A Conversation for CELTIC DEVON

Celtic influence on the Englishl language

Post 1

Ozzie Exile

An artcle from the symposium on Celtic Englishes IV in 2004 by David L White, (on the areal pattern of brittonicity in English) puts forward the view that the theory that Celtic languages had little influence on English is wrong.

His paper which includes ideas I have read elsewhere, essentially suggests that:

1. Old English, at least in its written form, lacks any significant influence from Celtic.

2. This may well be due to the fact that surviving records were written by the fewAnglo-Saxon elite, and for various reasons may have been frozen in an archaic and largely pure Germanic form.

3. Britonnic survival is clearly evidenced genetically

4. When the Anglo-Saxon hierarchy was removed after the Norman conquest, Middle English appeared (which now the language of common people, not the aristocracy - as this was Norman French.). Middle English is substatially different from Old English.

5. Middle English shows a substantial number of Brittonic influences, and becomes increasingly distant from Germanic languages.. These changes do not all appear at once, but appear over an extended period (which strongly suggests to me the Brittonic continued to be spoken).

6. Most of the Celtic innovations in Middle English come from the (greater) South-West, with a smaller contribution from the North. He found no innovations originating from the South East.

7. There was a greater inclination for south-western English to adopt northern innovations, than did the south-east. This he presumes is due to a degree of celtic linkage, even though part of the north would also have been influenced by Norse.

I found the evidence interesting

I could compare this with the article by Alan M Kent, on Cornu-British in the period from the 16th Century, which provides some interesting dialectal verse, but then makes unsubstatiated claims that the Celtic influences in the dialect are not found in Devon.

Reading the dialect provided, it appears to me that with the exception of a handful of words which I do not know (but other Devonians may know or have known) there was great similarity to Devon dialect.

Anyone else read these?

Celtic influence on the Englishl language

Post 2

Plymouth Exile

Ozzie Exile,

I read those articles a few years ago. David White’s paper seems to be quite well researched, except that the DNA data he refers to has since been superseded, by more detailed analyses at the haplotype resolution level by the likes of Sykes and Oppenheimer, which conclude that Saxon incursion into Devon was even smaller than White quoted.

I did converse with White on a Channel 4 history website at the time.

Alan Kent is a well-known Cornish Nationalism supporter, and much of the information in his paper is either not the whole story, or downright inaccurate.

He refers to the much quoted William of Malmesbury account of Athelstan evicting the Britons from Exeter, and setting the border between Wessex and Cornwall at the Tamar. The first part of this account almost certainly is an unsubstantiated extrapolation of an Athelstan law code, in which he threatens to expel “disturbers of the peace” unless they “cease from wrongdoing”. In this, it is not stated if anyone is actually expelled, or whether it even refers specifically to people in Exeter. The second part of Malmesbury’s account almost certainly refers to Athelstan’s splitting the Bishopric into two, with new centres at St. Germans and Crediton, and not to any national boundaries.

Kent also grossly misrepresents the 1549 Prayer Book Rebellion as being a purely Cornish affair, which resulted in the Cornish language being excluded from church prayers in favour of English. In fact the Prayer Book Rebellion was as much a Devonian one as a Cornish one, and it was Latin that was replaced by English, not Cornish.

As you correctly say, the vast majority of Kent’s supposed Cornu-British dialect words are readily recognised by Devonians as being words included in Devon dialect.

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Celtic influence on the Englishl language

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