Session 118: Ystafell 10
Love and wonder: Gaelic across languages

Chair: Courtney Selvage

Love in Old Gaelic texts

Robbie MacLeod
Oilthigh Ghlaschu (Glasgow)

Love, in all its complexities, is an under-studied concept in medieval Gaelic scholarship. The dismissal of love as a relevant theme by certain twentieth-century scholars of medieval Gaelic tales may have hindered progress in the study of the phenomenon, though more recent scholarship shows a fuller engagement with the emotional worlds of these texts. We are also hindered by the catch-all nature of the English term ‘love’ when dealing with texts in translation.

This paper will examine key words often simply translated as ‘love’. Bringing together observations based primarily on secular prose material in Old and Middle Gaelic, the paper will discuss the nuances that are often lost in translation. Approaching love from the point of view of language is one way to better understand and analyse how love exists in these tales, and will impact upon our understanding of love as a theme of medieval Gaelic literature.

Irish and Scottish Gaelic as presented in Peter Simon Pallas’ Сравнительные Словари

Mark Ó Fionnáin
Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski Jana Pawła II (Lublin)

In the 1780s a multilingual dictionary was published in Saint Petersburg, Russia, under the editorship of the German Peter Simon Pallas (1741–1811). As its title – Сравнительные Словари Всѣхъ Языков и Нарѣчiй ‘A Comparative Dictionary of all Languages and Dialects’ – explains, it was a comparative dictionary containing almost 300 headwords and numbers in Russian and their equivalents in 200 languages and dialects from all over Europe and Asia. Amongst these languages are the Celtic languages, including both Irish and Scottish Gaelic. This dictionary is thus a snapshot of Irish and Scottish Gaelic from the 1780s and the aim of this talk is to give some background to the history of the dictionary itself and to look at the entries for the two Gaelic languages, comparing them and looking at some of the inaccuracies presented but also at the historical value of the words recorded.

Alice in Wonderland in three Irish/Gaelic Languages

Alan Titley

'lice in Wonderland is recognised as one of the great, but unusual, books of world literature. It has been translated into hundreds of languages because of its own intrinsic value as a tale and as a philosophical conundrum. It is a story replete with word play, nonsense, puns and ludic wonder. Consequently, it has presented its translators with challenges unbounded. Maybe quite unusually, it has been translated six times into the Irish/Gaelic languages: twice into Irish, twice into Gaelic, and twice into Manx. What is interesting is the varied manner in which each translator approached his or her work, and how the linguistic difficulties were managed, or at least wrestled with. This paper will look at the broad cultural context in which the works appeared as well as interrogating the minutiae of how exactly or inexactly the translation problems were resolved - or not. 

Alice was first translated into Irish by Pádraig ÓCadhla in 1922, and completely redone by Nicholas Williams in 2003. Brian Stowell's Contoyrtyssen Ealish ayns Cheer ny Yindyssyn appeared in Manx in 2010, although he had published an earlier version some years before; and while Moray Watson's Gaelic Eachdraidh Ealasaid ann an Tír nan Iongantas was only published in 2012, there had been a previous abbreviated version published in Australia. Each of these translations demonstrate a different approach and consequently show up the particularities and limitations of theory when confronted with the actuality of linguistic flexibility in each of our Irish/Gaelic languages.