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Thread: Is English A Celtic Language?

  1. #11
    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    Well, what are you're thoughts on the origins and distribution of vigesimal counting in Europe?

    Evience for substrates nowadays looks mostly at the Neolithic expansion through the Agean and therefore similarities of Basque words to substrate words in Greek and Sardinian. In time the pre-IE substrates in the north and west will recieve more attention as will nearby pre-AA substrates in Arabic and Berber (there is some Basque-like vocabulary within Guanche).

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    Mein Glaube ist die Liebe zu meinem Volk. Juthunge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catterick View Post
    There is however some debate about how much English was influenced by Insular Celtic. Probably in most cases the Celtic substrate were thoroughly Romanised when the English arrived as was the case in Gaul.
    That’s quite unlikely for the wider population, much of the nobles might have moved to the remaining Empire, of pre-Germanic England and not even true for most of Gaul.
    Jerome for example, talks about the 5th century AD Galatians in Anatolia, who still speak almost the same language as the Treveri at Augusta Treverorum(western Germany) at the same time. He also stated that “If our nobles[from the Auvergne] were imbued with the love of eloquence and poetry, if they resolved to forsake the barbarous Celtic dialect, it was to your personality that they owed all.“

    So, Gaulish wasn’t entirely extinct in one of the most Romanised regions of Gaul, yet, at the likely time of the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain. And Gaul was conquered already in 50 BCE, whereas Roman Britain was only (relatively) safely established around 100 CE.
    The Romans were never really keen on language or culture extinction anyway, as long as you did what they wanted, that was part of their "secret receipe".

    There is some evidence that Insular Celtic and English share a substrate with North Afroasiatic and to a lesser degree Atlantic (a branch of Niger-Congo) and Vasconic. The vigesimal counting system (yan, tan, tethera) may be one line of evidence, though the presence of vigesimal system in the Caucasus and sporadically among IEs in Europe has led to claims it supports a Vasconic-type substrate in much of Europe. Though present in Insular Celtic and English (dialects only) as well as French, it is unattested in Continental Celtic and Occitan. Complicating matters is that vigesimal is also used by the Dards and certain of the Iranians: the Alans might have brought it to France before it spread to places such as Denmark around 1300(?) after the settlement of Normandy had increased French prestige in the North. The Normans did not use vigesimal, and so can have introduced it neither to France nor to northern England. But note that Alanic influence was strongest in the Languedoc not the Languedoil, yet the vigesimal system is absent from southern France save for Basque. The odd distribution of vigesimal counting is ambiguous though *PIE used base 10.
    From your own “REMARKS ON THE INSULAR CELTIC/HAMITO-SEMITIC QUESTION”

    “As noted above, Gensler’s scores suggest that it is the Insular Celtic languages which are most typical of the Celtic/Hamito-Semitic type, rather than the Hamito-Semitic languages. This is also borne out by the above table of shared features by author and language, where the various features are more consistently present in Insular Celtic than in Hamito-Semitic. This is the reverse of what one would expect if the shared features had their origin in Hamito-Semitic. We may take a cue from Jongeling, who, rather than assuming a specifically Hamito-Semitic substratum in Insular Celtic, moots a single prehistoric substratum to both Hamito-Semitic and Insular Celtic. We might go one step further and raise the possibility that such substratum could have been centred on north-western Europe or even the British Isles, where it affected the incoming Celtic languages strongly, but the more distant Hamito-Semitic and North African languages less so.
    And the idea, that vigisemal counting alone would point to either a Alanic or a Vasconic substrate, is quite inconceivable. The latter might not be entirely impossible, on different ground, but the former is almost ridiculous.
    Alanic might have survived for some time in fringe reasons like the Bretagne but the Alans were firstly unlikely to be very numerous in the first place and secondly, a fringe region always hostile to France would be the last place to influence its whole numeral system.

    Another substrate might of course still be an option but sometimes a simple solution is too easily discarded: that it could simply be an independently developed feature, since it also occurs both in different regions of Europe and in entirely different regions of the world, like the Americas and Asia.

    As you probably know the Garamantes (Tuareg ancestors) were Nilo-Saharan speaking Caucasians of Atlanto-Mediterranean type, and Atlantic speakers often have Caucasian craniofacial, dental and soft tissue freatures similar to the Ethiopians and Somalis. If it pans out, then there are linguistic fossils in English of the Neolithic expansion through the Greater Mediterranean including the Sahara routes and into the Atlantic fringe of Europe.
    Do we know this? As far as I know, both the Garamantes and the Tuareg were/are Afro-Asiatic Berber speakers and how would anyone want to infer that they are directly related, apart from geography?

    In regards to English, all of this is based on flimsy grounds in any case. It necessitates firstly, that it happened with Insular Celtic and then that it was also taken over into English.

    Substrate ideas are fascinating but always controversial.
    Because they usually get out of hand and the proponents(rarely experts) often claim substrates for a majority of words/features on superficial grounds, most of which can be refuted quite easily by serious linguists. It doesn’t lend credence to their few other, perhaps right, ideas.

    But even if such few substrates exist for English, so what? It doesn’t make it any less of an overwhelmingly Germanic language, just like Latin loans into German doesn’t make it a Romance language.
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  3. #13
    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    Garamantian is known as a written language using an early form of Tifinagh, though not being Berber it could not be deciphered. Its affinities are now recognised as within Nilo-Saharan. Cranially the Garamantes resemble the Tuareg but their nasal aperture tended to be narrower on average: both are referred to as Atlanto-Mediterranean, Eurafrican, Protomediterranean (not gracilised into the Mediterranean).

    Historically a suite of cultural (not language) traits were formerly used to identify the Tuaregs with Old Europe and especially the Celts. These need to be re-evaluated given the non-Berber origins of Tuaregs and the resurgent interest in Neolithic diffusions and migrations. Pre-Celtic traits of the Insular Celts include high frequency of pentatonic scale in melodies though they are higher still in Lapland. Bradley claimed the use of chequered clothing can be traced to Malta and Crete, whereas the Romans observed that multi-coloured clothing was then already common among the British Celts suggesting a diffusion westwards and then north.

    Alanic heritage was prestigious in French courtly culture after they disappeared as an ethnic group in France, unlike that of the Basques, though their settlemrnt and direct influence was strongest in S France where vigesimal counting was absent, complicating the matter. Its just that modern Ossetians use vigessimal like the French, and vigesimal was absent in Gaulish, Latin and North Germanic. Though Francophone Normans are thought to have introduced it to S Italy. At least it is chronologically plausible that the Alans introduced vigessimal counting to post-Roman France from the Caucasus.

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    English is an Insular Germanic language.

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