A study of scribal practices in early Irish and Anglo-Saxon manuscripts
This thesis describes and accounts for certain innovative scribal practices in Irish and Anglo-Saxon manuscripts of the seventh to ninth centuries, seeing these as both graphic and linguistic phenomena. Part One deals with the linguistic context in which the scribes were working, examining the general role of grammar during the period and those aspects of grammatical teaching which would most concern the scribe. The presence of Latin as a non-vernacular Church language in Ireland and Anglo- Saxon England resulted in a dependence on and enthusiasm for the study of Latin grammar, and innovations in scribal practice must be seen in the context of this special linguistic environment. Irish grammarians understood their own language in terms of syntactic groups rather than distinct parts of speech: this and other differences between Irish and Latin may have encouraged the practices of separation (and abbreviation) in the copying of Latin, as a means of making the latter easier to read. The traditional teaching of the Latin grammarians on the eight parts of speech was especially popular with Insular grammarians, and this analysis underlies the practice of word separation, but a lack of explicit teaching on word boundaries accounts for the characteristic 'errors' of Insular separation. Part Two examines the practices of word separation and abbreviation as displayed in early Insular manuscripts. The physical and the linguistic aspects of word separation are considered, and the early development of the practice is described. Standard patterns of separation are seen to reflect Latin morphological teaching. The practice of heavy abbreviation, although modified by various non-linguistic factors such as type of script or the intended function of a book, is basically an orthographical convention which, like the adoption of word separation, brings into the alphabetic system an ideogrammatic element which is symptomatic of a tendency to view Latin primarily as a graphical means of communication.