Linguimericks—Book ७७ SpecGram Vol CLXXXVIII, No 3 Contents Anglo-Saxon Speech Rules—Guthric the Left-Handed Linguist of Lindisfarne

Key Figures in the History of Liturgy #12

From SpecGram Vacant Vaticanational Correspondents, Rowan and Cath O’Leek

Liturgy! The very word breathes Life and Breath into the lives of the faithful as they breathe. Liturgy, however, is not mere words, but words in combinationsyntax,1 as it is known in professional linguistic circles.2 Yet, liturgy reaches beyond even that, for it is a string of words used for praise, prayer and worship as the faithful gather together for corporate acts of worship.

Few figures have had greater influence on the development of liturgy than Eduardo della Vaticano della Compostella de Santa Maria della Santa Fe de Christo Jesu e La Apostolos (fl. c. 657 AD). Eddy Compost,3 as he was known to friends, family, and indeed, God, took a leading role in formalising the linguistic structure of liturgy in the 7th century. Eddy’s two principles were well known.4 Firstly: a unit of liturgy should be minimally composed of a complete proposition, i.e., strings in which at least the predicate and all necessary arguments are lexico-syntactically present. Mere phrases, devoid of a predicate, should be disallowed. Eddy’s motivation for this was to ensure total interpretability of the liturgy for any latecomers5 and anyone who had dozed off. This was known as the ‘principle of the clause’ or in Italian il principio della clausola.

The second principle speaks for itself:6 liturgy should be holy. It should elevate (even if it obfuscates) and enlighten (even if it frightens). This principle was known as the ‘holy principle’ or in Italian il principio santo.

Although subsequent developments in liturgy have deviated from these principles (it is now common to hear single lexical utterances, e.g., ‘Amen’, and/or responses that take some or all of their semantic structure from previous strings, e.g., ‘And also with you’), Eddy’s approach to liturgy remains an important contribution to the field and worthy of sustained scholarly interest. Should the reader wish to learn more, one’s local library, as well as reputable internet sources, are widely available; readers should search using the term most commonly associated with the Compostellan liturgical principles (albeit in a slightly anglicised version): Santa Clause.

1 The etymology of the term ‘syntax’ should be of interest to the faithful: the ‘syn-’ element also appears in the term ‘synoptic gospels’ meaning ‘seen together’. Thus ‘syntax’ means ‘taxed together’ and emerged as a term used in 7th century Sicily when the Church taxed people who spoke too much on the basis of the grammatical complexity of their utterances.

2 It is also known as ‘syntax’ in both amateur and professional linguistic octagons, dodecahedrons and isosceles triangles. However, by linguistic squares, it is known as ‘the combinatorial properties of lexeme or lexeme-like elements’. In normal linguistic spheres, it is simply ‘grammar’. But by grandma, it is known as syntax, which takes us full circle back to the linguistic circles.

3 He was also an allotment plotholder and owner of a large stables.

4 The reader should be aware that some historical evidence suggests that Eddy attended the Holy Cross School for Boys around 635, a school which operated under a joint-leadership model. For reasons that remained unclear, both co-head teachers had to participate in Europe-wide circus tours, one as a juggler-cum-lion tamer, the other as an acrobat-cum-clown. Thus, when we write ‘Eddy’s two principles were well known’ we don’t mean ‘Eddy’s two principals were well known’.

5 Soon after the implementation of this principle (mid-60s of the 7th century), it effectively became superfluous as latecomers to services were imprisoned for two weeks (from c. 666).

6 Not literally of course; that’s why we’re writing on its behalf.

LinguimericksBook ७७
Anglo-Saxon Speech RulesGuthric the Left-Handed Linguist of Lindisfarne
SpecGram Vol CLXXXVIII, No 3 Contents