Tionól 2010

The following papers were given at the School’s annual Tionól, 19–20 November, 2010.

Gwen Awbery
Exploring dialect variation in the past: Welsh language wills
Grigory Bondarenko
The Dindshenchas of Irarus
Elizabeth Boyle
The Trinity and the Intellect in a poem attributed to Gilla Pátraic, Bishop of Dublin
Denis Casey
Cogadh Gáedhel re Gallaibh: history written by the losers?
Doireann Dennehy
Legacies in stone at Clonmacnoise: the Meic Cuinn na mBocht gravestones
Anthony Harvey
Lexical influences on the medieval Latin of the Celts
A.J. Hughes
Is the 2nd declension really as feminine as they say? That, and other morphological considerations for Modern Irish dictionaries
Kicki Ingridsdotter
The aideda in Táin Bó Cúailnge
Esther Le Mair
Classification issues with some verbs from the Würzburg and Milan Glosses
Peter McQuillan
Loneliness versus Delight in the eighteenth-century Aisling
Brent Miles
Vernacular revision of a Hiberno-Latin theory of kingship in the Sermo ad Reges
Ailbhe Ní Chasaide
Exploring Irish text-to-speech synthesis for educational purposes / Sintéis na Gaeilge agus Áiseanna Oideachasúla Comhaimseartha
Niamh Ní Shiadhail
Dáibhí de Barra and Thomas Ward’s History of the Reformation
Peadar Ó Muircheartaigh
Splendid isolation versus informed appreciation: lessons from linguistics?
Cherie N. Peters
In search of a definition: an exploration into a selection of the terminology for ‘famine’ in the Irish annals from c.600-1333
Ranke de Vries
The different kinds of alliteration in the poetry of Luccreth moccu Chíara
Patrick Wadden
Lex scripta and recht aicnid: written law and national identity in early medieval Ireland
Nora White
Ogham in 3D – Pilot project
David Woods
Adomnán, Plague, and the Easter Controversy
Niamh Wycherley
The power of words: the vocabulary of relics in early Christian Ireland

Abstracts of Papers

Gwen Awbery
Exploring dialect variation in the past: Welsh language wills

A great deal of research has been carried out on dialect variation in modern Welsh, and there is a reasonably clear understanding of which features vary from one part of the country to another, and where the boundaries between these features are located. The historical background is less clear, however. How far back can we trace existing patterns of variation and modern dialect boundaries? Has the situation been relatively stable over a long period, or have there been changes in usage which can be traced over time?

Until 1858 most of the wills drawn up in Wales were proved by the ecclesiastical authorities of the diocese in which the deceased had lived, and these probate records are now held by the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. It was assumed for many years that wills, as legal documents, were necessarily written in English. Recent work by the historian Gerald Morgan has shown, however, that a substantial number were actually drawn up in Welsh, and his work in tracing and transcribing these documents has made them available to those interested in historical dialectology.

It is easy to see regional variation in lexical usage in the wills, as they refer to bequests of household furniture, farm animals and equipment of various kinds. The difficulty here is that many wills make no mention of such items. There are inevitably gaps in the coverage, and it is difficult to establish where the boundaries lie between different regional forms.

This paper focusses therefore on phonological variation. Welsh orthographic conventions are comparatively transparent, and dialect forms show up clearly in the wills, alongside the standard usage which might be expected in a formal document. Phonological variation is found throughout the text, and is not limited by the nature of the individual bequests made in any one document. It may therefore prove a more fruitful source of information on dialect boundaries in the past. This paper will discuss the problems which arise in making use of this material, and will present the results of current research.

Grigory Bondarenko
The Dindshenchas of Irarus

This paper offers an exercise in the slow reading of two versions of a prose dindshenchas of Irarus from the Rennes manuscript and from the Book of Leinster. The linguistic analysis shows some early Old Irish features in the text. The subject-matter of the story may add to the discussion on orality vs. literacy in the use of díchetal. The use of trees in early Irish magic always attracted attention and gave rise to different kinds of speculation. The short dindshenchas of Irarus supplies more evidence on the complex relations between the king, the druid and the sacred tree as reflected in the early Irish narrative tradition. The paper will also discuss an obscure word herus, most likely a tree, which functions in the text as a plot-making device. The paper analyses the textual evidence of the dindshenchas in comparison with other literary and hagiographical evidence and aims at reconstructing the worldview of the medieval compiler.

Elizabeth Boyle
The Trinity and the Intellect in a poem attributed to Gilla Pátraic, Bishop of Dublin

As part of a wider re-examination of the texts which were attributed to Gilla Pátraic (d. 1084), bishop of Dublin, by Aubrey Gwynn in his The Writings of Bishop Patrick, 1074–1084, Scriptores Latini Hiberniae 1 (Dublin, 1955), this paper will examine the poem beginning ‘Constet quantus honos humane conditionis’, and its possible intellectual contexts. In particular, the theology of the Trinity, and study of the human condition, in eleventh-century Ireland will be assessed in order to evaluate the likelihood of Irish authorship for the text.

Denis Casey
Cogadh Gáedhel re Gallaibh: history written by the losers?

Cogadh Gáedhel re Gallaibh is a Middle Irish tale that is heavily concerned with presenting the career of Brian Bóroma (ob. 1014) in a positive light, by portraying him as a national saviour in the face of extreme Viking opposition. It was written some time after Brian’s death and as such, it is best understood as a work of propaganda, most probably produced by Brian’s descendants, Uí Briain. In its extant form, Cogadh was probably composed during the second half of the eleventh century or the first half of the twelfth century. It has been associated with the reign of Brian’s great-grandson, Muirchertach Ua Briain, and more specifically has been read as a work of propaganda in support of his rule.

In my paper I will argue that, although there may have been a number of versions of Cogadh in circulation, the surviving version may be ascribed to the descendants (or supporters) of Donnchad mac Briain, the king of Munster ousted by Muirchertach’s father, Tairdelbach. In support of this line of argument, I will re-examine the portrayal of Donnchad in the text and the fate of his descendants, both those who appear to have been exiled during Tairdelbach’s reign and those who lived in Munster during Muirchertach’s reign.

Doireann Dennehy
Legacies in stone at Clonmacnoise: the Meic Cuinn na mBocht gravestones

The Protecting the Inscribed Stones of Ireland project focuses on the corpus of inscribed gravestones at Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly, which is the largest collection of inscribed stones in Ireland and Britain. The historiography of the corpus, chiefly represented by the work of R.A.S. Macalister and George Petrie, has traditionally focused on the art-historical and palaeographical aspects of the gravestones, presenting them in a set framework of typology rather than placing them within the larger historical narrative of Clonmacnoise. This paper seeks to present the Clonmacnoise corpus in a different light, by telling the story of those people the gravestones were made to commemorate.

In the 1950s Pádraic Lionard identified a specific category of the Clonmacnoise corpus as belonging to the Meic Cuinn na mBocht. The Meic Cuinn were a family which dominated the political landscape of Clonmacnoise during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and their influence on the monastery is evident in the annals and hagiography of its scriptorium. The Meic Cuinn genealogy is the most detailed of any non-royal Medieval Irish family, but thus far their history has never been subject to a comprehensive study. This aim of this paper is not only to analyse the group of Meic Cuinn stones art — historically, linguistically and onomastically, but also to relate these artefacts to the people for whom they were made.

Ranke de Vries
The different kinds of alliteration in the poetry of Luccreth moccu Chíara

The poems attributed to the seventh-century poet Luccreth moccu Chíara have been referred to as metrical experiments. However, they can also be considered experiments in alliteration. Regular and linking alliteration are found, as is complex alliteration (as discussed by Sproule with regard to the poems Conailla Medb míchuru and Ba mol mídend midlaige). In addition, they contain examples of paired alliteration and possibly mirrored alliteration, which will be outlined and discussed in this presentation.

Anthony Harvey
Lexical influences on the medieval Latin of the Celts

Systematic work on the corpus of medieval Latin from Celtic sources has progressed to the point where it is possible to advance definitively upon the necessarily impressionistic surveys that were published in earlier decades by the likes of Herren, Löfstedt et al. At a previous Tionól (2007) the opportunity was taken to report upon the techniques used by early medieval Celtic authors to generate new Latin vocabulary from within the Classical resources of that language itself (by reparsing, recompounding etc.). The present paper, by contrast, looks at how vocabulary from other languages was Latinized and pressed into service. The respected, and indeed sacred, tongues of the Hebrews and the Greeks were considered a particularly rich resource for this purpose — not that the high regard in which they were held inhibited Celtic authors’ innovative approach to exploiting them when writing in Latin. On the contrary, the linguistic inventiveness displayed, in Ireland in particular, and at a remarkably early period, is one of the key characteristics of this material, which will be illustrated by reference to the comprehensive range of examples now available.

A.J. Hughes
Is the 2nd declension really as feminine as they say? That, and other morphological considerations for Modern Irish dictionaries

For many years a system of five declensions of the noun has been used in Modern Irish grammar. This paper has three aims:

  • to show how a major category of masculine 2nd declension nouns has been ignored in most works
  • to show how N. Ó Dónaill’s English-Irish Dictionary has, on the whole, successfully by-passed the system of declensions for the noun
  • to propose some amendments to Ó Dónaill’s morphological notation for the nominal system and to urge these notations as standard for other modern dictionaries

Kicki Ingridsdotter
The aideda in Táin Bó Cúailnge

In both recensions of Táin Bó Cúailnge (O’Rahilly 1970 and 1976), a collection of short episodes with the heading aideda is found. Although comparatively much research has been done on various aspects of Táin Bó Cúailnge, the aideda therein have not been singled out for in depth analysis. Moreover, in the discussions of death-tales that have been put forward, these episodes are not included. No comparison between these short episodes and their relationship to the genre aideda has been published, nor do they seem to have been studied separate from the other episodes of the Táin. I believe these episodes are important for our understanding both of the aideda as a genre and of Táin Bó Cúailnge as a literary composition. The present paper proposes to discuss the structure and function of these short aideda as well as their relationship to the genre as a whole.

Esther Le Mair
Classification issues with some verbs from the Würzburg and Milan Glosses

In this paper, I would like to discuss some problematic verbs that I have found during my PhD research into secondary verbs in the Old Irish Würzburg and Milan glosses. I have encountered verbs with problems including, but not limited to, being incorrectly classified as weak or strong by DIL while they actually inflect as the opposite; verbs of which the simplex inflects strong while (some of) its compounds have taken on weak inflection; and verbs which have been taken as reflexes of different roots while they may well be from one and the same root.

Much in the vein of my previous Tionól paper in 2008, my discussion of the problematic verbs I have found will include tidying up the references in the secondary literature where necessary and drawing conclusions about the nature of these verbs.

Peter McQuillan
Loneliness versus Delight in the eighteenth-century Aisling

The aim of this paper is to explore some aspects of “loneliness” and their implications for eighteenth-century Irish poetry, and particularly for the aisling. (“Loneliness” is used here as generally in recent writing to encompass not just feelings of loneliness but also related conditions such as solitude, isolation and alienation). Noteworthy is the fact that several poems of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries juxtapose the ideas of solitude and/or loneliness (uaigneas) on the one hand and bliss or delight (aoibhneas) on the other. Some poems oppose these ideas, while others indicate a more complex relationship between them. The aisling especially foregrounds the poet’s aloneness, his apartness from society, as a necessary pre-condition for his creativity. This loneliness we can characterize as existential in nature, because it is an intrinsic part of the poet’s condition as mediator between worlds, it is internal to the poet and is the creative “norm” for him. His creativity is a gift of the otherworld and arrives in the guise of the ethereal fairy woman, the spéirbhean (this version of events is corroborated by folk accounts of the genesis of poetic inspiration). However, the aisling is the primary form of political expression in Irish in the eighteenth century and the woman personifies Ireland and/or its sovereignty. Hence, the genre here forges an effective symbiosis: the poet’s very act of engagement with his Muse becomes coterminous with his creation and re-creation of the image of the political nation. While the essentially political nature of the aisling cannot be gainsaid, I will argue that this symbiosis, whereby the poet’s “solitude / loneliness” becomes his “delight”, is an important sub-text of the genre. However, it will be seen that some of the associations of “delight” (aoibhneas) itself in this context are historically problematic as well. The poet experiences “loneliness” of another kind in this period (isolation, alienation) in that he finds himself increasingly estranged from the networks of patronage that had once supported his art. This loneliness can be characterized as socio-cultural in that it arises from changes in society external to the poet and represents a deviation from the cultural and historical norm, as the poet sees it. I will suggest here that the relationship between these two types of loneliness is one reason for the enduring popularity of the aisling in the eighteenth century: it is as if the poet’s socio-cultural loneliness forces him to re-engage his raison d’être, the basis of his creativity and authority, through his existential aloneness. This re-engagement is one of the basic elements of the aisling as a genre.

Brent Miles
Vernacular revision of a Hiberno-Latin theory of kingship in the Sermo ad Reges

The Sermo ad reges is a macaronic Latin-Middle Irish text on the duties of kings. The sole copy survives in the collection of homiletic materials in the early fifteenth-century Leabhar Breac. This paper will examine the relationship of the Irish to the Biblical and Hiberno-Latin texts which the Sermo quotes. It is argued that the Sermo was constructed as a commentary on the chapter on the rex iniquus ‘wicked king’ from the seventh-century Hiberno-Latin De XII abusivis. This chapter on the ‘wicked king’ is quoted in full in the second half of the Sermo. The first half, which is independent of Hiberno-Latin models, draws on the Bible and patristic authors to present a theory of kingship which limits claims to the king’s right to employ violence in the administration of justice in the De XII abusivis, while ensuring that these claims be understood as orthodox.

Ailbhe Ní Chasaide
Exploring Irish text-to-speech synthesis for educational purposes / Sintéis na Gaeilge agus Áiseanna Oideachasúla Comhaimseartha

The Irish text-to-speech (TTS) synthesizer abair.ie is an online tool that allows users to input text in Irish and have the text read out in Irish. The synthesizer was developed with funding from Foras na Gaeilge under the project Cabóigín I and Cabóigín II, following on initial pilot work in the EU funded project WISPR. Information on the synthesizer and on the background to this research is available at [1] with some further elaboration in [2]. The currently available synthesizer is for Donegal Irish (Gaoth Dobhair). Synthesizers for other dialects of Irish, namely Connacht and Munster Irish, are at present being developed.

Since the release of its beta version in June 2008, abair.ie has been well received by teachers and learners of Irish alike. The technology that is involved in TTS synthesis can be used for educational purposes, and might prove all the more useful in the case of a minority language like Irish. Since the language is spoken natively by a comparably small number of people in Ireland, native speakers are often hard to come by. With Irish TTS synthesis, however, a ‘native speaker’ is brought directly to learners – be it in the classroom or in a self-tutoring context.

A lot of research is being done in the field of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) with a view to enhancing the learning and teaching experience. Interactive learning environments like games, educational dialogue systems and talking heads [3] [4] have been developed for various languages to provide educators and learners with digital tools for tutoring and self-tutoring. So far, TTS synthesis has not yet played a major role [5], as most applications are ‘closed domain’ systems that offer only a restricted set of choices. TTS synthesis is highly interactive as any (text) input can be processed. We are investigating how this feature could be used to provide flexible tools for Irish teachers, for example, to prepare exercises with (pre-)synthesized speech that is ‘native-like’, e.g. Digital Talking Books, using technology such as SMART Boards etc. Another example would be an interactive spelling/pronunciation and listening comprehension tutor that allows learners to familiarize themselves with Irish spelling and the corresponding pronunciation rules. The latter could involve the application of post-lexical pronunciation rules, thus rendering the output speech highly ‘natural’. Such a tool could prove useful for students who are preparing for the oral exam in Irish. Furthermore, games and dialogue systems that accept text input from the user could extend or complement the lessons at home offering students an enjoyable learning experience that blurs the line between gaming and learning. In the talk we will first give an overview of possible applications and then present specific applications we are currently interested in pursuing.

References:

[1] http://www.abair.ie

[2] Ní Chasaide, A., Wogan, J., Ó Raghallaigh, B., Ní Bhriain Á., Zoerner, E., Berthelsen, H., and Gobl, C. 2006 Speech technology for minority languages: the case of Irish (Gaelic) In: Proc. 9th International Conference on Spoken Language Processing (Interspeech 2006 – ICSLP), Pittsburgh, PA.

[3] Granstrom, B. 2004. Towards a virtual language tutor. In: Proc. ISCA ITRW INSTiL04, Venice, Italy.

[4] Massaro, D. W., Liu, Y., Chen, T.H., Perfetti, C.A. 2006. A multilingual embodied conversational agent for tutoring speech and language learning. In: Proc. 9th Internat. Conf. on Spoken Language Processing (Interspeech 2006 – ICSLP), Pittsburgh, PA.

[5] Chapelle, Carol A. and Jamieson, Joan. 2008. Tips for teaching with CALL. Practical approaches to computer-assisted language learning. Series Editor: H. Douglas Brown. Pearson Education.

Niamh Ní Shiadhail
Dáibhí de Barra and Thomas Ward’s History of the Reformation

The Cork poet Dáibhí de Barra (d.1851) refers in his political poems to the works of late seventeenth-century English Catholic historians. Two of his poems have already been identified as translations of passages from Thomas Ward’s History of the Reformation (Ó Duinnshléibhe, 2010). This paper will identify a number of further passages from Ward’s History that de Barra incorporated (sometimes unacknowledged) into the poetry he composed in opposition to the activities of the Protestant evangelical societies during the 1820s. It will also consider the use of other seventeenth-century histories of the reformation in de Barra’s poetry, and will discuss the role of this intertextuality in the development and expression of sectarianism in his compositions.

Peadar Ó Muircheartaigh
Splendid isolation versus informed appreciation: lessons from linguistics?

This paper will examine some recent and not so recent developments in lexicostatistics and computational dialectology. These methods of quantitative analysis have firmly established themselves amongst the investigatory repertoire of Romance and Germanic scholars and others interested in the historical development of various languages. They have failed thus far to make a significant impact on the field of Celtic historical dialectology, however. This paper will discuss these methods, as they have been applied to Goidelic corpora, noting some of the potential implications they have for the canonical division of Goidelic dialects. Finally, I intend to draw attention to the necessity for Celtic scholars to engage with developments in mainstream linguistics, especially in the context of historical dialectology, if the discipline is to develop along the lines of our Romance and Germanic neighbours.

Cherie N. Peters
In search of a definition: an exploration into a selection of the terminology for ‘famine’ in the Irish annals from c.600–1333

In a search for the diet of the medieval Irish peasants it became apparent that the term ‘famine’ is often found in many of the edited translations of major annalistic compilations of medieval Ireland. Within the Annals of Ulster, the Annals of the Four Masters and the Annals of Loch Cé, among others, there are several entries between c.600 and 1333 which have been translated as famine from either, fames or gortae, and upon occasion an incident of scarcity and dearth, penuria, or tercae/ascolt is subsequently noted. However there are other entries in which the editors have translated ascolt as famine and gortae as scarcity. The question remains as to whether or not these terms really were interchangeable or if there was any historical difference between a ‘dearth’ and a ‘famine’. This paper will explore those entries in which these three terms are used in order to gain a broader picture of food shortages in medieval Ireland based on the annals. An attempt will be made to determine a) what, if any, factors differentiated a ‘famine’ from a ‘scarcity’, b) the consequences of these shortages on the lives of both animals and humans and c) if any causal links can be determined between famine and mortalities or scarcity and mortalities. Any effects these recorded shortages may have had on the status of individuals in medieval Irish society will also be noted. Through a historical clarification of this terminology it is hoped that an improved understanding of gortae, tercae and ascolt and thus shortage in medieval Ireland will be achieved.

Patrick Wadden
Lex scripta and recht aicnid: written law and national identity in early medieval Ireland

A comparative approach to the study of legal texts produced in the Germanic kingdoms of Western Europe during Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages has revolutionised modern understanding of these early law codes. Patrick Wormald has argued that the production of written law was often ideological and political rather than practical in inspiration. This paper will take a similar approach in its discussion of the emergence of written law in early medieval Ireland and will argue that similar conclusion may be drawn.

Beginning by situating the writing down of Irish law within its European context, this paper will discuss possible continental influences upon the emergence of a written legal tradition in Ireland. It will also draw attention to similarities between the early Irish written legal tradition and those of the Germanic kingdoms of northern Europe. Ultimately, it will argue that the production of the lawbooks of early medieval Ireland, particularly in as much as the process can be illuminated through an examination of the pseudo-historical prologue to the Senchas Már, embraced ideological and political concerns similar to those evident elsewhere in contemporary Europe. Specifically, it will be argued, aspects of the theories of kingship and of national identity were of central importance to the process.

Nora White
Ogham in 3D – Pilot project

This paper is a presentation of our pilot project consisting of samples, including 3D models, from a multidisciplinary archive of Ogham stones. The Ogham in 3D project ultimately aims to carry out laser-scanning of the approximately 400 surviving Ogham inscriptions, with a view to establishing a permanent and universally accessible online archive consisting of:

  • descriptions and photographs of each inscription, the stone on which it is inscribed and, where known, the find site
  • 3D models of the stones
  • a transliteration and translation (where possible) of each inscription
  • linguistic commentary
  • geographical, historical and archaeological context
  • a distribution map
  • a full bibliography and concordance with earlier scholarship and imaging techniques

David Woods
Adomnán, Plague, and the Easter Controversy

Adomnán’s description (VC 2.46) of how the intercession of St. Columba preserved the Picts and the Irish in Britain alone among the peoples of western Europe against two great epidemics of bubonic plague is a coded defence of their use of the traditional Irish 84-year Easter table against the Dionysian Easter table as used throughout the rest of western Europe. His implication is that God sent the plagues to punish those who used the Dionysian table. Hence Adomnán still adhered to the 84-year table by the time that he composed the VC c.697. It probably took a third epidemic 700–c.702 to persuade Adomnán that his interpretation of the earlier epidemics was incorrect, so that Bede (HE 5.15) is correct to date his conversion to the Dionysian table to a third visit to Northumbria c.702.

Niamh Wycherley
The power of words: the vocabulary of relics in early Christian Ireland

Relics are a manifestation of the cult of the saints. They can be examined in relation to hagiography or saints’ cults but more importantly they should be explored in order to understand the roles of saints’ remains and the image of saints in society. There has been relatively little research undertaken on the cult of relics in Ireland, considering the comparatively rich examinations carried out on the continent. This paper seeks to begin redressing this imbalance through an exploration of one key aspect of the cult of relics: the language. By fully understanding both the Latin and Old Irish words used by Irish authors to describe the variety and veneration of relics we can gain a valuable insight into the significance and use of these relics in the early Irish church. It is only through a detailed analysis of the specific terms that the nuances within the cult of relics will be revealed. Some of the foremost scholars of early Christian Ireland have argued that the Irish were slow to adopt relics, in particular that they were not as concerned with venerating bodily remains as their late Roman and Frankish contemporaries. Through an examination of the vocabulary of relics this paper seeks to explore these arguments and disprove them with reference to the earliest sources. It will be argued that the Irish, while naturally different than their European counterparts, were actually more in agreement with continental practice than current historiographic models suggest.