Thursday, June 29, 2017

Basic Concepts in Gaelic Naming

Gaelic naming incorporates concepts unfamiliar to most American English speakers -- that's why many find Gaelic naming so confusing.  This post is part of my larger set of class notes on Gaelic naming practices.  Its purpose is to familiarize people with language concepts not found in English, but which need to be understood to construct a Gaelic name correctly.

This post is not intended to explain all of the various forms of name construction in Gaelic.  An excellent article already exists that explains the most common constructions:  "Quick and Easy Gaelic Names" by Sharon Krossa (SCA: Effric Neyn Ken3ocht Mcherrald).

Nominative and Genitive Forms:  Gaelic is one of the languages in which the spelling of a name changes depending on how it is used in a sentence or in a name.  The difference between nominative and genitive forms isn't just a spelling variant.  It changes the role and meaning of the name.

The nominative form is the base form of the name.  It is the only form that can be used as a given name in SCA naming.  In a sentence such as "Hextilda built a castle," Hextilda is the nominative form of the given name.

The genitive form is the possessive form of the name.  In English, the genitive is formed by adding 's to a person's name:  John's or Alice's.

Why does the genitive form matter for Gaelic naming?  Because mac does not actually mean “son of” – it merely means “son.”  To make a byname that means “son of [father’s name],” the father’s name must be in the possessive or genitive case.   For example, a byname meaning "the son of Donn" is mac Duinn, using the genitive form of Donn.

The genitive form is required whenever another person's name -- whether clan ancestor, father or mother -- is part of your byname.

Lenition:  As explained by Effric Neyn Ken3ocht Mcherrald in her invaluable "Quick and Easy Gaelic Names" article, "[g]rammatical lenition involves a "softening" of the initial consonant sounds of words in certain grammatical situations. This pronunciation change in Gaelic is sometimes indicated by a changed spelling as well.”

Lenition is an issue primarily in female names, but sometimes in Clan bynames as well.  Usually, lenition requires adding an “h” after the initial consonant.  For example, in the byname inghean Bhriain, Bhriain is the lenited genitive form of Brian.  In the byname Caitilín MhórMhór is the lenited form of the descriptive adjective byname Mór.

For more guidance on when and how to lenite a name, refer to Effric’s “Quick and Easy Gaelic Names” and also to her article on “The Spelling of Lenited Consonants in Gaelic.”

Lenition is where many SCA heralds and submitters trip up in spelling a name submission.  Interestingly, as more and more data become available, we are finding that the Irish did not get lenition right or consistent all the time either.

Gender Matters:  The gender of the given name matters when constructing a Gaelic name because relationship bynames are literal.  Women cannot use the marker mac, which literally means “son.”  Nor can they use the marker Ó in a Clan surname.   Instead, women have gendered markers for their bynames.

          Male = mac "son"                  
          Female = ingen (pre-1200) / inghean (post-1200) "daughter"

          Male =  Ua (pre-1200) / Ó (post-1200) "member of the clan of"
          Female = ingen Uí  (pre-1200) / inghean   (post-1200)  "member of the clan of"

There is at least one sort of Gaelic byname available to women but not to men.  The marker ben (pre-1200) or bean (post-1200) + the genitive form of the husband's name means "wife of [husband's name]."  We don't have any evidence of a man being identified as the husband of a woman.

Pre-1200 vs. Post-1200 Spellings:  For complicated reasons, Gaelic spelling conventions changed substantially around approximately 1200 C.E.  For SCA purposes, Gaelic prior to 1200 C.E. and Gaelic after 1200 C.E. are considered two different languages.

When creating a Gaelic name, for good re-creation, you should try to make sure that all elements of the name are in the same form of Gaelic.  However, pre-1200 and post-1200 spellings generally can be combined as long as there are less than 500 years between the name elements.

What a submitter cannot do is combine pre-1200 and post-1200 spellings in the same name phrase.  A "name phrase" in Gaelic consists of a marker such as mac or Ó and a person's name (father or clan ancestor).  The following are examples of Gaelic name phrases:

           mac Briain = son of Brian
           inghean Ardáin = daughter of Ardán

           BUT NOT inghean Áeda  = pre-1200 marker with post-1200 father's name

If there is any doubt as to whether the spelling is pre-1200 or post-1200, be sure to advise the submitter to consent to ALL changes.   Many times, a Gaelic name is returned because we are not permitted to make the simple change from the incorrect inghean Áeda to the correct ingen Áeda.

To Gaelic or Not to Gaelic

In the immortal words of Seosamh an Crúca Ó Máille, "Friends don't let friends pick Gaelic names."

All kidding aside, there is a lot of confusion both about Gaelic and about the several other languages spoken in medieval Ireland and Scotland.  This confusion is compounded by fantasy novels and "Celtic" websites, most of which are written by people who aren't specialists in naming.

This post is part of my larger class notes on Irish and Scottish naming.  It is intended to help a person looking for a name (or a consulting herald working with that person) choose the right kind of name for the right place and time.

Did your persona speak Gaelic?  Not everyone in Ireland or Scotland did.

  • Gaelic was the majority language only in Ireland; in Scotland it was spoken by a minority.
  • Gaelic was not the only language spoken in Ireland.  After the first Norman invasion in the late 12th century, you also find Anglo-Norman names entering the naming pool.  Also, when the Norman and later English invaders starting trying to write down Gaelic, a distinct language called “Anglicized Irish” came into being.
  • In Scotland, very few people spoke Gaelic and we have very few written records in Gaelic.  A Scottish person is more likely to speak Scots and/or English.  Scots is a language distinct from, but related to English.  During period it was spoken in the lowlands of Scotland and major Scottish cities.  Official records began being kept in Scots rather than Latin after about 1400.
  • Some Scots also spoke forms of Norse, particularly in the Orkney and Shetland Islands. 

If you’re Irish, are you native or from an Anglo-Norman family that has been living in Ireland since the invasion?

  • Irish names like Fitzgerald or Butler aren’t Gaelic.  Those are Anglo-Norman family names borne by invaders who settled and stayed.
  • The Anglo-Norman families in Ireland had a distinct culture that wasn't Gaelic but also wasn't English.  
  • Irish Anglo-Normans used given names that looked more or less like English given names.  Anglo-Norman families did not use Gaelic given names.
  • However, some Anglo-Norman names, such as William (Uilliam) and Alice (Ailis), were adapted into Gaelic.  

How do you decide between Ireland and Scotland?

  • If you want a name that starts with O’ like O’Toole, you can only be Irish.  That construction did not exist in Scotland.
  • By the way, O'Toole is the Anglicized Irish form; the Gaelic (male) form was Ua Tuathail (pre-1200) or Ó Tuathail (post-1200).[1]
  • Because we have very few good Gaelic records in Scotland, for SCA purposes we generally assume that Gaelic given names that existed in Ireland were also used in Scotland.

How do you decide between Gaelic and Anglicized Irish?  Does it matter for your persona?

  • Even if your persona was an Irish Gael, there’s a good chance that your name was recorded (effectively phonetically) in Anglicized Irish after about the 14th century.
  • Anglicized Irish is vastly easier for modern English-speaking eyes and ears to understand.  For example, consider two forms of the same name: 

                       Connor mac Machan O Devany = Anglicized Irish

                       Conchobhar mac Mathghamhna  Dhubhánaigh = Gaelic

  • If you want your name to be pronounced correctly by someone who hasn't studied Gaelic, you want your name in Anglicized Irish.
  • However, if you want a persona who lived prior to the 12th century invasions, your only option is Gaelic.

What about Scotland, then?

  • In Scotland, it is far more likely that your name will be in Scots than Gaelic.
  • While we don't have a lot of evidence in Gaelic for Scotland, we do have renderings of Gaelic names in both Scots and Latin (just not very many of them).
  • Just because a Scottish name starts with Mac- doesn't mean that it is in Gaelic.  It could be either: (1) a Scots rendering of a Gaelic patronymic or (2) a formerly Gaelic patronymic that has now become an inherited surname.  Mac- style surnames became inherited surnames (rather than literal patronymics) as Gaelic speakers settled in cities and the Scots-speaking lowlands.
  • For example, my surname Mackyntoich is based on the Gaelic mac an toisich or "son of the chieftan."  However,  I'm not anyone's son.  Instead, Alys Mackyntoich is likely the daughter of a family that is descended from a son of a chieftan.  As her family moved into one of the bigger cities, like Inverness, the byname ceased to be literal and became an inherited surname.

What about the women?

  • In Gaelic, patronymics are literal.  In other words, Niall mac Briain is literally the son of Brian.  A woman can't be someone's son.  For "daughter," Gaelic uses the marker ingen (pre-1200) or inghean (post-1200).  Thus, Niall's sister Sorcha can't be mac Briain, she has to be inghean Bhriain.[2]
  • Likewise, a Gaelic man can use a Clan byname marked with  Ó (that's an acute accent, not an apostrophe).  A woman cannot.  Because of the wonderfully weird rules of Gaelic grammar and name construction, a man can be Donnchadh Ó Conchobhair, but a woman from the same Clan has to be Dearbhorgaill inghean Uí Chonchobhair.  
    (This is post-1200 construction.  In pre-1200 construction, the man's marker is Ua and the women's marker is ingen Uí.  Because Gaelic).
  • In the SCA, we often have women who want to have Mac- or O- style bynames.  This is possible BUT NOT IN GAELIC.   The woman has to use a Scots (Mackyntoich) or Anglicized Irish (O Brady) byname instead.
  • Yes, the SCA's rules permit you to combine Gaelic elements and Scots or Anglicized Irish elements together in certain ways.  But Gaelic-Scots or Gaelic-Anglicized combos are inelegant and poor re-creation.  That being said, it's your name not mine, and if Fionnghuala O Cassidy feels right to you, have at.  

    (FYI, the wholly Anglicized Irish form would be Finola O Cassidy; the wholly Gaelic form would be Fionnghuala inghean Uí Chaiside)

"But I found it on the Internet!"

  • The Internet is the Land Of Bad Gaelic[tm].  Here are a few helpful research hints.
  • If the spelling is the one your grandparent used when s/he came over from the Old Country, it's almost definitely Anglicized Irish, not Gaelic.
  • Names of Gaelic saints may be registerable; names of figures from Irish legend, like Cu Chulainn or Émer are not.
  • Baby naming websites, "clan history" websites and Behind the Name are generally not reliable.
  • Amateur-prepared genealogies are not necessarily reliable, but they may help an experienced herald to find a reliable source with the same information.

[1]  For reasons we are not getting into right now, Gaelic spelling had a major shift around 1200 C.E.  As a result, pre-1200 and post-1200 Gaelic words are spelled quite differently.  This matters for SCA naming.  

[2]  That extra h is because of a concept in Gaelic grammar called "lenition."  But that's a story for another time.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Scots Text for a Tyger's Cub

+Leonete D'Angely   asked me to do a Scots text for Erin inghean Chonchobhair, who was to receive a Tyger's Cub, the East's children's award.   Well, Scots didn't really have a word for "cub" so it became the Order of the Tyger's Whelp (Ordoure of the Tigirs Quhelp) instead.   I hope Erin liked it -- I missed it going out amid all the other things going on today.

Ioannes & Ro Honig, Kyng & Qwene of the Est, sende greatings to all who will sey thaise oure present letteris.  The memorie of men is fleiting but the wryttin word lyves; thws, to cutt off anie mesure of ambiguitie, dedis shuldbe prooved by the wytnes of letterys.  Lett the present age as well as all generatiounis to cume kenyt that Erin inghean Chonchobhair hasse servit the Realme faithably & leyly, sustayning the deffens of the bordwrys witht bow & arrowes.  In commendatioun thairoff, We do now indew & indote the seid Erin witht the Ordoure of the Tigirs Quhelp, to hald & possess the same perpetualie, witht all rychtis, indewments, frawnchyses & priveleges appertinent thairvnto.  In oure wisedom, We haif ordainit this document to be wryttin as testimoniall euidence & cawshion, strenthned by the force of oure signatouris, & declamyt alowd in oure Court in Carillion upoun 10 Joune in the fiftie-secund yere of the Societie.

Matteo's Silver Rapier Text

Ioannes the King and Ro Honig the Queen, to all and sundry our subjects to whose knowledge these our letters shall come, greeting. Forasmuch as we will and wish the wealth, profit and quietness of the realm to continue with us and our posterity, nothing earthly is more joyous and happy to us than to see men expending their strength in defense of our realm.  Our good and worthy liegeman Matteo Cole Amici has labored these ten years under harsh and despitous tutelage in the study of swordsmanship, and has faced grimful foes upon the battlefield in our name.  As these deeds are pleasing in our sight, we do hereby invest and endow the said Matteo with the Order of the Silver Rapier to have and to hold fully, freely and peaceably.  That this our charter may take more solemn effect, and that none pretend ignorance thereof, we have caused our words to be committed to paper and be published at all places needful. Subscribed with our hand, upon 10 June in the fifty-second year of the Society.

Lorenzo's OGR Text

Lorenzo's persona is that of an Italian man living in England in the 1590s.  So, with one of my favorite co-conspirators, we created a scroll appropriate for the era.  On my end, that meant spelling appropriate for 1590s English legal documents.

Ioannes and Ro Honig, soverein lord and ladye of the East, with advyce and consent of the estates of parliament presentely convened, considering the princelie dewty which binds us in exampell of our most noble progenitours to imparte to our most loving subiects such honours and dignityes as their meritts and virtuous actes in great servyces and the common good iustly require, to the end that throu their exampell the nobell hearts of our people may be nourished and made whole; and considering the excellense of our subiect Lorenzo Gorla, which has been made knowen to vs by testimonye of persons of good repute; and vnderstanding the continual perseueranse of the said Lorenzos earnestnesse and zeal in the matters of the rapiere; therfoure, we now decree and declare that the sayd Lorenzo be invested with the Ordere of the Golden Rapiere, with all rights, freedoms and priuileges appertayning theretoe, as freely and in the same manner as anye other membre of the Ordere aforenamed.  So done and caused to be done vpon 10 Iune in the fifty-secound year of the Society.