Atlantic substrate of Insular Celtic

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal mcv at
Fri Feb 5 17:23:25 UTC 1999

"Mag.Hans-Joachim Alscher" <hans.alscher at> wrote:

>The "Anlautpermutation" (morphological change of the initial consonant) of
>Insular Celtic
>resembles the same feature in "(Western) Atlantic" languages, one of the
>branches of Greenberg4s "Niger-Congo"-languages. The most important languages
>of this family are Ful, Wolof and Serer in Senegal. Hans G. Mukarovsky has
>drawn a picture of possible relations between this family and the Berberic
>and Basque language, see "Mukarovsky, Hans G.: Die Grundlagen des Ful und das
>Mauretanische", Wien, Herder, 1963. Following this hypothesis one must assume
>that "Mauretanic" is the "missing link" substratum to (Insular) Celtic.
>Nevertheless, neither Semitic nor whole Afro-Asiatic (or branches of

nor Basque

>show the characteristic "Anlautpermutation" of Atlantic and
>Insular Celtic, a very rare feature amongst the world4s languages. Therefore
>connections between Atlantic and Insular Celtic should be considered rather
>than Semitic.

Initial mutation is a feature of Fulani (Fula, Fulbe, Fulfulde,
Peul). The following alternations occur:

b  <-> w/g
d  <-> r
g  <-> w/y
dZ <-> y
tS <-> s
p  <-> f
k  <-> h

According to the Encyclopaedia Britanica, "A feature of Fulani
that is shared systematically with some of the other West
Atlantic languages is an "alternation" whereby both the
beginnings and the endings of words go through parallel changes
according to grammatical considerations. This feature is found in
its greatest elaboration only in Fulani; it is represented in
either vestigial or undeveloped form in most of the other West
Atlantic languages."   This does not totally convince me that the
feature is old in West Atlantic.  Initial mutation certainly
isn't old in Insular Celtic (it's completely absent from
Continental Celtic).  The fact that it's absent from Gaulish and
absent from Berber and Basque makes the connection even more

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
mcv at

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