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.
Broad vowels Slender vowels Broad consonants Slender consonants
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.
The letters in parentheses are the spellings used for the same sound when it's not the first sound in a word.

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 liquids
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.
S (ss).
Rhymes only with itself.

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.

Soft+Light, Soft+Rough, Light+Rough, Strong+Soft, Hard-Rough.
Rough+Light, Rough+Strong, Rough+Rough, Rough+Hard.
Light+Light, Light+Strong.
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.
(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.)

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 eóil
an gheágsoin fa gar do mhaoin;
fada siar ón tírsi thuaidh
aniar uain do-chínnsi an gcraoibh.

Pretty, isn't it?  Think how appealing that kind of pattern must be to your ear.

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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