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The Celtic Studies is a science that deals with the history, the language and the culture of Celtic peoples and their descendants from the Hallstatt period concerned to the present. This includes the study of today in Ireland , Scotland , Wales and Brittany spoken Celtic languages .

Keltistik is another term for the subject of Celtic Studies. It was common in German-speaking countries in the 19th century, but is rarely used today.


Celtology emerged primarily from comparative and historical linguistics , which established itself in Europe from the end of the 18th century. The British Sir William Jones first publicly postulated the relationship between the Indo-European languages in 1786 on the basis of similarities between Latin , Greek and Sanskrit . Due to some grammatical peculiarities, however , the Celtic languages were only firmly counted among the Indo-European languages ​​in the course of the 19th century.

Celtology in German-speaking countries

Johann Kaspar Zeuss (1806–1856) is considered the founder of German Celtology . His fame is based primarily on his monumental work Grammatica Celtica (1851, Volume 2, 1853), written in Latin , in which he examined and assessed primarily the Old Irish and Middle Welsh material and made plausible whether the Celtic languages belong to the Indo-European languages . For his work, Zeuss undertook an enormous study of the original sources, which until then had only been little researched. In 1847 he became professor for linguistics in Munich .

Until the middle of the 19th century, Celtological research was mainly "carried out" by linguists from other branches of research. In the beginning this was mainly Franz Bopp (1791–1867), who practically founded comparative linguistics with his explanations of the Indo-European original language . Bopp also proved that the Celtic languages ​​belong to Indo-European. From 1821 to 1864 he was professor for oriental literature and general linguistics in Berlin .

In the second half of the century the Indologist Ernst Windisch (1844–1918) should be mentioned, who held a chair for Sanskrit at the University of Leipzig from 1877 , but also published important Celtological publications. In 1901 the Indologist and Celtologist Heinrich Zimmer (1851–1910) became the first professor for Celtic languages ​​in Germany at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin . In 1911 Kuno Meyer (1858–1919) was his successor, who, in addition to his extensive publication activities, also had close ties to the Irish independence movement.

Probably the most important German-speaking Celtologist to this day, however, is the Swiss Rudolf Thurneysen (1857–1940), a student of Windisch and Zimmer. In 1887 he took over the chair for comparative linguistics in Freiburg im Breisgau , and in 1913 that in Bonn . In addition to the compilation and processing of a large number of old Irish legal texts in his main work, the Handbuch des Altirischen (1909), he has made a special contribution . In its 1939 revised English-language version, A Grammar of Old Irish , this still forms the basis for the study of Old Irish.

In Berlin in 1920 took over Julius Pokorny , the Berlin Professor of Celtic Languages, in 1935, despite nationalist sentiments and these Catholic faith because of his Jewish had to vacate ancestors. Pokorny went to Switzerland and did not teach again in Germany until 1955, in Munich . He was followed in Berlin in 1937 by Ludwig Mühlhausen , who was equally talented and a staunch Nazi .

After the Second World War , German-language Celtological research took place mainly in West Germany and Austria , in Freiburg , Bonn , Marburg , Hamburg and Innsbruck . However, nowhere was an independent, dedicated professorship for Celtology established. The most important names to be mentioned are Hans Hartmann , Heinrich Wagner and Wolfgang Meid , who achieved scientific importance far beyond the borders of the language area. In the GDR , the Berlin chair was re-established from around 1966, but was never permanently occupied.

Today the subject is only taught at a few universities in German-speaking countries, in Bonn , Marburg and Vienna , but still as part of general or comparative linguistics. In Freiburg im Breisgau , Hamburg and Berlin there has been no more Celtological research since the 1990s. The only dedicated chair for Celtology in Germany (at the Humboldt University in Berlin ) was abolished in 1997. Only in Marburg is there an independent master’s course in Celtology (MA Celtology) and the doctoral subject in Celtology.

Celtology in the rest of Europe and overseas

Outside of the German-speaking countries and the British Isles, Celtology was and is mainly taught in various parts of Europe and in the USA . But there is also an active Celtology in Japan .

In Europe, Celtology developed in the late 19th century, except in Germany and the British Isles , especially in France and Scandinavia . Countries such as Spain , Italy , the Netherlands , Russia and Poland were added later.


Some of the sub-areas are closely interlinked with related research disciplines, so that not all of the areas mentioned are to be regarded as "purely Celtological".

  • Total Celtic
    • Settlement history
    • Interaction with other peoples
    • Development of the language family tree or other relationship models (still not fully clarified)
    • Linguistics
      • comparing intra-Celtic
      • within Indo-European Studies
      • Language typology
    • Religious studies
      • regional particularities
      • comparative religious studies
    • History of reception and ideology (" Celtomania " and similar phenomena)
    • History of Science: History of Celtology
  • Mainland Celtic
    • archeology
    • Classical source study (contacts with Romans and Teutons)
    • Language (including the deciphering of the characters used, mostly complete, as well as interpretation of the often incomplete texts)
    • Anthropology / Ethnology (little done)
  • Island Celtic
    • archeology
    • Linguistics
      • Single display
      • comparative representation (intra-Celtic, general)
      • Single language history
      • Language contacts
      • Situations of today's minority languages
      • possible speech death / resuscitation
    • Literary studies
      • Middle Ages (mainly Ireland, Wales, Brittany)
      • Modern times (depending on the country around the 15th / 16th - 19th centuries)
      • modern literatures (20th / 21st century)
    • History of the "Celtic" speaking ethnic groups in the British Isles


Well-known Celtologists are Helmut Birkhan , Barry Cunliffe , Patrizia de Bernardo Stempel , Gerhard Dobesch , Léon Fleuriot , Miranda Green, Raimund Karl , Venceslas Kruta, Bernhard Maier , Wolfgang Meid , Kuno Meyer , Ludwig Mühlhausen , Holger Pedersen , Herbert Pilch , Erich Poppe , Pádraig Ó Riain , Rudolf Thurneysen , Leo Weisgerber and Heinrich Zimmer .

Important magazines

  • Journal for Celtic Philology , founded in 1897, Halle (Saale) / Tübingen
  • Celtic Research , founded 2006, Vienna
  • Ériu. Founded as the Journal of the School of Irish Learning , Dublin
  • Celtica. Journal of the School of Celtic Studies , founded 1949, Dublin
  • Studia Hibernica , Dublin
  • Éigse , Dublin
  • Journal of Celtic Linguistics , founded 1992, Cardiff
  • The Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies , founded 1921, Cardiff; 1993 Studia Celtica merged
  • Studia Celtica , founded 1966, Cardiff
  • Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies , before 1993 Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies , Aberystwyth
  • Cornish Studies , founded 1993, Tremough
  • Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium , Cambridge (Massachusetts)
  • Etudes Celtiques , founded 1936, Paris
  • Revue Celtique , founded 1870, Paris
  • Studia Celtica Japonica , newly founded in 1988

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. Joachim Lerchenmueller: "Celtic explosives". A study of the history of science on German Celtology from 1900–1945. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1997, ISBN 3-484-40142-7 .
  2. Jan-Martin Wiarda: Where can you get something like that? . In: Die Zeit , January 5, 2012, No. 2, pp. 4–5.