> It must be obvious to you that I am
> only feeling my way in the dark. That is the disadvantage of living
> in a rural community, far from academia, and trying my best to pick up
> what I can from the internet.
No problem. Trying to do our best is what we are all doing.
> * When you state that " There is no reason why /b/ should be
> lenited to
> /bh/ after a masculine nominative singular", I assume that the
> masculine nominative singular you refer to is "filius" or "mac".
Yes. But note also that, even if lenition would take place here, this would still be spelt with "b".
> that is the case, then why is it that 'son of Beth' becomes lenited to
> "MacBheth" (McVey)? Is that a different situation? I have been given
> the impression that it is the practice for nearly all patronymics in
> Scots Gaelic to be lenited.
Indeed. But this is a specifically Scots Gaelic development. I cannot tell when automatic lenition after "mac" became the rule in Scots Gaelic (maybe someone else on the
list does), but I would guess that it happened some time in the high Middle Ages. But the time we are talking about here, basically the early Middle Ages, the OIr. period,
mutations would still be dependent on the syntactic role of the preceding word. At that time lenition would occur after the genitive "maicc" and after the dative, but not after
> * When you state that "/bh/ is not spelt <f> in early Irish.", I
> have to
> assume that you are not insinuating that it would not be heard as an
> <f> by someone transcribing it into Latin, correct? So if the
> patronym was properly spelled 'mac Bhili', a Latin translator would
> transcribe it as "filius File".
No, this is unlikely for two reasons. First of all, lenited "b" is phonetically not the voiceless fricative /f/, but approximately voiced /v/. If someone not familiar with Irish
phonology would have wanted to spell lenited "b" quasi-phonetically, it would have been more probable that he would have chosen the letter "v". But that's the second
reason: Who were the "Latin translators" anyway? Basically noone else than native-speakers of Irish who knew Latin as a foreign language. They would have known the
morphonematics of their language (i.e. mutations and their graphematic representation). That is to say, even IF "Bile" for some reason had a lenited "b", those people would
have known that it is a mutated form of a basic form "Bile" and would most likely have notated the base form. This is the rule with all Hiberno-Latin literature.
> * You state "/b/ does not mutate to zero". But the chronology of Pict
> kings (pulled from both the AU and Chronicum Pictorum) suggests that
> with these patronyms, it probably does. One goes from "Bili" to "mac
> Bhile" to "mac Deir Ile" over the course of 40 years.
Still, there is no mutation in any Gaelic language that turns "b" into zero. It can be lenited to "bh" = /v/, or it can be nasalised to "mb", but that's it. Only the sound /f/ could
be lenited to zero, but f stands in no mutational relation to b.
Unfortunately I don't have a Pictish king list at hand, but: Who says that the king called "mac Deir Ile" is the grandson of Bili, or be otherwise related? This could be just a
completely different name. Kingships changed so quickly that we need not necessarily assume linear descent. And then, there's the problem of the transmission of the
Pictish king-lists. As I understand it, those lists survive in a number of MSS with widely divergent readings, often corrupt. Again, one should not attach too much on such
philologically highly problematic evidence. The only book about Picts I have is by WA Cummins' "The lost language of the Picts", and he cites the name as "Derelei". This
could really be anything, even more so since we know virtually nothing about the Pictish language.
It is my
> understanding that lenition with patronymics is much more prevalent in
> Western Scotland than in Ireland. Have you taken that into
Yes, see above. I'd be happy if somebody could tell us anything about the chronology when lenition with patronymics came into use in Scots Gaelic.