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@...>
> > 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
Old English, West Saxon dialect. :) For pronunciation and spelling, that
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
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.
Eskkoat ol ai sendran, rohsan nuehra celyil takrem bomai nakuo.
"My shadow follows me, putting strange, new roses into the world."
> Pavel Iosad email@example.com
> Is mall a mharcaicheas am fear a bheachdaicheas
> --Scottish proverb