Celtic influence in English

iffr762 at utxvms.cc.utexas.edu iffr762 at utxvms.cc.utexas.edu
Tue Feb 9 22:00:23 UTC 1999

On Tue, 9 Feb 1999 X99Lynx at aol.com wrote:

>There are some questions on this whole issue that just seem to need to be

>1. Do we have any evidence of how Briton spoke to Saxon in the days of Hengist
>and Ambrosius?

	Not really. Latin was doubtless strongest in the SE, but probably
was not strong (enough) anywhere.  British Latin is noted for being
unusually good, which indicates that people were NOT speaking it.

>Hengist in - "the last of the Romans."  Were the British of the eastern half
>of the island essentially Romans - just as the Gauls of France presumably

	They may well have been, but the distinction is over-drawn.

>2. Were there many Keltic-speaking British left in the southeastern part of
>the island after say 700?  Did the majority of the population just move west
>or go to Brittany?  Charlesmagne is dealing with a rather powerful Brittany by
>the year 800, and a rather large migration is a recorded fact.

	1) Very few, seemingly.  A few are recorded in the Fens around
1000, I think.

	2) NO!  Many people in the SW went to Brittany, but there are
those that deny that the migration was large.

>3. Why is it that Old English is closer in sound to Frisian than to Saxon?  Is
>it possible that the Frisian dialect was somehow an intermediary language
>between British and Saxon?  After the fall of the Empire, the Lowlands would
>have been the closest point of trade and contact with the Continent.  Is it
>possible that southeastern Kelts were already speaking Frisian for purposes of
>commerce and trade for two or three centuries before the Saxons came?

	1) Differences between Saxon and Frisian are not all that great to
begin with.  Saxon was to some extent subject to German
influence, making the it seem more different than it probably
was.  But apparently the Anglo-Saxons just came more from the Frisian

	2) I suppose anything is possible, but that Frisian was the
language (or even a language, apart from mercenaries) of SE Britain in
Roman times surely does not seem probable.

>4.  It took the Holy Roman Empire close to 500 years to conquer and
>Christianize the pagan, Slavic-speaking Wends of eastern Germany.  The records
>show pretty clearly that these speakers were actively assimilated into German
>speech by various measures, including laws that banned "Wendish" speech.
>However the Sorbs of eastern Germany still speak their Slavic tongue today.
>The Wends were Christianized after the invasions, somewhat like the Scots and
>the Irish.  This meant that the native tongue was never really subordinated to
>Latin before Germanic arrived.

>The British on the other hand were Christian before the invasions. Is there
>any possibility that this made Keltic the language of the old religion and
>therefore already disfavored even among the British, even before the

	The sociology of this is interesting.  It seems there was a brief
Celtic pagan revival in Britain as Roman rule collapsed, but that as these
people got involved in mortal conflict with pagans, they soon found it
good to think of themselves as Christians. Once they had Christianity to
set themselves off as Romans (of a sort) it seems they no longer needed
Latin.  One may compare how the Catholic religion in Ireland has ennabled
the Irish to lose their language without merging with the despised
enemies/conquerors.  Thus the effect was probably the opposite of what was
suggested above.

>5. Bede the Anglo-Saxon churchman, says that the reason the British fell was
>God's Will: they had refused to try to convert the German-speaking invaders,
>considering them not worthy of "Romanitas" (the religion equally the culture
>at this point in time.)  Was it British refusal to "interspeak" with the
>English that caused the apparent wall between the two languages?

	The bishops do indeed seem to have been quite rabidly hostile, but
the common people were another matter.  They probably found it advisable
to "interspeak"  to some extent whether they liked it or not.

>6. Finally, what the heck happened in French?  "Elite dominance" there got
>you a Romance language.  What happened to both Gaulish and German?  The
>same question might be asked about Norman-French.  Where is the Keltic
>in those languages?

	Romance was probably not really viable in Britain.  (Nor Gaulish
in France, perhaps.)  Thus in each case the more "high prestige" of the
two viable languages in competition won:  Latin in France and Germanic in

	Norman French was not much learned by the common people of
England, or it would not have died out.  Therefore as far as I can tell no
particular influence is to be expected.


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