Publication Date

Spring 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Linguistics and Language Development


Daniel Silverman


historical linguistics, Irish, morphology, mutation, phonology, template matching

Subject Areas

Linguistics; Morphology


This thesis presents an overview of the process of initial consonant mutation in Modern Irish. Initial consonant mutation is most simply described as a phonetic change in the initial consonant of a word triggered by a closed set of morphosyntactic environments. These triggers and environments are varied and difficult to generalize. Many attempts at classification have utilized current theories of phonology, morphology, and syntax to describe and explain the synchronic process, with the original motivation being a purely phonological environment that existed in earlier stages of the language. By examining the original mutation environments in comparison to the corresponding forms in Modern Irish, a possible motivation for synchronic mutation behavior is found. It is suggested that mutation in Modern Irish often serves to maintain various semantic contrasts where the phonological environment has disappeared. In examples where a clear contrast is not maintained, mutation may still provide important semantic clues in the constructions in which it appears. Current theories of cognitive linguistics are employed to attempt to motivate the consistency and predictability of the process in terms of template matching.