West Kerry storyteller Seán Mac Criomhthain (1873-1955) was born almost a quarter-century after the Great Irish Famine. Nevertheless, his upbringing occurred in a context which included both overt and covert references to the kinds of sectarian divisions which initially had contributed to the famine, and which later were entrenched by it. Sectarian division in the Irish context expressed itself primarily via denominational attachment, and to a lesser extent, along linguistic lines. Such divisions were explored across the country through traditional lore and through song; and in the specific repertoire of Seán Mac Criomhthain, through the medium of a mellifluous ‘brand’ of Munster Irish for which the Corca Dhuibhne peninsula has since become renowned. This article attempts to describe attitudes to sectarian division in the evidence of Mac Criomhthain’s repertoire. With extensive reference to a composition translated for the first time to English, it will be argued that concerns of immediate social pragmatism are afforded much greater importance than those of denominational or linguistic attachments.
This paper explores the use of the Breton language (Brittany, North-West France) in contexts where speakers wish to signal their commitment to social equality through their linguistic practices. This is done with reference to examples of job advertisements which have pioneered the use of gender-fair language in Breton. Linguistic minorities are often portrayed as clinging to the past. This paper, however, sheds a different light on current minority language practices and demonstrates a progressive and egalitarian response to modernity among some current speakers of Breton, in their attempts to assume gender-fair stances.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.