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Re: Old Irish vs. Middle Welsh scribal practices (was RE: Introducing Paul Burgess...)

From:Sally Caves <scaves@...>
Date:Monday, March 10, 2003, 21:47
----- Original Message -----
From: "Pavel Iosad" <edricson@...>

> Hello, > > > What I find difficult about Old Irish, > > as opposed to Middle Welsh, which by comparison is blessedly > > phonetic and regular, is that its initial and medial mutations are not > > > represented (as > > they are in Welsh--"m" is M whether it's /m/ or /v/), and you have to > > remember a fairly detailed set of rules to be able pronounce > > anything. > > I beg to differ. *Modern* Welsh orthography is nice, but Middle Welsh > isn't a lot of consistency - but then, which medieval European language > is?
Old English, West Saxon dialect. :) For pronunciation and spelling, that is. I said "by comparison" above. Modern Welsh orthography is beautifully phonetic, yes. But in comparison to Old Irish, or even modern French, Middle Welsh spelling is still pretty regular--that is, within its eras. It's initial mutations are FOR THE MOST PART represented in the orthography, except, as you say below, for some forms of the nasal mutation (vyk kalon, spelled in Modern Welsh, and probably with pretty much the same pronunciation fy nghalon--vym Penn / fy mhen--different sense of word division, I guess); and while the vowel "y" has several different pronunciations, these follow pretty consistent rules. And the business of the character "u" being used to express /v/ intervocalically is completely conventional in the Middle Ages. Anfod, anuod, Dyfed, Dyuet, etc. And Middle Welsh, especially in the earlier manuscripts (or those
> rather dependent on early sources, such as BT or BA), seldom marks > lenition (especially word-internally), and the treatment of the nasal > mutation and the h-sandhi leaves a lot to be desired. Well, yes, Old > Irish is a nightmare, but _-awt_ for _-awdd_ is hardly better!
Oh yes it is! :) Admittedly, my sense of the "easiness" of Welsh could be due to the fact that I studied modern Welsh while I was studying Middle, so these spellings don't throw me as much as the Irish ones do (studied Old Irish for two semesters in the early eighties... MUST go back to it!--but no consonant study of Modern Irish Gaelic). It makes sense to me in Welsh, so given to soft mutation, that voiced consonants are expressed in the earliest manuscripts by unvoiced or unlenited characters: bluytin, blwyddyn, argluit/arglwydd, etc. But by the time you've gotten to the Red Book and the Four Branches, it's a breeze! Now compare that to reading Mac Datho's Pig. Especially with Ruth Lehmann's jumbled, no-charts-allowed approach to pronunciation and grammar (An Introduction to Old Irish). Or trying to stumble through Thurneyson on your lonesome.
> (I'm fulfilling my dream of yore and reading _Pwyll Pendeuic Dyuet_, > which is of course pronounced _Pwyll Pendefig Dyfed_, in the Thomson > edition)
Good choice! That and the fourth Branch are my favorites. Okay, I'll concede your point; early Welsh orthography had a paucity of variations that allowed it to express certain distinctions--like in Old Irish, making it a difficult language to read aloud. I know that, I've taught it. They were trying to adapt the Roman alphabet to their sounds. But for all intents and purposes, my own exposure to Old Irish, and that described by fellow scholars who study both it and Welsh, indicates to me that Old Irish is far more etabnannimous than Middle Welsh. Sally Caves Eskkoat ol ai sendran, rohsan nuehra celyil takrem bomai nakuo. "My shadow follows me, putting strange, new roses into the world."
> -- > Pavel Iosad > > Is mall a mharcaicheas am fear a bheachdaicheas > --Scottish proverb > >