De origine Scoticae linguae (also known as O’Mulconry’s glossary) is a text originating in seventh-century Ireland that provides etymologies for c. 880 Irish words, mostly drawn from Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Its Latin prologue declares its affiliation to the Graeco-Roman linguistic tradition, claiming an origin for the Irish language in the Greek dialects Attic, Doric and Aeolic. The glossary attests to the transmission and reception of the Latin grammatical tradition in Ireland and shines light in particular on the Irish knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. The text also represents a milestone in the history of European linguistics, as the earliest etymological study of a European vernacular language.
The glossary was published once before, by Whitley Stokes in 1898. This new edition provides the first translation and textual commentary, clarifying the sense of difficult entries and discussing sources. The introduction analyses the structure and contents, origins and development, linguistic issues, and relationships to other texts. The text is edited here along with a shorter related glossary of 232 entries, entitled Irsan, which includes shared material and sheds further light on its development.
Contributions to journals
This study explores bilingualism in the area of literary education, that is, the formal study of another language using written documents. Its focus is the study of Greek in early medieval Ireland, in the period from the seventh to the ninth century. Though never absorbed into the Roman Empire, by the seventh century Ireland had thoroughly embraced Christian culture, and with it the prerequisite of Latin literacy. In their study of the Latin language, using late antique school books and commentaries, the monastic schools of early medieval Ireland might be regarded to some extent as inheritors of the Graeco-Roman tradition, and in particular the late antique grammatical tradition. It has long been suggested that the Irish interest in classical languages was not limited to Latin (itself a foreign language), but extended also to Greek. Although the means by which such a knowledge may have been acquired has never been clear, this discussion presents new evidence for the study of Greek in Ireland, and explores how late antique manuals of bilingual Greek–Latin instruction were later reused in circumstances far removed from those of their origins.Knowledge of Greek in the West is generally held to have declined sharply by the end of the fifth century, when the compilatory efforts of Latin writers Boethius, Macrobius and Martianus Capella provided the main points of access to Greek literary culture for subsequent generations. There are plenty of indications, however, that the Greek language maintained a special prestige. It was recognised as the language of the New Testament and featured on the titulus of Christ's cross. Accordingly it was classed among the ‘three sacred languages’ (tres linguae sacrae) during the Middle Ages, along with Latin and Hebrew. Augustine regarded these as ‘pre-eminent languages’, and praised Jerome for his singular attainment in all three. Greek learning was also acknowledged as the foundation of secular scholarship