Dating of Changes in Germanic and Insular Celtic

JoatSimeon at JoatSimeon at
Fri Jan 29 20:52:42 UTC 1999

tvn at (Theo Vennemann)

>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.

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.)

>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.

In fact, as late as the end of the 1st millenium CE, Old English and Low
German were still mutually comprehensible.  By which time Celtic was _long_
extinct within the vast majority of the area of English speech.

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?

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.

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!

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