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OLD-IRISH-L  April 2001

OLD-IRISH-L April 2001

Subject:

Re: 'bailebiataigh'

From:

Jim Rader <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Wed, 18 Apr 2001 11:20:27 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (81 lines)

There is a map showing the Scottish distribution of the place-name
element <pit> in Kenneth Jackson's contribution ("The Pictish
Language") to _The Problem of the Picts_ (ed. F.T. Wainwright,
1955).  The map is based on, if not taken directly from, W.J.
Watson's _History of the Celtic Place-Names of Scotland_ (1926). I
can't reproduce Jackson's map, but I will quote him at length,
omitting footnotes:

"We may take first the numerous group of names beginning with
<Pit->, like Pittenweem, Pitlochry, and so on.  Watson has
counted 323 of them, and their distribution (Map 6) is highly
interesting and significant.  With less than a dozen exceptions
they are all concentrated in the eastern part of Scotland between
the Antonine Wall and the south-eastern corner of Sutherland
round the Dornoch Firth.  More particularly, they are found in the
lowlands of Fife, Kinross, Angus, Kincardineshire, Aberdeenshire,
Banffshire, and Moray; the coastal area round the Beauly,
Cromarty, and Dornoch Firths, from the Black Isle to the Tarbat
peninsula and Rogart; and the lower and middle valleys of the rivers
of Perthshire draining the into the Firth of Tay and in Inverness-
shire draining into the Moray Firth.  Outside this area there are only
a few strays:  three near the west coast opposite Skye; one in the
Great Glen on Loch Lochy; one in Cunningham; and three in the
Lothians close to the Firth of Forth.  It is perfectly clear that the
names in <Pit-> were given by a people living in north-eastern
Scotland between the Firth of Forth and south-east Sutherland,
whose influence was present at some stage on the west coast
facing Skye; in Lochaber; beyond the valley of the Clyde; and
across the Firth of Forth.

There is no necessity to enter here into controversy about the
etymology and meaning of this place-name element; it has been
the subject of acute controversy.  Certain facts seem pretty clearly
established by now, and they may be summed up as follows:  the
word was earlier <pett>; it meant a parcel of land or farmland, in
which sense it occurs in the _Book of Deer_ about A.D. 1150,
applied to certain places in Buchan; and it is a P-Celtic word,
related to Welsh <peth>, 'thing,' Breton <pez>, 'piece,' Gaulish
<*petia> (whence French <pièce>), and more distantly to Gaelic
<cuid>, 'portion.'  The Gaulish word, borrowed into Vulgar Latin in
France, occurs there in Latin documents in the phrase <petia
terrae>, 'a parcel of land,' exactly the sense of our <pett>.  Now
names in <pett> or <peth> are never found in Britain south of the
Antonine Wall, that is, in Roman or 'British' Britain, except for the
four instances already mentioned which are obviously scattered
offshoots from the north; and it is quite clear that the Britons of the
south did not use it as an element in place-names at all, probably
because they had specialised the word in the sense of 'thing.'  A
converse development may be seen in the Scots phrase 'a wee
thing of,' meaning 'a little bit of.'  The history of <pett> suggests,
then, that it was part of the vocabulary of a P-Celtic people who
were distinct from the Brittonic tribes south of the Wall; and it may
perhaps hint that their connexions were with the Gauls at least as
much as with the Britons."

If I understand Dennis correctly, there is a good deal of overlap
between the <baile> country and the <pit-> country, but I'd like to
see what Watson says about <baile> in Scotland.

Jim Rader

> Jim Rader wrote:
>
> > It's interesting that <baile> shows up more in the east of Scotland,
> > rather than the west, which was of course the area of earliest
> > settlement from Ireland.  Any reason for this?
>
> I just searched with Google, without success, for a distribution
> map of the common Pictish placename element "pit / pet", which
> I think functions a lot like "baile".  I was hoping that an overlay
> of the distributions of "pit" and "baile" might display a pattern,
> showing them as either complementary or coextensive.  Anyone with
> a "pit" map?
>
> The placename elements most heavily concentrated in the area of
> earliest Irish settlement are "sliabh" and "cill", while the very
> common element "achadh" (field) seems to be the one most uniformly
> spread across the country.
>
> Dennis

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