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What possessed me…?

8 May, 2011

… to work with stuff like this? Seriously, 8th C land transactions? What the HELL was I thinking? Every summer, I start to read these, and every summer, I think, “it’s bad enough you decided to be a medievalist. It’s bad enough you decided to be an Early Medievalist. It’s bad enough that you decided to be a dime-a-dozen Carolingianist. But really, did you have to choose to read stuff like this and then get a job where you don’t get a chance to practice your Latin during the year???”

This is why:

In Christi nomine ego itaque ultimus exiguusque dei servorum famulus Matto sed et ego nuncius fidelis Othelm diligenter devotus in elimosinam Iulianae dei famulae et abbatissae pro remedio animae suae ipsa mihi manu potestativa ex iure proprietatis suae in Uuangheimero marcu tradiderat. similiter et ego Matto in supra dicto loco ubi supra dicta Iuliana soror mea totum et integrum s. Bonafacio per manum Othelmes tradiderat ita et ego in villa eadem portione et ex illa quantitate quantum mihi ibidem adjacet proprietatis sicut aliis testibus perpluribus cognitum est ita et ego Matto supra dicto loco in elimosinam meam et fratris mei Megingoz et eorum quibus debitor sum sicut et illa supra dicta Iuliana soror mea per manum supra dicti Othelmes sic trado quicquid ad meam pertinet proprietatem totum et integum sic et ille Othelm nos simul trademus sicut supra dictum est in Wangheimero marcu id est illam ecclesiam et monasteriolum constructum cum illis sanctorum reliquiis et cum omni proprietate id est tam terris silvis campis pratis pascuis aquis aquarumque decursibus aedificiis domibus arialis coloniis qualiter et quomodo heredatum a parentibus et a nobis elaboratum aut exquisitum sit peculiari utriusque sexu [I think] mobilibus et immobilibus quicquid dici aut nominari queat et haec mancipia quorum haec sunt [big-ass list of mancipia]

You know, I have enough trouble making sense of this sort of stuff in current legal English. Now Latin is making me feel dumb.


17 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 May, 2011 3:40 am

    Dime a dozen Carolingianist? Where did that come from?

  2. 8 May, 2011 5:36 am

    There seem to be lots of us!

  3. 8 May, 2011 12:04 pm

    Ah, don't you just love the way the subject of the sentence channges mid-way through in Carolingian charters? Someone might wonder what that said about the Carolingian self.

  4. 8 May, 2011 1:46 pm

    Guy, that's a paper I'll let you write! Actually, I should look (sometime, when I'm bored?) to see if this is normal for this particular scribe/notary. It could be a bad habit of his, not that that makes this more understandable. On the other hand, it does help to know that I am not imagining that that's what I'm seeing! My first impulse, especially when I see something like this at the beginning of the research year (need to change that), is that *I* am simply incompetent. Thank goodness for blogging, because there is always someone to point out that sometimes, it's bad Latin!Thanks for that, GH!

  5. 9 May, 2011 6:40 pm

    I have seen similar shifts of person in charters of Wissembourg Abbey: "In the name of god, *I*, X *and Y*, for the salvation of their (or sometimes just *his*)soul/s, *they* gave … etc." I am sure someone must have spotted this before me, because I am bibliographically incompetent, but rather than it just being bad Latin it might be that analytically, the "ego" (as maybe the mea/etc) fulfils a certain performative or even illocutionary function, and the shift into the third person transforms the act into historical record, as a statement of fact.Or it could just be that it was bad latin…In other news, Meginboz looks like the sort of word they get you to type in when commenting to prove you aren't a spammer.

  6. 10 May, 2011 3:09 am

    I've wondered about that on occasion. Or at least, I've wondered if the scribe has forgotten that he was writing for someone else. In a way, it's an intuitive transitional step between the point where "I" make a donation and the point where the scribe writes '+name of donor in the nominative, who asked for this to be written down.'Alternatively, it could also serve a performative function, or transformational function, in that the movement to the third person creates a distance between the donor and the donation, or perhaps even diminishes the importance of the donor. That works if we assume that the use of the first person implies a greater level of agency than does the first person, which merely reports an act. Or it could just be a forgetful scribe or bad Latin. History would be so much easier if we could prove intent!

  7. 11 May, 2011 9:03 pm

    If it's a tick you can find in more than one cartulary by more than one scribe I'd say that there would be decent odds on it being a more deliberate thing than just bad Latin. (I'm assuming from the dedications that this isn't a Wissembourg charter.)

  8. 15 May, 2011 2:45 am

    Nope — Fulda. Alternatively, one of the nice Toronto Latinists here at the Zoo suggests that even though the traditio begins with 'Ego Matto' the fact that Matto is also making a gift for Iuliana may shift the number. Matto/I = tradido, but Matto/he (the person making the donation for Iuliana) = tradiderat. The Matto/he is closer to the verb, so the scribe goes with the 3rd person. It actually makes sense to me, and I think it's worth seeing if that's what causes the shift in Wissembourg and Fulda (and Lorsch, if the same things happens there).

  9. 15 May, 2011 5:32 pm

    Hmmmm…. I have to say that that doesn't sound entirely convincing to me as an explanation … although it *does* sound like a manifestation of the common medievalist way of avoiding anything that might sound a bit philosophical or theoretical. 😉

  10. 16 May, 2011 2:07 pm

    Funny you should say that… A colleague who I think you know rather better than I do (although I think I see him more since he emigrated) made a characteristically quick-witted joke about the absence of Lacan!

  11. 16 May, 2011 2:09 pm

    Sarky bugger!

  12. 16 May, 2011 9:36 pm

    He's pretty good at that!

  13. 16 May, 2011 10:54 pm

    Sarcasm or buggery?Anyway, in other news, later on I will be interpreting the early charters of Wissembourg Abbey via the Graph of Desire. … Actually that might be possible…

  14. 18 May, 2011 3:47 am

    There are some things about which I'd rather not speculate. And if you *were* to go all Lacan on those charters, you'd probably lose your historian's license! On the other hand, I do want to see you on an Alan Frantzen panel. What are you doing with Wissembourg charters, by the way? I've been told I might need to mine them for my next project, and haven't really had a chance to look at them.

  15. 21 May, 2011 9:52 am

    ADM: Not doing anything with the Wissembourg charters, but I read 'em for my PhD and first book, and had another little look at 'em for an article I published in '06. I think there's loads that the (early) Zizek take on Lacan, especially, can offer historians. Which leads me to say:Jon: Yeah, yeah. But I'm still not convinced. What interests me more than possible, safe technicalities is the use that one makes of the word *ego* in a language which doesn't actually need personal pronouns. I looked at what Isidore says about verbs (though I haven't gone back to the Latin yet), which is very interesting in how he explains the first person. I wonder what (if anything) Hrabanus says in the corresponding part of his work. The switch from ego to the 3rd person isn't necessarily a Lacanian moment (though on reflection it could be worth thinking about via the graph of desire). There's a very good summary and discussion of ways of thinking about the self through the philosophy of language in the first few studies in Paul Ricoeur's _Onesself as Another_.And my word today is insecop, some form of policeman of the self-conscious, perhaps the superego.

  16. 21 May, 2011 2:52 pm

    Okay, G — I'm going to play the cranky old-fashioned philologist-historian here and ask the non-theory questions that underpin yours :-)– Can Latin be said to be any of these people's 'native' language, or even a language in which they feel completely comfortable?– apropos of the above, what was the native language of the scribe, and is he bringing its sensibilities into the Latin?– similarly, what is the native language of the donor(s) and how does that affect the document, if at all — which leads to questions about donor agency that go on beyond our usual definition of "has the legal and social right to be doing this."– Could this use of 'ego' be something more practical? In a case of one person writing on behalf of another, isn't it pretty much necessary to differentiate the writer from the speaker as clearly as possible — especially when large amounts of money are involved?None of which questions entirely negate the theory-based ones you are asking, but certainly offer viable alternatives, or alternative frameworks!

  17. 5 June, 2011 11:27 pm

    I'm less convinced about the value of `ego' here than he of the Edge, I have to say. Firstly because all the other personal pronouns also come into parallel use at the same sort of time, along with indeed words for the definite article; and this happens even in languages like Catalan where the modern language does not use these pronouns except for emphasis, as with Latin. Certainly the modern Catalan-speakers have quite a strong group identity but I don't think I would want to argue that they have a less realised conception of the individual than their neighbours in France! So I would like a more practical explanation, really, because I can't see past the holes in the theory-based framework.There's also the issue that we're talking about formulas based on Roman diplomatic models here, i. e. ones formed by native-speakers of Latin, so whatever the conception of self involved there, it's again, many many generations ancestral to the documents that ADM is actually talking about. So, I stand by ancestor documents again, unmoved as yet by the Lacanian turn 🙂

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