Examining linguistic layers in the St. Gall glosses, again

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The St. Gall Priscian glosses present a well-known puzzle for scholars interested in the language and composition of the corpus. While we know that the glosses were copied, closer examination reveals that they were copied from a variety of sources of different ages. That is, some forms are older, while others are younger. Given the compilatory nature of glossing, it is impossible to find sections of text that are more or less archaic. The sections of text would have to be so small that they would consist of individual glosses scattered through the whole corpus. Thus far, no one has been able to suggest any way around this problem.

This paper offers a proposal that may allow us to bypass this issue by creating a profile for every gloss, based on its linguistic and palaeographic ‘signature’. Once the ‘signatures’ are made, they can be compared with one another and grouped via computer algorithm. These grouping of glosses, with some good fortune, may allow us to detect the layers behind the St. Gall glosses, layers which up to now have eluded us.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-160
Number of pages18
JournalNorth American Journal of Celtic Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Old Irish
  • glosses
  • St. Gall
  • orthography
  • historical phonology
  • cluster analysis


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