Session 4: Ystafell 4
Old Irish and Celtic linguistics

Chair: Bernhard Bauer

Hiatus vowels in Old Irish

Cormac Anderson

Old Irish permits vowels in hiatus, provided that the first of the two vowels is stressed. There is even a class of hiatus verbs, in which vowels in hiatus alternate with long vowels or diphthongs in different forms in the paradigm. Hiatus vowels are also  found in the nominal system, in some cases alternating with short vowels. This paper gives a phonological account of these alternations and proposes a new classification of hiatus verbs in Old Irish.

Until recently, standard accounts of Old Irish phonology have described a consonant system of around forty members, with a two-way 'colour' contrast between palatalised and non-palatalised pervading the entire system. The vowel system, meanwhile, was analysed as consisting of eight short vowels and diphthongs and up to twelve long vowels and diphthongs. However, recent work has revived the earlier postulate of a three-way distinction in consonant colour, which in some accounts is framed in the context of a two-member vertical short vowel system.

Assuming such a vertical vowel system, the alternation between vowels in hiatus and long vowels/diphthongs provides evidence for the phonological structure of the latter. In parallel to other languages with vertical vowel systems, long vowels and diphthongs can be analysed as /V∅/ sequences, in which /∅/ is a consonant specified only for colour. Vowels in hiatus can be seen as /V∅V/ sequences. This allows us to restate alternations between vowels in hiatus and long vowels or diphthongs (or in other cases short vowels) as phonological rather than morphonological.

Cartography and Continental Celtic

Joseph Eska
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

This paper presents the principal findings of a monograph now nearing completion on the syntax of the Continental Celtic languages which is conducted within the parameters of Syntactic Cartography, an approach which provides a direct link between syntactic movement/configuration and the encoding of pragmatic/semantic information.  Among the topics that will be addressed are: (a) the architecture of the left periphery and the vP periphery, i.e., the positions in which different types of topics and foci are encoded; (b) the existence of post-syntactic movement, i.e., movement that takes place within the phonological component of the grammar, and its function; and (c) the fact that Vendryes' Restriction, i.e., the restriction the verb functioning as the host of certain clitics, is apparent, but not real. This approach leads to an understanding of the considerable variation possible in the surface configurations of these languages and, thus, aids in philological analysis.  Some attention will be paid to how the syntactic structures attested in the Continental Celtic languages anticipate subsequent developments in Insular Celtic.

Valency Patterns of Old Irish verbs

Elisa Roma
Università di Pavia - Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici

This paper reports the results of an ongoing project on transitivity and argument structure. It supplies a description of the argument structures of a choice of Old Irish verbs which relies on the framework of the Leipzig Valency Patterns Project (Hartmann, Haspelmath and Taylor 2013). An example of a coding frame for the Old Irish verb ad-gládathar 'to address' is given in (1) below:

(1) ad-gládathar       V.subj[1] > 1-nom [speaker] > 2-acc [addressee]

The frames were extracted from databases (Griffith 2013, Bauer 2015) and all attested frames are taken into account. In order to match preferences among the coding sets of finite and non-finite forms with semantic or syntactic factors such as the degree of transitivity, the frames with finite verbs are compared with those attested with non-finite forms (verbal nouns). An example of coding frames for a non-finite form is given in (2).

(2) accaldam    2-gen [addressee][speaker controlled]; 2-nom [addressee] > do+VN [generic speaker]