Saturday, 16 September 2017

Tree, leaf, and a few niggles

Walter S. Judd & Graham A. Judd Flora of Middle-earth Oxford University Press 2017
ISBN 9780190276317

This book is a labour of love. The authors evidently love both plants and the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, which is a great recommendation. Tolkien, of course, loved plants and knew a great deal about them, whereas most of us readers of his works do not, and thereby miss an important part of the richness of his narratives. Hence this book.

There are books that dig into the mythical or linguistic depths of Tolkien, and have the effect of sending you forth from him to discover subjects which, but for him, you would otherwise not know. This is such a book, but in the realm of plants. It should enable anyone whose interest in plants is sparked by their reading of Tolkien to immerse themselves deeply—as deeply as they wish—in the details of plant families, morphology, ecology, or human uses of plants.

Some aspects of the book are slightly eccentric. There are several tangential or incidental items included, such as barley, which happens to be mentioned in the context of beer, but doesn’t really feature in the stories, unlike, say larches. Or apples, which we all know well, and earn a place because Sam happens to chew one. There are numerous speculative articles about plants which aren’t clearly identified (the ones on roots and unnamed hollylike tree are interesting) and those which we know are inventions, such as mallorn, niphredil, seregon, and even the White Tree of Gondor (does this strictly belong to a species?). It’s quite fun that their possible affiliation is speculated on, but perhaps it would have been a good idea to group them into a separate section. There is generally a rather odd grouping of the subjects. No distinction is made between terms actually used by Tolkien, such as linden or nasturtian, and terms inferred from the narrative, such as Cyanobacteria, blue-green bacteria (for the ‘scum’ on the Dead Marshes). Then there are ragbag sections ‘Food plants of Middle-earth’, ‘Hobbit names’ (which are only personal names based on plants), etc. At times one feels that the barrel is being scraped. It might have been better to split the book into word studies covering items actually featuring in the text and an essay, or several essays, dealing with these more amorphous topics.

There is huge botanical erudition in this book. There’s a wealth of artwork, in a style that will appeal to some more than others: not all the scenes depicted correspond accurately to the narratives they pertain to. And there are several maps that I find iffy.

The Tolkien knowledge is all that one would expect from attentive, devoted students of his works. But I’d say that there are gaps in the authors’ acquaintance with Tolkien scholarship, which shows up to their disadvantage. To declare a personal interest in this regard: there are no references to Gilliver, Marshall, and Weiner, The Ring of Words, which is not listed in the book’s bibliography, even though we are fellow OUP authors, and we discuss such plant names as Quickbeam.

I was delighted to find etymologies for all the terms: though of course an etymology of an item inferred from the narrative, like Cyanobacteria, is not really contributing to our understanding of Tolkien in the way that that of Quickbeam does. The etymologies are all derived from sources easily accessible on the web and don’t, on the whole, contribute anything new.

There are more than a respectable book’s fair share of typos, over which I will draw a veil; perhaps they will be corrected in a reprint. My feeling is that this is perhaps not a first-rank work of Tolkien scholarship, but it is an absorbing, informative, and useful handbook.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Pagan Anglo-Saxons, Phonology, and Christian lexis 11

Miscellaneous speculative matters appended to the foregoing posts.

In the preceding ten posts I put forward the following theory:

In southern Britain in the fifth century there was a significant Latin-speaking Christian British population. This is evidenced by pre-550 Latin loanwords in Old English and in particular by Christian terminology. The loanwords are most likely to be due to this population adopting Old English as their first language. This may be why there is also an important group of religious terms coined in Old English rather than borrowed from Latin. And it also explains why there are virtually no British loanwords in Old English.

1. hlaford and hlæfdige

Assuming that these two compounds were formed at the same time, or at least that hlaford is unlikely to be more recent than hlæfdige, we can tell that they must be very old formations within Old English. Hlæfdige shows i-umlaut, which makes it pretty early if this umlaut is to be dated in the first quarter of the 6th century. But to have qualified for umlaut, the word needs to have undergone accelerated sound changes beforehand. Practically no lexical compounds exist in Old English in which a second element containing /i/ has been sufficiently reduced in stress or prominence to cause i-umlaut in the vowel of the first element (Campbell §204 (2)). There are apparently a few proper names and a bunch of grammatical or semi-grammatical adjectives and adverbs in which this has occurred. The nearest parallels to hlæfdige are endlufon (< *aːnliv-, undoubtedly a Germanic compound) and enwintre (< *aːn-wintr-; early enough for /æː/ to be shortened to /æ/) (both share in the raising of /æ/ from i-umlaut before nasals). So in hlæfdige the second element must have been worn down and been brought into direct contact with the root syllable of the first very early indeed. So early is the compound that the second element went out of use before written records began (compare the first element of weofod).

Similarly *hlaf-weard, the putative original compound underlying hlaford, is scarcely recorded, unlike other weard compounds (there is one occurrence, in the Paris Psalter: which may be an etymologizing guess, or even a re-coinage of the compound). It was already in its worn-down form before written records.

What is most likely to have caused this more rapid phonological attrition in both words is, one might surmise, vocative use. The words must have been in frequent everyday use from very early times. They were the everyday words for ‘lord’ and ‘lady’ in contrast to those we find in poetic diction, frea, drihten, and so on.

On the other hand, we know that ‘early’ doesn’t mean West Germanic. There is no trace of these words in the related languages, not even Frisian. So the formations occurred at a time when the OE speech community was no longer in contact with its close Continental relatives, most likely in the early stages of settling in Britain.

If these were the everyday words for the people in authority, what kind of society would have coined them? One where the people in authority were the guardian or master of bread and the kneader or baker of bread. These express agriculture-related rather than military-related roles. They also suggest a society in which raising corn is the key activity rather than herding animals.

One other compound of hlaf may be relevant here: Lammas. OED: ‘The 1st of August (Festum Sancti Petri ad Vincula in the Roman calendar; see also gule n.2), in the early English church observed as a harvest festival, at which loaves of bread were consecrated, made from the first ripe corn.’ There seems to be no connection between this festival and the synchronous Roman church festival of St Peter ad Vincula. No other nation has this festival of the wheat harvest. It seems to spring from a society in which celebrating the harvest of wheat is especially and particularly important.

These speakers of Old English also relegated to relative unimportance the widespread lord and lady terms of the cognate languages: German Herr (OHG herro) has the Old English poetic counterpart hearra; German Frau (OHG vrouwe) has the rare Old English poetic counterpart freo. At some point, dryhten came to great prominence not only as a secular term but also in Christian discourse. I find it tempting to associate this term with the more militaristic societies that arose in the sixth century. Lord and lady, however, were never displaced.

2. Possible substrate influence of the putative late Latin dialect on Primitive Old English.

The loanwords in which Old English has a palatalized (or affricative) consonant are also those in which Romance languages have a palatalized consonant in the same position. No other Germanic language with palatalization has it as early as this (perhaps circa 500 or earlier). Primitive Old English palatalization must be a post-settlement development, since it affects British place names (caito- > /kɛːd/ > ched, chet, etc., Archenfield, the River Churn, etc.). In West Germanic, only Frisian also has palatalization. How palatalization arose in Frisian is unclear to me (given the dating of the insular version, I don’t quite see how the two phenomena can go back to continental Anglo-Frisian). One could assume that palatalization was brought to Frisia by speakers of Primitive Old English returning to the continent, perhaps during the fifth-century settlement lull. But I am not competent to pronounce on any aspect of Frisian.

It seems a reasonable suggestion that palatalization in primitive Old English was a substrate influence from late Latin, carried over by Latin speakers of the south-east when they shifted to speaking primitive Old English in the fifth century, and subsequently spread to dialects of Old English outside the south-east.

This might offer an alternative explanation for the restricted incidence of palatalized consonants in northern and east midland dialects of Middle English. The received theory, by which Old Scandinavian, which lacked palatal consonants, caused Old English palatal consonants to be replaced by velars, seems shaky for several reasons. 

(1) By the time of the Scandinavian settlement (late 9th century) palatalization should have been established in Old English for 200-300 years. One would have expected affrication to have happened, i.e. palatalized /k/ and /g/ to have developed by then into the full affricates /ʧ/ and /ʤ/ and /sk/ at least into /sʧ/, if not into the fricative /∫/. One can envisage slightly palatalized velars being shifted back to fully velar articulation, but not consonants with alveolo-palatal articulation, which are more likely to be identified by non-native speakers with affricates of /s/ and /z/. 

(2) Scandinavian dialects might not yet have developed the palatals that we see in later Scandinavian, but the sequences /kj/, /gj/, and (more to the point) /tj/ and /dj/ existed and could have provided close substitutes for Old English palatal consonants, enabling those who adopted Old English speech to make the transition to the authentic English affricates. 

(3) There seems to be some evidence that words that would be expected to have shown palatalization lack it, even though they also lack Scandinavian parallels that could have ‘influenced’ the process of depalatalization.

On the theory that palatalization in Old English may have arisen from the Latin substrate, an alternative hypothesis about the restriction of palatalization can be advanced.

(1) The primary reason might be the spread of the second wave of immigration from eastern and northern areas. While, as has been suggested above, their hegemony over the whole of England brought about the diffusion of i-mutation throughout Old English, the spread of palatalized consonants, a reverse movement from the established variety of Old English into that of the later comers, may have been more limited: it was not, by this date, a living sound change; it would have been simply a substitution of one sound for another, lexeme by lexeme. 

(2) In the north of Britain there was little or no Latin substrate, and the British substrate would not have favoured the development of palatalized consonants.

If the blocking of palatalization is imagined to have occurred much earlier than the age of contact with Scandinavian settlers, i.e. from the sixth century onwards, it is easier to account for it. At this stage the palatalized consonants in lexical items spreading through Old English might well still have only been at the stage /kj/ and /gj/ (or /c/ and /ɟ/). Replacement of these by unpalatalized velars is quite explicable. The replacement of /kjir(i)kje/ by /kir(i)ke/, reflected by northern Middle English kirk(e) is straightforward.

3. At what stage did Palatal Diphthongization occur?

I suspect that there are sound reasons to question Campbell’s case arguing that palatal diphthongization occurred after consonant palatalization but before i-umlaut. It hangs virtually on the single case of the word cyse (< *ciese, in which it is supposed that æ1 would otherwise have remained unchanged through i-umlaut and been diphthongized to ea rather than ie > y). All other instances of palatal diphthongization can be equally well explained as arising after i-umlaut: e.g. /katil/ > /kjætil/ > (i-umlaut) /kjetil/ > (PD) /kjietel/ cietel is as good as (if not better than) the accepted transmission /katil/ > /kjætil/ > (PD) /kjeatil/ > (i-umlaut) /kjietel/ cietel.

But the case of words like sceað (< *skaiþi-) which require a second dose of palatal diphthongization later than i-umlaut, weighs against the argument from cyse: why not position all the PD at the same, later stage? To explain *ciese we only have to suppose that West Saxon æ1 was, like its equivalent in Anglian, originally narrower than later æ2 (i.e. /ɛː/ as against /æː/) so that following a palatal consonant it diphthongized to /iːe/, but in all other contexts, subsequently, it was lowered and merged with æ2, whereas in Anglian it was raised and merged with /eː/ (or perhaps became the raised vowel with which /eː/ of other origin merged). This does not seem inherently unlikely.

If ciepe from Latin caepa is an early insular loan (i.e. another of those later than the settlement but before i-umlaut) it would also support this argument. With replacement of intervocalic /b/ by Old English /p/, we could assume that insular Latin /kaepa/ or /kεːpa/ > */kjεːba/ > primitive Old English */kjεːpæ/ (with æ1) > */kjiεːpe/ > /kjiːepe/. This assumes that the relevant variety of late Latin kept the reflex of ae as a long vowel and distinct from the reflex of /eː/—for which I have already argued when discussing cerfille; if they had fallen together we would expect Old English */kjiːpe/ *cipe, like side.

In fact, it may be arguable that primitive Old English originally had no long close */eː/; the apparent (West) Germanic /eː/ in the small number of words like hēr, mē, etc., may be explicable in other ways, such as by lengthening of an inherited short /e/. Primitive Old English æ1 may have been the only long front vowel, which would explain how its development could be so variable between West Saxon and Anglian.

4. Failure of i-umlaut.

The form of primitive Old English which had developed among the earlier groups of settlers had no i-umlaut. This must be the case on anybody’s model. If i-umlaut was introduced from the continent by a second wave of settlers, it may not have spread consistently into all dialects. There may have been dialects that escaped it; there are quite likely to have been words and names that escaped it, which survived into literary Old English (and beyond).

There are several Latin loanwords in Old English in which a trailing /i/ or jod which would have been expected to leave a trace as the i-umlaut of the root vowel has not done so, e.g. dinor, solor, ostre, orc; and also the place names Eotol, Reculf. This is not to say that the explanation is necessarily the same in all cases.

Some of the various categories of failure listed by Campbell (§204) are unlikely to be related to this phenomenon. But names of peoples, which would be resistant to change, seem likely candidates: notably Cantware (Campbell §204 (1); his explanation ‘early syncopation’ seems the kind of argument that can be used to explain anything that doesn’t fit) as against Cent which as a place name would have been much more widely used; and Seaxe (Campbell §204 (5)), which seems a significant exponent of this failure as the name of the main people of the south and south-east.

In a future post, if I am spared, I hope to discuss the reasons why the Old English symbol y may have represented something other than a rounded high front vowel. Also perhaps some other important Christian terms in Old English.

Pagan Anglo-Saxons, Phonology, and Christian lexis 10

Pointers to the suggested pattern of settlement underlying the current theory.

Archaeology (I write as a complete non-specialist).

The archaeological evidence for the area of early settlement in the upper Thames valley begins in at least the early fifth century and comes chiefly from the Ock and Thames confluences. There is possible evidence of co-residence between  British and Anglo-Saxons at Queenford Farm, Dorchester. ‘The evidence from Dorchester for co-existence between the first Anglo-Saxon generations and the first post-Roman British ones is quite impressive.’ (Blair 1994: 6) [John Blair Anglo-Saxon Oxfordshire (1994) Chapter i. p. 6.] By the second half of the fifth century the upper Thames was quite thickly settled by people whose culture came ultimately from the coastal plain of Germany and the mouth of the Weser but whose immediate affinities were with settlers in Surrey, Essex, west Kent, and Sussex. (Dickinson 1976 415–17 cited in Blair 1994:8). The Thames was the likely route for these settlers. This in itself does not imply new waves of immigrants, though it might: it could simply point to population expansion. Towards the end of the century the dispersal of peripheral sites (up the Cherwell, Thames, Windrush, and into the Cotswolds) suggests not pioneers sent out by a military commander but either peaceful co-existence or Britons who had adopted Saxon culture (Blair 1994:9).

A more marked change seems to have occurred in the first part of the sixth century. Between 500 and 600 there was great expansion. By this time there were strong Anglian settlements on the other side of the Cotswolds from the upper Thames. During 500–550 there is evidence of much greater trading links and correspondingly more coherent communities. Place name evidence, Blair suggests, points to a more warlike culture. Eventually after 600: ‘The occupants of ‘princely’ tombs must be, in degree if not in kind, a new elite controlling new resources and aware of new horizons, acquiring theire attributes of status through Europe-wide exchange systems’ (Blair 1994:33) ‘In many cultures the appearance of planned, organised and regular structures has marked a key stage in social development; around 600 the English reached that stage.’ (Ibid.)

Härke 2011 [Heinrich Härke, 2011 ‘Anglo-Saxon Immigration and Ethnogenesis’ in Medieval Archaeology 55, 1–28] identifies three types of settlement:

1. The ‘kin group’, exemplified at Berinsfield from the late 5th to early 7th centuries, whereby Germanic immigrants and their descendants lived with native Britons in the same social unit, a large household, but did not intermarry because of a status difference between the immigrants and natives. 

2. The ‘warband’ model, exemplified by materials at Stretton-on-Fosse (Warwickshire) which suggest an influx of group of males who took control of community and married local women (a less frequent model).

3.  The ‘elite transfer’ model, whereby a small group took over a kingdom, which entailed greater native survival (especially found in the north).

He also suggests (p. 16) that acculturation, i.e. the adoption by natives of the material culture of the dominant immigrants, was a gradual process, likely to have started early. There is no 5th-century evidence for it. The materials at Wallingford suggest that it was under way by the 6th century: this was a native enclave that used Saxon dress items in the 6th century but was recognized as ‘Welsh’ in the 7th to 8th centuries.

Some kind of two-phase settlement seems to be archaeologically discernible in East Anglia. Anglo-Saxon settlement is evidenced there early, possibly from the last few years of the fourth century (cremation urn cemeteries outside Caistor by Norwich). Already by 500 there was substantial occupation in the Norwich area, north and west Norfolk, Breckland, and the fenland margins. Then there are new arrivals in the Ipswich area in the early sixth century; there is a theory that they were from Scandinavia; they controlled East Anglia by 550. Rædwald’s reign traditionally began in 590, and he was described as overlord of southern England till 624/5. Rhineland products began to arrive after 600 evidencing North Sea trade.

Dr Caitlin R. Green writes on her website Arthuriana (referenced 22 Feb. 2016):

There is now a significant body of evidence to suggest that the former Late Roman provincial capital of Lincoln retained its centrality into the post-Roman period, becoming the focus of a British polity known as *Lindes. This polity was eventually taken over by the Anglo-Saxon immigrants to this region to become the seventh-century kingdom of Lindissi (a name that derives from *Lindes), but as a British political territory it probably survived right the way through the fifth century and at least some way into the sixth. There is, for example, a remarkable quantity of British high-status metalwork of the fifth and sixth centuries now known from Lincolnshire, and the old Roman forum at Lincoln looks to have been used as the site for a British Christian church during the fifth and sixth centuries. Most importantly, this fifth- to sixth-century British polity appears to have been able to control the Anglo-Saxon immigrants who arrived in its territory, with this control only seeming to break down after the early sixth century.

So, on the one hand, there is evidence of early settlement in most of the areas where later kingdoms emerged: 5th century or earlier in upper Thames valley; early 5th century at Mucking, etc. in Essex; 5th century between the Ouse and Cuckmere in Sussex; 450 in East Anglia around Caistor/Venta Icenorum; 5th century in Lindsey; 450 in Deira in East Yorkshire (as opposed to ?6th century in Bernicia); ?5th century in Mercia in the Trent Valley. On the other hand, the era of organized polities with traditional ruler-names (implying some kind of warrior elite), and the heightened trade contacts on which these would partly depend, seems to begin at the end of the fifth or beginning of the sixth centuries.

Written materials

If we turn to the Old English historical sources, with the possible exception of Kent they all point to the sixth century for the beginnings of a new kind of organized polity. In Wessex, Cerdic (with Celtic name), rules as king of the Gewisse, i.e. probably the upper Thames valley (not Hampshire as in the Chronicle legend legitimizing the later West Saxon heartland), 519–534, seemingly founding a princely dynasty continued by Cynric 534–560, and Ceawlin 560–591. Essex is supposed to emerge as a kingdom under Æscwine or Erkenwine (c527–c587), a semi-legendary settler from ‘Old Saxony’. In Sussex, Ælle (477–514) is supposed by the Chronicle to be king and first Bretwalda; his successor Cissa is only a co-ruler in 491 and king in 514 (d. 567); after which there is a gap till Æthelwealh, floruit c660–c685. In East Anglia there are three shadowy kings Wehha, Wuffa, and Tytila, the latter assigned to the 570s, before the emergence of the great Rædwald (c616–c627). Ælla of Deira appears in 559/560 with just the patronymic Yffing. Ida (547–559) is preceded in Bernicia by the little-known Esa (c500) and Eoppa (c520). Icel, the founder of the Mercian dynasty, led his people, according to tradition,  from Angel to Britain at some point from c515 or c527. He is followed by shadowy figures Cnebba and Cynewald. His great grandson Creoda (c584–c593), may have founded the royal fortress at Tamworth. In Kent, Hengest, Horsa, and Oisc are of course very early, but it is dubious whether they really imply the establishment of a fully fledged kingdom; this may be more securely suggested by their successors Octa 512/516–534/540, Eormenric, and the well-attested Æthelberht I (?560/?565–616/618). Eastern Kent seems in fact the only area that (a) was settled early, (b) had a tradition of early noble, warrior leaders, and (c) was well connected with the continent.

None of this dating is very secure, but if it can be accepted in very general terms it does seem to point to the rise (and in some cases, the arrival) of ‘aristocratic’ warrior elites, and rulers looking to continental models of kingship, in about the second decade of the sixth century. (Is it significant that the early names are all of the form root + -a or –e, and that the conventional two-element names appear only from the mid sixth century onwards?)

Looking at literary sources, the narratives in Beowulf constitute a brief and allusive summary of a number of the semi-legendary histories of the heroic or migration period (call it whichever you like). Scholars have assigned a rough chronological framework to the kings and heroes celebrated in these histories. The time span is roughly from the mid fourth to the early sixth century. Ermanaric, whose death is recorded as 376, and Offa of Angel, also fourth century, come at the beginning of the period, before the Germanic peoples had entered the Roman Empire in force. Hrothulf, the equivalent of Hrolf Kraki, and the contemporary kings of Sweden, come at the end. The fall of Hygelac, almost certainly recorded by several historians including Gregory of Tours as circa 520-530, and quite possibly the associated fall of the Geatish kingdom, come near the end. The more mythical 50-year reign of Beowulf (though he himself was not necessarily completely so) is fitted in to a fictional time slot after that.

Now these stories could not have been encapsulated in song until after the events, obviously; so as a body of legend and heroic song they date at earliest from the early sixth century or perhaps the mid sixth century. They may have been brought to Britain at any time between then and the composition of Beowulf itself, which may have been any time between 700 and 1000. But many of the same stories are reflected in the catalogue-like poem Widsith, which we have no reason to believe has any direct textual connection with Beowulf. It seems more than coincidental that two of the stories given extended mention in Widsith are the prowess of Offa of Angle and the Hrothgar-Hrothulf-Ingeld debacle. We know that the Ingeld story was popular in England from Aldhelm’s Quid Hinieldus cum Christo? And this story, like the downfall of Hygelac, belongs near the end of the chronological period covered by the heroic legends.

So it seems that there was probably a package of stories, culminating in the Dane/Heathobard conflict, forming a native tradition. The ‘warrior’ society which passed the legends down were the people who brought them to Britain. But as the stories could only have come together in the early sixth century they are most likely to have been brought here in or after the early sixth century, rather than by anyone who settled here before about 525.

Chambers’s views support this: ‘We must conclude then that all this Scandinavian tradition probably spread to the Angles whilst they were still in their old continental home, was brought across to England by the settlers in the sixth century, was handed on by English bards from generation to generation, till the poem of Beowulf as we know it was formed in England’ (Chambers 1963:101) [R. W. Chambers, Beowulf, 3rd edn. with Supplement by C. L. Wrenn, Cambridge, 1963, Part I, Chapter iii, p. 101]. And again, ‘It is noteworthy that, whereas there is full knowledge shown in our poem of those events which took place in Scandinavian lands during the whole period from about 450 to 530—the period during which hordes of Angles, Saxons and Jutes were landing in Britain—there is no reference, not even by way of casual allusion, to any continental events which we can date with certainty as subsequent to the arrival of the latest settlers from the continent. Surely this is strong evidence that these tales were brought over by some of the last of the invaders, not carried to England by some casual traveller a century or two later.’ (Chambers 1963: 104) [R. W. Chambers, Beowulf, 3rd edn. with Supplement by C. L. Wrenn, Cambridge, 1963, Part I, Chapter iii, p. 104].

It is notable that the heroic legends of the English people do not concern England. They are all based on the Continent. In other words, the Anglo-Saxons’ heroic age took place on the Continent. Moreover, the centre of that heroic age seems to have been southern Scandinavia, not Germania. Of course they clearly knew about the peoples who settled in Gaul, but the centre of gravity seems to be further north. The oldest legend which seems to be about themselves is the story of the first Offa, centring on the River Eider in Schleswig-Holstein.

The evidence of early settlement is found in existence before 500 in all the areas that were later to become the nucleus or a part of future kingdoms, apart perhaps from (Deira and) Bernicia, but the people who formed these settlements were not the purveyors of heroic legend. Most of the events were only then happening and had not yet been elevated to the status of poetic legend. These settlers were not organized as kingdoms or proto-kingdoms and there is no real reason to think of them as independently organized at all, except perhaps in very local groups in Kent, Sussex, and perhaps the upper Thames valley. They were just settlers. They may have been settled among or in close proximity to British inhabitants, as seems possible at Dorchester from the archaeology, and in places like Deira and Lindsey, judging from the persistence of the British district name.