Project to accurately date Early Irish Texts wins funding

Professor Stifter

Funding of €1.8 million by has been secured from the European Research Council  for a project that will date a large number of 7th–10th century Irish texts.

Professor Stifter, Head of Maynooth University Department of Early Irish, will lead a team of five researchers on the project known as Chronologicon Hibernicum. This will develop and use innovative methodologies and sophisticated software to perform linguistic analysis on a large body of early medieval texts. By looking for subtle changes in the language over the centuries and by applying advanced statistical methods, Prof Stifter will be able to profile language variations in texts of that period.

Detail from the book of Kells (source)
Detail from the book of Kells (source)

The major result will be a ChronHib database, which will serve as the key reference point for the linguistic dating of Irish texts and will then provide a model for other old languages in Europe and beyond. Prof Stifter said researchers around the world will be able to use these new dating methods in a way similar to how tree-rings serve as chronological indicators in archaeology.

According Professor Sifter, “Linguistic dating is about to take a huge leap forward into the technological possibilities of the 21st Century. By developing and utilising unique methodologies that help us to accurately date these fascinating medieval texts and create linguistic profiles of their language, we are linking the past with the present. Given the complexity of Old Irish, the success of this project will represent a new model for the study of other languages that researchers all over the world will want to emulate.

Early Irish scribe (from Topographia Hiberniae by Giraldus Cambrensis)
Early Irish scribe (from Topographia Hiberniae by Giraldus Cambrensis)

Maynooth University President, Prof Philip Nolan, recognised the importance of the award: “This award continues the long tradition of excellent research at the Department of Early Irish at Maynooth University, and I have no doubt that Professor Stifter’s work will significantly advance our understanding of some of the world’s early languages and cultures.”

More info/source

Maynooth University Professor awarded prestigious ERC grant worth €1.8 million/Press Release

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