too, but as l'irlandais said, it's used in other contexts too - often translating as "narrow" in English.
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    I imagine Gavril may already be aware of it, but other members may not be. Also some terms like Séimhiú (lenition) are purely used in grammar, while it's opposite Urú (eclipsis) could refer to an eclipsis of the sun. ;)
     

    uress

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    So, if you are speaking IRISH and about ANY language in Irish you call the palatalized consonants -of any language, of any other language than Irish-, coal in Irish?

    I.e. the Irish name for every palatalized consonant of the world is coal, or not???
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I thought the question was, what would an Irish speaker use when speaking in Irish to refer to Russian palatalized consonants? Would they use "caol" or a different word?
     

    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    Since it's an Irish word I doubt it would be used to describe any language other than Irish. You'd need to ask a Russian speaker what they call this in Russian ;)

    The term is still used in Modern Irish e.g. in the basic spelling rule caol le caol agus leathan le leathan (i.e. the vowels on either side of a consonant should agree and be either both slender or both broad).
    Yes. In Russian linguistics caol (slender) is called мягкий (soft), and leathan (broad) is called твёрдый (hard). The "slender" makes sense, as patalised consonants have a "more slender" mouth (ie closer). Why this is regarded as "softer", I don't know.
     

    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    I thought the question was, what would an Irish speaker use when speaking in Irish to refer to Russian palatalized consonants? Would they use "caol" or a different word?
    Well, probably the would refer to e.g. a soft m in Russian as caol. But the issue also depends on the fact that there isn't a one-to-one equivalent in the realisation of softness/slenderness.

    Russian soft s is /sʲ/, a true palatalised s. The Irish slender s is pronounced /ʃ/, so there are some differences.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    As I understand it, Gaelic and Slavonic differ in a fundamental way in how they split consonants into contrasting (and sometimes alternating) phoneme pairs.
    - A Slavonic SOFT consonant is marked by a relatively HIGH tongue - positioned towards the hard palate (and of course a hard consonant by a low tongue). So a more scientific word for “soft” is “palatalized”.
    - A Gaelic SLENDER consonant is marked by drawing the tongue towards the BACK of the mouth (towards the velum or soft palate) and of course a broad consonant by putting the tongue towards the front). So a more scientific word for “slender” is “velarized”.
    Having said that, I think that any Russian would tend to interpret a Gaelic slender consonant as soft and a Gaelic broad consonant as hard, and vice-versa.

    As Pimlicodude says, there are exceptions/ complications. I was taught that Russian, g, k and kh are always pronounced soft (at least in native words), and ch, sh, zh and ts are always pronounced hard. Whereas I have been taught that in Irish h is always broad, as are the other ways of spelling the h sound (th, sh).
     
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    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    As I understand it, the Irish term caol "slender" is connected to palatalization: in older Irish (perhaps not in Modern), consonants that were caol were palatalized by a surrounding front vowel. (Some examples would be the -l- in céile "companion" and the -ch- in che "20".)
    A Slavonic soft/palatalized consonant and a Gaelic slender/velarized consonant both mark the (current or former) presence of a back vowel i or e. This is reflected in Irish orthography, which marks a slender consonant with e and/or i. (One of the challenges of Irish pronunciation is to remember whether a vowel is pronounced as a vowel, or whether its purpose is only to mark a neighbouring consonant as broad or slender.)
     
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    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    So a more scientific word for “slender” is “velarized”.
    There seems to be some confusion here.
    It's the "broad" ones that are velarized (small ˠ symbol), e.g. 'salann' /ˈsˠalˠənˠ/ = 'salt'.
    The "slender" consonants are palatalized (small ʲ symbol), e.g. 'méid' /mʲeːdʲ/ = 'amount'.
     
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    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There seems to be some confusion here.
    It's the "broad" ones that are velarized (small ˠ symbol), e.g. 'salann' /ˈsˠalˠənˠ/ = 'salt'.
    The "slender" consonants are palatalized (small ʲ symbol), e.g. 'méid' /mʲeːdʲ/ = 'amount'.
    Thank you. Sorry for the confusion. It sounds like I am wrong in assuming that, because the velum is at the back of the mouth, we must associate velarized consonants with back vowels or back glides. I am hoping someone can clarify just how profound my misunderstanding of the tongue positioning, and the related terms, is!

    As I hear them,
    - an Irish slender consonant runs seamlessly into a neighbouring back vowel (méid) whereas, between an Irish slender consonant and a front vowel, there is a glide akin to a back vowel (represented in the orthography by a back vowel - beoir)
    - an Irish broad consonant runs seamlessly into a neighbouring front vowel (barr); whereas, between an Irish broad consonant and a back vowel there is a glide akin to a front vowel (represented in the orthography by a front vowel - buíoch).
    Maybe my thinking is too influenced by the spelling…
     
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    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thank you. Sorry for the confusion. It sounds like I am wrong in assuming that, because the velum is at the back of the mouth, we must associate velarized consonants with back vowels or back glides. I am hoping someone can clarify just how profound my misunderstanding of the tongue positioning, and the related terms, is!

    As I hear them,
    - an Irish slender consonant runs seamlessly into a neighbouring back vowel (méid) whereas, between an Irish slender consonant and a front vowel, there is a glide akin to a back vowel (represented in the orthography by a back vowel - beoir)
    - an Irish broad consonant runs seamlessly into a neighbouring front vowel (barr); whereas, between an Irish broad consonant and a back vowel there is a glide akin to a front vowel (represented in the orthography by a front vowel - buíoch).
    Maybe my thinking is too influenced by the spelling…
    I think you are mixing up back and front. The vowel in barr is a back vowel. The vowel in méid is a front vowel. But I expect you pronounce them right, and so this is just a question of terminology.
     

    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    Of course, it's worth nothing that some consonants are patalalised in English - although there are no phonemic contrasts. Eg. in the word "king", both the "k" and the "ng" are slender/soft in English. We just naturally pronounce them that way, although if you were to pronounce them broad, it wouldn't change the meaning. Even though there is no phonemic contrast, the mouth in any language still operates in the same spectrum from palatalisation to velarisation.

    This creates a problem learning Irish: cinn is easy to pronounce, but coin ("dogs"; cúnna in some dialects) is harder, because you have to struggle as an English speaker to make the c velarised. See words like coinne, cuimhne etc.

    In English, I think it is only the gutturals k, g, ng that are patalalised.
     
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