Dlíthe Luath-Ghaeilge
: Staidéar ar Theanga agus ar Dhátú Gluaiseanna agus Tráchtanna

Translated title of the thesis: Early Irish Laws: A Study of the Language and Dating of Glosses and Commentaries
  • Jody Buckley-Coogan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the language and dating of later medieval Irish legal writing. Three texts are analysed: the ‘Marriage Disputes’ commentary, edited by Fergus Kelly (2014); the glosses and commentaries copied by Scribe 1 of Cáin Lánamna (ed. Charlene Eska, 2010); and the glosses on Gúbretha Caratniad, edited by Rudolph Thurneysen (1925). The crux of the research is to determine to what period of the Irish language the later body of writing in these texts belongs.

In the three of these texts we have later material which is attached to a canonical text in Old Irish (the language of the period c. 600-900 AD), with the entirety being transmitted in a later manuscript of the Middle Irish (c. 900-1200) or Early Modern Irish (c. 1200-1600) period. In each case, a close examination of the later writing reveals a complex and often intractable linguistic landscape, a situation not helped by the fragmented manuscript tradition.

The conclusions on each text therefore allow for a good deal of flexibility when it comes to dating the glosses and commentaries examined. The ‘Marriage Disputes’ commentary could be said to be Middle Irish, but the analysis suffers due to a dearth of solid evidence. The gloss/commentary copied by Scribe 1 in Cáin Lánamna presents more data, and can in my opinion be dated to the Middle Irish period more securely. In both of the foregoing cases, however, there is considerable counter-evidence which could suggest a composition date in the Early Modern Irish period.

The glosses on Gúbretha Caratniad are distinct in that they survive in a manuscript copied within the Middle Irish period itself. I believe they could have been written in the 10th century. In contrast to the later material in ‘Marriage Disputes’ and Cáin Lánamna, here we have the problem of determining whether or not the glosses are a product of the Old Irish period itself.
Date of AwardDec 2020
Original languageOther
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsThe Leverhulme Trust
SupervisorMicheal O Mainnin (Supervisor) & Greg Toner (Supervisor)

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