In her PhD thesis Nike Stam MA (Celtic Languages and Culture) analysed bilingualism in texts by medieval Irish scribes. It appears that code-switching in medieval Irish texts may be both a functional communicative device and an unconscious expression of bilingual identity.
PhD thesis defence Nike Stam on medieval Irish bilingualism
The corpus consists of a number of glosses and notes that accompany a ninth-century Martyrology called Félire Óengusso (The Martyrology of Óengus). The thesis can be divided into roughly two parts. The first part deals with the corpus: it provides a diplomatic edition of the bilingual glosses in manuscript Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson B505 and discusses the potential function of the Commentary and its origins. Since it is very difficult to make any definitive statements about the date of composition of the text or the number of individuals that contributed to it, an approach has been chosen that focuses mainly on the bilingual reception and reproduction of the text.
Grammatical and functional analysis
The second part deals with the grammatical and functional analysis of the code-switches found in the Commentary. For the grammatical analysis, Pieter Muysken’s typology of code-switching was used. For the functional analysis, a combination of several theories was used. While nothing particular could be said about the proficiency of the scribes, it did become clear that code-switching patterns in the Commentary seem to have been influenced by the typological distance between Irish and Latin but also by chronological developments and societal norms regarding language use. From the functional analysis, it appears that code-switching in medieval Irish texts may be both a functional communicative device used to structure a text and an unconscious expression of bilingual identity for a like-minded audience.