Dating of Changes in Germanic and Insular Celtic

Theo Vennemann tvn at
Wed Feb 3 23:13:12 UTC 1999

>>I was happy to read about those cases of superstratum influence. That is
>>exactly the way I view the Atlanticization of Germanic: Germanic as"broken"

>-- this would be an attractive hypothesis, except that the characteristic
>sound shifts in Proto-Germanic seem to be quite late; no earlier than about
>500-600 BCE.  Prior to that PG would have sounded much more typically IE.

Did anyone mention sound shifts in this connection? Besides, to the extent that
they are prehistoric (and even the Second Consonant Shift is prehistoric), no-
one knows when they occurred.

>So if the changes were due to influence from another language, we'd be left
>with the rather odd notion that the linguistic ancestors of Germanic only
>moved into its historic territory in Scandinavia and northern Germany late in
>the 1st millenium BCE!  Or that the other "Atlantic" language persisted in the
>area for thousands of years after the first IE speakers arrived.

>There's no archaeological discontinuity in northern Europe after the Corded
>Ware/Battle Axe horizon arrives, and no historical record of such an invasion

>And where would it come from?  By 600 BCE, the other branches of IE were
>differentiated.  You can't get proto-Germanic by "broken Baltic", after all.
>(Eg., Balto-Slavic had long since undergone satemization by that date.)

These may all be defensible views. Wish you did not make them sound as if
they were mine. E.g., I assume speakers of  early forms of Germanic to have
lived in Northern Europe since about -4000.

>>Insular Celtic however is different. It is not "broken" but "transformed"

>-- again, we have a chronological problem here.  The earliest Insular Celtic
>recorded (Ogham inscriptions, etc.) is a perfectly standard early, inflected
>IE language -- not much different from Gaulish or Lepontic and structurally
>similar to Latin, Lithuanian or Sanskrit.

>The extremely radical restructuring to the Old Irish stage for Gaelic seems to
>have occurred only after about 200-300 CE.

>Since the Celts must have entered the British Isles a fair spell before that,
>if a substrate is responsible, why did the changes not show up until so late?

>>Having developed on an Insular Celtic substratum,

>-- however the Old English stage -- say as late as the 900's CE -- shows
>virtually no Celtic influence lexically.  A grand total of about 12 loan-
>words, if memory serves me correctly.
> ...
>How was this Insular Celtic influence transmitted across centuries when the
>languages were no longer in close contact?  If the Old English which emerges
>in the 700's CE, when we have written records, is still so close to its West
>Germanic cousins, and if it remains so in 1000 CE, how does the existance of a
>Celtic substratum 500 years earlier carry over into the grammatical
>restructuring of the period 1000-1500 CE?

These are all known questions which have been answered to my satisfaction by
those scholars who have advanced the theory. If you are not satisfied by their
arguments, let us hear where you think they are flawed.

>It seems to me that it would be wiser to attribute the later restructuring of
>English to purely internal forces, or possibly to contact with Scandinavian
>and French, or to a mixture of the two causes.

It may be wiser.

>In this context, it's interesting that Frisian, the closest relative of
>English, underwent some of the same structural changes.  And _it_ certainly
>wasn't in contact with Insular Celtic at any time!

I would be grateful for your material on this comparison.

Theo Vennemann, 3 February 1999
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