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Dec 23, 2013 · This text provides a single-volume, single-author general introduction to the Celtic languages. The first half of the book considers the historical background of the language group as a whole. There follows a discussion of the two main sub-groups of Celtic, Goidelic (comprising Irish, Scottish, Gaelic and Manx) and Brittonic (Welsh, Cornish and ...
- Paul Russell
The Celtic languages (/ ˈ k ɛ l t ɪ k / KEL-tik) are a group of related languages descended from Proto-Celtic. They form a branch of the Indo-European language family.  The term "Celtic" was first used to describe this language group by Edward Lhuyd in 1707,  following Paul-Yves Pezron , who made the explicit link between the Celts ...
- 50= (phylozone)
The first part of the volume is concerned with the historical background language family and the characteristic features of the two branches of and Brittonic, and provides surveys of one modern representative from each. focuses on the place of Celtic within the IE phylum and briefly discusses.
- Continental Celtic
- Insular Celtic
- Common Celtic
Celtic languages, branch of the Indo-European language family, spoken throughout much of Western Europe in Roman and pre-Roman times and currently known chiefly in the British Isles and in the Brittany peninsula of northwestern France. On both geographic and chronological grounds, the languages fall into two divisions, usually known as Continental ...
Continental Celtic is the generic name for the languages spoken by the people known to classical writers as Keltoi and Galatae; at various times during a period of roughly 1,000 years (approximately 500 bc–ad 500), they occupied an area that stretched from Gaul to Iberia in the south and Galatia in the east. The great bulk of evidence for Continent...
Insular Celtic refers to the Celtic languages of the British Isles, together with Breton (spoken in Brittany, France). As the name Breton implies, it is an importation from Britain and is not a Continental Celtic dialect. Although there is some scanty evidence from classical sources—mainly place-names—and a small body of inscriptions in the Latin and ogham alphabets from the end of the 4th to the 8th century ad, the main sources of information on the early stages of these languages are manuscripts written from the 7th century onward in Irish and somewhat later in the British languages.
The Insular languages fall into two groups—Irish and British. Irish (often called Goidelic, from Old Irish Goídel “Irishman,” or Gaelic, from Gael, the modern form of the same word) was the only language spoken in Ireland in the 5th century, the time when historical knowledge of that island begins. The two other members of this group, Scottish Gaelic and Manx, arose from Irish colonizations that began about that time. There were also important Irish-speaking colonies in Wales, but no trace of their language survives apart from a few inscriptions.
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The reconstruction of Common Celtic (or Proto-Celtic)—the parent language that yielded the various tongues of Continental Celtic and Insular Celtic—is of necessity very tentative. Whereas Continental Celtic offers plenty of evidence for phonology (the sound system), its records are too scanty to help much with the grammar (morphology or syntax), for which the best available evidence is Old Irish, the most archaic of the Insular languages. The records provide a picture of a language of the same type as Latin or Common Germanic; that is, one that still maintains a considerable part of the structure of the ancestral Indo-European language and has not lost final or medial syllables. Its vowel system differs only slightly from that reconstructed for Indo-European by the French linguist Antoine Meillet. Differences include the occurrence of Celtic *ī for Indo-European *ē (e.g., Gaulish rix and Irish rí, “king”; compare Latin rex) and *ā in place of *ō. (An asterisk [*] before a letter or word indicates that the sound or word is not attested but is a hypothetical, reconstructed form.)
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The consonantal system, too, is conservative, although there are some striking features. Among them are the loss of *p (e.g., Irish athair “father”; cf. Latin pater) and the falling together of the aspirated and unaspirated voiced stops assumed for Indo-European. (A stop is a consonant made with complete momentary stoppage of the breath stream some place in the vocal tract; voiced stops are those produced with the vocal cords vibrating, such as b, d, g. An aspirated sound is accompanied by a puff of breath, often written as an h, as in bh, dh, gh; an unaspirated consonant lacks this accompanying puff of breath.) Thus, Old Irish dán “what is given” corresponds to Latin donum “gift” (from Indo-European *d), but Old Irish de-naid “sucks” corresponds to Latin fe- in fe-mina, fe-llare (from Indo-European *dh). This loss of distinctive aspiration occurs with three out of the four voiced stops, a situation close to that of Slavic.
Other considerations, however, show that Celtic belongs to the so-called southern group of the European branch of Indo-European languages, or in another classification, to the same centum group as Latin, whereas Slavic belongs to the satem group. (The centum and satem divisions of Indo-European languages are made according to the treatment of certain sounds, called palatals, that existed in the ancestral Indo-European language.)
The loss of *p in Celtic was very early; only the place-name Hercynia, preserved in Greek, shows that, in initial position, it became an h sound before disappearing. In most of the known Celtic languages, a new p sound has arisen as a reflex of the Indo-European *kw sound. Thus there is Gaulish pempe, Welsh pimp “five,” compared to Old Irish cóic and Latin quinque “five.” The Irish evidence shows that *kwenkwe must be reconstructed as the form in Common Celtic. The terms P-Celtic and Q-Celtic are sometimes used to describe assumed divisions of Common Celtic; to use one sound shift to distinguish dialects is, however, hardly justified, and the classification will not be used in this article.
This text provides a single-volume, single-author general introduction to the Celtic languages. The first half of the book considers the historical background of the language group as a whole. There follows a discussion of the two main sub-groups of Celtic, Goidelic (comprising Irish, Scottish, Gaelic and Manx) and Brittonic (Welsh, Cornish and ...