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Subject: Re: Dialect and accent in Old Irish
From: Clodagh Downey <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Scholars and students of Old Irish <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 3 Feb 2006 14:04:58 +0000

text/plain (70 lines)

Lughaidh, Dennis and list,

>Lughaidh wrote:
>>Could you please give some examples of mistakes in Old Irish texts, that 
>>would reveal the everyday language of the writer?
>I can cite for you the relevant article:
>"The Würzburg and Milan Glosses: Our earliest sources of 'Middle Irish'" by 
>Kim McCone, Ériu 36, 1985
>I don't have it to hand, however, unless I have a photocopy in my large and 
>chaotic stack.  But someone else here perhaps can access it?

After scanning this article very quickly, I haven't found much reference 
specifically to regional variation, but Kim McCone does say in relation to 
the 2 examples in the glosses of a prepositional relative created by using a 
prepositional pronoun (as opposed to the preposition plus -(s)a plus 
nasalisation) that (pp.96-7):

"I suspect that this may be one of the few cases where variant usages in the 
Glosses probably have a base in different regional dialects, the preposition 
plus -(s)a type of apparently northern origins being rapidly absorbed into 
the literate register whereas the 'conjugated' preposition type of broadly 
southern origins was apparently confined to colloquial usage for centuries 
and only cropped up occasionally in the literature.  The fact remains that 
this could happen as early as the eighth century.
Should this scenario be roughly correct, a northern locale for development 
of a written Old Irish standard would be indicated.  Although Gaelicized 
Scotland hardly seems a viable candidate, the nearer such a point of origin 
should be to Scotland the better.  Accordingly, east Ulster, perhaps one of 
its great monasteries such as Bangor, would have considerable attractions."

I think the reason that he mentions Scotland is the fact that the 
prepositional relative with preposition plus -(s)a plus nasalisation is 
still the norm in Gaidhlig today.   Does it follow that Scotland or nearby 
should be considered the source of the OI standard?  Maybe I have 
misunderstood him.  And have I misunderstood something else?  As McCone says 
earlier: "a construction with a conjugated preposition in the relative 
clause is the rule in today's spoken Irish", but I thought the other 
construction was very much alive in Munster, so, for example, where the 
standard has 'an cailín a bhfuair mé an bronntanas uaithi', a Munster person 
might say 'an cailín óna bhfuair mé an bronntanas'.  Do I have this back to 
front, or does this indicate the opposite of what McCone says?

The two examples he cites can also be found at GOI paragraph 507d:
nech suidigther loc daingen dó (instead of dia suidigther) 'anyone to whom 
is established a strong place', Ml. 87d15.
ní fail ní nad taí mo dligeth-sa fair (instead of forna taí) 'there is 
nothing on which my law does not touch', Sg. 26b7.

Anyway, apart from that it seems to me that the argument is chronological 
rather than regional, and he talks more about a 'general vernacular' than 
regional dialects.  For example (p.101):

"Students of Old and Middle Irish would do well to ... consider the 
possibility that a precursor quite similar to Early Modern Irish was coming 
or had come into being as a general vernacular, presumably with some social 
and regional dialect differentation now difficult or impossible to establish 
from the meagre known facts, a good deal earlier than the date of c. 1200 
established with reference to written texts."


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