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From: Old-Irish-L [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of
Sent: Tuesday, 28 February 2006 10:06 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Cambrai: fedo
the MS Cambrai B 679 (old number: 619) contains on fos. 37r-38r the
well-known Cambray Homily, one of the oldest documents of Old Irish.
Right at the start of the OIr. text there is the phrase "arfeda" =
"ar féda" "our Lord"; it has been thus read ever since Zeuss's
Grammatica Celtica and, more importantly, in the Thesaurus
Palaeohibernicus ii 244.22. This form is puzzling, since actually one
would expect this word to be written "fédo" in Early Old Irish. In
the last years, this form has therefore evoked a certain discussion,
most notably I want to mention Patrick Sims-Williams "Old Irish feda
(gen. fedot): A 'Puzzling' Form in the Cambrai Homily, and its
Implications for the Apocope of /i/", in: Studia Celtica et
Indogermanica. Festschrift für Wolfgang Meid zum 70. Geburtstag.
Herausgegeben von Peter Anreiter und Erzsébet Jerem, Budapest:
Archaeolingua 1999, 471-474. A colleague of mine, Aaron Griffith, has
recently worked on this form, too, and he built an argument on the
final "a" instead of the expected "o". But all of these discussions
are solely based on the edition in Thes. Pal. This has finally
motivated me to acquire high-res photographs of the 3 pages from the
Bibliotheque Municipale in Cambrai, to see for myself what story lies
behind this difficult "a".
I received the images today, and I want to inform you about my
findings. First of all, the MS is basically beautifully written and
easy to read. Only at the bottom part of f. 37r b (= 37b in the Thes.
edition), has the parchment suffered some secondary stains. This is
the environment where "fedX" stands (I'll write X now for the
disputed vowel). "arfedX" is written as one, in a slightly faded
brown ink and in a somewhat unsure hand (maybe the scribe had the
hickups at that moment :-)). The "f" and the "X" have been partly
covered by later stains that are in a slightly darker ink; possibly
also the "r". Now, if we disregard the darker stain, the final letter
which is partly covered by the stain, is clearly an "o"!
The text uses two different kinds of "a". The one is the so-called
"open a", which is easily confounded with "u". The final letter in
"arfedX" is certainly not this type of "a". The other "a" used by the
scribe looks more like our usual type: it consists of a "belly" on
the left side, and a downward sloping line on the right side.
Moreover, at the top it has a slight curve down to left that
continues the right line. Now, what is important for the disputed
word, the "o"-part of the final letter could perhaps be interpreted
as the "belly" of the second type of "a", and the secondary stain,
which is also downward sloping, could be interpreted as its right
side. But what is completely absent is this little, but in all other
instances clearly legible written curve at the top. The only
conclusion is, unless one would want to claim that the scribe had
used a third type of "a" solely for this single word, whereas it is
otherwise absent from the text, that all that has been interpreted as
the downward slope of an "a" so far, is a spot, purely accidentally
looking like a part of a letter and covering the underlying "o" in a
manner to suggest an "a" at casual reading. But even the difference
in colour between the slightly faded "o" and the stronger stain is
evidence enough that the two things do not belong together.
The result is: What is written as "arfeda" in Thes. Pal. ii 244.22
has actually to be corrected to "arfedo". The "puzzling" Early OIr.
ending "a" of the nt-stems does not exist, but instead "fédo" has the
ending expected by traditional grammar.
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