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Celtic and Latin glossing traditions: uncovering early medieval language contact and knowledge transfer

Funding: EU Horizon Europe ERC CONSOLIDATOR-GRANT grant agreement No 101123203
PI: Bernhard Bauer
Runtime: 01/06/2024 - 31/05/2029

Glosses are fingerprints of the society in which texts were composed, copied, and read. Most importantly, they play a much more significant role than previous research has acknowledged and offer insights about the multilingual and multi-ethnic environment of medieval manuscript and text production the principal texts cannot: they are first-hand testimonies of the close linguistic and cultural connections between Insular Celtic (Old Breton, Old Irish, Old Welsh) and Latin speakers. GLOSSIT researches these contacts combining methods of comparative philology and historical linguistics, digital humanities (handwritten text recognition, network analysis, natural language processing), (cultural) history, and biological computation (applying DNA-sequence alignment methods to glosses).

The main sources are the early medieval glossing traditions on Priscian's encyclopaedic Latin grammar Ars Grammatica and the Venerable Bede's computistical works De Natura Rerum, De Temporum & De Temporum Ratione. The project aims to assess the what?how?, and why? of linguistic contact and knowledge transfer Celtic and Latin glossing. The project will answer the following research questions, to which previous scholarship has only added piecemeal observations:

  • How and to what extent does early medieval glossing play a role in exchanging ideas between centres of learning and scholars?
  • What is being glossed? Are there regional or linguistic differences in glossing strategies? And if so, why?
  • Why do the Celtic-speaking scholars use their vernaculars side by side with Latin? And why is there a substantial number of vernacular glosses in one manuscript and very little in another one?
  • What triggers bilingual glossing?
  • How much Insular Celtic influence can be seen in the language of the Latin glosses? And to what extent is there intra-Celtic linguistic exchange and influence?


Mag. Dr.phil.

Bernhard Bauer

Zentrum für Informationsmodellierung - Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities
Telefon:+43 316 380 - 5793

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