Glosses and glossaries

Classical and Late Antique texts were generally transmitted to us via early medieval manuscripts, many of which contain an abundance of notes written between the lines of texts and/or in the margins. These glosses have much to tell us about the history of readership, scholarship, education and linguistics.

Pádraic Moran and Jacopo Bisagni are engaged with the study of these texts-within-texts. Initiatives that have resulted include:

Early Irish glossaries

Pádraic Moran has recently published an edition and study of an early Irish text titled De origine scoticae linguae "On the origin of the Irish language". This is a collection of c. 880 explanations of Irish words, compiled in late-seventh or early-eighth century Ireland, that purports to show that the Irish language is derived from Latin, Greek, and Hebrew (as well as Old Norse and Welsh) and that the Irish people descend from the Greeks. It is the earliest such study of any vernacular language in the post-Roman period, and founded very much in the tradition of Graeco-Roman language study. The close study of sources for the text reveal much about the survival of Classical and Late Antique learning in early medieval Ireland.

This edition is a development from the Early Irish Glossaries Project, based at the University of Cambridge, on which Dr Moran had been a Research Associate.

Priscian glosses

Priscian was a Latin grammarian based at Constantinople in the sixth century, who wrote a monumental treatise (c. 1,000 pages in the modern edition) aiming to synthesize much of the Greek and Latin grammatical traditions. This complex and often difficult text was heavily glossed in the manuscript tradition. One of the best-known glossed manuscripts is St Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, MS 904, written in Ireland in 850–1, which contains over 9,400 interlinear and marginal glosses, in addition to c. 4,000 construe marks (symbols to aid reading). More than one-third of these glosses were written in Old Irish, the remainder in Latin.

Pádraic Moran has produced a collaborative digital edition of all of these glosses, and a number of articles exploring the Irish engagement with the text and with the Graeco-Roman linguistic tradition more broadly.

Network for the Study of Glossing

Pádraic Moran was the co-founder in 2015 of a research network dedicated to deepening our understanding of the cultural and linguistic importance of glosses, particularly with a comparative eye on glossing in broad international contexts, from western Europe right across to East Asia. One activity of the network was a conference on comparative glossing held a NUI Galway in June 2018.

As of December 2018, the network had 92 members from 21 countries (Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, UK, US), with interests in languages including Arabic, Breton, Chinese, German, Greek, Egyptian, English, French, Hebrew, Hittite, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Norse, Sanskrit, Syriac, Turkish, Welsh.

Latin and Old Irish bilingualism

For Jacopo Bisagni's work on code-switching in early Irish glosses, see the separate project page.