Celtic Languages

Jordan   Mon Jun 14, 2010 3:41 pm GMT

I know what you mean.

I agree with you on the written aspect of Irish. Welsh kind of looks weird to me as an English speaker because all of those consonants stuck together.

I prefer Irish a little more spoken, but I think the both do sound rather simular (pronunciation wise).

I think the countries (Wales & Ireland) are doing a good job on trying to revive the languages. Citizens get certain benefits if they speak the languages.

I was looking at how some of the languages are written/layed out and I think Irish looks a little more difficult. Both languages are far from any other Germanic/Romance language I have seen.
gvn   Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:48 pm GMT
Hello Jordan,

It's funny, between the Irish and Scottish language...I think that the Scottish language sounds better. When I listen to the speakers on the radio it has more of a fluid sound than spoken Irish does.

However, the Scottish language has the same problem that the Welsh language does:

While the writing is more friendly to my eyes, it is still exotic looking because of the spelling system being used by the Scottish. I think that if they had another revision to their spelling system, Scottish could gain a little more popularity than it has now.

Just today I had the chance to chat with a lady from Scotland. Now she is from Aloa near Sterling and doesn't speak a word of the Scottish language. However, she said that she really enjoyed the look of the language. She rather enjoyed the "older looking" spellings as she called them. But I am just the opposite.

I was reading on the omniglot website that there was a proposal to use Tengwar (the writing system of Quenya from the Lord of the Rings) to help improve the image of Scottish and Welsh both...LOL

Wouldn't that be something?

I know that one of the languages was slightly designed from Welsh, so I can see this as a possibility...but Scottish?

Hmm...couldn't hurt. If they don't do something, there might not be any speakers left at the end of the century.

Now having said that, I do know that Cape Breton is starting to see a strong local community support for the Scottish language. I was reading today that for a while there, Cape Breton had a lot of speakers there at one time and are now trying to bring the language back.
Frodo   Tue Jun 15, 2010 12:09 am GMT
Is that form of Elvish in Tolkien based on Celtic languages? I know he was a linguist, mainly specializing in Germanic languages, like Old English and Old Norse and stuff.
gvn   Tue Jun 15, 2010 4:21 am GMT
According to the websites I visited, Tolkein based the language of Sindarin on Welsh, and the language of Quenya on Finnish.

He spoke very highly of the Welsh language and Celtic mythology in gerneral in his writings, so it is not all that surprising they would be used as inspiration in his writings.
Carpenter Fred   Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:30 am GMT
Celtic languages are probably related to Latin. Just look at some very old words:
ferrum - iarann iron
stannum -stan tin
aurum - or gold
argentum -airgead silver
platinum - platanam platinum
cuprum - copar copper
niccelum - nicil nickel
chromium - cróimiam chromium
carboneum - carbón carbon
iridium - iridiam iridium
animalis - ainmhi animal
mellitus -milis sweet
fluidus - fliuch wet , fluid
scaeva - sceala news
monsoon   Tue Jun 15, 2010 11:23 am GMT
If we are only talking about the
Celtic languages of Ireland and
the UK...then I would say Welsh
would be my choice.
On the islands, I think it is really
now down to Welsh and Irish
I really don't know a lot about
these languages. I read a little
about them on the internet, and I
have now listened to them both
on the internet, so everything I
am about to say is on first
impressions only.
If there are fans of Welsh and
Irish, the following is my
understand from about a single
day's reading ;)
Both are nice languages.
I love the history and
romanticism of the Celtic
Looking at the written language,
Irish wins. As a native speaker of
English, I feel that the Irish
spellings are more pleasing to
me. While the words are foreign,
they are not very exotic and
appear to be something that I
could learn quite easily.
Welsh is nice, but the spelling
system creates words that are
rather exotic looking to my
native English eyes. They just
appear a little more difficult to
learn for myself. Also, the fact
that there more of a distance
between the written and spoken
language than there is in the
written and spoken Irish
language is a little scary.
Now having said all that, I love
how Welsh spelling is more
phonetic than Irish spelling. One
you learn the sound system, it
appears that Welsh is spoken
how it is written, so in that
category it seems a little better
than Irish who like French can be
very misleading with its spelling
But the reason I choose Welsh is
that language is spoken first, and
in this category I think that the
Welsh language is more pleasant
to listen to than Irish.
I listened to a radio talk show in
both Irish and Welsh. There were
times when the Irish lady
sounding like she was mumbling.
And when there were two
people speaking, it did not sound
like it was a natural thing. I felt
like they were reading from a
script, even if they were having
a live conversation. One person
would talk, then there would be
a pause, and then the other
person would speak. It did not
feel like a very fluid
When the Welsh speakers were
talking there was a natural flow
to their voices, and when I heard
them speaking together...I felt
the natural flow between them.
It sounded like two people
speaking naturally, as you would
hear in any language. I just
didn't get that feeling with the
Irish speakers.
Also, I think that the sounds of
the Welsh language are cleaner
easier to hear with my English
speaking ears. Irish like those
"airy" aspirations, which is nice,
but not my personally favorite.
Welsh definitely sounded better I
And finally, you have to consider
the politics of the language.
With Irish, there is this dialect
war being fought. There are
many regional dialects that fall
under three main dialects. And
for some reason, there seems to
be this separate but equal
treatment among the three
dialects. Now I know that a
speaker of one dialect can easily
understand another dialect, but
for a learner it would be nice if
there was one dialect that
officially represented the Irish
language instead of the separate
but equal treatment.
Welsh also has dialects, but there
is not the political divides I feel.
And finally, with Welsh you can
find more contemporary usage
of the language.
Now this is just my opinion, but
looking at the way the language
is presented on the internet...
It seems that Welsh is being
presented as real live functional
language of the present, and
Irish is being presented like
some bridge that connects
people to the past.
But again that's just my opinion.

mummra   Tue Jun 15, 2010 1:39 pm GMT
"Celtic languages are probably related to Latin. Just look at some very old words:
ferrum - iarann iron
stannum -stan tin
aurum - or gold
argentum -airgead silver
platinum - platanam platinum
cuprum - copar copper
niccelum - nicil nickel
chromium - cróimiam chromium
carboneum - carbón carbon
iridium - iridiam iridium
animalis - ainmhi animal
mellitus -milis sweet
fluidus - fliuch wet , fluid
scaeva - sceala news "

Well, it is well known that both latin and celtic are part of the same language family-both have PIE (Proto-Indo European) as their ancestor.
In the past it was hypothesised that Latin and Celtic were even more closely related than any other group in the PIE tree, but that is falling out of favour, and any similarity is mainly thought to be due to close contact and word exchange.

Regardless, they are both daughter languages of PIE.

other examples:
arrow=latin sagitta=irish saighead
man=latin vir=irish fir (plural)
woman/female=latin femina=irish mna (plural)

and so on
Carpenter Fred   Tue Jun 15, 2010 3:21 pm GMT
@Mummra, I still think that there was something more in common between Celtic and Italic languages (like Latin). The names of metals/chemical elements are dissimilar between other groups (Germanic vs Romance or Germanic vs Italic, or Germanic vs Slavic).There must have been some similar evolution in the past maybe the same stages, because there is an evidence of grammar similiarities between Celtic languages and Latin...
Carpenter Fred   Tue Jun 15, 2010 3:24 pm GMT
As for grammar similarities , I've found an article from Wikipedia: "The principal Italo-Celtic forms are:
the thematic Genitive in i (dominus, domini). Both in Italic (Popliosio Valesiosio, Lapis Satricanus) and in Celtic (Lepontic, Celtiberian -o), traces of the -osyo Genitive of Proto-Indo-European have also been discovered, which might indicate that the spread of the i-Genitive occurred in the two groups independently (or by areal diffusion). The i-Genitive has been compared to the so-called Cvi formation in Sanskrit, but that too is probably a comparatively late development. The phenomenon is probably related to the feminine long i stems (see Devi inflection) and the Luwian i-mutation.
the ā-subjunctive. Both Italic and Celtic have a subjunctive descended from an earlier optative in -ā-. Such an optative is not known from other languages, but the suffix occurs in Balto-Slavic and Tocharian past tense formations, and possibly in Hittite -ahh-.
the collapsing of the PIE aorist and perfect into a single past tense. In both groups, this is a relatively late development of the proto-languages, possibly dating to the time of "Italo-Celtic" language contact.
the assimilation of *p to a following *kʷ.[6] This development obviously predates the Celtic loss of *p:
PIE *penkʷe 'five' → Latin quinque; Old Irish cóic
PIE *perkʷu- 'oak' → Latin quercus; Goidelic ethnonym Querni
PIE *pekʷ- 'cook' → Latin coquere; Welsh poeth 'hot' (Welsh p presupposes Proto-Celtic *kʷ)
PIE *ponkʷu- 'all' → Latin cunctus; Irish (and Old Irish) gach, Welsh pob 'every' ".
Romano   Tue Jun 15, 2010 4:21 pm GMT
I think there was a thread that had this discussion a while ago.

<<But Celtic and Italic languages have more in common with each other ultimately than they do with Germanic. I believe they came into western Europe as one group and then split. There were similarities between old Latin and ancient Gaulish, even in grammatical structure and declensions, and I heard they could understand a little of their basic speech. Caesar actually noticed this to an extent. I remember seeing a list of similar words somewhere, but I don't remember exactly. Some that I found were:

King: rex, rix
Horse: equus, epo/ekwos (on a side note, the Vulgar Latin caballus, ancestor of the Romance language word for horse, was actually borrowed from Gaulish caballos- work horse, as was cervisia from cervesia- beer, and carrus from carros- wagon)
Divine: divinus, divno
God: deus, devos
World: mundus, dumno
Bull: taurus, tarvos
Horn: cornu, carnus
Sea: mare, mori
Other, second: alius, allos
Out of: ex, es
And: que-, cue-
Brother: frater, bratir

A few of these can be explained by common IE roots though. Anyway I remember someone once joked that Romans were essentially "Hellenized Celts", but I think that's a bit of a stretch, lol. Of course the other explanation for their similarities could be just the fact that they lived near each other for a long time.

As for Romance languages, yes they derived even further from the Italic base, so it's hard to find any direct similarity to Celtic languages, which themselves have evolved a lot. Especially insular ones like Irish, which ended up quite different from continental ones like Gaulish. All in all though, I think Celtic belongs somewhere in between Italic and Germanic, as it also has several words that are similar with the latter, like "isarno" and "Eisen" or "iron". All of them form part of the Centum group of IE languages.>>

But as far as the element names in Irish someone posted above, I think a lot of them may be recent scientific/technical borrowings. Some of them seem like they were uncommon or too modern to be used in ancient times, like chromium, iridium, etc. But who knows
Leasnam   Tue Jun 15, 2010 4:41 pm GMT
I find that Celtic languages are completely frempt and foreign to me, as if they are not even a related group of languages.

One can find similarities between Romance-Germanic-Slavic languages pretty eath, yet Celtic languages are like from a different planet.

You know that old saying: It's Greek to me? They should say instead, "It's Celtic to me".
mummra   Tue Jun 15, 2010 5:08 pm GMT
I thought so too, but when you look at the vocabulary you get a lot of similar terms, even if the spelling is out of whack (and celtic spelling is out of this world for sure!). We have the two schools of thought: Those who believe Celtic and Italic are part of the same Italo-Celtic group (used to be the majority view, but now seems to be losing some support), and the more generally accepted view that they are independent branches of PIE and their similarities are due to aerial diffusion.

The Romans themselves did not see any relationship between their language and the gaulish tongue, which was a pity. On the other hand, they know latin and greek were related (they thought after all, that their culture came from troy, via Aeneas-and troy was probably a mycenean greek colony in Asia Minor). That's another fascinationg story-the similarity of Greek and Latin and other european tongues. Similarities that are, on the surface, non-existent, but when you dig deeper they prop up like a sore thumb.
Franco   Tue Jun 15, 2010 5:30 pm GMT
The Romans themselves did not see any relationship between their language and the gaulish tongue, which was a pity. On the other hand, they know latin and greek were related (they thought after all, that their culture came from troy, via Aeneas-and troy was probably a mycenean greek colony in Asia Minor).


That means very little because the British colonists themselves did not see any similarity between their language and Hindi yet there are. The Romans considered the Gauls as barbarians, so they had not much interest in in their language and culture but Greece on the other hand was seen by the Romans as a model to follow. That does not mean that the Romans were aware of the fact that both Greek and Latin were related languages, because they didn't have developed linguistics. As for Aeneas, he didn't found Rome. The connection between Troy and Rome is an invention the Romans used to give grandiosity to their rather humble origins.
Trojan   Tue Jun 15, 2010 6:00 pm GMT
The Romans looked on the Gauls as barbarians, so they didn't see a relationship, but I think some of them noted that there were some similar words and might have been able to understand some basic things in the other language. And since when was Troy a Mycenean Greek colony? I thought the Myceneans, or Achaeans, were the ones who fought against them in that war. I heard it might have been some kind of Hittite or other ancient Anatolian kind of IE people, but it's still unclear.
Unicodiphilus   Tue Jun 15, 2010 7:22 pm GMT
Oh, I eagerly await Unicode encoding for Tengwar!