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Tionól 2014

The 2014 Tionól took place at the School of Celtic Studies, 10 Burlington Road, Dublin 4, on 14 and 15 November 2014.


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Elizabeth Boyle:
The Boyhood Deeds of David.

Caoimhín Breatnach:
Brian Bóraimhe, ‘Cogadh Gall ré Gaedhealaibh’ and Foras Feasa ar Éirinn.

Michael Clarke:
International Influences on Togail Troí in the Later Middle Ages.

Torsten Dörflinger:
Language Use and Attitudes towards Irish among Gaeltacht School Children in Co. Donegal: Evidence from a survey.

Matthias Egeler:
Icelandic Horses and the Grey of Macha.

Mícheál Hoyne:
A Survey of Brúilingeachd Verse.

James McCloskey:
Covert Modality in Irish Nonfinite Clauses with ‘le’.

Peter McQuillan:
“Politeness” and Eighteenth Century Literature in Irish.

Mikael Males:
Foundation Myths and their Rhetorical Consequences in the Auraicept and the Icelandic Third Grammatical Treatise.

Grace Neville:
Flotsam and Jetsam: the Papers of Joseph Vendryes.

Éamon Ó Ciosáin:
Writing the Breton language: ‘institutions’, normalization and the problem of a standard.

Tom O’Donnell:
St Findchú of Brigown, Children and a Response to Monastic Reform.

Aideen M. O’Leary:
The Druid Mog Ruith, the “Irish Apocalypse” of 1096, and Canterbury.

Marina Snesareva:
Consain chaola agus a n-úsáid ag cainteoirí Gaeilge mar an dara teanga.

Marie-Luise Theuerkauf:
Something borrowed…? Tochmarc Emire, the Book of Leinster, and Dindshenchas Érenn.

Alex Woolf:
The Wolf in Early Ireland.


Elizabeth Boyle: The Boyhood Deeds of David.

The cluster of five Early Middle Irish narratives about the life of King David preserved in the Yellow Book of Lecan focuses mainly on his relationships with his sons, Absalom and Solomon. However, the first narrative concerns the youthful David’s killing of Goliath. This paper will argue that the author of this story adapts and reshapes his Old Testament source in order to draw deliberate parallels between the biblical David and the literary character of Cú Chulainn – particularly as the latter is portrayed in the Táin – and to recast the David and Goliath story as a ‘boyhood deeds’ tale to parallel Cú Chulainn’s own macgnímrada. The implications for the relationship between biblical narrative and ‘heroic’ literature will be considered, as will the significance of the ‘David and Goliath’ narrative within the wider corpus of Davidic texts from medieval Ireland.

Caoimhín Breatnach: Brian Bóraimhe, ‘Cogadh Gall ré Gaedhealaibh’ and Foras Feasa ar Éirinn.

In this paper, the section of Foras Feasa ar Éirinn (FFÉ) said to derive from the book called Cogadh Gall ré Gaedhealaibh (Irish Texts Society, vol. IX, p. 156 ff) will be discussed. The discussion will include analysis of the transmission of this particular section of text. The portrayal of Brian Bóraimhe in this section of FFÉ will also be examined.

Michael Clarke: International Influences on Togail Troí in the Later Middle Ages.

It is agreed that Togail Troí (TTr), the Irish narrative of the Trojan wars, is substantially an eleventh-century composition. It is represented by a version in the late twelfth-century Book of Leinster (TTr-L) and by up to eight others, all differing in content and wording to a greater or lesser degree, found in manuscripts dated to the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Up to now little work has been done on possible interaction between the developing text of TTr and the wide range of Trojan war narratives that were produced internationally between c.1170 and the early 1400’s, first in Latin and French and then in a wide range of further European languages including latterly English. In this paper I examine a series of innovative passages and verbal images which are each lacking from TTr-L but present in one or other of the later-attested versions of the Irish saga, and which correspond in detail to a passage at the corresponding point in one or more of the international Troy texts. This will provide a new example of significant influence on Irish scholar-authors from mainstream international literature in the period after c. 1200. My proposal as to the specific identity of the source text will corroborate the view that TTr itself was understood by its authors and redactors to be aligned more closely with history-writing than with mythological saga.

Torsten Dörflinger: Language Use and Attitudes towards Irish among Gaeltacht School Children in Co. Donegal: Evidence from a survey.

This presentation deals with the current situation of the Irish language in the Gaeltachtaí of County Donegal. It focuses on the language use of school children as well as on their attitudes towards Irish. Donegal contains one of Ireland’s strongest Gaeltacht areas where Irish is spoken by the vast majority of people in several Electoral Divisions. In other parts of the county, however, the language is under severe pressure and a shift towards English has nearly been completed. The current generation of the school-age cohort will soon play the decisive role in maintaining or abandoning Irish in the Gaeltacht, and this exemplifies the importance of the present study.

Building on the theoretical framework introduced by Fishman (1972) and further developed by Spolsky (2007), the situation of the Irish language is examined in its various domains (family, school, social environment etc.). Therefore, a questionnaire was developed, highlighting the degree to which Irish is used by school children in said domains. Furthermore, the results provide an insight into the factors that contribute to shaping positive or negative attitudes towards the use of Irish.

Based on a survey of 268 school children aged 8–18 years in various Gaeltacht areas of Donegal, preliminary results of the study indicate that not only language use, but also attitudes towards the language vary significantly from area to area. While, for example, 60 % of all school children in Category A Gaeltacht places consider themselves to be daily speakers of Irish (outside school), only 14 % of school children in Category C Gaeltacht places claim to use the language daily outside the education system. Equally, while in Category C 46 % of the respondents would prefer school subjects being taught in English instead of Irish, this holds true for only 17 % in Category A. Nevertheless, respondents in all Gaeltacht areas expressed their wishes for more opportunities to use Irish outside the family and school domains. Questions about the respondents’ interest in Irish language youth clubs, TV series or extra-curricular activities through the medium of Irish were generally answered very positively.

In conclusion, the data collected provide useful information regarding the status of Irish as a living community language. They might lead to a better understanding of language dynamics especially among younger age cohorts as well as to their attitudes and practices in relation to Irish.

Matthias Egeler: Icelandic Horses and the Grey of Macha.

The Icelandic ‘Book of Settlements’ (Landnámabók) contains an anecdote about Auðun the Stutterer, an early Icelandic settler, who encounters a magnificent grey horse emerging from and ultimately returning to a lake on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The grey colour, untameable character, almost preternatural strength and the ‘watery’ nature of this horse recall Grani, the horse of the hero Sigurd in Norse literature. Auðun’s family connections point beyond a purely Norse context, however. The ‘Book of Settlements’ claims that Auðun was married to the daughter of an Irish king, and even quotes a genuine Irish name for his wife. This makes it noteworthy that the core characteristics of Auðun’s ‘lake-horse’ – its colour, strength, origin from and final return to a lake – not only invoke images of Grani, but also directly parallel accounts of Cú Chulainn’s horse, the Líath Macha, in the tales of the Ulster Cycle. This paper will discuss the value and implications of different aspects of the anecdote about Auðun’s ‘lake-horse’ for the understanding of Irish-Norse cultural relationships.

Mícheál Hoyne: A Survey of Brúilingeachd Verse.

In this paper I intend to present preliminary results of a survey of brúilingeachd poetry carried out as part of a critical edition of the poems of the fifteenth-century poet Sei(th)fín Mór. Brúilingeachd, a form of Classical Modern Irish Bardic poetry characterised by slightly looser rhymes than were permitted in dán díreach, has hitherto not been the subject of any in-depth study. Based on an analysis of the extant corpus of Bardic verse, the present paper will discuss the poets who composed this form of poetry, the patrons whom they praised, and will also touch upon some topics of metrical interest.

James McCloskey: Covert Modality in Irish Nonfinite Clauses with ‘le’.

Examples like those in (1)-(3) represent an extraordinarily common and productive syntactic pattern in modern varieties of Irish, but have not (as far as I know) been analyzed so far in much depth or detail:


  1. Bhí neart le déanamh seachas codladh (Galway)
  2. bhíodh móin is feamain freisin le tarraingt (Galway)
  3. Cén chaoi le beannú dó?
  4. mura bhfuil tada níos fearr le déanamh agat
  5. Ní raibh réalta le feiceáil sa spéir


  1. ní raibh faic le déanamh
  2. Má tánn tú le crochadh, bíodh cúis ort
  3. Bhí fadhb amháin eile ag Seán Óg le réiteach
  4. Tá a lán le déanamh agam
  5. bhí an bád le feiscint acu go léir ag teacht


  1. bhí a chuid oibre féin le déanamh ag gach duine
  2. bhí dubhshraith na dtithe le feiceáil ansin
  3. Bhí cúig míle siúil le déanamh ag na daoine seo
  4. Ní raibh réalta le feiceáil sa spéir
  5. B’fhéidir nach bhfuil loch le feiceáil ann

The passive-like syntax of these constructions is only one of the many interesting puzzles that they give rise to and that puzzle will form the starting point for this talk (I will suggest that ‘le’ in this usage has as its complement a verbal phrase small enough to exclude the subject and that this is the basis for its commonality with other so-called passive constructions, which involve suppression of the subject argument). Of more central concern in the discussion, however, will be the semantics of the construction. To the extent that the matter has been studied, it has usually been claimed that examples like those in (1)-(3) express a particular kind of aspect — prospective aspect. I will argue here (based on an analysis of roughly 250 occurences of the construction) for a different point of view, namely that this is a construction which expresses modality (its semantics involves reference to alternative possible worlds). Moreover, it expresses a particularly interesting and important species of modality which is of great importance for current theoretical work on the foundations of modal semantics in that its modal force is under-specified or vague — sometimes expressing possibility (existential quantification over worlds) sometimes neccessity (universal quantification over worlds), with implications for how core modal notions are to be decomposed, as in Bhatt (1999) and Kratzer (2012).


Kratzer, Angelika (2012) Modals and Conditionals. Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics.

Bhatt, Rajesh (1999) Covert Modality in Non-finite Contexts. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania. Published 2006: de Gruyter Mouton, Berlin.

Peter McQuillan: “Politeness” and Eighteenth Century Literature in Irish.

In this talk, I wish to take a look at aspects of eighteenth-century literature in Irish through the prism of “politeness”. For many historians of eighteenth-century England (e.g. Paul Langford, Lawrence Klein), the phenomenon of politeness represents an older aristocratic ethos (of “civility”, “gentility” etc.) brought to bear on a wider social spectrum (merchants, tradesmen, teachers and other professionals), whereby it is seen as an attainment possible for anyone with the requisite means and sufficient education to pursue it, rather than as an aristocratic birthright. Although in theory accessible to all, politeness nonetheless served purposes of distinction and of solidarity, a potential instrument of social warfare (exclusive) as much as a tool of benevolent intercourse (inclusive) as Langford (2002) has it. He speaks here of “countless tiny elites” throughout Britain exercising this kind of social power. For Klein (1994), a consciousness of “form”, a concern with the manner in which actions were performed, was perhaps the most important component of the meaning of politeness, what the eighteenth century referred to as “agreeableness”. Eighteenth-century politeness, however, is not simply about individual behaviour but also provides a framework for the interpretation of culture in general, of aesthetics and of social and political identities. While politeness in Ireland is a much less studied phenomenon, notable contributions have been and are being made by Toby Barnard and Michael Brown. Barnhard describes a politeness dependent on a sociability deemed characteristic of urban Protestant living; however, the growing presence in the towns of successful Catholic merchants and craftsmen modifies this picture in practice. Brown makes “politeness” a subset of Irish civility in general characterizing it as an ethos of personal refinement which feeds into an aesthetics of public appreciation. Of especial interest here is the development of a distinctively Irish tradition of formal rhetoric in the eighteenth century, notably by Lawson and Sheridan, placing emphasis on the polite and sociable utility of “natural” speech, “the just and graceful management of the voice, countenance and gesture in speaking”.

Little if any attention has been devoted to the subject of eighteenth-century “politeness” as it might pertain to literature in Irish. I suggest that the type of poetry that was being composed in Munster at this time, and particularly surrounding the courts of poetry, lends itself readily to such an interpretation. As Barnard has stated in relation to Anglophone Ireland, the study of the classic political texts yields little or nothing in respect of politeness and sociability; rather is the historian dependent on “the chance comments in letters, the mundane accounts of the daily round and such inert sources as newspaper advertisements”. Much of poetry of Seán na Ráithíneach, for example, is “mundane” in this way, being concerned with the every-day round (the poet welcoming a visitor, or asking the local tailor to make him a coat, and so on). For some this has also meant “mundane” in the sense of being dull and uninteresting (the words leadránach and spadach have been used of his poetry for instance); in this talk however I wish to make a case for its value as evidence for a culture of eighteenth-century politeness in Gaelic Ireland. To that end, I will use a model developed by Erving Goffman (1967) who for any given society distinguishes between its “substantive” rules, governing law, ethics and morality, on the one hand and its “ceremonial” rules, comprising demeanour (agreeableness, polish, ease and gentility) and deference (devotion, submission, love and affection), on the other. I will also suggest that such an analysis serves to link this corpus with more overtly political texts of the period.

Mikael Males: Foundation Myths and their Rhetorical Consequences in the Auraicept and the Icelandic Third Grammatical Treatise.

The Auraicept and the Third Grammatical Treatise (below 3GT, c. 1250) both argue fiercely for the excellence of their respective vernacular, to an extent that nothing quite like them can be found in medieval Europe. Some of the arguments presented in both treatises are strikingly similar, whereas others differ on crucial points. Most obviously, the Auraicept uses the myth of Babel as a foundation for its arguments, while 3GT opts for the pan-European solution of a Trojan origin. 3GT places considerably stronger emphasis on poetry than the Auraicept, largely founding its claims on the ‘fact’ that Old Norse poetry belongs to an unbroken Trojan tradition, whereas the Romans had to translate that poetry to make it theirs. Both treatises, however, make the most of their respective native script, ogham and runes.

In this paper, I shall attempt to outline the consequences of the choice of myth on which the argument is based. This was not entirely up to the author; the Irish myth of origin probably took its essential shape before Troy had become the default cradle of the European peoples, whereas 3GT was composed well into that period. Once the choice was made – for or by the authors – different rhetorical assets stood at their disposal. The strategies of the two authors will be analyzed within the setting of their respective written cultures at large. To the author of the Auraicept, the division of tongues and their reintegration into Irish could support claims of universality, with regard to sound and meaning alike. The author of 3GT had to do without such a phono-semantic triumph over even the sacred languages, but on the other hand, the Homeric connection allowed him to present the part of Old Norse culture that he valued most, namely poetry, as the oldest, most heroic, and therefore best in the world.

Grace Neville: Flotsam and Jetsam: the Papers of Joseph Vendryes.

This study will present and analyse the professional papers of Joseph Vendryes (1875–1960), now deposited and catalogued at the Collège de France, Paris. This voluminous material spans over six decades from his undergraduate days in Paris and Freiburg onwards. Of particular interest in an Irish context are the undergraduate lecture notes he kept from classes on Irish given by d’Arbois de Jubainville (Collège de France, 1898) and on Celtic given by Rudolf Thurneysen (University of Freiburg, 1898–99), along with field notes from his research visits to Ireland (including from a Feis in Baile Mhuirne in 1919), correspondence with inter alia Osborn Bergin, James Carney, Myles, Dillon, Kuno Meyer and T. F. O’Rahilly, and notes relating to his work as co-director of La Revue Celtique and founder of Etudes Celtiques. His engagement both intellectual and emotional with Irish material from the medieval to the modern period is clear throughout: writing his history of Ireland was, he confessed, one of the most painful tasks anyone could ever undertake.

Éamon Ó Ciosáin: Writing the Breton language: ‘institutions’, normalization and the problem of a standard.

Since the abandonment of use of Breton by the Catholic Church in the aftermath of World War 2, no major institution has used Breton as a public language. However, with the growth of Breton-medium education since the late 1970s, the establishment of publishing houses for schools and the development of bilingual road signage in Brittany, a number of bodies have played a role in what is becoming a de facto standardisation of written Breton. This paper proposes to outline the vexed issues of orthography and standardisation which have been the subject of much polemic in Brittany, as in other minority language situations, and to analyse recent developments in this area.

Tom O’Donnell: St Findchú of Brigown, Children and a Response to Monastic Reform.

The Middle Irish life of St Findchú of Brigown is one of the more interesting saints’ lives. Finchú is a particularly active saint, he is quick to curse and undergoes severe ascetic torments. However he also takes in the newborn child of a persecuted queen of Leinster and feeds him from his own, miraculously milk producing, breast. It is Findchú’s relationship with his young fosterling, and the ways in which this relationship sheds light on the author’s view of contemporary twelfth century church reform, that I will investigate in this paper.

The early Irish church had a strong tradition of taking in children, to be oblates or merely to attend monastic schools. However towards the end of the twelfth century the tradition child oblation was on the decline. Throughout Europe the irrevocable vow placed on a young child was giving way to the idea that a choice must be made at the age of discretion. This was put into canon law by Celestin III (1191–98). The twelfth century also saw the introduction of Continental monastic orders to Ireland, most famously the Cistercian order who had set themselves in opposition to oblation and who, from 1157, would only take in novices aged eighteen or more.

Findchú, himself was taken in by the community of Bangor at seven to be taught. This is the community that Malachy had such a hard time recovering, if we are to believe Bernard’s life of this reforming saint. The Findchú’s miracle of suckling the child Fintan is mirrored in other saints’ lives and by examining these we can see the symbolic force behind miraculous male lactation. I will read Findchú’s act of suckling a child alongside other episodes in his life as a response to the changing importance of oblation within monastic communities of the twelfth century. This period of change was further exacerbated by the influx of Continental monastic practice in Ireland. It is a nuanced reply to shifting social practice that we see in the rather outlandish myth of a lactating male saint.

Aideen M. O’Leary: The Druid Mog Ruith, the “Irish Apocalypse” of 1096, and Canterbury.

This paper is based on my book currently in progress, concerning the significance of the legend that John the Baptist was executed by an Irish druid, Mog Ruith. Chroniclers reported that Irish people feared destruction on the feast of the Baptist’s decollation in August 1096, and that serious penance ensued, averting God’s wrath. I argue that the druid was used as the catalyst for this national apocalyptic event, which resulted in extensive changes to Irish ecclesiastical governance. His crime therefore had major historical implications for Ireland, and illustrated Irish churchmen’s use of pre-Christian ‘superstition’ to reshape their written past.

In my view, although the legend originated in the dynastic politics of Munster, it became a national Irish instrument of the sweeping ‘Gregorian’ reform-movement which transformed Latin Christianity. In this paper I plan to assess the effects of papal and Anglo-Norman exhortations for reform in Ireland by analysing correspondence from the mid-1070s to the 1090s, especially that between Irish leaders and successive Archbishops of Canterbury. I shall focus in particular on Anselm’s forceful letter of December 1096 when he consecrated the first bishop of Waterford; I consider whether Anselm was aware of the recent apocalyptic crisis in Ireland. I conclude with a brief assessment of the influence of Anglo-Norman prelates in the following 150 years when Irish ecclesiastical structures gradually began to confirm to those of the western ‘mainstream’.

Marina Snesareva: Consain chaola agus a n-úsáid ag cainteoirí Gaeilge mar an dara teanga.

Sa léacht seo, ba mhaith liom aird a thabhairt ar chonsain chaola agus a ndáileachán sa chaint Ghaeilge ag cainteoirí dátheangacha. Scrúdaítear deichniúr cainteoirí lonnaithe i mBaile Átha Cliath sa taighde seo, agus Gaeilge réasúnta líofa acu. Baintear úsáid as roinnt podchraoltaí ó Raidió na Life taifeadta i 2012–2014.

Is é an bunsmaoineamh atá taobh thiar de seo ná cé go bhfuil Gaeilge líofa ag na cainteoirí, i gcuid de na cásanna ní úsáidtear na consain seo go ceart. Seans maith go bhfuil sé sin nasctha le hanáil an Bhéarla mar nach bhfuil a macasamhail sa teanga seo (Ó Béarra 2007; Lenoach 2012). Ní dóigh gur í an t-aon chúis amháin atá bainte leis an dáileachán mícheart, áfach. Ba choir dhá chúis eile a chur san áireamh chomh maith – áit an chonsain san fhocal agus na fuaimeanna atá in aice leis.

Lenoach C. (2012). An Ghaeilge iarthraidisiúnta agus a dioscúrsa. In: An chonair chaoch: an mionteangachas sa dátheangachas, 19–109. Gaillimh: Leabhar Breac.

Ó Béarra F. (2007). Late Modern Irish and the dynamics of language change and death. In: The Celtic Languages in contact: papers from the workshop within the framework of the XIII International Congress of Celtic Studies, 260–269. Potsdam: Potsdam University Press.

Marie-Luise Theuerkauf: Something borrowed…? Tochmarc Emire, the Book of Leinster, and Dindshenchas Érenn.

A little over a century ago, H. Hessen and G. O’Nolan (‘On Tochmarc Emire’, ZCP 8) analysed a number of passages which the second recension of Tochmarc Emire (TE) shares with various medieval Irish texts. Whereas Hessen focused on descriptive passages shared between TE and other Ulster Cycle tales found in Lebor na hUidre, O’Nolan focused on what he thought were interpolations from the Book of Leinster. Specifically, O’Nolan argued for a direct link between TE (which he based on Harl. Ms. 5280) and a passage from Lebor Gabála, Do Flaithiusaib Hérenn (fol. 14ff.) and that TE further drew on both the Metrical and the Prose Dindshenchas. Needless to say, new textual evidence has come to light since Hessen’s and O’Nolan’s analyses. In this paper, I will reconsider some of the claims made by the authors. Further manuscript witnesses of TE, as well as the text Airne Fíngein seem to challenge some of O’Nolan’s claims. As my analysis will show, a re-examination of these textual issues will not only shed light on the possible sources available to the redactor of TE recension 2, but may also provide new insights regarding the textual history of the Metrical Dindshenchas.

Alex Woolf: The Wolf in Early Ireland.

It has long been recognised that the Irish language did not use the inherited Indo-European word for wolf as a simplex common noun. Instead terms like fáelchú, cú allaid, and so forth were used to describe the wild canids which preyed upon livestock and occasionally people. Previous scholarship has suggested that this was the result of some form of linguistic taboo. In this paper I would like to re-examine this hypothesis and present a case for the absence of wolves from country based on recent developments in the field of natural sciences.