Gallic language

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Period approx. 300 BC BC - approx. 500 AD

Formerly spoken in

former Gaul ( France , Belgium , Upper Rhine ( Switzerland ) and Northern Italy )
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2

cel (other Celtic languages)

ISO 639-3
  • xcg (Cisalpine Gaulish)
  • xtg (Transalpine Gaulish)

The Gallic is a Celtic language , which in ancient times in Gaul was spoken. The Gallic language is the best documented of the five mainland Celtic languages , all of which are now extinct. Gallic as a language name has been used at least since Aulus Gellius (approx. 180 AD).

Distribution and sources

According to Caesar, the language was spoken by various Celtic tribes in parts of what is now France as far as the Seine and Marne , and in Switzerland on the Upper Rhine. A few labeled objects (instrumenta) can also be found north of the Seine (up to today's Belgium ) and in northern Italy . In northern Italy, inscriptions show a related language, Lepontic .

The earliest evidence of the language is dated to the 4th century BC. Chr. Dated, about the 3rd century n. Chr. Cancel the documents. The Celtic tribes did not invent their own script , but adopted the alphabets of their neighbors. Gaulish inscriptions have been preserved in two alphabets : firstly, Greek characters in the area around the Greek colony of Massalia and, after the arrival of the Romans, Latin characters.

A number of stone inscriptions (often dedicatory and partly bilingual: Latin and Gallic), a large number of short graffiti on pottery shards (frequent pattern: “X did this”), a number of leaden escape tablets, the Coligny calendar and the some more. This made a relatively good reconstruction of Gaulish possible, whereby the language will probably always remain a fragmented language , since among other things only very few verb forms , adjectives , etc. have been preserved.

Linguistic features

The Gaulish language is of great importance in terms of linguistics because it almost completely contains the endings inherited from Indo-European via the Common Celtic . Formally, therefore, it has a certain similarity to Urgermanic , Latin and other ancient languages. In the (nowadays no longer generally accepted) distinction between the Celtic languages in Q-Celtic and P-Celtic languages, Gallic belongs to P-Celtic. The name of a horse goddess is, for example, Epona (cf. Latin equus "horse", but also Greek hippos "horse"). The Gallic as well as the Lepontic and the Galatian are related to the island Celtic languages ​​of the British group. Linguists like Karl Horst Schmidt even assume a Gallo-British subgroup within the Celtic languages . However, mainland Celtic differs from the island Celtic languages mainly in its tendency towards initial mutations and the early elimination of the inherited endings in the first group.

Language examples

Gallic text in the Greek alphabet. Found near Nîmes, now in the Calcet Museum in Avignon

The second example is an inscription in Roman capital letters.

Gallic German
Segomaros Villoneos toutius namausatis eioru Belesamin sosin nemeton.


Segomaros, son of Villonos (or Villu), citizen of Nîmes , donated this sanctuary to the (goddess) Belesama .

Martialis, the son of Dannotalus, dedicated this sanctuary to the Ucuetis and the metallurgists who worship the Ucuetis in Alesia .


  • Xavier Delamarre: Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise. Une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental. 2nd edition revue et augmentée. Éditions Errance, Paris 2003, ISBN 2-87772-237-6 .
  • Giacomo Devoto : Criteri linguistici e criteri archeologici nella definizione del problema gallico. In: Celtica. Volume 3, 1956, ISSN  0069-1399 , pp. 324-331.
  • Georges Dottin: La langue gauloise. Grammaire, textes et glossaire (= Collection pour l'Étude des Antiquités Nationales. Volume 2, ZDB -ID 1143444-2 ). Klincksieck, Paris 1920.
  • Paul-Marie Duval (Ed.): Recueil des inscriptions gauloises. Volume 1: Michel Lejeune : Textes gallo-grecs (= Gallia. Supplement 45, 1). Éditions du Center National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris 1985, ISBN 2-222-03460-4 .
  • Pierre-Yves Lambert: La langue gauloise. Description linguistique, commentaire d'inscriptions choisies. Éditions Errance, Paris 1994, ISBN 2-87772-089-6 .
  • Leo Weisgerber : The language of the mainland celts. In: Report of the Roman-Germanic Commission. Volume 20, 1931, ISSN  0341-9312 , pp. 147-226.

Web links

Wiktionary: Gaulish  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae , excerpt: ueluti Romae nobis praesentibus uetus celebratusque homo in causis, sed repentina et quasi tumultuaria doctrina praeditus, cum apud praefectum urbi uerba faceret et dicitere uellet uerba faceret et dicitem uellet inopi es fitum u udinum u mismare . 'Hic', inquit, 'eques Romanus apludam edit et flocces bibit'. aspexerunt omnes qui aderant alius alium, primo tristiores turbato et requirente uoltu quidnam illud utriusque uerbi foret: post deinde, quasi nescio quid Tusce aut Gallice dixisset, uniuersi riserunt. - “For instance in Rome in our presence, a man experienced and celebrated as a pleader, but furnished with a sudden and, as it were, hasty education, was speaking to the Prefect of the City, and wished to say that a certain man with a poor and wretched way of life ate bread from bran and drank bad and spoiled wine. "This Roman knight", he said, "eats apluda and drinks flocces." All who were present looked at each other, first seriously and with an inquiring expression, wondering what the two words meant; thereupon, as if he might have said something in, I don't know, Gaulish or Etruscan, all of them burst out laughing. " (according to BLOM 2007: 183)
  2. ^ C. Iulius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico , Book 1, Chapter 1 < >
  3. Pierre-Yves Lambert, La langue gauloise , éditions errance 1994.
  4. David Stifter: Sengoidelc. Old Irish for Beginners. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse NY 2006, ISBN 0-8156-3072-7 , p. 4.
  5. Christian Goudineau: Caesar and Vercingetorix. 2nd Edition. Philipp von Zabern, Mainz 2003, ISBN 3-8053-2629-7 , p. 62.