Irish/Latin Bilingual

Latin/Old Irish Bilingualism in Early Medieval Ireland

Jacopo Bisagni was awarded a research grant under the NUI Galway Millennium Fund Minor Project scheme, for a year-long project entitled ’Testing methodologies for the study of Latin/Old Irish bilingualism in Early Medieval Ireland’.

Given that a large proportion of vernacular texts produced in Ireland in the Early Middle Ages can to some extent be described as ’bilingual’ (containing variable amounts of Latin words, sentences or sections), this project aims at finding a way to answer questions such as: what type of bilingualism are we dealing with? How, and in which contexts, were Latin and Irish used by the members of the Irish intellectual elite? Was Latin ever used in Ireland for purposes other than scholarly writing? And even: to which extent was Latin a ’foreign language’ in Early Medieval Ireland?

The project will especially focus on the phenomenon known as code-switching (i.e. the switch from a language to another occurring between different sentences or even within the same sentence), studying its written manifestations in Old Irish glosses and prose texts, such as the Turin glosses on the Gospel of St Mark, the Biblical scholia and the Irish material on St Patrick contained in the Book of Armagh, the Karlsruhe glosses on the works of St Augustine and Bede, the Vienna glosses on Bede’s De Temporum Ratione, and the seventh-century Cambrai Homily. The results achieved through this research will constitute a sort of prolegomenon to a larger, full-scale study of Latin/Old Irish bilingualism, which should take into account more extensive corpora such as the Würzburg glosses, the Milan glosses, etc.