Island Celtic languages

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As island Celtic languages in are linguistics , all languages combined, the one or more originally to the British Isles spoken Celtic languages decline.


This language group is divided into two subgroups:

  • British languages
    • North British
      • Cumbrian in northern England , extinct in the 11th century, few words survived (numerals, legal terms). The status of Kumbrian in relation to Welsh is not definitely clear; In certain theoretical models, Cumbrian is seen as a Welsh dialect and not as a separate language. However, both the geographical distance and the conclusion by analogy from the divergence of the various other variants of Britannic indicate more of a status than a separate branch.
    • West British
      • Welsh in Wales with approximately 330,000 native speakers and 280,000 speakers using Welsh as a second language, and approximately 130,000 speakers outside Wales (mainly England).
    • South West British
      • Cornish in Cornwall , extinct about 1800; revived with about 250-300 people who are fluent in the language (Neo-Cornish)
      • Breton in Brittany , with under 250,000 native speakers. Only used by around 120,000 people in everyday life.
  • Goidelic languages

The terms North British or West and East Goidelic are rarely used. Whether the Pict and the Shelta also belong to the island Celtic languages ​​is debatable. The Pictish is too poorly documented to be classified exactly (some points suggest it belongs to Britannic ), and Shelta is a language with elements of diverse origins.

History and characteristics

At the turn of the century, island Celtic languages were most likely spoken throughout the British Isles (if Pictish is one of them). Today only Welsh is still very vital, all other island Celtic languages ​​still spoken are threatened with extinction and only exist as a mother tongue or first language in peripheral areas.

Common to all island Celtic languages ​​is the sentence order VSO ( Verb-Subject-Object ), whereby in Breton and Late Cornish other parts of the sentence are very often in front. In addition, all of these languages ​​have initial mutations , a linguistic characteristic that rarely or not systematically occurs in the mainland Celtic languages . Further typological characteristics of the island Celtic are the existence of conjugated prepositions, which is otherwise atypical for Indo-European languages , and the vigesimal system .

The fundamental differences between the two main groups:

  • The Goidelic languages are q-Celtic , whereas the British languages are p-Celtic .
  • In the Goidelic languages ​​there is originally initial stress (on the first syllable) - in all dialects (except in Munster-Irish in certain cases) until today.
  • In the Britannic languages prevails Pänultima -Betonung (penultimate syllable). An exception is the Breton dialect Gwenedeg (French: Vannetais), in which the ultima tint (last syllable) is the rule and a tendency to give up the word accent can be seen following the example of French.
  • Only in the Goidelic languages ​​is a distinction still made between palatal and non-palatal consonants , where they each form phoneme pairs . In the Manx this distinction is largely eliminated.
  • The initial mutations are different in the main groups (and to a lesser extent in the individual languages).

Comparative examples

  Irish Scottish Gaelic Manx Welsh Cornish Breton
I am learning
(" am I
tá mé ag foghlaim tha mi ag ionnsachadh ta mee ynsaghey (ry) dw i'n dysgu yth esof vy ow tysky me zo o teskiñ
( I'm studying)
(also "end")
with a palatal
initial sound / k´ /
like Irish
with / j / insert from
(/ k w /> / p /)
mkorn.pen (n) (*),
late grain. pedn
like Welsh
like Welsh
to me,
for me
dom (standard),
also domh, dhom, dhomh
(prep. do + suffix)
(prep. do + suffix)
(prep. do + suffix)
i mi /
fuck (prep. i "zu" + pers.pron. "I")
dhym **
(prep. dhe + suffix)
(prep. da + suffix)

Individual evidence

  1. 2004 Welsh Language use survey ( Memento from May 24, 2010 on WebCite ) (PDF; 548 kB) 2004 Welsh Language Survey .
  2. ^ Nigel Callaghan (1993). More Welsh Speakers than Previously Believed (on-line). Accessed March 21, 2010

(*) Note: Three different orthographies are used for Neo-Cornish. Kemmyn writes <penn>, Unys Amendys <pen> and Nowedga <pedn>.

(**) Note: In Welsh and Late Cornish, a development towards an analytical system based on the English model can be observed: Late Corn. <tho vee> [ðə 'vi:] "to" + "I"

Web links

Wiktionary: Island Celtic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations