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OLD-IRISH-L  August 2011

OLD-IRISH-L August 2011

Subject:

Re: Tartessian 2

From:

"Dr. David Stifter" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scholars and students of Old Irish <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 6 Aug 2011 19:15:09 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (88 lines)

On 6 Aug 2011 at 17:45, lenore fischer wrote:

> *1. Koch, John (Aberystwyth) ‘A Celtic Verbal Complex in Tartessian?’*
> 
> Handout has very detailed translations of the inscriptions: I can scan and
> send this to  anyone who’s interested.  In the questions afterwards Joseph
> Eska remarked that he still wasn’t convinced that Tartessian is even
> Indo-European. Pretty withering, really.

Joe's scepticism stems partly from the apparent sound inventory of 
those texts, which suggest to him the possibility of dealing with a 
language that could be related to Iberian and Basque. Given that acc. 
to Koch's handout the texts seem to be written in scriptua continua, 
determining words is of course a very tricky undertaking, and one 
that already predetermines your results of the reading. Because of 
some recurrent sequences which do on the surface look very much Indo-
European, I do not share Joe's complete scepticism, but I can't see 
anything particularly Celtic at all. A lot of the features that John 
Koch needs to identify the text as Celtic are very specifically 
medieval Irish, and require a whole lot of very special developments, 
which I a priori wouldn't expect to see so early at that remote 
place.

> *2. Zeidler, Jürgen (Trier) ‘Celtic from the West or Celtic from the East’*
> 
> Utterly damming, though very measured and quiet delivery.  Analysis of words
> common in Celtic and proto-Celtic languages found ‘birch’, beaver’, ‘swan’,
> ‘chicken’, sieve’, ‘flesh hook’, ‘gorse’ ‘holly’ all have referents not
> present in the Iberian Peninsula during the period in question.  (But Koch
> says flesh hooks were.)
> 
> *3. Collis, John (Sheffield) ‘Celtic from the West? a Critique’*
> 
> **Collis was too anxious to draw blood to be a balanced refutation; he
> largely targetted Cunliffe’s use of classical sources, also ranted a lot
> about ethnicity.  Koch got very agitated and in the questions afterwards
> said he’d never argued anything about ethnicity at all.

I couldn't make it to either paper (there were 12 parallel sessions, 
so you were inevitably bound to miss a number of interesting papers). 
As for Jürgen's paper, I found it methodically somewhat questionable 
to base his analysis of the PC  lexicon on Ranko Matasović's 
etymological dictionary of PC, which is such an error-ridden and 
lacunose book, but he is fundamentally aware of this, as one of his 
colleagues assured me.

As for Celtic continuity and typical traits of "Celtic ethnicity", 
Patrick Sims-Williams (Aberystwyth) gave a wonderfully entertaining 
and elucidating paper in the session that I chaired. He made the 
point that none of the classic topoi that are usually adduced to 
bolster up the cultural continuity between ancient and medieval 
Celtic cultures (e.g. headhunting, champion's portion, etc.) holds up 
to any kind of close inspection. His conclusion was that the only 
connecting factor between the various Celtic cultures is the fact 
that they are derived from a common linguistic ancestor, but that's 
it. A point that I am pretty much prepared to subscribe. I talked 
briefly to John Collis at some stage. He seemed to make a kind of 
disparaging remark about the linguistic definition of Celtic, which I 
found a bit surprising. But maybe I misunderstood him there; as I 
said, the chat was very brief, another thing that inevitably happens 
at such large venues.

As for Old Irish language, loads of very interesting new ideas were 
presented (starting with my very own one :-)), but again, I could 
only attend a fraction of those, not to speak of the literary 
sections which I wasn't able to attend at all.

Finally, since this message started out with musings about the 
origins of Celtic, I want to mention Peter Schrijver's wonderfully 
speculative and greatly inspiring plenary paper about "Pruners and 
trainers of the Celtic family tree: the rise and development of 
Celtic in the light of language contact". This paper was so complex 
and rich that I couldn't even dare to start summarising it, but I can 
alert to the fact that a book by him on the topic is planned for 
sometime next year. For everybody who wants to take a look into the 
long distant past (and I am talking about really LONG here), this 
promises to be a very inspiring work. I just want to point out to you 
that acc. to Peter's theories about prehistoric language contact of 
Celtic, he suggested that the Celtic urheimat may have been somewhere 
in Northern Spain, Southern France and Northern Italy, rather than 
the more Central-European mainstream localisation. The reason for 
this is that he attributes the loss of *p in Celtic to Ibero-Basque 
structural influence. But then, loss of *p is a typologically not so 
uncommon thing in the languages of the world, so this may be a bit 
speculative.

David

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