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Abstract

Most Humanities scholars probably have an intuitive sense of what is meant by a “ghost word” – it is a word that, in one way or another, exists as the result of someone’s unrecognized mistake. However, upon closer examination it becomes clear that the term is liable to be employed so broadly that important distinctions can be lost. For one thing, ghost words are often regarded simply as nuisances that should be deleted whenever they are detected. But in practice they often prove to be too useful simply to discard: this article presents some examples that have made their way into active usage among the Celts. In other cases the etymology may indeed be unnatural, but turns out to be the result of more than a hint of deliberate word-crafting right from the start. A taxonomy is here proposed that distinguishes true ghost words and dead words, on the one hand, from active items that may be described as poltergeist words and even Frankenstein words on the other.

Abstract

I discuss the nativeness of heritage speakers of Breton in the twentieth century. I present a syntactic test designed for Breton that sets apart its native speakers from its late learners, for whom Breton is a second language. Nativeness is revealed by a better tolerance to syntactic overload when sufficient linguistic stress is applied. Both heritage speakers of inherited Breton and early bilinguals whose linguistic input comes exclusively from school answer this test alike, which I take as a sign they are cognitively natives. The syntactic nativeness of children deprived of familial Breton input suggests there is many more young Breton natives among contemporary speakers than previously assumed. Taking stock of these results, I discuss the cultural erasure of Breton native speakers. I compare their cultural treatment with the figure of the ghost. I end by a discussion of the term new speaker.

Abstract

This paper seeks to examine the contexts in which the Old Irish law tracts were transmitted in the period following the church reforms and Anglo-Norman invasion of the twelfth century, focusing primarily on the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. Within these time frames two major themes will be appraised: 1) the English attitudes towards the practice of Irish law, and 2) the roles of the medieval lawyers and/or their patrons in political life. The central aim of this paper is twofold; firstly to shed light on the historical and social contexts in which the legal materials were later transmitted, and secondly, based on this, to posit some theories as to the possible incentives behind the transmission of the law tracts in these periods.

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.

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.

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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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.

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.

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.