Before you pronounce Irish names or thumb through a dictionary, you should know that Irish words do something quite unusual. They can mutate their starting sounds.
~ I GCUPLA FOCAL, BRIEFLY ~
I'm preparing a video that explores the entire history of Irish. As I stitch together my notes, I'm noticing I often just have time to name-drop terms like "Proto-Celtic" and "Ogham". Today let's spend time on one of the more unusual ones: "initial mutations".
Archaic or "Primitive Irish" had neat Celtic syllables, but when Old Irish pops in just a couple centuries later, it's already full of worn-out endings and these strange mutations.
Two types. First, lenition: a word's starting sound gets softer, like /p/ turning into /f/. Second, eclipse: the starting sound gets more voiced or nasalized. The textbook Sengoídelc adds a third type, aspiration: adding h before a vowel.
What makes these devious is that they're triggered by grammar. We'll take a look at a few examples.
I'll close out by thinking about how Irish's "will mutate for grammar" strategy likely developed. I'll also consider how, even though they now look so uniquely Celtic, mutations are not inherited from the common Proto-Celtic ancestor.