Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Latin link between Maltese and Welsh

A Latin link between Maltese and Welsh

On a visit to Malta just before Christmas 2013, I came by chance across a sign including the Maltese words “wirja ta' presepju”.  The last word was immediately transparent to me, because of its similarity to the Welsh word preseb, meaning a manger. The Chrismas carol Away in a manger is I orwedd mewn preseb in Welsh.

Both presepju and preseb have a common ancestor in Latin. Both come from Latin praesaepe, literally "enclosure, stall, manger, hive," from prae-  + saepire "to fence".

The crib on the island is a beautiful tradition but not an ancient one.  In fact, it is likely that the first crib known  in Malta goes back to the year 1826, and was probably an import from Sicily.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Latinoid – a still-born International Auxiliary Language from Wales

According to the book " A Welsh Song in Patagonia” (2005), the Welsh Baptist minister William Casnodyn Rhys (1851 – 1941)  “invented an international language on a similar basis as Esperanto”. 

I have now discovered, after much searching, in the archives of the National Library of Austria in Vienna, a modest privately printed leaflet on a project called Latinoid, dated March 1904. It does not receive a mention in Drezen’s fairly comprehensive “Historio de la Mondolingvo” (1931) There is no copy in the Butler Library of the Esperanto Association of Britain (usually good on IALs) and I can find no copy in The National Library of Wales. The copy in Vienna bears the handwritten words” For private circulation only”. 

The author, giving his name only as “W.C.R.” presents his Latinoid as “an adaptation of Latin for Auxiliary International Language especially for the exigencies of commerce and travel”. William Casnodyn Rhys was probably unaware that his project was just one in a long line of versions of Latin which had been published. He was probably unaware of Peano’s Latino sine Flexione, which was first presented in Italy the previous year. There have been a large number of “Artificial Descendants of Latin” as Alan Libert calls them. These included Rosa’s Nov Latin from 1890, Linguum Islianum (named after its creator Fred Isly) published in 1902, Reform-Latein, also from 1902, and Mundelingva, published in the same year as Latinoid.

Rhys argues that “There is no reason why so rich an inheritance as the Latin vocabulary should be consigned to the limbo of the dead. It is extensively understood…” He was writing, of course, at a time when Latin was part of the intellectual equipment of every gentleman.

The following is the text of The Lord’s Prayer in Latinoid as given in the leaflet:
“Pater noster, cui es in coelo, nomen tuus sit sanctificatus, regno tuus le-veniam, volontas tuus sit facitus, tam in coelosit etiam in terra. Da panis noster cuotidianus a nos hodie. Et remitte debitos noster a nos, tam etiam nos-remitteo a debitores noster. Et non induce nos in tentatio, sed libera nos de malo, cuia regno est tuus, et potentia, et gloria, semperiternus. »

When I came across Rhys's work, I had hoped for a Celtic influence, because he was a Welsh speaker, but, alas, I could find none.