The following papers were given at the School’s annual Tionól, 16–17 November, 2012.
- Bernhard Bauer
- British loanwords in the Old Irish Priscian glosses
- Victor Bayda
- Irish schematic idioms
- Jaqueline Bemmer
- Traces of the Irish usufruct pledge in brehon law commentaries
- Aidan Breen
- Some new evidence relating to the sources of the earliest Irish penitentials
- Johan Corthals
- Decoding the ‘Caldron of Poesy’
- Dorothy Disterheft
- Word Order Change in Insular Celtic
- Leonie Duignan
- Textual and Intertextual aspects of Echtrai and Immrama
- Pavel Iosad
- The non-Brythonic prosodic system of Bothoa Breton and the nature of Celtic ‘pitch accents’
- Barry Lewis
- St Cybi of Holyhead, a saint between Wales and Ireland
- Peadar Mac Cuillinn
- Begriffsgeschichte na Gaeilge? Roinnt smaointí ar an stair choincheapúil sa Ghaeilge
- Sorcha Nic Lochlainn
- ‘Chailin òig as stiùramaiche’: a close analysis
- Cíarán Ó Coigligh
- Séimhiú nó Loime ar Cháilitheoir Ainmfhoclach Neamhchinnte nuair is Ainmfhocal Baininscneach san Ainmneach nó sa Tabharthach atá á cháiliú?
- Mícheál Ó Flaithearta, Tom de Schepper, Nike Stam
- Bilingualism in Medieval Ireland project
- Pamela O’Neill
- Old Irish muirchrech ‘sea-boundary’
- Cherie Peters
- The origins of hierarchies in early medieval Irish law
- Fangzhe Qiu
- Leading cases in early Irish law: a typological study
- Katja Ritari
- The Theology of the Sermons of Columbanus
- Paul Russell
- The Irish contribution to Old Welsh glossing
- Catherine Swift
- Men up every tree: anchoritic tradition in early Ireland
- Niamh Whitfield
- What was carmocol?
Following my work on the “Old Irish Priscian Dictionary” project and work in progress on my dissertation “Intra-Celtic loanwords”, the focus of this paper is on loanwords in the various manuscripts containing Old Irish glosses on Priscian’s Institutiones Grammaticae. Needless to say, these feature a large number of Latin borrowings, but they show British loanwords as well. Some of these are Latin words that entered the Irish language via Welsh, but several native Welsh words borrowed into Irish are also attested. In this paper I would like to give an overview of the British borrowings in these manuscripts and follow this overview with a more detailed discussion of some individual borrowed lexical items.
In its discussion of the díre appropriate for various grades of freemen in early medieval Ireland, the introduction to the great Old Irish legal compilation known as the Senchas Már notes that ar robui in bith hi cutruma conid tainic Senchas Mar, ‘the world was at an equality until the Senchas Már was established’. But linguistic, archaeological and historical evidence indicates that Irish society was not egalitarian prior to the eighth century. Why then did Christian scribes and later commentators use the Senchas Már to justify the divisions of society? This paper will examine the dialogue of the origins of social hierarchy in the Senchas Már and discuss the tensions which derived from the conflict between Christian ideals of human equality and archaic custom in early medieval Ireland.
Sa chaint seo, ba mhaith liom aird a thabhairt ar an stair choincheapúil sa Ghaeilge agus í sin a shuíomh taobh istigh de chuid de na paraiméadair atá leagtha amach le tamall de bhlianta anuas ag an Begriffsgeschichte (stair na gcoincheapanna) mar a thuigtear sin do scoláirí na Gearmáinise ach go háirithe. An bunsmaoineamh atá taobh thiar de seo, go bhfuil dlúthcheangal idir an stair theangeolaíoch / choincheapúil ar thaobh amháin agus an stair shóisialta / pholaitiúil ar an taobh eile, agus gur cheart staidéar a dhéanamh orthu beirt i dteannta a chéile. Is ionann sin is a rá go mbaineann coincheapanna, is cuma cé chomh uilíoch an chuma is atá orthu, le cultúir agus le tréimhsí faoi leith. An tionscadal is mó a d’eascair as an dearcadh seo (Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe, GG), an Ghearmáin idir 1750 agus 1850 is mó is cás leis, amharctar ar an chéad sin mar aois idirthréimhseach (Sattelzeit na Gearmáinise) idir an seansaol agus an saol nua-aimseartha san Eoraip. I rith tréimhse mar sin, bítear ag súil le forbairtí áirithe, mar shampla, go gcuirtear dlús le forfhás an fhoclóra (Beschleunigung). Forbairtí eile ná go mbíonn an foclóir céanna in úsáid ní amháin ag uasaicme ach ag sraitheanna níos isle ná í (Demokratisierung); go n-éiríonn foclóir níos teibí agus níos conspóidí (Politisierung) agus go gclaonann i dtreo na hidé-eolaíochta (Ideologiesierbarkeit). I dtaca leis an mhodheolaíocht, ba cheart an oiread foinsí de chineálacha difriúla a chur sa chuntas agus iad bainteach leis an oiread aicmí sóisialta éagsúla agus is féidir. Is díol suntais é gurb í an litríocht chruthaitheach is lú a mbaintear feidhm aisti ar an ábhar nach foinse iomlán ionadach í don stair pholaitiúil / shóisialta, dar leis na staraithe. Músclaíonn sé sin buncheisteanna do scoláirí na Gaeilge don trémhse 1600-1800 mar shampla, nó is ag brath díreach ar an chineál sin foinse a bítear go minic. An dochar é seo, nó an amhlaidh go bhféadfadh sé i gcásanna áirithe dul chun leas na hainilíse? Locht amháin a fuarthas ar an GG ná go gcaitheann sé le focail, le coincheapanna, mar fhocail aonair barraíocht (baineann sin cuid mhaith is dóigh lena leagan amach mar fhoclóir nó ciclipéid) seachas iad a shuíomh i gcomhthéacs iomlán teangeolaíoch a linne (amharc na staraithe Pocock agus Skinner ach go háirithe). Díreoidh mé sa chaint seo ar an tréimhse 1600-1660 agus cuirfidh mé roinnt de na paraiméadair thuasluaite i bhfeidhm ar an litríocht idir fhilíocht agus prós. An bhuncheist: agus iad i mbun sibhialtacht na hÉireann agus an Gaeilge a chosaint, cé na “teangacha” (i dtéarmaí Pocock, “speech, literature and public utterance in general”) nó na “dioscúrsaí” a bhí ar fáil ag lucht na Gaeilge? An bhfuil focail faoi leith a shainníonn na réimsí sin?
It is established that there are links between the hagiography of the Celtic lands: a well-known case is that of St Maedhóg of Ferns and St David, each of whom makes an appearance in the life of the other. However, further cases undoubtedly remain to be discovered. The corpus of late-medieval Welsh poems to saints has hitherto received little attention in this regard, yet several of these poems contain indications of external influences. This paper will examine a poem for St Mechyll which shows connections with St Machutes (St Malo) of Brittany, and a poem for St Cynog of Merthyr Cynog which reveals knowledge of the cult of St Do-Chonna of Inis Pádraig, Co. Dublin.
In recent years the constituent elements making up pre-Norman religious communities, both male and female, on the island of Ireland have been subject to ever-increasing scrutiny. One of those which has still to be discussed in detail are the precise roles and social functions played by people identified in our sources as anchoritae, ancaire/accaire and dísertach. This is particularly interesting in that the image of such men has played such a large role in the prevailing ideologies of ‘Celtic Christianity’. In this paper, the Irish evidence for men and women vowed to contemplative lifestyles is looked at in the context of Church Fathers such as Cassian and Isidore and early medieval hagiographies of north-western Europe. It is also hoped to consider the evidence involved in sancta rusticitas — as found in the Collectio canonum Hibernensis — and in the vernacular tradition of fools such as Suibne mac Colmáin Chuair.
Early Irish law texts are strewn with narratives and references alluding to personages and incidents, usually regarded as ‘leading cases’. They range from biblical events, Roman anecdotes to saints’ lives, heroic sagas and historical legends. But unlike the leading cases in common law systems, these cases vary in degree of relevance to the law tract they are attached to, and more often serve as explanatory examples than legally binding precedents. A typological survey of these cases is necessary for understanding their sources, characteristics and functions. This paper will present the finding of such a survey based on a collection of leading cases from Corpus Iuris Hibernici. It will address the contexts, dates, sources, forms and protagonists of the cases, using statistical methods. Two cases will be discussed in more detail to show the potential of studying leading cases in understanding the entangled relationship between law and literature in medieval Ireland.
‘Chailin òig as stiùramaiche’ is a Scottish Gaelic waulking-song which has long intrigued Gaelic scholars because of its links with the lost Irish Gaelic song ‘Cailín ó chois tSiúire mé’, of which an Anglicized snippet appears in Shakespeare’s Henry V (1599) as well as in other late-sixteenth-century English sources. This paper will show that the Scottish waulking-song is composed of a number of separate and distinct elements, some of which also occur in modern Irish Gaelic songs. While the evidence suggests that most of the elements of ‘Chailin òig as stiùramaiche’ are not to be connected with ‘Cailín ó chois tSiúire mé’, this paper will examine the possibility that one element of the Scottish song may provide us with some information as to the structure and content of ‘Cailín ó chois tSiúire mé’.
The Irish element in the Old Welsh glosses on the Juvencus manuscript (Cambridge, University Library MS, Ff.4.42) has received considerable attention over the years from Anthony Harvey and Helen McKee inter alios. In addition Pierre-Yves Lambert has drawn attention to the frequent ‘translation’ of vernacular glosses on Latin texts from one vernacular to another which highlights the close connection between glossing techniques in the different vernacular languages of Britain, Ireland and the Continent. The aim of this paper is to consider another manuscript from Wales which arguably shows Irish features in its Old Welsh and Latin glossing. The fragmentary text of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria preserved as the last section of Oxford, Bodleian Library MS, Auct. F.4.32 is glossed in Latin and in Old Welsh. In both sets of glosses there are hints of phrasing and structures which would make more sense if we think of them as emanating from an Irish context, and are such that, if we were to encounter them in the Juvencus MS, we would have no hesitation in attributing an Irish provenance to them.
The VSO syntax of Insular Celtic languages has innovated dramatically from that of Continental Celtic, which generally followed the SOV/SVO patterns found in the rest of IE. How Celtic came to have this atypical syntax has provoked discussion since the middle of the last century (Pokorny 1949, Wagner 1959, Watkins 1963, Ahlqvist 1980), and continues to do so more recently (Hickey 2002).
Using data from Old Irish (OIr), I argue that a loss of transitivity is the mechanism responsible for the typological shift in Insular Celtic. A number of constructions removed arguments from the verb and placed them in non-argument positions, i.e. prepositional phrases (PPs). Thus an SOV structure with arguments removed became a sentence-initial impersonal verb with agent and/or patient in postposed prepositional phrases. This is the situation still preserved in OIr. Added to this is the fact that as a null-subject language with no independent personal pronouns (except for emphatics), OIr could not use pronominal NPs as subjects.
I argue that the above sentence types contributed to an indeterminacy which led to Insular Celtic being reanalyzed as VSO. Once this new order was established, other verbs could easily follow this pattern so that some verbs had arguments which were structured in PPs with an impersonal verb, while many needed no arguments at all.
I use a number of constructions to support my claim that Insular Celtic underwent this word order shift by a loss of transitivity and that because of this loss, Olr continued to have a much lower rate of transitivity than other languages.
I go on to claim that the structure of clauses with be are also a result of the transitivity loss. This is the only structure in Irish with a VP: verb is first and a predicate noun or adjective follows. This aberrant pattern developed from a Celtic SVO structure (found in Continental Celtic), whose subject was demoted to a prepositional phrase.
I conclude that Insular Celtic word order change can be explained by language-internal developments, not by reference to an unsubstantiated substrate.
Irish has a large inventory of V + N (+ Prep.) lexical units (schematic idioms) where the choice of verb and of the governing preposition depends on the semantic class of the noun:
|chuir sé iontas ar Sheán||‘he surprised Seán’ (lit. ‘put he surprise on Seán’);|
|chuir sé fuadar faoi Sheán||‘he made Seán hurry’ (lit. ‘put he hurry under Seán’);|
|thug sé aird ar Sheán||‘he took notice of Seán’ (lit. ‘gave he notice on Seán’);|
|thug sé aire do Sheán||‘he took care of Seán’ (lit. ‘gave he care to Seán’).|
Substitution of verbs allows for paradigmatic correlation:
|tá ocras ar Sheán||‘Seán is hungry’ (lit. ‘there-is hunger on Seán’);|
|chuir sé ocras ar Sheán||‘it made Seán hungry’ (lit. ‘put it hunger on Seán’);|
|bhain sé an t-ocras de Sheán||‘it took the hunger away from Seán’ (lit. ‘extracted it the hunger off Seán’).|
Periphrasis based on metaphor (mostly locative) seems to be a major way of conveying various meanings in Irish; there is a great number of schemes in which some slots are filled and others open only for a particular group of lexemes. These idioms appear to be highly schematized, cover large semantic areas and be the usual and quite often the only way of conveying a particular meaning. Moreover, they often perform functions characteristic of morphological means in other languages.
The paper investigates the interaction of constituents in the ‘bain as’ (e.g. ‘bhain Seán sult as’) and ‘bain de’ (e.g. ‘bhain sé an t-ocras de’) constructions and demonstrates the correlation between the thematic class of the noun and the preposition, the meaning of the verb and the noun and the particular function of determiners in these constructions.
In this paper I discuss the prosodic system of the Breton dialect of Bothoa as described by Humphreys (1995). One striking peculiarity of this variety compared to other Brythonic varieties is the existence of two lexically distributed prosodic patterns, which finds a parallel in varieties of Scottish Gaelic where pitch distinguishes pairs such as duan/dubhan (e.g. Ternes 2006). I argue that the Bothoa pattern is best understood in terms of lexically specified prosodic structure and discuss some implications. In particular, since the Breton pattern has a clear internal motivation from a historical perspective, it shows how ‘pitch accent’ can arise without a decisive rôle for contact, with clear implications for the importance of Norse contact in the Scottish Gaelic case (contrast Borgstrøm 1974; Eliasson 2000).
Unlike most other Brythonic varieties, stress in Bothoa Breton can fall on essentially any syllable in the word. Moreover, it is not tied to word edges and mostly remains immobile throughout the paradigm, contrast Welsh llýgod ‘mice’, llygóden ‘mouse’ with Bothoa [ˈlɒɡɒd̥ ], [ˈlɒɡɒdən]. Most interestingly, Humphreys (1995) identifies a contrast between two types of disyllabic words. According to his description, most words consisting of two light syllables are stressed on the initial syllable. However, in a small number of cases the two syllables are said to be approximately equal in length and phonetic prominence, with the pattern being reminiscent of Welsh stress thanks to an abrupt pitch rise on the second syllable (for Welsh stress, see e.g. Watkins 1976; Williams 1985, 1999). Humphreys (1995) interprets the second class as having two stresses, a main and a secondary one.
|(1)||a.||One stress: [ˈparuz̥] ‘parish’|
|b.||Two stresses: [ˈdaˌvad̥ ] ‘ewe’|
This situation is reminiscent not so much of Welsh, where the distribution of pitch is driven by the intonational system (e. g. Pilch 1975; Rhys 1984), as of Scottish Gaelic, since the the distribution of pitch is contingent on lexical class membership.
In this paper I argue that Humphreys (1995) is correct in analysing the contrast as one between and two stresses, or, more precisely, as one between words parsed (by default) into a bimoraic trochaic foot, and between words lexically specified as two degenerate (i. e. monomoraic) feet:
|(2)||a.||[(ˈpaμruμz̥)Ft ] ‘parish’|
|b.||[(ˈdaμ)Ft (ˌvaμd̥)Ft ] ‘ewe’|
The evidence for this analysis is twofold. First, under suffixation main stress remains immovable in words of the first class but falls on the second syllable in ‘doubly stressed’ ones. The latter pattern is consistent with the behaviour of other words in the language containing multiple feet (e. g. due to the presence of multiple long vowels, as in (3-c)).
|c.||[ˌbyːˈeːəw] ‘(saints’) lives’|
The second type of evidence concerns the stratal affiliation of monomoraic feet. I show that degenerate feet are only allowed by the phonology at the stem level (for an overview of the ‘stem-level syndrome’, see Kaisse and McMahon 2011). This analysis accounts for the fact that ‘doubly stressed’ forms are overwhelmingly monomorphemic and for the contrast between what Humphreys (1995) calls ‘stressable’ affixes (which only attract main stress when not word-final) and ‘stressed’ ones (which always attract main stress).
The origin of this system is relatively straightforward: it appears to represent a further development of the pattern identified by Falc’hun (1947, 1981) in varieties of Vannetais, whereby secondary stress on a peninitial syllable overtakes as the main stress, with further possible syncope of the unstressed medial syllables, thus σσσ́ (standard Vannetais) becomes σ̀σσ́ (presumably to optimize rhythm). This, in turn, develops into σ́σσ̀ and potentially further into σ́σ̀, which is the deviant Bothoa pattern.
Thus, ‘pitch accent’ systems can arise in the Celtic languages purely as the result of internal development related to the synchronic expression of prosodic structure. A similar synchronic analysis (in terms of the number of syllables or morae) has also been proposed for Scottish Gaelic, albeit in a number of various guises (e.g. Oftedal 1956; Hind 1996; Bosch and de Jong 1997; Ladefoged et al. 1998; Smith 1999). This shows, at the very least, that treating the Scottish Gaelic pattern as a straightforward ‘borrowing’ from North Germanic is not necessary to explain the rôle of pitch in the expression of the contrast.
Borgstrøm, Carl Hjalmar. 1974. On the influence of Norse on Scottish Gaelic. Lochlann 6:91–107.
Bosch, Anna R. K., and Kenneth de Jong. 1997. The prosody of Barra Gaelic epenthetic vowels. Studies in the Linguistic Sciences 27:1–15.
Eliasson, Stig. 2000. Typologiska och areallingvistiska aspekter på de nordeuropeiska språkens fonologi. In Språkkontakt: innverknaden frå nedertysk på andre nordeuropeiske språk, ed. Ernst Håkon Jahr, 21–70. Nord 2000: 19. København: Nordisk ministerråd.
Falc’hun, François. 1947. L’accentuation du breton. Annales de Bretagne 54 (1): 1–11.
———. 1981. Perspectives nouvelles sur l’histoire de la langue bretonne. Paris: Union générale d’éditions.
Hind, Kevin. 1996. The structure of epenthesis in Gaelic. Journal of Celtic Linguistics 5:91–119.
Humphreys, Humphrey Lloyd. 1995. Phonologie et morphosyntaxe du parler breton de Bothoa en Saint-Nicolas-du-Pélem. Brest: Emgleo Breiz.
Kaisse, Ellen M., and April McMahon. 2011. Lexical Phonology and the lexical syndrome. In The Blackwell companion to phonology, ed. Marc van Oostendorp, Colin J. Ewen, Elizabeth Hume, and Keren Rice. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
Ladefoged, Peter, Jenny Ladefoged, Alice Turk, Kevin Hind, and St. John Skilton. 1998. Phonetic structures of Scottish Gaelic. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 28 (1): 1–41.
Oftedal, Magne. 1956. The Gaelic of Leurbost, Isle of Lewis. A linguistic survey of the Gaelic dialects of Scotland 3. Oslo: W. Aschehoug & Co.
Pilch, Herbert. 1975. Advanced Welsh phonemics. Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 34:60–102.
Rhys, Martin. 1984. Intonation and the discourse. In Welsh phonology: Selected readings, ed. Martin J. Ball and Glyn E. Jones, 125–155. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
Smith, Norval. 1999. A preliminary account of some aspects of Leurbost Gaelic syllable structure. In The syllable: views and facts, ed. Harry van der Hulst and Nancy Ritter, 577–630. Studies in generative grammar 45. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Ternes, Elmar. 2006. The phonemic analysis of Scottish Gaelic, based on the dialect of Applecross, Ross-shire. 3rd revised. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.
Watkins, Arwyn T. 1976. Cyfnewidiadau seinegol sy’n gysylltiedig â’r ‘acen’ Gymraeg. Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies 26 (4): 399–405.
Williams, Briony. 1985. Pitch and duration in Welsh stress perception: the implications for intonation. Journal of Phonetics 13 (4): 381–406.
———. 1999. The phonetic manifestation of stress in Welsh. In Word prosodic systems in the languages of Europe, ed. Harry van der Hulst, 311–354. Empiricial Approaches to Language Typology 20. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
This paper will look at some recently uncovered material which has revealed some hitherto unknown sources of the canons of Finnian and Cummean, in the canonical letters of Basil of Caesarea and other early Christian sources, and the changes in the penitential usages of the early Irish Church between the sixth and early seventh centuries – i.e. between Vinnian and Columbanus. It will correct some generally held assumptions relating to Celtic penitential literature and look afresh at one or two old issues.
This paper seeks to examine whether the concept of a usufruct pledge was known to medieval Irish law and presents new evidence from the corpus iuris in favour of this suggestion. When a creditor received a pledge from his debtor as a security deposit with the intention to defer payment, was he entitled to make any use of it and if so, did he gain entitlement also to its fruits? To grant someone the right of usage who was not the owner of the object is a legal topic that prompts a kaleidoscope of questions. This is particularly true in case of livestock and the question of who gains ownership of the offspring. Another obvious concern is whether usufruct was seen as an alternative to interest payments and how this was calculated. Moreover, the usufruct pledge calls for regulations in order to maintain equity in cases of damages and in a broader sense, the loss and theft of the pledge. I shall examine the nature of the usufruct pledge and offer suggestions as to whether it constituted a payment in earnest or was always intended to be returned following payment of the debt.
The Old Irish word muirchrech (also murchrech and muirchreth) is found in law texts, where it refers to the distance out to sea at which certain offenders are to be placed in a currach and left to the wind and tide. Uses of the word in literary texts either reflect this legal scenario or imply a convention of diplomatic protection within a muirchrech of a ruler’s territory. Other law texts substitute a reference to the distance ‘as far as a white shield is seen on the sea’ (in airet is léir geilsciath for muir). Confirming the reasonable supposition that word and phrase refer to the same measurement, Christopher Plummer identified a partially legible gloss on Cáin Adamnáin, which points out that ‘a muirchrech is as far out to sea as a white shield will be visible on land’ (isi imurro muirchreth in airet is léir for muir sciath gel for tír). The Dictionary of the Irish Language describes the word muirchrech (s.v.) as ‘of doubtful meaning’ which ‘seems used to denote a certain distance (on the sea)’. In this paper, I will review the linguistic evidence offered by the two presumed elements of the compound, muir ‘sea’ and crích ‘boundary’, contextual evidence from legal and literary uses of the term, and evidence from landscape and stone monuments to propose an interpretation of muirchrech which conforms with the early Irish legal system’s habitual precision and practicality.
Cuirfear torthaí taighde a rinneadh in Inis Meáin, Oileáin Árann, Contae na Gaillimhe i láthair an Tionóil. Na samplaí a thugtar i dtrí cinn d’fhoinsí, is é an chaoi ar cuireadh iad faoi bhráid triúr cainteoirí dúchasacha, beirt acu atá ina gcainteoirí aonteangacha Gaeilge agus duine acu atá ina chainteoir dátheangach Gaeilge agus Béarla. Iarradh ar na cainteoirí a mbarúil a thabhairt i dtaobh na samplaí agus malairtí leagain a sholáthar dá mb’áil leo sin. Siod iad na foinsí freagracha:
- Gramadach na Gaeilge agus Litriú na Gaeilge, An Caighdeán Oifigiúil, Baile Átha Cliath (an chéad chló 1958; an cúigiú cló 1975), lch 83-85
- Mícheál A. Ó Murchú, ‘Séimhiú nó Loime ar Cháilitheoir Neamhchinnte Ainmfhoclach’, in Watson, Seosamh (eag.), Taighde agus Teagasc 3 (2003), 145-166; agus
- ‘Moltaí ón gCoiste Téarmaíochta maidir le pointí áirithe gramadaí a shimpliú agus a shoiléiriú’, http://www.acmhainn.ie/caighdean.htm.
Tá gnás na gcainteoirí ag teacht cuid mhaith leis na moltaí sna trí fhoinse ach tá riar mór cásanna nach bhfuil duine nó beirt nó go deimhin an triúr cainteoirí scaití ag teacht leis na samplaí a fhaightear sna foinsí a luadh thuas. Is air na pointí seo a tharraingeofar aird mhuintir an Tionóil.
The ‘Caldron of Poesy’ (ed. Liam Breatnach, ‘The Caldron of Poesy’, Ériu 32, 1981, 45-93) is a seemingly cryptic text about three cauldrons in varying positions that represent different degrees of knowledge and perception. It will be argued that this may be simply a local representation of long-standing and basic assumptions on the structure of the human mind, reaching back to the beginnings of Greek learning and fostered thoughout the Middle Ages and beyond.
This paper will explore the theology of the sermons of Columbanus focusing especially on the image of the pilgrimage of life and reading the sermons as a programmatic series encompassing his vision of Christian living directed for his monks. When read in this way, the sermons reveal a consistent theology concerning man’s place and goals in this life and relationship between this and the other worlds.
My investigation into The Echtrae as an Early Irish Literary Genre (2011) presents the first comprehensive typological analysis of this medieval Irish narrative genre. The findings provide a basic taxonomy of the echtrai ‘adventures’ established through detailed structural analysis of a ‘primary’ group comprising seven surviving texts, thereby isolating a significant number of common features and variants upon them. Ultimately, some long recognised typological features associated with the hero’s journey away from home to some otherworld location were augmented by further ones linked to the hitherto unappreciated centrality of sovereignty or kingship to the typical echtrae.
This methodological approach is applicable to other early Irish literary genres. Given the recognised narrative affinities between the immrama ‘sea-voyages’ and the echtrai, a similar typologically oriented study of the immrama as a genre is the obvious next step. The findings can be expected to improve our understanding of the development of that genre; of the roles played by Immram Brain and Navigatio S. Brendani and their influences upon the later immrama; and of the interaction between secular and Christian, literary and extra-literary influences in the various texts concerned.
In June 2012 the above named four-year funded research project got underway at the University of Utrecht. The project aims to contribute to the debates on medieval reception theory, medieval elite culture and education, as well as to the theories on bilingualism by studying the function of Irish and Latin code-switching in two medieval Irish corpora. In this talk the project will be presented and initial case studies will be discussed.
Carmocol is one of the most puzzling, and most discussed, of the ‘gems’ referred to in Old and early Middle Irish literature. It appears in a variety of contexts, but the effect is always to add an air of lavish opulence. What could carmocol have been? The term is derived from the Latin carbunculus, and ancient lapidaries make it clear that in antiquity this denoted a shining red gemstone, most probably garnet. However, the absence of garnet is one of the most distinctive characteristics of early Medieval Irish metalwork, so to translate the term as garnet is probably mistaken. Two possibilities will be reviewed. The first possibility is that carmocol was not the name of a real gem, but was instead just a literary device, used to add a touch of glamour to narratives. The second possibility is that the term did, in fact, refer to something real, namely highly ornate studs made of glass or enamel found on objects like the ‘Tara’ brooch and Ardagh chalice, which imitate the garnet cloisonné work of contemporary Germanic peoples, including the Anglo-Saxons and Franks.