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The Dates of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi

Abstract

In a previous issue of this journal, Natasha Sumner of Harvard claimed of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi that the “exact date of composition for the text is not known”; she yet quoted Professor Catherine McKenna, also of Harvard, for the tales as certainly predating the Fall of Gwynedd in 1282. A response to Professor Sumner’s comment thus has three functions. It cites publications on the question from 1897 to 2018; reveals the scholarly disagreement therein; but concludes with evidence to put the tales in the 1120s or early 1130s.

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The Origins of Tree Names in Celtic

Abstract

This paper deals with the long-debated question of the origins of tree names and the methodological problems related to PIE etymologies. It aims at putting forward some basic principles of etymology, and at applying these principles to the analysis of twelve tree names. It also seeks to demonstrate the relevance of substratic pre-IE languages’ influence on the lexicon, and at isolating geographic areas corresponding to pre-Indo-European lexical stocks lying behind modern Celtic languages.

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Shane Leslie and the Irish Support for Language Struggle in Poland

Abstract

This paper tells a little known story of the collecting and delivery of signatures of Irish school children from the northern part of Ireland as an act of moral support for Polish students on strike in defense of the Polish language at schools in the Prussian partition of Poland, in the first decade of the 20th century (Płygawko 1991). The bound signatures are in the Czartoryski Museum in Cracow, Poland, but the information about the action has not been found in Irish sources, and the Polish signatures collected in response seem to be missing. The role of the organizer of the initiative, Shane Leslie, is emphasized in this paper. It describes the background of this exchange of sympathy, and discusses possible reasons why the story remains obscure.

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What Happened to Primitive Cornish /I/ When Long in Closed Syllables?

Abstract

Of the four unrounded front vowels in Primitive Cornish, /i/, /ɛ/ and /a/ remained stable when long in closed syllables, but /ɪ/ had a tendency to fall together with /ɛ/. Jackson (1953) and Williams (1995) dated this change to the twelfth century, but the present research indicates that in most words, the change took place substantially later. An analysis of spellings and of rhymes show that not all words changed at the same time. Most stressed monosyllables in historical /-ɪz/ were pronounced [-ɪːz] in Middle Cornish and [-ɛːz] in Late Cornish. Those with historical /-ɪð/ and /-ɪθ/ were dimorphic in Middle Cornish (i.e. they were spelled with both <y~i> and <e>), showing the sound-change in progress during that time. The process of change from [ɪː] to [ɛː] was one of lexical diffusion. The implications for the revived language are briefly examined.

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Young Speakers: A Pilot Study of Gaelic Bilinguals’ Language Practices

Abstract

Studies of primary school pupils’ Gaelic to date have largely relied on criterion referenced tests to measure attainment against curricular expectations: with only NicLeòid’s (2015) work on student attitudes and Nance’s research (e.g. 2013 and 2015) on comparative phonology bucking this trend. There is a surprising lack of information or research about the language forms and bilingual repertoire of young speakers. A better understanding of young people’s language practices requires the Gaelic research community to develop datasets from spontaneous interactions. This paper draws on a pilot study with a primary 5-6 school cohort in Gaelic-medium education. Using a combination of audio and audio-visual data from the classroom together with data on young speakers’ language attitudes, this paper examines pupils’ determination and strategies to maintain the classroom language as Gaelic. The results of this pilot study can inform the development of new methodologies for collaborative research with the school community on children’s linguistic development and attainment. Such research, it is argued, is necessary in light of the dependency of the Gaelic language planning model on the primary school for the production of new Gaelic speakers.

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Irish and Polish in a New Context of Diversity in Northern Ireland’s Schools

Abstract

While Modern Languages are in decline generally in the United Kingdom’s post-primary schools, including in Northern Ireland (Speak to the Future 2014), the international focus on primary languages has reawakened interest in the curricular area, even after the ending in 2015 of the Northern Ireland Primary Modern Languages Programme which promoted Spanish, Irish and Polish in primary schools. This paper will consider the situation in policy and practice of Modern Languages education, and Irish in particular, in Northern Ireland’s schools. During the years of economic growth in the 1990s Ireland, North and South, changed from being a country of net emigration to be an attractive country to immigrants, only to revert to large-scale emigration with the post-2008 economic downturn. While schools in Great Britain have had a long experience of receiving pupils from diverse ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, firstly from the British Empire and Commonwealth countries, Northern Ireland did not attract many such pupils due to its weaker economic condition and the conflict of the Northern Ireland Troubles. The influx from Poland and other Accession Countries following the expansion of the European Union in 2004 led to a sudden, significant increase in non-English speaking Newcomer pupils (DENI 2017). The discussion in Northern Ireland about a diverse democracy has hitherto concentrated on the historical religious and political divide, where Unionist antipathy led to the Irish Language being dubbed the ‘Green Litmus Test’ of Community Relations (Cultural Traditions Group 1994). Nevertheless, the increasing diversity can hopefully ‘have a leavening effect on a society that has long been frozen in its “two traditions” divide’ (OFMDFM 2005a: 10). This paper will revisit the role and potential of Irish within the curricular areas of Cultural Heritage and Citizenship. An argument will also be made for the importance of language awareness, interculturalism and transferable language learning skills in Northern Ireland’s expanded linguistic environment with a particular focus on Polish.

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Names, Varieties and Ideologies in Revived Cornish

Abstract

The attribution of names is a significant process that often highlights concerns over identity, ideology and ownership. Within the fields of minority languages and Celtic Studies, such concerns are especially pertinent given that the identities in question are frequently perceived as under threat from dominant cultures. The effect of concerns caused by this can be examined with reference to revived Cornish, which became divided into three major varieties in the later twentieth century; by examining the names of these varieties, we can draw conclusions about how they are perceived, or we are invited to perceive them. The motivations of those involved in the Cornish language revival are equally reflected in the names of the organisations and bodies they have formed, which equally contribute to the legitimation of revived Cornish. This paper examines both these categories of name, as well as the phenomenon of Kernowisation, a term coined by Harasta (2013) to refer to the adoption of Cornish personal names, and here extended to the use of Cornish names in otherwise English-language contexts. Examining the names that have been implemented during the Cornish language revival, and the ways in which they are used or indeed refused by those involved, gives us an insight into the various ideologies that steer the revival process. Within the context of the precarious nature of Cornish and Celtic identity, we can identify the concerns of those involved in the Cornish revival movement and highlight the role of naming as an activity of legitimation, showing how the diversity of names that occur reflects an equally diverse range of motivations and influences.

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Scholarship and Language Revival: Language Ideologies in Corpus Development for Revived Manx

Abstract

In this article the role of different ideological viewpoints concerning corpus development within the Manx revival movement in the second half of the twentieth century is explored. In particular, the work of two prominent figures is examined: the Celtic scholar Robert L. Thomson, who published extensively especially on Manx language and literature, and also contributed to the revival, particularly as editor of several pedagogical resources and as a member of the translation committee Coonceil ny Gaelgey, and Douglas Fargher, a tireless activist and compiler of an English-Manx Dictionary (1979). Broadly speaking, Thomson was of a more preservationist bent, cautious in adapting the native resources of the language and wary of straying too far from attested usage of the traditional language, while Fargher was more radical and open especially to borrowing from Irish and Scottish sources. Both were concerned, in somewhat different ways, to remove perceived impurities or corruptions from the language, and were influenced by the assumptions of existing scholarship. A close reading of the work of these scholar-activists sheds light on the tensions within the revival movement regarding its response to the trauma of language death and the questions of legitimacy and authenticity in the revived variety. Particular space is devoted to an analysis of the preface of Fargher’s dictionary, as well as certain features of the body of the work itself, since this volume is probably the most widely consulted guide to the use of the language today. Finally, it is argued that the Manx language movement today would benefit from a reassessment and discussion of the ideological currents of the past and present, and a judicious evaluation of both the strengths and weaknesses of existing reference works.

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The Connachta of Táin Bó Cúailnge

Abstract

Advance in archaeology in the latter half of the 20th century rekindled interest in Táin Bó Cúailnge as a historical source and put the question of real-life identities of its main protagonists back on agenda. Despite the existing orthodoxy that the saga reflects fifth-century warfare between the southern Uí Néill and the Ulaid, some researchers continue questioning the role of the southern Uí Néill as well as the dates assigned to the events of the tale. In this article it is argued that the Connachta of the saga were more likely to be the northern Uí Néill. Furthermore, genealogical link between the two branches of the Uí Néill is put in doubt. Finally, it is suggested that the events of the Táin took place almost 200 years later than commonly believed.

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