Lenition after gan

Lenition after gan is an awkward area of Irish grammar, as real usage seems variable. The following discussion is based on the usage of Peadar Ua Laoghaire, but some variation of usage in his works is seen, possibly partly reflecting the hands of editors, and possibly partly reflecting a genuine dialectal variation in usage.

Parts of speech that are not nouns

First, parts of speech that are not nouns are not lenited after gan:

gan puínn creidimh
gan mórán trioblóide

Verbal nouns

Second, verbal nouns are not lenited after gan:

gan pósadh
gan bac do
d’fhan sé ar an áit gan corraí as

Nouns forming part of verbal noun phrases
Third, nouns that are part of verbal noun phrases are not lenited after gan:

gan Brian a bheith in’ Árdrí
gan bua an chatha ‘ bhí ag teacht do leogaint leis an namhaid
ní raibh lá gan priúnsa éigin ag teacht
gan buile fearg ‘ theacht orm
gan gáire ‘ dhéanamh
gan cúram an Land League a bheith orm
toisc gan bean a phósadh
gan ceó an bhóthair do bhaint dá bhrógaibh
gan focal do labhairt
gan fothram a dhéanamh
gan cor aige dhá chur dá cheannachaibh (a slightly different example using á)

However, a counter example is gan chíos a thabhairt (PUL1915).

Ordinary nouns

Fourth, ordinary nouns may be lenited, but this does not apply to d, t and s (as these are dental sounds coming after an n) and f is usually not lenited after gan either. This is probably because the lenition of f, yielding a zero pronunciation, is quite invasive of the form of the word. However, it is worth noting that f is lenited in i gan fhios, also written as a single word (i ganfhios).

The more awkward part of the problem is that the labials b, m and p, and the gutturals c and g may be lenited after gan–but this usage is not uniform in PUL’s works.

The following examples are taken from the first 25 or so chapters of Séadna (PUL1904), Niamh (PUL1907), Mo Sgéal Féin (PUL1915) and An Soisgéal Naomhtha do réir Mhaitiú (PUL1915b):

b: gan bhláth, gan Bhéarla, gan bhia (PUL1904), gan bhrí, gan bhunús, gan bheann, gan bhaol
but:
gan beann (PUL1915), gan Brian anso (PUL1907), gan béile na hoíche acu (PUL1915), gan blúire coinne acu (PUL1915), triail dlí gan breith dáréag (PUL1915), gan bárr coise do chur ann (PUL1904), gan bia (PUL1904), gan urra gan banna (PUL1904), gan baochas do (PUL1904).

c: gan chiall, gan chúis, gan cheannísleacht, gan chosnamh, gan chabhair gan chúnamh, gan choladh gan suan, gan chosc gan cheataí, gan cheistiúchán, gan chíos, gan cheann, gan chosaint, gan choire, gan choinníoll gan chol, gan chuireadh gan iarraidh
but:
gan culaith na bainise uime (PUL1915b), gan culaith manaigh (PUL1907), gan cabhair ná cúnamh (PUL1907), gan cead, gan creideamh, gan clampar (PUL1915), gan crot air (PUL1904), gan teas gan cúmpórd (PUL1915), gan cor curtha dhi (PUL1904), gan casóg gan hata (PUL1904), gan ceangal air i láthair Dé an gheallúint do chómhlíonadh (PUL1904). Also note that it is gan cuid, with lenition: gan cuid acu ach ar éigin tosnaithe (PUL1907).

f: i gan fhios
but nearly all other examples are unlenited:
gan fáth, gan feóirling, gan fios rochruínn ag éinne air (PUL1907), gan fios a ghnótha féin (PUL1904).

g: gan Ghaelainn, gan ghá, gan ghátar
but:
féile an aráin gan giost (PUL1915b 26), gan greim dlí aici air (PUL1904).

m: gan mhoíll
but:
gan míle fear ann (PUL1907), gan múisiún codlata ‘ bheith air (PUL1904), gan Máire bheag ach dhá bhliain (PUL1904).

p: gan pheacadh, gan phingin.

It is clear that some phrases can go either way: gan bheann appears with and without lenition, and gan bhia appears with and without lenition in the same book (Séadna). But to regularise usage somewhat for the purposes of learners, we can say that the more frequent phrases tend to have lenition, eg phrases such as gan bhrí, gan bhunús, gan chúis, gan ghá, occurring frequently in speech, whereas ad hoc phrases (eg, gan clampar) might not be lenited. Words part of longer noun phrases (gan culaith manaith, gan blúire coinne acu) tend to attract lenition less frequently.

We also note that, whereas there are no instances of p without lenition after gan, the instances of c without lenition are much more frequent. It is also worth noting that c is more likely to be lenited in a gan X gan Y phrase where both parts of the phrase are lenited (gan chabhair gan chúnamh and gan chosc gan cheataí, but gan cabhair ná cúnamh and gan teas gan cúmpórd).

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About dj1969

at the conservative end of the libertarian spectrum
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