Celts and Anglo-Saxons

Guest   Tue Aug 01, 2006 12:13 am GMT
http://www.gnxp.com/MT2/archives/001647.html

Here's the scenario, as I think it played out. My opinion is surely up to debate, and I would like to emphasize that this is just my personal opinion, or version of events, the way I see they logically occured.

There were about 3 million Celts in southern Britain after the Romans withdrew from Britannia. The Celts of Britain were never thouroughly Romanized as the Gauls or Spaniards were. Britain was Rome's most distant colony, and its climate and land, was not particularly attractive to Roman colonists, who preferred mediterranean terrain and climates, preferably with olive and wine country. So, there was very little Roman colonization of Britain, and Roman culture's influence was not felt as strongly as it was in Gaul and Spain. Thus, the only segment of the population that was truly Romanized, were the wealthy elite, and only partially Romanized at that. They spoke Latin, while the masses of Britons continued speaking Brytonic languages, and following British customs and culture, and religion.

Now, imagine you are a Briton in the early 400s. Your country has been devastated by plague, low agricultural production, and economic stagnation, for nearly a century. The population of Britain has been on a slow decline. The citizens of Roman Britain are not allowed to take arms, and depend solely on the Roman legions for defense. A large part of the local economy is dependent on the Roman legions stationed there, with entire towns and cities being sprouted up around Roman forts.

Now, it is the year 410 A.D. For the last three centuries, all of southern Britain has been pacified, and under Roman rule, under the Roman legal system and Roman government, and defended by Roman armies. This has been the way of life for generations. Now, all of a sudden, all the Roman troops withdrawl, and exit Britain. Now there is no source of protection against invasion, or internal division. To put it in modern terms, imagine you are a modern day American from the U.S. Imagine the entire U.S. military force, and domestic police forces, including the CIA, FBI, and NSA, suddenly vanishes. What sort of situation do you think would ensue? Obviously, there would be at least a brief period of anarchy, or chaous, maybe some occasional looting by civilians etc. As intelligent humans, eventually Americans would form groups, and establish a system of order, and provide for each other's common defense and vital needs. Most likely, without a central authority, there would be internal division, and the U.S. would be divided based on regional groups. If you were in Britain, different tribes would gather together under a powerful clan, and form seperate nations, which they did. At this point, the newly created regional governments would probably strive to restore order, and provide for basic civil sanitary needs, establish an army etc. This, the fractured kingdoms of Britain did. But, this rebuilding of order would be inferior to the former system of things, because it would take much time to rebuild society along new lines. The armies formed would not be up to the same tasks that a well established army was. For a modern day example, refer to Iraq. The newly formed Iraqi defensive force is still not up to the task of combating the insurgents.

So, what do you do? You are faced with incoming hordes of thousands of Germans, with poor means of defending yourselves. You are a divided people, fractured into seperate states, and your newly trained armies are not experience enough to withstand the onslaught of Germanic invasions, along with the invasions of Celts from Ireland. So, you hire mercanaries, who are themselves, German. You invited thousands of them to your land, and now, seeing that you are defenseless, they decide to turn on you, as most ancient peoples would. Your land has suffered a severe population decline, and you are not able to put up an adequate defense. So, the result is slaughter. Many are killed, and the smart ones flee. Proof of this exists in the fact that many refugees fleed to Gaul accross the channel, and established Brittany. We know that. So, why can't some believe that the rest of the refugees fled to the "Celtic fringes" of Britain, such as Wales?

In other areas which the Germans conquered and settled, they did not impose their language, religion, or culture on the native people. They adopted the local customs. But, England to this day, remains a Germanic culture. The reason I believe, lies in the fact that the English people descend from the Anglo-Saxons, and not mainly from the native Britons.

Genetic studies show that the English are nearly genetically identical to the people of Frisienland, in northern Netherlands. This is consistent with the fact that the languages of these two peoples are very closely related.

Hence, England speaks Angleish.
Guest   Tue Aug 01, 2006 5:59 am GMT
"Genetic studies show...."

There are thousands of this so-called Genetic studies which differ tremendously! You also have to consider the views and intentions of those self-proclaimed "scientists" making such a Genetic Study!
I have been several times to Ireland and England, but also to Scotland one time, and I didn't see much of a difference between those cultures and people. If I would follow your way of argumentation, then England is closer to those "celtic" countries than it is to the other "germanic" ones.
But anyway, who cares actually?
Guest   Thu Aug 03, 2006 12:26 pm GMT
One thing has always fascinated me about this argument. If the Anglo Saxons had lived in close contact with the native Celtic population rather than displacing them, then why is there so little Celtic influence in the English language?

Even Gaulish managed to contribute a couple of hundred words into the Vulgar Latin which became French, but it seems that native British words in English amount to less than 20 (unless you include place names). Compare this with the Old Norse loans in English, of which it is estimated there are 900 attested North Germanic loans, although only 150 appeared in old English texts, but most of these were written in the South and West of the country where Viking influence was not as strong.

Why borrow so much from one neighbouring people but not from another?
Uriel   Thu Aug 03, 2006 1:13 pm GMT
Because people are weird? Because power plays a larger role than proximity? Because sometimes people borrow customs, religions, women, and technology -- everything BUT words?

Seems like these things have happened lots of times. English and Spanish and French speakers lived alongside plenty of native American language-speakers, intermarried, borrowed planting and hunting techniques, etc, but only borrowed a few words for strange plants and animals that they had never seen before. or place names. They didn't borrow verbs or adjectives or other parts of speech.

Ditto for modern-day Americans and Mexicans -- there are a few handfuls of Spanish words in the American English lexicon thanks to rubbing shoulders, and vice-versa, but by and large English and Spanish remain separate languages, despite centuries of close relations, a long common border, and plenty of intermarriage.

And look at all the mutually unintelligible languages that live side-by-side in Europe!
LAA   Thu Aug 03, 2006 6:59 pm GMT
I see what you're saying Uriel, but I'm afraid you don't get what Guest is trying to say. Between Mexico and the U.S., and between European countries, there are borders, which act as barriers to cross-cultural and linguistic difussion. If the English were only a small minority, living among a much greater Celtic majority, then surely a greater number of Celtic words would have entered the English language. All the logical evidence points toward the traditional theory on the origin of England. Even, if we were to ignore the genetic studies, which are at times, contradictory, depending on who does the testing, all of the other evidence supports the traditional theory that the native Britons were killed, expelled, or fled as refugees. Being that they were essentially defenseless group of divided tribes, it is not so hard to imagine this happening.

There are differences between the common phenotype of the English and the Welsh and other celts. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/2776037.stm

By the way, I was the one who wrote this post, and I forgot to sign it.
"Here's the scenario, as I think it played out. My opinion is surely up to debate, and I would like to emphasize that this is just my personal opinion, or version of events, the way I see they logically occured.

There were about 3 million Celts in southern Britain after the Romans withdrew from Britannia. The Celts of Britain were never thouroughly Romanized as the Gauls or Spaniards were. Britain was Rome's most distant colony, and its climate and land, was not particularly attractive to Roman colonists, who preferred mediterranean terrain and climates, preferably with olive and wine country. So, there was very little Roman colonization of Britain, and Roman culture's influence was not felt as strongly as it was in Gaul and Spain. Thus, the only segment of the population that was truly Romanized, were the wealthy elite, and only partially Romanized at that. They spoke Latin, while the masses of Britons continued speaking Brytonic languages, and following British customs and culture, and religion.

Now, imagine you are a Briton in the early 400s. Your country has been devastated by plague, low agricultural production, and economic stagnation, for nearly a century. The population of Britain has been on a slow decline. The citizens of Roman Britain are not allowed to take arms, and depend solely on the Roman legions for defense. A large part of the local economy is dependent on the Roman legions stationed there, with entire towns and cities being sprouted up around Roman forts.

Now, it is the year 410 A.D. For the last three centuries, all of southern Britain has been pacified, and under Roman rule, under the Roman legal system and Roman government, and defended by Roman armies. This has been the way of life for generations. Now, all of a sudden, all the Roman troops withdrawl, and exit Britain. Now there is no source of protection against invasion, or internal division. To put it in modern terms, imagine you are a modern day American from the U.S. Imagine the entire U.S. military force, and domestic police forces, including the CIA, FBI, and NSA, suddenly vanishes. What sort of situation do you think would ensue? Obviously, there would be at least a brief period of anarchy, or chaous, maybe some occasional looting by civilians etc. As intelligent humans, eventually Americans would form groups, and establish a system of order, and provide for each other's common defense and vital needs. Most likely, without a central authority, there would be internal division, and the U.S. would be divided based on regional groups. If you were in Britain, different tribes would gather together under a powerful clan, and form seperate nations, which they did. At this point, the newly created regional governments would probably strive to restore order, and provide for basic civil sanitary needs, establish an army etc. This, the fractured kingdoms of Britain did. But, this rebuilding of order would be inferior to the former system of things, because it would take much time to rebuild society along new lines. The armies formed would not be up to the same tasks that a well established army was. For a modern day example, refer to Iraq. The newly formed Iraqi defensive force is still not up to the task of combating the insurgents.

So, what do you do? You are faced with incoming hordes of thousands of Germans, with poor means of defending yourselves. You are a divided people, fractured into seperate states, and your newly trained armies are not experience enough to withstand the onslaught of Germanic invasions, along with the invasions of Celts from Ireland. So, you hire mercanaries, who are themselves, German. You invited thousands of them to your land, and now, seeing that you are defenseless, they decide to turn on you, as most ancient peoples would. Your land has suffered a severe population decline, and you are not able to put up an adequate defense. So, the result is slaughter. Many are killed, and the smart ones flee. Proof of this exists in the fact that many refugees fleed to Gaul accross the channel, and established Brittany. We know that. So, why can't some believe that the rest of the refugees fled to the "Celtic fringes" of Britain, such as Wales?

In other areas which the Germans conquered and settled, they did not impose their language, religion, or culture on the native people. They adopted the local customs. But, England to this day, remains a Germanic culture. The reason I believe, lies in the fact that the English people descend from the Anglo-Saxons, and not mainly from the native Britons.

Genetic studies show that the English are nearly genetically identical to the people of Frisienland, in northern Netherlands. This is consistent with the fact that the languages of these two peoples are very closely related.

Hence, England speaks Angleish. "
LAA   Thu Aug 03, 2006 8:07 pm GMT
"A clean sweep"
<<Linguistically, what I find remarkable about this Celtic background to the emergence of the English language was the nature of the influence that Celtic had on English. Namely: it had no influence whatever. If the evidence of the English language were all we had to go by, one would think that the Anglo-Saxons had immigrated into an empty land, or that they had carried out thoroughgoing “ethnic cleansing” of its British inhabitants.

Elements of the latter did occur. At Pevensey, near where I live, in 491 the Saxons besieged the British of the area, who had retreated within the walls of the Roman fort there. (The fort still stands — until I moved house in 1997 I could see it from my window.) The Saxons managed to break in, and massacred every man, woman, and child. But historians and archaeologists have argued in recent years that this was exceptional. Some Britons must have retreated westwards into the areas such as Wales which remained British-controlled (and many crossed the Channel to found a new Celtic-speaking domain of “Brittany” in what is now north-west France), but plenty are said to have remained living within Anglo-Saxon territory, as slaves or perhaps in some cases working pieces of land independently. (The word “Welsh” comes from the Anglo-Saxons” name for these people: wealhas, “foreigners”. Their own name for themselves was — and is — the Cymri.)

The Anglo-Saxons took over many place-names from the Britons. They founded their own scattered agricultural settlements (for these uncouth pagan farmers, the remains of Romano-British cities were scary places, best avoided), so English villages and towns have Germanic names; but many rivers, for instance, still carry the names which the Celts gave them. Thames is a British name meaning “dark river”. My colleague Richard Coates has shown recently that there is a greater density of Celtic-derived place-names in England than was traditionally recognized, though more towards the west than in the east. (See R. Coates and A. Breeze, Celtic Voices, English Places, Shaun Tyas, Stamford, Lincs., 2000.) You would think that Anglo-Saxons interacting with Britons even in a master/slave relationship, within a land where they were until recently strangers, could not fail to pick up some ordinary non-name words from the Britons’ vocabulary. If the Britons were subordinate, would the Anglo-Saxons not sometimes have taken British wives, whose children would have learned some Welsh at their mother’s knee before growing up as members of Anglo-Saxon society?

In later centuries, English became a language which was unusually hospitable to vocabulary borrowed from languages of other peoples and races that English-speakers lived among. When the British ruled India, they not only used many Indian words while out there but brought plenty of them back to Britain where there were no Indians to reinforce their use — “bungalow”, “curry”, “gymkhana”, “juggernaut”, and many other words are standard parts of our modern vocabulary, used by people who often have no idea that their roots are Indian. I believe that American English similarly has a fair number of words borrowed from Red Indian languages. But from the language of the British there is next to nothing.

In regions near the Celtic fringe there are some British borrowings in local dialects. I spent most of my childhood in Somerset: we had a word “coombe” for a kind of valley, short and steep-sided — it was very frequent as part of the proper names of particular valleys, but you could hear it used as a common noun with a small C, also. This was the Welsh cwm, “valley” (Welsh uses the letter W for the “oo” vowel). But in English that is just a local usage — not many Londoners would know what a coombe is.

One way in which some Celtic words came into Standard English was through Irish monks who came as missionaries to the pagan Anglo-Saxons. The word “cross”, for instance, is from Irish (and was earlier borrowed into Irish from Latin crux): it displaced the native Anglo-Saxon word “rood” — people still talk about the rood screen in a church, but outside that context the word is now virtually extinct. But these of course represent the Gaelic, not the British, branch of Celtic. (As it happens, in the case of “cross” there is not much difference: “cross” is cros in modern Irish, croes in Welsh.)

Of words in standard English which were borrowed from British Celtic, there are so far as is known a grand total of three:

bin
crag
dun (in the sense “brown”)
(The standard reference on this, Albert Baugh’s History of the English Language, Routledge, 1951, adds a fourth word, ass in the sense “donkey”, making a memorable A B C D list; but Richard Coates believes that ass should probably instead be classified with “cross”.)
The existence of three words in a way points up how remarkable it is that there are not far more. Evidently Anglo-Saxons were capable of getting their tongue round British words. If they found it useful to take over the local word for a bin (whatever precise sort of receptacle the word referred to at the time), how come they did not find themselves borrowing their slaves’ words for a mass of local tools, foodstuffs, or the like? It is as if the Anglo-Saxons marched through Britain saying at every turn, “Tell me, my good man, what is this river called? Thanks, that’s very useful — thump, you’re dead.” But as far as we know, they didn’t.

Admittedly, since the first version of this page was put on the Web, the picture has been modified somewhat by new research at University College London (see Michael Weale et al., “Y Chromosome Evidence for Anglo-Saxon Mass Migration”, Molecular Biology and Evolution, vol. 19, 2002). Geneticists there, in collaboration with Dutch and American colleagues, have compared the genomes of a sample of modern Englishmen with samples of Welshmen and of men from the Netherlands and Norway. They found that, even today, Englishmen are much closer genetically to the Dutch than to the Welsh. So it seems that far fewer Welshmen than previously supposed can have remained in the territory conquered by the Anglo-Saxons, as slaves or otherwise. The portion of the genome studied is transmitted through the male line only, so this in itself doesn’t tell us whether native womenfolk remained. But when we add the lack of Celtic influence on the language, perhaps the most plausible explanation is an orderly retreat by the ancient Britons, men women and children together, before invaders that they weren’t able to resist. Possibly they hoped to regroup in the West and win back the lands they had left, but it just never happened. >>
Guest   Fri Aug 04, 2006 9:19 am GMT
I think the English are slightly predominantely Celtic in origin - just like the people in Mexico aren't all of spanish origin; there are so many black-haired (not the alpine type) people in England. It would be weird to think that ALL or MOST OF those celtic people left or were wiped out.
Uriel   Fri Aug 04, 2006 9:37 am GMT
<<I see what you're saying Uriel, but I'm afraid you don't get what Guest is trying to say. Between Mexico and the U.S., and between European countries, there are borders, which act as barriers to cross-cultural and linguistic difussion. If the English were only a small minority, living among a much greater Celtic majority, then surely a greater number of Celtic words would have entered the English language. All the logical evidence points toward the traditional theory on the origin of England. Even, if we were to ignore the genetic studies, which are at times, contradictory, depending on who does the testing, all of the other evidence supports the traditional theory that the native Britons were killed, expelled, or fled as refugees. Being that they were essentially defenseless group of divided tribes, it is not so hard to imagine this happening.>>


Okay, I don't know a LOT about post-Roman England, but I was under the impression that there WERE borders between the Celtic kingdoms in the west and the Anglo-Saxon lands to the east, and that it was not really a case of the free intermingling of two differnt cultures -- they formed enclaves unto themselves.

Linguistic patterns don't always follow genetic patterns, either -- people change languages for many reasons (you and I are proof of that, right?)
LAA - Juaquin en la caja!   Fri Aug 04, 2006 10:48 pm GMT
That is very true. But often times, they go hand in hand for the simple reason that a mother will speak to her young child in her mother tounge. If we want to talk about the phenotype of the English, you can certainly say that they are very Teutonic looking. The average Englishman is two inches taller than the average Welshman (who is a mix of Celt and native Iberian/Basque). English people have typical Tuetonic features like high rates of blonde hair, etc. Many Celts, who are most likely of continental Celitc origin, are tall, and only slightly shorter than Teutonic peoples, and are commonly red haired, with freckles, etc. The other type of Celt is the "black Celt" or "dark Celt". It is believed that these people are the original inhabitants of the British Isles, and came from Iberia. They are closely genetically related to the Basque people. They are short, and commonly have fair skin, and dark hair. I.e. - Catherine Zeta Jones, etc. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/2776037.stm
There are some pockets in England where the people are a mix of native Briton and Saxon. But for the most part,and especially in Eastern England, the people are of Anglo-Saxon stock. If the native Celts were defenseless, but fiercely preserved their culture and language as they did during the Roman population, it is easy to imagine how they were so easily massacred. Many most likely fled, behind geographic barriers, and into the hills of Wales, across the channel into Brittany, etc. Evidence of this exist in language, culture, and phenotype of the respective peoples.
Brennus   Sat Aug 05, 2006 7:12 am GMT
Re: "Okay, I don't know a LOT about post-Roman England, but I was under the impression that there WERE borders between the Celtic kingdoms in the west and the Anglo-Saxon lands to the east, and that it was not really a case of the free intermingling of two differnt cultures -- they formed enclaves unto themselves." --- Uriel

This is true. I have read literature and seen television programs on British history that tend to confirm it.

The ancient Romano-British kingdom of Strathclyde (occasionally called North Wales) survived in northwestern England and southwestern Scotland right up until the arrival of the Normans in the 11th century. Although it was hard-pressed at times, neither Anglo-Saxons nor Vikings were ever able to conquer it.

Their language called "Cumbrian" or "Northumbrian" was a Celtic-based language very similar to Welsh and seems to have survived until the 14th century (1300's). Some of my ancestors lived in this this part of Britain before immigrating to Pennsylvania in the 18th century. At some point in time, they almost certainly spoke Cumbrian instead of English.
eeodonnell   Tue Nov 07, 2006 2:11 am GMT
It pains me greatly since all of my great-grandparents were from Ireland, but this seems to be the most logical explanation I've seen of why there's such slim evidence of the Celtic reign of England.


Stephen Oppenheimer
http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=7817

Everything you know about British and Irish ancestry is wrong. Our ancestors were Basques, not Celts. The Celts were not wiped out by the Anglo-Saxons, in fact neither had much impact on the genetic stock of these islands
LAA   Tue Nov 07, 2006 5:32 am GMT
And think about how thick the Northumbrian accent is. It's almost unintelligable to an English speaker from London or New York.
Guest   Tue Nov 07, 2006 10:55 am GMT
The Northumbrian accent is actually closer to Old English pronunciation than modern English is.
Guest   Tue Nov 07, 2006 1:20 pm GMT
IF Hispanic was a race British and Irish would be considered Hispanics.
They have Spanish ancestry.
This just proves how labeling people is so wrong.
emilio   Wed Nov 08, 2006 8:36 am GMT
"There are many examples of language change without significant population replacement"

Exactly!!