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Tionól 2008

The following papers were given at the School’s annual Tionól, 28–29 November, 2008.

Gwen Awbery
Welsh Place-Names and the Interaction of Syntax and Semantics

Generalisations describing the distribution of definite and indefinite NPs in the sentence in Welsh appear at first to be a straightforward matter of syntax, and completely uncontroversial. When NPs which are place-names are brought into the discussion, however, it becomes apparent that the situation is rather more complex. If clear generalisations are to be captured, it will be necessary to accept that not only syntactic, but also semantic factors must be taken into account. The grammatical patterns found in Welsh do not operate in a vacuum, and must take account of the reality which is being described.

Johan Corthals
The Áiliu poems in Bretha Nemed Dédenach

The Áiliu poems in Bretha Nemed Dédenach (Ériu 13, 40 l. 3 – 41 l. 20 = CIH 1129.33–1130.37) are a quite unique example of early medieval popular festive songs, possibly performed in the context of poetical examination or contest. Context, transmission, text and translation will be discussed, and structure, style and motives will be commented on.

Clodagh Downey
Dindshenchas and the Tech Midchuarta.

This paper will consider sources for the physical layout and social regulation of the Tech Midchuarta at Tara with particular emphasis on their relationship with the dindshenchas poem on Tara beginning Temair toga na tulach (‘Temair III’).

Fiona Edmonds
Gaelic personal names in medieval northern England

Gaelic personal names are found in numerous documents that pertain to medieval northern England. The names occur in the tempus regis Edwardi (1066) sections of Domesday Book, in twelfth- and thirteenth-century deeds and in cartularies. I will examine the distribution of the names and the chronology of their use. It seems clear that the names were brought to northern England by Hiberno-Scandinavian communities, but the continued presence of the names in twelfth-century northern England has never been explained.

Matthias Egeler
Some considerations on the Celtic character of the Lamiæ tres of the dedication stone CIL VII, 507 from the Roman fort Condercum on Hadrian’s Wall.

The dedication stone inscribed LAMIIS TRIBUS from the Roman fort Condercum (modern-day Benwell) on Hadrian’s Wall has been variously interpreted as reflecting a dedication to figures corresponding to the Irish Bodbs (Stokes, Sjœstedt, Ross, Green, Epstein) or figures similar to the female teacher-in-arms Scáthach (Birkhan). While the stone appears in most larger overviews over Celtic religion, it and in particular its context have never been analysed in sufficient detail to settle the question. The paper will attempt to demonstrate that among the propositions made in the last six decades only that of Birkhan relies in its reasoning neither on factual mistakes nor on a problematic methodology. On the basis of a comprehensive analysis of the full literary and archaeological context of the stone as a product of the religion of the Roman imperial army it will be argued that nevertheless Stokes was probably right when he suggested in passing that one should associate the Lamiæ of Condercum with the Irish Bodbs.

Markku Filppula and Juhani Klemola
Celtic Influences in English: a re-evaluation

Until quite recently, the majority of scholarly opinion has been content to endorse the long-held view which holds that the extent of Celtic influence upon English has been minimal in all domains of language, despite the close coexistence of the speakers of these two (groups of) languages for some 1,500 years. However, this has not meant that ‘dissident’ opinions should not have been expressed now and again over the last century or so. Indeed, instead of falling into oblivion, the ‘Celtic Hypothesis’ has become an object of fresh interest in some of the most recent historical-linguistic research (see, e.g. Hickey 1995, Tristram 1999, Vennemann 2000, van der Auwera and Genee 2002, and Filppula, Klemola and Pitkänen [eds], 2002).

Our approach (see Filppula, Klemola, and Paulasto 2008) differs from most previous works in that an attempt is made to take into account both the linguistic and ‘extra-linguistic’ evidence pertaining to the issue. It has become evident by now that no significant progress can be made anymore by concentrating on just one linguistic feature at a time, without regard to the overall sociohistorical picture of the contact situation and its linguistic outcomes across a wider range of linguistic features and levels of language. The former aspect includes the demographic and other historical evidence relating to the relationships between the Celts and the Anglo-Saxons, while the latter entails putting the putative linguistic influences from Celtic into a general contact-linguistic as well as an areal-typological perspective.

We argue, first, that the sociohistorical circumstances surrounding the English-Celtic interface were such that linguistic influences from Celtic upon English were not just possible, but a natural consequence of the language shift situation. Secondly, the claimed paucity of Celtic loanwords in English does not constitute evidence against contact effects at the other levels of language; on the contrary, it is exactly what can be expected on the basis of general contact-linguistic theory. Thirdly, many features of English grammar have characteristics that cannot be satisfactorily explained as independent developments or as results of contacts with any other than the Celtic languages. Fourthly, the linguistic characteristics of the so-called ‘Celtic Englishes’ that have emerged in the modern period provide yet another important source of indirect evidence supporting the Celtic Hypothesis with regard to the medieval contacts.

(References: Filppula, M., J. Klemola, and H. Paulasto. 2008. English and Celtic in Contact (Routledge Studies in Germanic Linguistics). London/New York: Routledge.
Filppula, M., J. Klemola, and H. Pitkänen (eds) 2002. The Celtic Roots of English. Joensuu: Joensuu University Press.
Hickey, Raymond. 1995. ‘Early contact and parallels between English and Celtic’. VIEW[Z] (Vienna English Working Papers) 4:2: 87–119.
Tristram, Hildegard L.C. 1999. How Celtic is Standard English? ([Publications of the] Institut lingvisticeskich issledovanij, Rossijskoj akademii nauk). St. Petersburg: Nauka.
Van der Auwera, J. and I. Genee. 2002. ‘English do: On the convergence of languages and linguists’. English Language and Linguistics 6.2: 283–307.
Vennemann, T. 2000. ‘English as a ‘Celtic’ language: Atlantic influences from above and from below’. In Tristram, Hildegard L.C. (ed.), The Celtic Englishes II. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag C. Winter. 399–406.)

Fergus Kelly
Distraint of bees: a recently discovered Middle Irish legal commentary

In his recent Companion to the Corpus Iuris Hibernici (pp. 472–7) Liam Breatnach has published for the first time a legal miscellany from the National Library of Ireland manuscript G 138. It includes (§ 4) a brief Middle Irish commentary on the distraint of bees, which can be compared with the Old Irish passage on the same topic (T. M. Charles-Edwards and F. Kelly (ed.), Bechbretha p. 189 = D. A. Binchy, Celtica 10 (1973) 80 § 11). In this paper I will discuss the various problems of the interpretation of both the Old Irish and the Middle Irish legal material on the distraint of bees (athgabál bech).

Graham Isaac
The Wave Mechanics of Early Welsh Verse

In my doctoral thesis of 1992, I developed a theory of Old Welsh syllabic metre which accounts for the nature of the variation in line lengths, explains why certain variant lengths are more frequent than others, why the ‘norm’ lengths in the various metres are what they are and how the poets were able to manipulate the metrical system to generate a breathtaking array of artistic structures out of a very simple underlying metrical scheme.

Having recently taken the opportunity to return to the topic, and the thesis, I have been able to enhance and deepen the theory and its scope, to improve substantially on both its generality and its predictive power. It appears that the basic underlying metrical structure of all Old Welsh metres (of the awdl type, at least) can be represented with the geometrical form of a simple, regular sinusoidal wave function. Three principles of symmetry operate on this wave pattern to determine certain values on the wave, which generate, to what appears to me to be an encouraging degree of accuracy, exactly the structures we see in extant Old Welsh verse, and explains more simply than my previous formulation the nature of the variations in length within a given line type.

Esther Le Mair
Some verbs in the Würzburg Glosses

In this paper, I will discuss the following verbs:

  • do-áirci: This verb inflects as a WAII, but seems to belong to the primary root *-an-n-k-e/o-.
  • do-fásaig: Even though it inflects as a weak verb, the 3sg. pres. ind. citation form of this verb in DIL and other sources presents it as if it were strong.

There are clearly contradictions in connection with these two verbs which must be resolved.

  • do-airret: Wb. 27d23 has been translated in two different ways, depending on the interpretation of tairthet. The verb has been analysed by Stokes and Strachan (followed by Pedersen and Schumacher) as if from otherwise unattested *to-ari-teig-. I will argue that there is no problem taking tairthet as a form of do-airret “overtakes”, that is *to-ari-ret- (as DIL and Thurneysen), and that there is no such verb as *to-ari-teig-.
  • do-alla, do-ella: The three verbs, i) do-alla “takes away, steals”; ii) do-ella “turns aside, deviates”, iii) do-alla “there is room for, fits”, are derived from one root by Pedersen. Schumacher assigns the last to a different root to the first two, but this is unnecessary; all are derivable from a single root and this can be demonstrated in the light of both textual considerations and comparative grammar.

Peter McQuillan
‘Civil Conversation’ and literature in Irish in the seventeenth century

The aim of this talk is to bring together aspects of presentations that I have given to the Tionól over the past two to three years as regards certain socio-cultural concepts in Irish in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Specifically I have talked about ‘suairceas’ and ‘díograis’, words that are conducive to a sense of what Victor Turner has called ‘communitas’, in this case the idealized vision that a society has of itself. This year I would like to place this vision in a wider pan-European context. This context has been discussed for sixteenth and seventeenth-century England by Anna Bryson, for example, in her book From Courtesy to Civility. She charts a growth in emphasis of the importance of manners or ‘civil conversation’ (conversation in a broader sense of social interaction), to use the sixteenth-century term, in creating a space of social interaction, larger than the court or household, but smaller than the political unit. The key text here is by the Italian Stefano Guazzo La Civil Conversatione, published in 1574 and translated shortly thereafter into English. ‘Civility’ thus represents a sphere that is neither ethical / contemplative (vita contemplativa) nor active / political (vita activa) in medieval terms but intermediate between them. There is a continuity between medieval courtesy and early modern civility: what changes is the shift from a specifically courtly or household milieu to a wider interactive public domain. Typically social attributes such as prudence, tact, reverence, gratitude, hospitality, moderation and dress sense are stressed. As Patricia Palmer has recently pointed out, however, in her book on language and conquest in Elizabethan Ireland, ‘civil conversation’ is intensely political in Ireland, being used by the likes of Spenser as a rationalization for English conquest and colonization as the Irish allegedly practice ‘filthy’ and ‘lewd’ conversation. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries see a proliferation of manuals of manners and etiquette in England for instruction in the art of ‘civil conversation’. In this talk, I would like to suggest ways in which Irish literature of the period is conversant with this contemporary European discourse and how it uses it to mount a defence of its own civility.

Pádraic Moran
Hebrew in Irish glossaries

Early Irish glossaries, and O’Mulconry’s glossary in particular, contain many references to Hebrew in their etymologies for Irish words. This paper considers the following questions: 1) How many of these words are intelligible as Hebrew, or bear any relation to that language? 2) Where did the glossary compilers gain their knowledge of Hebrew, and what was the extent of such knowledge? 3) What were the motivations and objectives of the compilers in drawing on Hebrew words? The paper will also consider some aspects of the transmission of Jerome in Ireland, and the native grammatical tradition.

Máire Ní Mhaonaigh
A fragmentary account of ‘Brian’s battle’ in Rawlinson B486

This paper will examine what Brian Ó Cuív termed a ‘fragment of an account of the Battle of Clontarf’ in the fourteenth-century Bodleian Library Oxford manuscript Rawlinson B486. An attempt will be made to relate the material enumerating three battalions and focussing on Brian’s Munster allies in particular to other depictions of the encounter in an effort to shed further light on the development of the tale.

Brian Ó Dálaigh
The Í Mhaoil Chonaire of Thomond

The Í Mhaoil Chonaire were a professional family of scribes from north Roscommon who settled in Thomond in the early sixteenth century. The paper will comment on some of the law tracts and historical texts produced by this school of scribes. Their relations with the O’Briens of Thomond will be examined and the fortunes of the Í Mhaoil Chonaire school of Ardkyle will be outlined. In the seventeenth century Seán Ó Maoil Chonaire conducted one the premier schools of Gaelic learning in Ireland and the Í Mhaoil Chonaire became especially identified as propagators of the works of Seathrún Céitinn.

Tadhg Ó Dúshláine
Cuir srian rem chorp a Choimdhe: foinse agus fáth airge

Féachann an páipéar seo leis an dán seo de chuid Thuileagna Ruaidh Uí Mhaoilchonaire a shuíomh i gcomhthéacs thraidisiún Críostaí na réasúnaíochta, ar féidir a phréamhacha a ríomh siar chomh fada le fealsúnacht Phlatóin, agus a raibh fáil air coitianta in exemplum de chuid Odo de Cheritona.

Gordon Ó Riain
A fifteenth-century apologue on the death of Cú Chulainn

The elegy beginning Créad tárraidh treise Connacht by Maol Eachlainn ‘na nUirsgéal’ Ó hUiginn contains an apologue on the death of Cú Chulainn which depicts events not recorded elsewhere. Certain aspects of the apologue will be discussed in this paper including a character who is presented as Cú Chulainn’s daughter.

Cathy Swift
Sex in the civitas: early Irish intellectuals and their vision of women

In a number of papers on early Irish law, Donnchadh Ó Corráin has proposed that churchmen and poets formed a single “mandarin” class in pre-Norman Ireland. In this paper, it is proposed to extend his hypothesis beyond institutional and dynastic links between these two groups of professionals to examine evidence for a unified vision of the social role of women in society. Two books in the eighth-century Collectio canonum Hibernensis deal with clerical theories of marriage and sexual unions, topics which are also extensively explored in the Irish vernacular literature of the same period. It will be argued that female characterisation and plot development in the latter owes much to the preoccupations of the canon lawyers with adulterous women and their capacity for the disruption of society. A particularly interesting element in this investigation is the way in which Biblical and Late Antique sources were carefully quarried by the Irish churchmen for suitable maxims and precepts with which to illustrate the various principles involved so that we are presented with what is, ostensibly at any rate, an early medieval European consensus on the nature of women.

Freya Verstraten
Was Walter de Burgh (†1271), Earl of Ulster, a descendant of Cathal Croibhdhearg Ó Conchobhair?

Several Irish genealogies state that a granddaughter or a great-granddaughter of Cathal Croibhdhearg Ó Conchobhair (†1224) married a descendant of William ‘the Conquerer’ de Burgh (†1205), ancestor of the lords of Connacht and earls of Ulster. Few of these sources, however, agree on who the bride and groom were, while others, by implication, deny such a union took place. This paper will explore the various claims made in the genealogies, as well as recent political developments surrounding a possible marriage and the nature of previous contact between the two most powerful families in Connacht.

Immo Warntjes
The oldest occurrence of Old English gerīm

Old English prose texts started to flourish from the reign of King Alfred in the late ninth century. Scientific literature, however, was composed in English only about a century later and is directly connected to the prolific pens of Ælfric and Byrhtferth. It is surprising, therefore, to find the technical Old English term gerīm (generally denoting a number, but often carrying a more specific meaning) in the Munich Computus, an Irish computistical textbook of AD 719 written in Latin, but which also incorporates some Old Irish terminology (as well as this isolated Old English term) in the main body of the Latin text. This paper will present the context in which gerīm occurs in the Munich Computus, and will then discuss the implications of the occurrence of an Old English word in an early eighth-century Irish text written in Latin.

Nicholas Williams
The Brythonic Preterite and Cornish Syntax

Like Welsh and Breton, Cornish has both an imperfect and a preterite tense. This paper will look at the difference in the use of the two tenses in surviving Cornish literature, particularly in the verb bos ‘to be’. A hitherto unobserved parallel with Welsh will be noted. Finally the paper will attempt to show that the imperfect/preterite distinction is crucial for the revived language.

Nicholas Zair
Middle Welsh subjunctive 1sg. -oef, 3sg. -oe: an Insular Celtic “ă-subjunctive”?

It has been argued that the so-called Irish “ā-subjunctive” and Brittonic “h-subjunctive” have a unitary origin in a suffix *-āse/o- (McCone 1991: 85–113; Schumacher 2004: 49–57). This was remodelled from a suffix *-ăse/o-, which was the result of misanalysis of subjunctives to roots of the shape *CeRH- (where C is any consonant, R any resonant, and H any laryngeal): *CERH-se/o- > *CeRă-se/o-*CeR-ăse/o-. The remodelling was on the basis of original desideratives in which a suffix *-āse/o- was the result of regular sound change (McCone), or of primary verbs which had been incorporated within the weak *-ā- conjugation (Schumacher).

The endings of the present subjunctive in Middle Welsh show a remarkable number of variant forms. Explanations which view them all as due to paradigmatic levelling are not convincing. I suggest that the occasional Middle Welsh subjunctive endings 1sg. -oef, 3sg. -oe, 3pl. -oent are evidence for the retention of the original *-ăse/o- suffix into the Brittonic languages. Regular sound change will have produced a paradigm characterised by the diphthong -oe-. The usual subjunctive endings probably continue the original desiderative suffix, and came to take over the semantic role of the original subjunctive, eventually replacing it in the Brittonic languages.

(References: McCone, Kim (1991). The Indo-European Origins of the Old Irish Nasal Presents, Subjunctives and Futures. Innsbruck: Innsbrucker Beiträge zür Sprachwissenschaft.
Schumacher, Stefan (2004). Die keltischen Primärverben: ein vergleichendes, etymologisches und morphologisches Lexikon. Innsbruck: Innsbrucker Beiträge zür Sprachwissenschaft)