The following papers were given at the School’s annual Tionól, 20–21 November, 2009.
As is well known, Old Irish presented a distinction between the copula and the so-called ‘substantive verb’ (the latter indicating ‘existence, being in a certain condition’). While in the present indicative each of these is represented by a different Indo-European root (respectively *h1es- and *steh2–), all other tenses and moods present the PIE root *bhuH-. Although these forms have often attracted the attention of scholars, several details of their prehistory are still unclear. This paper will focus on the preterite: in particular, a solution for the striking difference of vocalism between the 3rd singular of substantive verb (boí) and copula (absolute ba, conjunct -bo, -bu) will be proposed. It will be shown that the answer to this specific problem can shed some light on the Irish differentiation of the two forms of the verb ‘to be’, and possibly even on the long-debated development of the distinction between absolute and conjunct flexion.
The poem Garbh éirghid iodhain bhrátha was edited by Lambert McKenna in The Irish Monthly 55 (1927), pp 260–4 and a revised edition was published in Dioghluim Dána (Dublin 1938; reprint 1969), no. 29, pp 86–90. It was also edited from the Book of the Dean of Lismore by E. C. Quiggin in Poems from the Book of the Dean of Lismore, ed. by J. Fraser (Cambridge 1937), pp. 11–12. I am currently working on a new edition of the poem. In this paper the poem will be examined on the basis of all the manuscript witnesses (including an important copy in the Book of Fermoy which McKenna did not use). Important differences between the new edition and previous ones will be discussed. There will also be a discussion of some hitherto unnoticed features of two of the manuscript witnesses and of significant changes which the poem underwent in the course of its transmission. The subject-matter of the poem, sources and other texts containing similar material will also be examined.
This paper will give an overview of the biblical, patristic and Classical sources of Jonas of Bobbio’s Vita S Columbani Abbatis and the same author’s other hagiographical compositions. It will look at this material as a reflection of the resources of the library at Bobbio and Columbanus’ Frankish foundations, and will examine its implications for the literary culture of the Columbanian mission on the Continent.
Togail Troí, the Irish narrative of the Trojan War, is well known from the two versions published by Stokes (H, L). However, comparatively little attention has been given to the subsequent development of the saga in the later medieval period. This paper emerges from my ongoing work towards an edition and translation of the last and most complex version, witnessed principally by MS RIA D.iv.2 (D) and MS King’s Inns 12 (K). Strikingly, it can be shown from the D-K version that the text has not simply grown in size and density through its successive rewritings, but has also acquired new layers of meaning and cohesiveness. The paper will present selected sections from the Preface, which offers a remarkable combination of apocryphal, classical and Irish lore. Here the Trojan race are characterized by their descent from Noah through his accursed son Cham — a remarkable choice, because in learned continental sources they are typically associated with Cham’s brother Japheth. It will be suggested that the literati who developed this theme were drawing on the tradition familiar to us from the Sex Aetates Mundi, where Cham is the ancestor of all monstrous and misshapen races (SAM ch. 34, etc). When the Trojans are defined in this way, their treacherous and excessive behaviour later in the story is linked to the typical characteristics of the monstrous and misshapen offspring of Cham. More broadly, it will be argued that Togail Troí should be seen as an exercise in historiographical rather than mythological composition, a point that bears closely on its intertextual relationship with Táin Bó Cuailnge.
In scholarly debate about the origins of the play, Hamlet, there is consensus on three points. The first is that Shakespeare (directly or indirectly) borrowed much material, including the name of his central character, from the medieval Scandinavian pseudo-history, Gesta Danorum. The second is that the Gesta Danorum character, Amlethus, on whom Hamlet is partially based must in some way be connected to a figure called Amlóði who appears in a single Icelandic skaldic verse. The third point of consensus is that it is significant that this Icelandic Amlóði is in turn linked to a mythological mill, Grotti (‘Grinder’), which is central to the long eddic verse called Grottasöngr. Beyond this, much has remained unknown, including the precise etymologies of Amlóði, Amlethus and ultimately Hamlet. In this paper I intend to show that Amlethus and Amlóði probably both derive from the Irish name Admlithi (‘Great-grinding’), found in Togail Bruidne Da Derga, and that these are therefore equivalent to the mill name Grotti which appears with Amlóði in skaldic verse.
In this talk I offer an etymology of ocus ‘and’ (Wb acus, Cambrai ocus and ocuis) that connects it with the preposition oc ‘at, by’ via a phrase occo + as ‘beside that which is’ > ‘with’ > ‘and’. The semantic development is typologically quite ordinary, and this phrase, despite its initially unwieldy appearance, allows for a natural explanation of some syntactic peculiarities associated with the conjunction, such as singular verb agreement with conjoined subjects and the occasional appearance of the nominative after ocus where a different case might be expected. A possible connection of ocus ‘and’ with OIr acus ‘near’ (Ml and Sg ocus, Wb acus) and its Welsh cognate agos ‘id.’ will be discussed but ultimately rejected, leaving the current proposal as the most likely.
In an article in Studia Hibernica 29 (‘Natural and Artificial Gender in Auraicept na nÉces, pp. 195–203), Erich Poppe examined the discussion of ‘natural gender’ (insce aicnid) and ‘artificial gender’ (insce sáerda) which occurs in the canonical text and commentary of Auraicept na nÉces, concluding that these two sets of terms represent a conceptual dichotomy between linguistic and non-linguistic categories, or more specifically between the grammatical gender of a given noun and the sex/animateness of its referent. Yet a similar distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ categories of language also occurs in several other passages of Auraicept commentary, including discussion pertaining to letters, syllables, inflection, and the so-called ‘four subdivisions of artificiality’ (cetheora fodhla saerdhatadh). In assessing the Auraicept commentators’ arguably inconsistent employment of this dichotomy in contexts related and external to gender, this paper aims to build upon Poppe’s analysis by probing in greater depth the notion of ‘linguistic naturalness’ in the Auraicept through the lens of such conceptual themes as textuality, physicality, systematicity, efficiency, usage and metaphor. A consideration of the various meanings and functions of ‘nature’ and its opposites in the history of Classical language theory will also aim to shed light on possible sources for this particular facet of linguistic doctrine in early Irish tradition.
In ‘Gematria among the Irish’ I would consider the reckoning of numerical values of letters of the alphabet in the Hebrew Old Testament, the Greek New testament, in Latin in Martianus Capella De Nuptiis, discussed explicitly by Bede De Temporum Ratione and an Anglo-Norman poem addressed to Edward III, practised in both Hiberno-Latin and Old and Middle Irish from the seventh century to the twelfth, by Bishop Ultán, Tírechán, Cogitosus, Muirchú, Ferdomnach, the Rath Melsege scribes Fergil and Clemens, Calvus Perennis, Sonid, and Cormac, as well as in ‘Sgith mo crob on scribinn’.
This paper will begin with an introduction to local fairs and church dedications in the Fortingall area in Perthshire, Scotland. Gaelic saints such as Adomnán, Mo-Choide (Coetti) and the Nine Maidens appear to have been important locally, in addition to more widely culted figures such as Katherine of Alexandria. Fortingall was the home of the MacGregor compilers of the early sixteenth-century Book of the Dean of Lismore. A survey of the corpus of religious Gaelic bardic poetry in the Book of the Dean will investigate popular religious choices in this part of the later medieval Scottish Highlands. The poetry is a mix of both Scottish and Irish material. To what extent does this poetry reflect the local piety of the area and does it conform to the types of religious poetry common to the Gaelic world generally?
In this lecture I provide a general account of what the early Irish (“Brehon”) law-texts reveal about the rights and duties of women in Early Christian Ireland. I concentrate in particular on the evidence provided in a fragmentary text on legal disputes within marriage (D. A. Binchy, Corpus Iuris Hibernici i 144.5–150.16), which has never been fully edited or translated. I also deal with the special legal position of the female heir (banchomarbae) who has inherited a holding of land because she has no brothers, and I discuss the privileges accorded in law to professional women such as the female physician of the territory (banliaig túaithe), the female manufacturer (bansáer), the female poet (banfili) and various other women with a special skill or attribute.
The Early Irish law text entitled Uraicecht Becc, which deals with the various grades and hierarchies of persons in early Irish society, is preserved in five MSS: the Book of Ballymote, the Yellow Book of Lecan, NLI G3, TCD H.3.18 and TCD E.3.3. Diplomatic transcriptions of the first four of these MSS have been published in the Corpus Iuris Hibernici. The fifth MS, TCD E.3.3 came to Binchy’s attention too late to be included in the Corpus. In his Introduction to that work (p. xxii) he described it as “a shortened and very corruptly transmitted version of Uraicecht Becc”. However, aside from the Book of Ballymote, TCD E.3.3. is the only MS which preserves the full canonical text of Uraicecht Becc. It also preserves a number of significant variant readings. Moreover, of great interest is the manner in which the version of the tract preserved in this MS has been systematically altered by a second scribe. This paper will attempt to demonstrate the importance of this manuscript in the textual transmission of Uraicecht Becc.
The text Cédaín in Braith ‘Wednesday of Betrayal’ or ‘Spy Wednesday’ is found in the early fifteenth-century manuscript known as the Leabhar Breac (44a1–45a6). The bi-lingual exordium ‘introduction’ (44a120) has been published by Atkinson in The Passions and Homilies in the Leabhar Breac (pp. 171–2). The text differs from the homilies published in PHLB in that it is written almost entirely in Latin. The only sections in Irish are the formulaic exordium and peroratio and a single sentence in 44b28–30. The purpose of this lecture is to discuss the structure and content of the text, some of the sources used by the compiler and the significance of the title assigned to it in the manuscript.
Iarracht atá sa chur i láthair seo cur síos a dhéanamh ar fhuaimniú focal a mbíonn dhá ghuta ag teacht le chéile ina lár de thoradh athruithe stairiúla e.g. dóighim, fíodóir, aistíoch srl. Chomh maith leis sin faightear fuaimniú déshiollach i bfhocail ina mbíonn gutaí fada agus défhoghair e.g. óg, bruach, Dia srl. Déanfar iarracht a dhéanamh amach an iarsma stairiúil an fuaimniú seo nó an nuáil é a cruthaíodh taobh istigh den chanúint.
Is díol suntais fianaise ar fhuaimniú, ar fhoclóir agus ar ghramadach a shamhlaítear a bheith ina sainchomharthaí canúnacha de chuid ár linne féin a bheith le fáil sa tSean-Ghaeilge. Is mian liom aird a tharraingt sa bpáipéar seo ar a liacht sin sampla a thugtar in A Grammar of Old Irish a léiríos nach forás atá i gceist le sainfhoirmeacha canúnacha go leor ach comhartha ar chaomhachas na gcanúintí trí chéile.
The Gamanrad are depicted in early Irish literature as a population group dwelling in North-West Connacht. Famed for their martial prowess, they number in their ranks figures such as Fróech mac Idaith and Fer Diad mac Damáin of Ulster-Cycle fame. Apart from heroic literature, the Gamanrad also feature in documents of a historical or genealogical nature. The theory has been advanced that the Gamanrad represent the remnants of an older population group who survived in an outlying area of Western Ireland following the rise of the Connachta. It has also been suggested that they may have formed a subsection of the Domnainn, a people associated with the Erris district of Mayo. In this paper I intend to examine afresh the evidence we have for the existence of the Gamanrad and to look again at the question of their origin.
The early medieval settlement at Armagh is well-known to history but there are elements of its toponymy which have received comparatively little attention and which shed further light on its development. Of special interest are the various names applied to the hilltop settlement in early Irish sources and, in particular, the names applied to the tripartite division of the settlement: Trian Mór, Trian Saxan and Trian Massáin. This paper focuses on these and other obsolete names in early sources which help to form a picture of the monastic town in the pre-Norman period.
Traditional spoken Irish has, or had until recently, a system of colour terms which is quite different from those of major western European languages, including English. In particular, the terms referring to blue and green are used in a way which contrasts sharply with English, and it has been suggested that Irish (and other Celtic languages) should be regarded as having a composite ‘grue’ rather than distinct terms for those two colours. There is also a high degree of convention involved in the use of colour terms in Irish. For instance, buí denotes different hues when referring to the petals of a flower, footwear, livestock, soil and so on. We are familiar with this relativity in English in a limited range of cases such as white and red wine and the ‘pink’ jackets of huntsmen, but in Irish the role of the referent is much greater.
Current studies of the Poets of the Princes and the Poets of the Nobility generally imply that bardic education in Wales was of an essentially oral nature. On examination this insistence on the poets’ orality is found to be disproportionate to the evidence and at odds with indications of the use of the written word. However, the primary aim of this paper is not to evaluate the relative contribution of oral and literary culture to the formation of the medieval Welsh poet, but rather to reflect on the genealogy of a fixation with one part of a dichotomy that structures our understanding of the period.
I want to present my new research project “Lexicon Leponticum. A Web-based Interactive Etymological Dictionary of the Lepontic Language” (start: Sept. 1, 2009). This project combines two separate aims:
a) to design a web-based interactive frame-work programme to host etymological dictionaries and lexicons of Indo-European and other languages;
b) to write an etymological dictionary of the Lepontic language.
Lepontic is an ancient Celtic language (spoken in northern Italy and southern Switzerland between the 6th–1st centuries BC) that is known from inscriptions. No etymological dictionary for it exists. The dictionary will put Lepontic into a perspective with its Celtic sister languages, as well as with Indo-European and with neighbouring non-Indo-European languages. The technologically innovative and revolutionary aspect of this project, however, will be to publish the etymological dictionary not as a printed book, but to build a webbased interactive etymological dictionary. The basis for it will be the freeware programme MediaWiki. It is the aim to test such a system for further use with large-corpus languages. The biggest advantage of such a lexicon over traditional printed books is that it will be open in several domains, in regard to a) extent, b) content and c) contributors: The lexicon can always be augmented to if new material should appear and entries can be corrected if progress should be made in scholarship. The subject matter of the lexicon can easily be expanded, e.g. by editions of texts, by grammatical sections, by cultural information of a general nature, etc. All kinds of information can be linked to internal and external sources, thereby achieving an added, multidimensional value. Ideally every interested and competent person can participate in the work, but for practical reasons strict guidelines will apply as to who may contribute.
The fragmentary Cambrai Homily (CH), linguistically an Early Old Irish text of c. 700, survives in a single manuscript from the period of 763–790, i.e. postdating the Classical Old Irish Würzburg Glosses. It was copied by a continental scribe entirely ignorant of the Irish language who was therefore reduced to transcribing the text mechanically, a process that resulted in both formal copying errors and perfectly reproduced Early Old Irish spellings. In its extant state, however, the text shows various signs of internal diachronic linguistic variation (such as are/aire vs. ara ‘in order that’), and some individual spellings, when contrasted with others either in the same text or in other Early Old Irish documents—– cf. -a(-) vs. -o- in -comalnammar (CH) vs. tu-thegot (CH) and frisbrudemor (Wb. I), and nom. sg. feda vs. gen. sg. fedot (CH) — have led to far-reaching linguistic theories. The present paper will endeavour to render some of these redundant by highlighting a few typical scribal modernisations that are unlikely to go back to the lost original. These cannot have been applied without a knowledge of Irish, i.e. by the scribe of the extant manuscript, but must have been introduced by an intermediate Irish copyist. If the existence of this middleman is accepted, he can be made responsible for other modernisations, such as feda for expected *fedo.
This paper which focuses on the Gaelic languages forms part of a broader critique of one aspect of phonetic/phonological transcription derived from an English-language bias which has had undue influence on modern phonological science. In the linguistic literature relating to the Gaelic languages there is a basic ambiguity in the meaning of the term ‘diphthong’. Apart from revealing English-language influences on the transcription of Gaelic phonology, this ambiguity is also due to an internal question of syllabicity in the Gaelic languages. This paper will determine a more precise classification of instances where vocalic segments adjoin each other in these languages.