Consonant Mutation

In fluent speech, consonants at the beginning of many Talossan words will take on a different pronunciation if the preceding word ended with a vowel sound. This effect is called “consonant mutation” and was presumably picked up from the Celtic languages with which mythical Talossan came in contact. It is not as intimidating as it might sound.

First of all, although mutations are evident in fluent speech, they are only rarely reflected in spelling. The indication of mutation is, in modern Talossan, now typically seen depicted in writing only for words that follow prepositions (words like the English “to”, “from”, “over”, “under”, etc.) and the word la (= the), and the indication is mandated in writing only if the mutating word is a pronoun.

This makes for an easy to remember rule for writing: a pronoun that follows a preposition or la will always be spelled in its mutated form (if any). For all other words, writing of the mutation is almost universally no longer seen, except for some very short and common words, like ma (= hand).

A consonant mutates in one of two ways; it either gets “softer” (this is called “lenition”) or is displaced by a “harder” consonant (this is called “eclipsis”).

Indication of Lenition

Mutation that occurs after a vowel usually indicates “lenition”, and is marked by inserting the consonant h after the mutating consonant. For example, the consonant m grows “softer” (becoming pronounced like the English and Talossan letter v) when it begins a word that follows a vowel sound. That is, while the Talossan word for “hand” is ma, when this word appears after a preposition that ends with a vowel, or after la (= the), the consonant m “mutates”. So this means that “the hand” is expressed in Talossan as la mha (pronounced like “la vah”).

Indication of Eclipsis

Mutation that occurs after a consonant, however, usually indicates “nasalisation” or “fortition”, and is indicated in a different way, using what is called “eclipsis”. In these cases, the “harder” consonant that is displacing the mutating consonant is added to the front of the word (and historically, it was also common to then capitalise the “eclipsed” consonant). That is, while the Talossan word for “cause” is cauça, when this word appears after a preposition that ends in a consonant, the consonant c “mutates” and takes the sound of the letter g. This means that while cauça means “cause”, per gCauça da (pronounced “gau-suh”, with the “eclipsed” letter c silent) means “for cause (sake) of”. Notice that the capitalisation of the eclipsed consonant in this form of mutation has been largely abandoned (but is still optional), so that per gcauça da is more commonly seen.

Indication Required for Pronouns After Prepositions and la

The words ma and cauça used in the examples above are rare cases in which the indication of mutation is still often seen in writing (but is not mandated) for words that are not pronouns. However, as mentioned, indication in writing is required for mutating pronouns. Here are the pronouns in their normal and mutated forms.

  • The object pronoun me (= me) mutates (undergoing “lenition”) to become mhe (which is pronounced “veh”) when it appears after a preposition that ends with a vowel. For example, da mhe (= of me) and à mhe (= to me).
  • The pronoun tu (= you) mutates (undergoing “lenition”) to become thu (which is pronounced “hu”) when it appears after a preposition that ends with a vowel, or after la. For example, da thu (= of you), à thu (= to you), and la thu (= yours).
  • The pronoun tu (= you) mutates (undergoing “eclipsis”) to become dtu (pronounced “du”) when it appears after a preposition that ends with a consonant. For example, per dtu (= for you) and cün dtu (= with you).
  • The pronoun lor (= their) mutated (undergoing “lenition”) and became spelled lhor (which normally would be pronounced as if spelled “glhor”, beginning with the “lli” sound as in English “million”).  when it appears after a preposition that ends with a vowel or la. For example, da lhor (= of them), à lhor (= to them), and la lhor (= theirs).  Over time, though, this particular word took on an irregular pronunciation, and now is pronounced using the “soft th” as in English “this” and “then”, essentially a denial of the consonant mutation.
  • The pronouns noi (= us) and voi (= you all) also undergo lenition when following prepositions that end with vowels. For example, da nhoi (= of us, in which the nh is pronounced as the Spanish ñ as in “onion” and “canyon”) and à vhoi (= to you all, in which the vh is pronounced as the English letter w).
  • The possessive pronoun síeu (= his, hers) has the feminine form sía which then mutates (undergoing eclipsis) in the phrase la tsía (= his, hers [of an owned object of feminine gender]). The second word here is also often seen tSía. The word is pronounced “tee-uh” (the mutated letter s being silent).
  • The possessive pronoun méu (= mine) has the feminine form mía which then mutates (undergoing lenition) in the phrase la mhía (= mine [of an owned object of feminine gender]), pronounced “la vee-uh”.

Mutation Indicated Elsewhere

Essentially, if you come across a Talossan word that begins with a confusing consonant pair that wasn’t discussed in the consonant pronunciation Webpage here, chances are you have encountered a mutated consonant. If the second letter is h, you have a lenitive change, but otherwise, as in the cases of the words gcauça, dtu, and tsía, you should pronounce the first letter and leave the second letter silent.

Pairs of letter resulting from eclipsis (for example, dt as in dtu and ts as in tsía) are not considered ingrained features of the language; they exist only at the start of words. This means that when you encounter dt or ts in the middle of a Talossan word, you have not encountered consonant mutation, and the two consonants in the pair should be pronounced separately.

However, the lenitive pairs are considered to be ingrained features of the language. That is, even when mh appears in the middle of a word, it is pronounced as the letter v. The lenitive pair that is most common (and which is most commonly seen in the middle of a word) is ph (which is pronounced like the letter f, just as in English). One word containing ph is Taiphäts (= Thailand), in which the word päts (= country) has undergone lenition and been combined with Tai-.

The lenitive pairs other than those already discussed above are bh (pronounced like the letter v), dh (pronounced like the “soft th” as in English “this” or “that”), and fh (pronounced like the letter h).

Other than the mandated uses with pronouns listed above, and its (optional) use in some phrases like per gcauça, consonant mutation is typically only seen with the word ma (= hand) and with the words (= more) and míus (= less). For example, la phü (= the most) and la mhíus (= the least). It is also seen in the middle of some older words that were formed by contraction. For example, salamhenxh (= dining room) and autufhaçat (= self-made).

Again, mutation only still appears in writing in Talossan in these specific cases; otherwise, indication in writing is not something that is commonly seen. However, once you begin to speak fluently in Talossan, you will (perhaps surprisingly) find yourself mutating consonants at the beginning of words after prepositions and la, simply as a matter of course. However, when writing Talossan, it is now not usual to indicate the mutations heard in speech, except in the cases described above. For example, the word piatana (= plane) need not become la phiatana in writing, but instead is written simply la piatana (= the plane). However, a fluent Talossan speaker would likely be heard saying that phrase using the “ph” sound (as in “phone”) to begin the word piatana.