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Welsh History Review


Vol. 11, nos. 1-4 1982-83

Latin and the vernacular languages in early medieval Britain : Book review.

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to account for the form of the borrowings from Latin into British.
Gratwick will have none of it. He reduces Jackson's arguments to two
substantial ones. One, that concerning the 'bv confusion', was (he shows
convincingly) based on unsound conclusions of classical philologists. The
second, crucial in that the whole borrowed vocabulary is involved,
asserted that the British borrowings were taken from a Latin in which the
Classical quantity system survived. Gratwick finds that in most cases the
British forms are equally compatible with a borrowing from Classical
Latin and with a late borrowing. Moreover, he holds Jackson's argument
to be vitiated by our uncertainty about the date of borrowings and by a
failure to allow the possibility of loans earlier than the time of Agricola
(Gratwick suggests that some might even be B.C.); he points out the
tendency of loans to fossilize traits of the original language.
Dr. Gratwick is a Latinist without claims to being a Celtic scholar.
His style is breezy, some will say gratuitously polemical. Jackson's view
has never really been called into question. Into the Celtic saloon bar
swaggers an aggressive stranger and many eyes will be on what happens
Dr. Wendy Davies contributes 'Clerics as rulers: some implications of
the terminology of ecclesiastical authority in early medieval Ireland'.
She looks at the Irish sources of the sixth-eighth centuries and, making
all allowance for echoes of scriptural analogy, finds indications that
clerics indeed assumed temporal powers cognate with those of kings, that
the Church aimed 'to create an alternative society', even that 'some
Irish clerics took the biblical notion of the kingdom of heaven literally'.
That royal and ecclesiastical powers often merged, she makes quite clear.
At times she presses too hard; note 68 covers a retreat from some forward
positions. Dr. Davies notes that there are instances in Welsh ecclesiastical
contexts of the Irish use of princeps. This is her only explicit reference
to the British Church. The editor gallantly explains in his preface what
her article about early medieval Ireland is doing in his book about early
medieval Britain. There was of course much in common.
Dr. Michael Lapidge and Dr. R. I. Page both write about 'The study
of Latin texts in late Anglo-Saxon England', Lapidge on the evidence of
Latin glosses, Page on that of Anglo-Saxon. Lapidge examines select
passages from Latin poets who are well represented in surviving English
manuscripts of the tenth and eleventh centuries. His main conclusion is a
simple one: that most of the Latin glosses are not ad hoc notes made in
Anglo-Saxon school rooms; rather, they are part of a scholarly apparatus
transmitted with the text. In so far as their origin can be determined, it is
Continental. In two cases Dr. Lapidge is able to show derivation from
Carolingian commentaries.
One of the most important manuscripts discussed by Lapidge, in that it
contains several strata of glosses, is Cambridge U.L. Ff. 4.42, the Juvencus
manuscript famous in Wales because of the early englynion in its margins.
He urges a detailed study of 'this rich source of information about Welsh
and Anglo-Saxon scholarly method'. Welsh scholarship is indeed badly
deprived in having no published corpus of the vernacular glosses, let alone
the Latin glosses in Welsh manuscripts. Dr. Page's paper will be germane
to any such project. It is in effect a plea for a more sympathetic method
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