[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Author Index][Search Archives]

Re: MR-Info: Linnation (fwd)

I don't normally hang out on the Merry Rose. However, when the request for
information about linnation was brought to me attention, I forwarded the
message below to Master Talan who is one of the top College of Arms name

Here you will find his response.

If you have any further questions, feel free to contact Master Talan or


> > ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> > Date: Mon, 10 Jun 1996 17:23:56, -0500
> > From: MS MARTHA L WALLENHORST <Annejke@prodigy.com>
> > To: atlantia@atlantia.sca.org, edh@ascc01.ascc.att.com
> > Subject: MR-Info: Linnation
> > 
> > >I am intrigued by this concept of 'linnation'.  Could you please 
> > explain
> > >it further?
> > 
> > Linighting or linnation is the changing of a name to a familiar, 
> > easier to say word within the Gaelic sentence structure.
> There are a few errors here, I'm afraid.  First, the word is
> actually 'lenition', literally 'softening'.  It is a grammatical
> feature of all of the insular Celtic languages: Gaelic (Scots, Irish,
> and Manx), Welsh, and Cornish.  It is also a feature of Breton, which
> was originally insular.  (In Gaelic it is also called 'aspiration',
> though the term is extremely inaccurate.) Specifically, it is one of
> several so-called 'mutations' of the initial consonant of a word in
> certain circumstances.  (For example, Welsh also has a nasal and an
> aspirate mutation, and Irish has a mutation usually called
> 'eclipsis'.)
> Originally lenition was a softening of consonants (e.g., from 'd' to
> the sound of 'th' in 'there') occurring between vowels.  Generally
> this meant consonants in the middle of a word, but if two words in a
> phrase were especially closely connected, the initial consonant of
> the second one could be lenited.  The interior lenitions became
> permanent changes; for instance, the name 'Eogan' became 'Eoghan'.
> Initial lenitions, however, depended on the sentence structure and on
> precisely what word (or kind of word) preceded the word being
> lenited.  They generally did not become permanent, and we therefore
> still find words appearing in different forms depending on
> grammatical context.  For example, in Irish an adjective modifying a 
> feminine noun in the nominative case or a masculine noun in the 
> genitive case is lenited.  (More accurately, it is lenited if that is 
> possible: it must begin with a consonant that is subject to 
> lenition.)
> Probably ease of pronunciation was originally involved, but for
> centuries lenition has been simply an arbitrary grammatical feature
> of these languages.
> > >Does every Gaelic name have a linnation?  Is there a list?
> Every Gaelic name that begins with one of the consonants p, t, c, b, 
> d, g, m, f, and s is potentially subject to lenition.  The name 
> 'Conall', for instance, becomes 'Chonall' when it is lenited.  
> However, this change is not a matter of choice: it occurs in some 
> grammatical contexts and not in others, and one must know a bit about 
> the language in order to know when it is appropriate and when it is 
> incorrect.
> Knowing when to lenite a name is relatively easy, as it's a matter of
> following regular grammatical rules.  More difficult is knowing the
> genitive case of a Gaelic given name.  This is important, because it
> is the genitive case that is used to form patronymics. Thus, from
> the name 'Bri/an' one gets 'O/ Bri/ain' (where I've used a slash to
> denote an acute accent over the preceding vowel).  The feminine
> version of this requires lenition: 'Ni/ Bhria/in'.  The genitive
> cases of many given names can be deduced from extant Irish
> patronymics; more accessibly, the list of given names in the book
> _Irish Names and Surnames_, by Patrick Woulfe, includes the genitive
> case forms.
> >   I  beleive that most every name has a linnation.  IE: Alexander is 
> > AElyster, Davydd is Yavidd
> This is a bit confused.  'Alexander' isn't Gaelic to begin with; the 
> name was borrowed into Gaelic as 'Alusdar', 'Alastar', etc.; in 
> modern Scots Gaelic the usual form is 'Alasdair'.  Since these begin 
> with a vowel, they are not subject to lenition.
> 'Davydd' isn't Gaelic, either; it is an older spelling of modern
> Welsh 'Dafydd', the standard Welsh form of 'David'.  In some
> contexts 'Dafydd' could undergo lenition, but the result would not
> by 'Yavidd'; it would be 'Ddafydd'.
> >, and yes there are lists but I don't know 
> > if they are avaiable in this country.  I would search all Gaelic 
> > speaking countries, including Scotland, Ireland, Brittany in France, 
> > lower Spain, Andora and Cape Britton Island in Canada.
> Forms of Gaelic are spoken in parts of Scotland and Ireland; the 
> Celtic language still spoken to some extent in Brittany is Breton, not 
> Gaelic.  It is rather closely related to Cornish and Welsh; its 
> kinship with Gaelic (in any of its varieties) is considerably more 
> distant.  So far as I know, no relevant language is spoken in Spain, 
> Andorra, or Cape Breton Island.
> > >Is there some sort of regular change from the name to the linnation?
> > 
> >   Yes and no.  The name in Linnation is always the same but why the 
> > linnation is the way it is even my instructor can't explain.
> In order to understand why lenition works the way it does, one must 
> know something about the very early forms of the languages and how 
> they developed out of Proto-Indo-European.  It is an extremely 
> technical subject.
> > >Do other cultures have linnation?
> >  Yes, German, and  I am told, so does Japanese
> The question is ill-posed: lenition is a linguistic feature, not a
> cultural feature.  The answer is simply incorrect, since the term is
> restricted in its normal application to the Celtic languages.  Even
> if it were not, neither German nor Japanese has any sort of regular
> mutation of initial consonants.
> > >It it similar to First Person, Second Person, Third Person 
> > conjugations
> > in English, only applied to nouns instead of verbs?
> It is similar in the sense that it is a regular grammatical change. 
> In Irish not only nouns but also adjectives and verbs may undergo
> lenition in some contexts.
> >   It is applied when addressing someone with a greeting
> Yes, in Irish personal names are lenited in the vocative case (the 
> case of direct address).  They usually undergo other changes as well, 
> since the form of the vocative case usually resembles that of the 
> genitive rather than the nominative case.  Thus, the name 'Bri/an' 
> becomes 'Bhri/ain' in the vocative case.
> > >Is it related to the Binomial Nomenclature developed by Carl von 
> > Linne'
> > (Linnaeus carolus)?
> Not at all.  (Look again at the spellings: 'Linne/' versus 
> 'lenition'.)
> >   They have been doing this for a thousand years, so I don't think so 
> > but he might have been the one to name the practice.
> No, he was a taxonomist, not a linguist.  (And lenition can be traced 
> back more than a thousand years in Gaelic.)
>	Talan

If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely 
challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn 
between a desire to improve the world, and a desire to enjoy the world. 
This makes it hard to plan the day. - E. B. White

To unsubscribe to the Kingdom of Atlantia mailing list, send a message
to majordomo@atlantia.sca.org with no subject and the body consisting of:
unsubscribe atlantia