Реферат "Ancient languages of Great Britain.
The Celtic language."

The Origins of the English Language

English is one of a family of language called Indo-European. This family includes most of the modern European languages and such important languages of antiquity as Latin, Greek and Sanskrit. The Indo-European family of language has several subfamilies. English belongs to the Germanic branch of the Indo-European family. Germanic languages include Dutch, English, German, the Scandinavian languages, and several extinct languages (Gothic and others).

The scheme shows the connection of all Indo-European languages including Germanic and Celtic.

We can distinguish three major periods in the evolution of English:

450-1150 Old English
1150-1500 Middle English (Chaucer)
1500-1800 Early Modern (Shakespeare)
1800-1900 19th century (Industrial Revolution & Victorians)
1900-1993 Modern (Technology)

However, in my essay I want to speak about the language of Celts and Ancient English languages.

Coming of the Celts to Britain

The Celts were the inhabitants of the prominent European territories of those times for a millennium. To the ancient Greeks they were known as Keltoi and Celtae, Galli, or Gauls to Romans; those in the British Isles were called Britanni.
Celts dominated southern Germany and the northern Alps in the 1st millennium BC. They began migrating in all directions in the 5th century BC, though it is not known when they reached Britain. It is believed that the Celts arrived into Ireland at the beginning of the Iron Age around BC 600. Whether the Celts introduced iron to Ireland or not is unknown. What is known however is that there was substantial contact between the Celts of Britain and Europe with the Irish.
They gave their language and culture to the people of the area they settled and ruled in. The Celts were pagans and preferred to transmit information verbally instead of writing it down. The Celtic social structure was one of sexist indifference with women ultimately on the same footing as men, being skilled warriors, traders and rulers. As well as being well educated the Celts were experienced in battle and often engaged the enemy individually and naked. The Celts dominance can be mapped roughly throughout Britain and Ireland and in a crescent across Spain to the lower River Danube.
The invading Anglo-Saxons who began arriving in the 5th century AD eventually pushed them back to the Scottish Highlands in the north, Wales in the west, and Cornwall in the southwest. In the 7th century Scottish Gaelic was introduced from Ireland. Little is known of the Picts whose language died out in the 10th century as the people merged with the Scots.

Celtic and Indo-European languages

The Celtic Languages are caused to be finally received into the family of Indo-European tongues by a treatise. It is in that right moment when it is generally admitted that Celtic languages are Indo-European, and have a certain place in the whole body of languages.
In order to classify Celtic is necessary studying, on the one hand, grammar and phonetics, and on the other, vocabulary. Philologists have established a whole system of equations between the consonants and vowels of the various Indo-European tongues. They have the same for the grammatical forms of conjugations.

Classification of Celtic languages

While nowadays the Celtic languages of Welsh, Irish, and Scottish Gaelic are spoken only in isolated pockets, two thousand years ago most people spoke ancestral varieties of these languages throughout the region.
Some scholars talked about a possible language Italo-Celtic, which could be the antecessor of the Celtic and Italic language. This is due to the close relationship between both languages. Nevertheless, the classification of Celtic languages remains the same. There are two great groups, the Insular Celtic and the Continental Celtic.

    • On one hand, the Continental Celtic is divided in two languages: Gaulish and Celtiberian.
    • On the other hand, the Insular Celtic is divided into two languages: Goidelic and Brythonic.

These two languages have developed other three different languages: Manx, Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic.
Manx is not spoken by anybody, however Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic are still spoken.
On the other hand, the Brythonic has developed other three languages: Welsh, Breton and Cornish.
It is important to remark that the Welsh is the one that survives most strongly in the present.

Dialectal differences of Celtic language

Celtic words came from three identifiable sources: from the continent, loans taken over after settlement and words from Ireland frequently associated with the Christianisation of Britain. The Celtic language group has been categorized as part of the Indo-European group of languages; there are features of Celtic language syntax that is not Indo-European, and in fact shares much in common with the Hamito-Semitic group of languages. This would indicate a fusion of native and newly imposed language on people who used their own grammar patterns to make sense of an unfamiliar language. Not a great deal is known about those who inhabited the British Isles before the Celts, but it is interesting to think that their languages, lost forever, may survive in some way through the preservation of other languages.


    • English and Celtic in touch
The thesis that Celts have influenced the English language in the structural aspect has a long tradition. Nevertheless, the Celtic languages have played a minor role in the development of the English language.
The influence of Celtic on Old English is considered, traditionally, as no more than some place names and a dozen of loanwords.
The reason for this scarce influence is the fact that Celtic was the language of a submerged race in the Old English period. Although this reason is already considered a hypothesis, a suggestion and it is not confirmed.

    • Loanwords and religion
There is little Celtic influence in the English language given the savage way in which the Celtic communities where destroyed into the areas as Cornwall, Wales, Cumbria, and the Scottish borders. Some Celts remained in the East and South as slaves, but their identity would after a few generations have been lost within Anglo-Saxon society. Only a handful of Celtic words were borrowed at the time, and a few have survived into Modern English, sometimes in regional dialect use:
    • Crag, cumb > deep valley
    • Binn > bin
    • Carr > rock
    • Dunn > grey, dun
    • Brock > badge
    • Forr > peak
    • Bannoc > piece
    • Rice > rule
    • Gafeluc > small spear
    • Bratt > clock
    • Luh > lake
    • Dry > sorcerer
    • Clucge > Bell

A great number of loanwords have connections with religious terms. Thus, a number of words were brought over from Ireland by the Christian missionaries and they survived because of the strength of British Christianity. Some examples can be:

    • Crois > cross
    • Ancor >hermit

        • Place names and proper names
    Some Celtic words that survived in the English language are the names of the rivers such as the Thames, the Yare, Avon, Don, Exe, Usk and Wye. Town names include Dover (water), Eccles (church), Bray (hill), London (a tribal name), Kent, York and Lincoln. There are also a number of names that are compounds of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon words. Two Celtic words for "hill" are bre and pen appear in a number of names. Brewood in Staffordshire is combined with wudu. Breldon on the hill in Leicestershire is a combination of bre and dun, both Celtic words. Also by means of the combination of elements like -chester and -caster with Celtic elements appeared place-names such as Lancaster, Winchester, Doncaster, etc.

      • "Do": languages and linguistics
From a standard point of view, English grammar development was minimally influenced by Celtics. Although a minority of linguists believes that Celtic has been influential in the genesis of periphrastic "do". Arguments in favour of the Celtic influence could be summarized as follows:
    • "do" periphrasis commonly arises in contact situations and English has been in contact with Celtic for a very extended period.
    • Verbs like "do" have special TAM uses in Celtic.
    • periphrasis does not only abound in English but also in Celtic, especially Brythonic.
    • Periphrasis are older in Brythonic than in English, being more common in the Southwest area (which suggest that Celtic took the lead)

Supporters of the Celtic influence hypothesis for "do" will be classified as to whether they are English, Germanophone, Anglicist or Celticist. The main conclusion may be that the Celtic influence hypothesis is found to thrive on non-English soil.

    • Grammatical changes
After the arrival of Romans, and Normans, the language changed, and developed to Old English. David White ("Celtic Sub-stratal Influence in English") affirms that with the appearance of Middle English, two "innovations" were created; we put "innovations" between inverted commas because, indeed, these innovations bring the language to a more primitive state. The influence of Celtic and Old Norse were very important in this process, where the most important innovations were:
    • Verbal periphrasis, with Old Norse nominals: begins in the Southwest and spreads from there.
    • Reduction in declensions: begins in the North and spreads from there.

If we want to see the influence of these two languages, we can attend to White's division of England into four zones, according to the influence of these languages:

    • Southwest: Celtic only
    • East (Anglia): Norse only
    • North: both Celtic and Norse
    • Southeast: neither Celtic or Norse


We can see that Celts influenced English language a lot. They gave their language and culture to the people of Britain and first of all of Ireland and Wales, where they settled. They gave also the dialects of their language in different parts of Britain. The Celts had no written language and they passed on their laws, rituals and legends by words of mouth. The Celtic language is divided into Gaulish and Celtiberian, Goidelic and Brythonic. It connects modern English language with Indo-European languages, because they have some relationship in grammar, alphabets and lexis.
Goidelic and Brythonic languages have developed other three different languages: Manx, Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic. Manx is not spoken by anybody, however Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic are still spoken. The Brythonic has developed other three languages: Welsh, Breton and Cornish. The Gaelic form was used in Ireland and Scotland, the Brythonic form - in England and Wales.
Nowadays the Celtic languages are used in Wales, the Highlands of Scotland, the Isle of Man and in Ireland. Cornish (Cornwall, England) is now largely extinct. The Welsh is the one that survives most strongly in the present. 20 per cent of the Welsh speak Welsh (a form of British Celtic).


    1. "About the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", Elena Kostina.
    2. "Celtic Sub-stratal Influence in English", David White.
    3. "A History of the English Language", F. Fernandez, 1998.
    4. "A Cultural History of the English Language", Gerry Knowles, 1997.

Работа была написана и защищена в марте 2003 года.
Если ты хочешь использовать её при сдаче, то оставь, пожалуйста, об этом запись в гостевой книге:

Гостевая книга
Вернуться в раздел "Мои труды"
На главную

Хостинг от uCoz