Abstracts

Abstracts

Michael Clarke (NUI Galway)
Bilingual Narrative, Bilingual Colophons: Merger and Contrast between Latin and Irish

In the manuscript evidence for bilingualism in the  world of the medieval literati, examples of code-switching between Latin and the vernaculars leave us guessing on a fundamental issue. Is the phenomenon is a purely casual one, the written trace of bilingual communication in the monasteries, or is there ever a sense in which the language user is explicitly negotiating the relationship between the two languages? This paper highlights the group of formal prose texts from the Middle Irish period (c. 900-1200) composed in a hybrid ‘intermediate language’ in which Irish and Latin lexical and syntactic structures tend towards virtual merger. Key examples are preserved in the Liber Hymnorum prefaces, and in the same manuscript this style of composition reaches an even higher level in the hymn Sén Dé , in which the hybrid language variety is used for verse composition. However, in manuscripts from the latter part of the period there are preserved a number of significant micro-texts where the pattern is the opposite, explicitly articulating a contrast between the two languages. Two major examples will be presented:, the ‘acrostic signature’ of Marianus Scottus in the partially autograph manuscript of his Chronicle (c. 1080 AD), and the juxtaposed Latin and Irish colophons to Táin Bó Cúailgne in the Book of Leinster (mid-twelfth century?). In complementary ways, these two serve as examples of bilingual scholars making explicit contrasts between the social roles of Latin and Irish. The larger question awaits: Where do these phenomena belong in the grand narrative of language politics in Ireland?

Alan Fletcher (University College Dublin)
The Rationales of Medieval Code-Switching: A Study of the Practice of the Early-Fifteenth Century Preacher, Hugh Legat

In this paper, while I will be returning in general to the topic of the function and status of macaronic discourse in late-medieval England, I will be examining in particular the English/Latin preaching of Hugh Legat, trying to assess its contribution to how the general topic should be understood. Legat is the only late-medieval sermon author whose work displays an extremely dense macaronic texture about whom we can gather any significant biographical information. These external biographical circumstances may usefully supplement conclusions that close linguistic study of his written practice may suggest, and provide additional assistance as we try to understand this important facet of the general phenomenon of medieval code-switching.

Anthony Harvey (Dictionary of Medieval Latin from Celtic Sources, Royal Irish Academy)
Frankenstein in the Scriptorium? Bringing Latin to Life in Early Medieval Ireland

The Latin written in medieval Ireland was affected and shaped by the fact that its authors were not themselves native speakers of the language in question (or indeed of any Romance derivative thereof), but had each individually needed to learn it, as a conscious undertaking, from books. At least for the early period this rendered these scholars unique in Europe, and meant that compared with their counterparts abroad they were both disadvantaged (through not having the target language at their fingertips) and helped (by being free to experiment with it from the vantage point of their own, only distantly related tongue, in a manner that — it will be argued — was not available to those who had Latin as their home language). It is probably at the semantic level that Irish Latin was most clearly influenced by the unusual pedagogical environment just outlined, and the paper accordingly presents the evidence by approaching, quantifying, and assessing it primarily at the level of the individual word. To conduct such an undertaking in an objective fashion has become increasingly feasible in recent years as a result of work done in preparing the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of Medieval Latin from Celtic Sources, since this proves to furnish plenty of individual examples of the more or less bizarre outcomes that are found in our texts.

Dáibhi Ó Cróinín (History, National University of Ireland Galway)
Code-Switching in the Earliest Irish Computistical Manuscripts (7th c.)

Medieval Irish writers were thoroughly at home in both Latin and Old Irish; the myriad of glosses in both languages that are found in MSS up to c. AD 800 are proof of that fact. However, much work still remains to be done in terms of trying to distinguish between the phenomena of bilingualism, code-switching, and co-called ‘contamination’. By examining some computistical MSS, and other MSS with computistical elements in them, it may be possible to identify examples of all three phenomena. Because the vocabulary of computus was more technical and less familiar, scribe-scholars were confronted with problems of explication and interpretation that were different from those presented by Latin exegetical or grammar texts; this paper will try to illustrate how Irish computists coped with those problems.

Mícheál Ó Flaithearta (University of Utrecht)
Bucking the trend? Language choice and Apgitir Chrábaid

Many scholars regard the Irish religious text Apgitir Chrábaid ‘The Alphabet of Piety (or Devotion)’ to date as early as c. 600. This view is based mainly (but not only) on the fact that some of the eighteen extant manuscript variants ascribe its composition to Colmán moccu Béognae (d. 611), the founder and abbot of the monastery of Lann Elo (Lynally, Offaly ). Others, like Vernam Hull, argued that the work should be acknowledged as an 8th century text. In truth there is at present no consensus among philologists as to the date of compilation of the Apgitir Chrábaid based on the internal evidence of its language.
This medieval text is composed in the vernacular and contains many Latin loanwords. But there is no code-switching. This would seem to imply (to me) a conscious language choice on the part of its author. But why? And for whom was the text meant? This paper will argue that this specific language choice was the conscious targeting of a novice audience and was perhaps geared towards aural/oral rather than written consumption.

Tom de Schepper
The profile of a preacher: Bilingualism in An Leabhar Breac

The process of compilation involved in the composition of Irish codices complicates our picture of the copyists and the standards of their schooling. In their selection of texts and languages, however, as well as their creative adaptation of sources to the constraints of genre, these scribes show signs of considerable competence. Furthermore, though we may not know their own upbringing, the fruits of their labour could have proved useful as storehouses of knowledges to a next generation of scholars. One particularly personal approach to copying is evinced in the Irish homily collection labelled An Leabhar Breac. The uncharacteristic linguistic lay-out of the codex is particularly applicable to the homiletic genre, as it combines both Latin and vernacular elements as well as a spoken and written nature. The resulting collection, compared to other instances of Irish homilies, some of these by the same scribe, and to contemporaneous English codices, an area historically linked to Irish education, should be seen as an attempt to tailor the homiletic text to the practical needs of the future preacher. With the linguistic composition of the homiletic genre one can see the purpose of artes praedicandi.

Nike Stam (University of Utrecht)
Accident or strategy: Code-switching in the commentary on the Félire Óengusso

In 1999, Nicole Müller was one of the first to apply the concept of code-switching to medieval Irish sources. This approach proved successful and more papers investigating the interaction between Irish and Latin in medieval sources followed. In these studies, it seemed, code-switching was the result of a consciously employed strategy developed by the medieval scribe. Code-switching had a function in the text that Nicole Müller called ‘Hervorhebung'; changes of language that could guide the reader, add more emphasis to parts of a text and, at the same time, shape and strengthen the common identity of an intellectual elite. However, when can we speak of a conscious use of code-switching as a strategy of communication? How does the concept of a mixed-code, as existed in medieval England, fit into this idea of ‘Hervorhebung’? And what roles do genre and intended audience play in the consciousness of language choice?
In this paper, the XML-encoded code-switches, as found in the Rawlinson-B505 version of the commentary on the Félire Óengusso, will be used to provide answers to some of these questions.