The second of the three sessions of our celebratory conference looked at specific kinds of Latin texts from medieval Britain. Entitled ‘British Medieval Latin — sources and genres’, it was chaired by one of our external readers, the eminent philologist Michael Reeve.
The first speaker was Charles Burnett (Warburg Institute), the Dictionary’s consultant for Arabic etymologies, who talked about ‘Arabic in Medieval British Latin scientific writings’, focussing on the self-conscious use of transliterated Arabic in works like the 12th-century British Latin translations of Euclid’s Elements and of al-Khwarizmi’s astronomical tables.
Next up was Paul Brand (Oxford), the Dictionary’s consultant for legal terminology, who has supplied us with many antedatings and other useful quotations from legal sources. Paul’s talk, entitled ‘The Latin of the early English common law’, examined the vocabulary used to record court proceedings that were actually conducted in Anglo-Norman French.
After a coffee break involving a spectacular cake, Andy Orchard (Oxford) introduced us to ‘Anglo-Latin aenigmata and the Anglo-Saxon riddle tradition’, arguing that the reason that Aldhelm’s riddles are so boring is that they were written for educational purposes. Seeing them in this light makes better sense of their structure, and even provides some solutions.
Finally, Paul Russell (Cambridge) explored the two-way relationship between ‘Latin and the vernacular in medieval Wales’, counteracting the tendency for scholars of medieval Welsh and scholars of Welsh medieval Latin to work in isolation. Careful investigation shows that features of each language were imported into texts written in the other.
Full abstracts of these talks can be found on the conference website.