Comhardadh: how to rhyme in Irish
I hate to tell you this, but to learn how the medieval Irish rhymed their
poems, you first have to find out how they looked at the sounds of their
language. I know this looks really scary and complicated,
but bear in mind just how complicated that, say, a rap song would look,
if outlined in terms of meter and phonetics! The poet and the audience
would have had the patterns engrained in them; it's only to the outsider
or the describer that these patterns seems detailed, difficult and strange.
In medieval Irish linguistic and poetic tracts, the sounds of Old and
Middle Irish are carefully divided into two kinds of classifications. The
first was broadness/slenderness.
|a, o, u, á, ó, & ú
||e, i, é & í
||Consonants immediately preceded by broad vowels.
||Consonants immediately preceded by slender vowels.
The second classification was similar to the description of consonants
that linguists use today.
na trí chonnsuine chruaidhe
'the 3 hard consonants' = voiced stops
b, d, g (p, t, c)
na trí chonnsuine bhoga
'the 3 soft consonants' = voiceless stops
p, t, c (pp, tt, cc)
na trí chonnsuine gharbha
'the 3 rough consonants' = voiceless spirants
ph (f), th, ch
na seacht gconnsuine éadroma
'the 6 light consonants' = voiced spirants & weak-pronounced voiced
b (v), m (nasal v), d (th as in then), g (as in morgen), l, n, r.
na cúig chonnsuine theanna
'the 5 strong consonants' = strong pronounced voiced liquids
m (mm), ll, nn, ng, rr.
Strong consonants rhyme with light ones.
connsuinne aimrid nach coír a modh ar bioth gan 's' eile na haghaidh.
I have no idea what that means in Irish = continuants.
Rhymes only with itself.
The letters in parentheses are the spellings used for the same sound
when it's not the first sound in a word.
In the case of a consonant blend, the blends fell into one of the following
classes, each of which only rhymed with blends of the same class. Following
the modern scholars, '+' means before or after and '-' means before.
(In Middle Irish, when s is the initial sound of any part of a compound
word except the first syllable, s is lenited & soundless -- except
in the case of demonstrative suffixes or words beginning with sg, sd, sb
or sm. Also in compound words, the broadness or slenderness of the final
syllable of any component word becomes the broadness or slenderness of
the initial sound of the component following it. I don't know that you'll
ever need to know these rules, but now you do.)
Soft+Light, Soft+Rough, Light+Rough, Strong+Soft, Hard-Rough.
Rough+Light, Rough+Strong, Rough+Rough, Rough+Hard.
Rhymes when each consonant accompanying s is of the same class (Strong
& Light count as the same class for this); in Middle Irish, the accompanying
consonants are lenited for poetic purposes.
Comhardadh occurs only when the first syllable of each word (the
first syllable was always stressed in Old Irish, or Middle Irish as pronounced
by poets) had the same vowel and consonants of the same class
and broadness/slenderness. The initial consonants don't count; only
the sounds in the middle and end of the syllable do. Other syllables than
the first one only need to have the same vowel if that vowel is long.
Comhardadh could be final, internal, or aicill. Aicill rhymes
the final stressed word of one line with the next-to-last unstressed word
in the next line. (In this relationship, the final rhyming word is called
rinn, 'tip' and the unstressed rhyming word airdrinn, 'attention-tip'.
Do bhíoth dhamh ag déanaimh
an gheágsoin fa gar
fada siar ón tírsi
do-chínnsi an gcraoibh.
Pretty, isn't it? Think how appealing that kind of pattern must be
to your ear.
Final rhyme: mhaoin/gcraoibh
Internal rhyme: dhamh/gar,
comhardadh slán: perfect rhyme (rhyme which
follows the rules above)
comhardadh briste: imperfect rhyme (rhymes only by same vowel
& same broadness/slenderness of consonants)
A line in a couplet may include a word which rhymes with
two words instead of just one! This usually happens when the two-rhyme
line has a word which is repeated, but also in less easy ways.
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