Sunday, December 11, 2005

Open Source Epigraphy

When not fixing the central heating, fixing the broken internet connection, walking for miles around the streets and parks of West London or venturing to the Land of the Kids to bring you back rare and exquisite musical gems, this weekend I have been mainly studying the Pictish Ogham inscriptions.

For anyone who's following this, I now have a super Excel spreadsheet with the inscriptions listed in geographical order from north to south, which fairly rapidly revealed the following facts:

1. The majority of inscriptions come from the far North of Scotland, mainly Shetland, Orkney and Caithness.

2. The inscriptions from this northern part of the country are by far the most intelligible, having a reasonable spread of consonants and vowels.

3. This part of the country also features a number of similar inscriptions, of a similar date, in Norse runes (which *can* be fairly easily read). This being because the Vikings had a fairly strong presence in the far North of Scotland in the late Dark Ages, you see.

4. This led me to conclude that perhaps these Northern inscriptions are actually written in a language that is more like Old Norse than any mythical lost Pictish language.

5. It then turned out that a chap by the name of Richard Cox had come to this conclusion six years ago (but pfff, that's like the blink of an eye in Pictish study terms).

6. However, this same Richard Cox concluded from this that because these northern inscriptions are written in Old Norse, this must mean that *all* Pictish Ogham inscriptions are written in Old Norse (or a patois thereof), and that there was perhaps no lost Pictish language at all.

7. But I reckon this is rubbish. The inscriptions from the other areas of Scotland (mainly Grampian and Fife) are almost completely unintelligible, and some have no vowels at all. They just feel completely different.

8. Therefore, my hypothesis is that these other inscriptions *are* written in a language that might conceivably be the lost Pictish language.

Umm, if anyone wants to receive a copy of my spreadsheet and join me in the Not-Geeky-At-All-Honest Open Source Pictish Epigraphy project, then just say the word.

9 comments:

GreatSheElephant said...

me please

nibus said...

Yes, and me. Are all these inscriptions unique?

patroclus said...

You mean do they all say different things? More or less, although the same words/combinations of letters occur on different ones. And two are exactly the same (both say eddarrnonn).

Tabby Rabbit said...

Ffantasteg. Me please.

belladona said...

Sign me up

patroclus said...

Spreadsheet should be with all of you now - updates to follow (oo, there's no backing out now...!)

Kyahgirl said...

According to the short abstract at the link, it seems that the illustrious Dr. Cox believes he's put the whole question to rest. Obviously, he needs to come and read your blog.

patroclus said...

Bring him on! I *do* like getting into fights with professors.

Michael Lothian said...

Is there not a list of pictish king names............. which clearly reveal the language/word forms of the pictish tongue???

how then can sweeping statements of viking connections be made?

One side of my family is originally from Wick _ Caithness, the english word Wick is derived from the viking word VIK, meaning bay.... the vikings cared not for anything cultural other then thier own, but took what was materially useful, people, things and natural resources........ whilst settlements where made, they were only held whilst they proved useful......... i believe gaelic bares closer resemblence to pictish then other languages, though both peoples did not entirely understand each other i am led to believe??? So Picts predate gaelic migration from (spain).... most of this is me thinking out loud here - hehehehe,
what would be helpful in mapping language would be DNA mapping, i think?.... such has been done to determine european, anglo & celtic dna to show migratory routes... though has any been done to examine unrecognized blood groups in scottish people,these hypothetical unregonized groups may be pictish DNA remnants & thus place context to viking or oter influence in language?? a long bow to stretch but potentially interesting???

or i just don't know what i am talking about?? heheheh