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Free Content Old Irish Co n-accae in fer and Functional Grammar

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Among Celticists it is well known that suddenly encountered new characters in a story/sagatext in Old Irish can be introduced using the definite article, as in: Ba dorchae ind adaig. [...]. Co n-accae ara chind in fer, 7 leth a chind fair [...]. 'Dark was the night. He sees a man before him, and half his head on him.' (LU 4932). Thurneysen explains the usage as denoting a participant already known to the storyteller, but not to the listener/reader (c. f. GOI § 470). This is rather unsatisfactory as it is too general and this state of affairs could be said to hold for all the items of a story told. Cross-linguistically this use of the article is unusual as the article is normally only used for known entities. Thus in the grammatical framework of Functional Grammar, the definite article is defined as being used for nouns with continued reference in narrative; it therefore can be referred to as a 'topicality marker' (c. f. Givón 1995: 379ff.). In this paper the usage of the article in Old Irish with newly introduced nouns will be examined. We will first deal with how the Old Irish article is traditionally analysed. Secondly Functional Grammar approaches to definiteness will be examined in different languages. Finally we will evaluate how Old Irish can be seen in this context. It will be argued that in(d) serves as a cataphoric deictic element used as an attention marker.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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  • The Journal of Celtic Linguistics publishes articles and reviews on all aspects of the linguistics of the Celtic languages, modern, medieval and ancient, with particular emphasis on synchronic studies, while not excluding diachronic and comparative-historical work. This journal is of great interest to students of languages and Celtic studies, as well as members of the general public interested in the linguistic progression within Celtic languages and linguistic history. The editor is Lecturer in the Welsh Department at Aberystwyth University, and is supported by an editorial board including representatives from Oxford and Cambridge universities, and from universities across Europe and North America. Papers are invited in English, French or German on all fields/‘levels’ of analysis; phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics; formal or functional, cross-language typological or language-internal, dialectological or sociolinguistic, any theoretical paradigm.

    Mae’r Journal of Celtic Linguistics yn cynnwys erthyglau ac adolygiadau ar bob agwedd ar ieithoedd Celtaidd - modern, canoloesol a hynafol - gyda phwyslais arbennig ar astudiaethau syncronig, a heb eithrio gwaith diacronig a hanesyddol-gymharol. Y mae’r cyfnodolyn hwn yn ddefnyddiol i fyfyrwyr sydd yn astudio ieithoedd ac astudiaethau Celtaidd, yn ogystal â darllenwyr sy’n ymddiddori yn hanes datblygiadau’r ieithoedd Celtaidd. Mae’r golygydd yn Ddarlithydd yn Adran y Gymraeg, Prifysgol Aberystwyth, ac yn cydweithio â’r bwrdd golygyddol sydd â chynrychiolaeth o brifysgolion Rhydychen, Caergrawnt, ac o brifysgolion ledled Ewrop a Gogledd America.

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