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-   -   The Celtic Myth (http://historum.com/european-history/87831-celtic-myth.html)

Sindane March 28th, 2015 07:25 PM

The Celtic Myth
When I was at school (a long time ago :), I admit ). I was taught that the history term "Celt" was little more than an 18th century romanticised invention. That if the word was to be used at all, it was to mean a particular time period, a way of describing much of the people of north western Europe at a particular time. That it was a widespread culture of old pots and burials or perhaps a collection of vague disparate languages spread across a wide area.
What did the Romans say about it, if anything?
Is this recent study true ? That there was "not a single Celtic group" dna DNA study shows Celts are not a unique genetic group - BBC News
Is it all a load of old hogwash?

Dauritas April 1st, 2015 03:10 PM

First of all, the link you provided is not to this study, but to a popular science article published by BBC News.

Moreover, it says "Celts are [today] not a unique genetic group", not "Celts were never a unique genetic group". What Celts do we have today? Only remnants of Celtic language survived, and in the periphery of the Celtic world, which used to be many times larger.

Here is the original study (which has a different title): http://www.nature.com/nature/journal...ture14230.html

This study actually confirms a substantial Celtic migration into the British Isles before the Roman conquest of Britain:


- The analyses suggest there was a substantial migration across the channel after the original post-ice-age settlers, but before Roman times. DNA from these migrants spread across England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, but had [relatively] less impact in Wales.
After the original post-ice-age peopling, but before Roman times. So either Celts or earlier Indo-Europeans, or both.

Obviously modern Celts (people of Celtic language & culture in the British Isles) are not the same as all ancient Celts in entire Europe. To start with, the center of the Celtc world was in continental Europe, not in the British Isles. Britain was the periphery of the Celtic world.

So British Celts originated as mixtures of ancient Celtic immigrants from continental Europe and local Non-Celtic British populations.

Definitely British Celts (Insular Celts) are not a "race". But neither are Germanics, for example.

Celts lived from Iberia to Ukraine, it is impossible for them to be "a single group". Ethno-linguistic family =/= family of inbreds.

Dauritas April 1st, 2015 03:18 PM

The Celtic "Myth" is no more a myth than the Germanic "Myth" or the Slavic "Myth", if you want to see these groups as "races".

You don't need to be an expert to notice that Swedes and Austrians or Czechs and Bulgarians are not clones of each other.

Dauritas April 1st, 2015 03:21 PM

What is interesting about this new study, is that it says that the Welsh are actually less Celtic than the English - in terms of ancestry. Yes, they are less Celtic, less Belgian*, less Roman, less Germanic, less every immigrant group - they were relatively least affected by all immigrations (but still affected). Apparently Wales isn't a very attractive place for immigrants to settle. Maybe too many little mountains and bad weather?

Even today probably London alone has more immigrants than entire Wales.

*The ancient Belgae also immigrated to Britain - as the new study confirms. We don't know if Belgae were Celtic or a distinct group.

Sindane April 1st, 2015 03:43 PM

Thanks for replies Dauritas. Interesting

Dauritas April 1st, 2015 03:46 PM

As for those examples I gave - Austrians are closer related to Slovenes and Czechs than to Swedes. Bulgarians are closer related to Greeks and Turks than to Czechs. So here are these "linguistic races".

Sindane April 1st, 2015 04:15 PM

Yes that it means a language or a time period. But then why is England not classes as "Celtic" too. Englands language is a mixture that includes "celtic" too?
Its so confusing

Dauritas April 1st, 2015 11:35 PM

My post was about ancestry of English people, not origins of English language.

English people - just like French people - are a Celtic-Latin-Germanic-other mix.

Germanic language also had a profound contribution to French language:


Originally Posted by Dauritas (Post 2141240)
Ok, but one thing - to say that Franks simply "lost" their language is a mistake. They did not "lose", but contributed to the formation of French language, from Latin-Germanic mix. I have found a very interesting text about the influence of Franks on French language:

I found it on another website (author's nick is Owen Glyndwr) - links:

Part 1

Part 2

Vulgar Latin in Roman Gaul

Before we turn to the entrance of the Franks and Burgundians to Gaul and analyze these peoples' influences on what would come to be the French language, it would be prudent to look at Vulgar Latin, that is, the Latin of the peoples in the Roman province of Gaul prior to the introduction of the Germanic Frankish language so as better to understand its influence.

The interesting aspect of Vulgar Latin, or rather, what we know of Vulgar Latin is that it appeared to be fairly homogeneous throughout the Roman Empire. The most important distinguishing factors of Vulgar Latin are that [h] (that is, the glottal fricative) has no phonetic value, and the diphthongs [æ] (aɪ in IPA; as in "eye") and [œ] (ɔɪ in IPA; roughly equivalent to the oi in "coil") were reduced to the IPA [ɛ] and [e] (the e in "dress" and the ay in "play" in American English) respectively. The classical neuter plurals in -a are reexpressed as the feminine singular, while masculine and neuter substantives (-us and -um, respectively) are commonly confused. Synthetic passives are rarely used, a new compound tense involving the very habere with a perfect participle (seen in modern Spanish as the perfecto tense) begins to be used. Vulgar Latin tends to make less use of the complex case system of Classical Latin, replacing it with heavier use of prepositions. Vulgar Latin was also heavily influenced by the early Church, notably in the form of the introduction of numerous Greek words, such as angelus (angel), ecclesia (church) (église), diaconus 'deacon' (diacre), episcopus 'bishop' (évêque), etc. (For the record, Germanic languages experienced the same process when they came into contact with the early Christian church).

It is important to note that until the 5th century Gaul remained in fairly close contact with Rome and thereby the rest of the Roman empire and thus it is understandable that beyond dialectical and pronunciation differences, the Latin of Gaul would not be too different from, say, the Latin of Rome. The one distinct difference, however, lay in the vocabulary of Gaulish Latin, which maintained a number of Gaulish [Celtic] loan words, most having to do with agriculture and the herding of animals.

With this in mind we can now turn to the "Western Germanic" of the Franks. By the 5th or 6th century a group of people known as "The Franks" had been identified. They spoke a number of languages and dialects ascribed to either the term "Old Frankish" or the more general "Low Franconian". The language group was a "West Germanic" one originating from the Rhine-Weser group identified earlier. Old Frankish, what the Franks were believed to have spoken doesn't actually exist, as we have very little of the Franks' original language (if such a language existed at all), and rather is a reconstruction based on various Low German languages such as Dutch.

Again the causes and effects of the Frankish "invasion" or "migration" or whatever you wish to call it or describe it has been something gone over several times in this thread so I won't bore you with another description. However, the effect on the Vulgar Latin of Gaul, and in particular that of Northern Gaul (the locus of the Frankish conquests) is certainly visible and profound, a subject I'll explore in depth in just a bit, but first we must look at the effect of the resultant isolation the introduction of the various Germanic tribes to Gaul brought about to Vulgar Latin in Gaul.

In addition to the influence of the Germanic Franks, the very fact that "Francia" fell out of contact with the rest of the Roman empire for much of the period had a severe effect on Latin in the region, particularly in the form of exaggerating tendencies which were already beginning to form prior to the breakdown of contact. For example the placing of [i] before an initial [s] followed by a consonant: isperare (espérer), ispo(n)sa (épouse), iscola (école). In addition a great deal of syncope - the reduction of syllables, particularly in words were a stressed syllable is followed by two unstressed ones began to occur, for example postus or positus or domnus for dominus. Additionally Francia Latin experienced a reduction of the perfect ending from avit or aut, and the change of [k] and [t]+yod to [ts], implied in spellings such as tercia for tertia, stacio for statio.

There are a great many more changes which Latin in this region underwent during this time and I won't bore you with any more of the details. Suffice it to say, the lack of contact with the rest of the Roman world had a large effect on Latin in the region, however the fact that Latin was retained as the language of law and kingship rather than the Germanic Old Frankish is important as one of the reasons that French retained many of its Latin roots.

In spite of the Gaulish retention of Latin, the effect Frankish had on Gaulish Latin is both deep and profound. A great deal of words in Old French and even French today are of Germanic origin, particularly in vocabulary of military origins, such as Fr. guerre "war" <Gmc. *werra, OFr. brand "sword" < Gmc. *brand-, OFr. gonfalon "battle flag" < Gmc. *gun-fanan, OFr. heaume "helmet" < Gmc. *helm.

Additionally, the introduction of new Germanic suffixes opened the possibility of new word formations. Thus we see that Germanic suffixes -hart and -walt gave rise to OFr. -art (expressed in Modern Fr. as -ard and -aut (Mod. -aud), seen in Modern French Words such as veillard and badaud.

Some Germanic loan-words contained sounds which weren't easily transcribable to Latin. A good example of this is the strongly aspirated initial [x] of Germanic being represented by the letter h, which, as mentioned above, had ceased to contain any phonetic value in Vulgar Latin outside of its traditional use in orthography. The h in French is no longer aspirated, but the affect this loan-spelling had is visible in modern French in the form of those pesky exceptions which do not elide, for example in the term haricots-verts. Words beginning with a [w] were written as uu by scribes to distinguish it from the latin v. This sound eventually became expressed as [gw] before becoming a [g] by the 12th century.

Germanic language had another very striking effect on Gaulish Vulgar Latin in the reduction of paroxytons, the loss of final unstressed syllables, and extensive diphthonization in stressed syllables (although the reduction of proparoxytons had begun earlier). Syllabically, Vulgar Latin words were of the three types: oxytons, paroxytons, and proparoxytons. An oxyton is a word which bears the stress on the final syllable. However in Vulgar Latin this only applied to monosyllables. Paroxytons were all words stressed on the second to last syllable, where the penultimate syllable was long. If the penultimate syllable was short then the stress fell on the antepenultimate syllable. Words in which this occurs are known as proparoxyton. So for example:

Oxytons non, hoc, et, ac, me
Paroxytons múri, pórta, máre, hábet
Proparoxytons véndere, cúmulus, cámera

Now as I mentioned earlier, one of the most defining features of the Germanic language family as distinct from the rest of Indo-European is that Germanic languages strictly place the stress of the word on its root, with the result being a clipping of sounds towards the ends of words. With that in mind it would appear that the Franks in their adoption of Latin seemed to retain this adherence. Although strictly speaking the Franks maintained the stresses in the correct places, they tended to overemphasize the stress, leading to a "swallowing" of some of the syllables preceding the stress and a reduction of syllables following the stress. In words in which the vowel of the stressed syllable was 'free' (that is, not proceeded by a consonant), that vowel tended to undergo a considerable lengthening or drawling, resulting in that vowel tending to undergo a diphthonging (A diphthong is a vowel which is actually a combination of two separate vowels which are combined so as to sound like one sound. Examples of diphthongs would include [eɪ] as in ache or [aɪ] as in ice. We can see this in a variety of changes as expressed in O. Fr, for example múri > mur, hábet>a, and máre>mer

The final result of this tendency was that in consonants which had previously been separated by a vowel came into contact with groups which necessitated the preservation of the vowel in the final syllable to facilitate articulation, these final vowels would be retained as [ə]. We can see this in a variety of French words, for example in véndere > vendre

Finally, French took on a number of very distinctly Germanic grammatical elements. For example, both languages began employing an old demonstrative pronoun (English this, that) as the definite article, and the numeral "one" as the indefinite. Along similar lines, the word for "man" (OHG man; Lat. homo > Fr. on) came to be used as an indefinite pronound.

Finally, and perhaps most strikingly, French adopted a compound tense. The interesting aspect of this is that neither PGmc. nor Lat. would have done this. Latin would have expressed "I have done" via the perfect tense fêcî, and Germanic would have used the preterite (Ich tat), however both German and French adopted a similar tense ich habe getan and j'ai fait in German and French respectively. Equally interesting (to me at least) is that both have near identical rules about the use of the verb to be as a hilfsverb for certain verbs, usually relating to subjects of location or status change (ich bin gekommen, and je suis venu, for example). This would point perhaps, not only to the Franks' considerable influence on the development of that strain of Vulgar Latin which would eventually become Old French, but also to the strains of Western Germanic which would eventually become Old High German.

So, we probably should not and cannot underplay the importance of Franks on formation of French language.

Frankish contribution to the emergence of French was not as large as that of Vulgar Latin, but still quite significant.

French language is essentially Romance, but with these Germanic influences. Just like English is Germanic, but with strong Latin / Romance (French) influences. Old English didn't have Latin influences. They appeared in Middle English, after the conquest of 1066.

But modern English is more Germanic, while modern French more Latin/Romance.


Probably the main reason why in West Francia Germanic did not replace Romance, is because Germanic was not used in writing. The only official language of the Frankish Empire (both its Romance part and its Germanic part) was Latin. All texts were written in Latin.

In Charlemagne's Empire all courts, administration, acts of written law and schools used exclusively Latin language.

By contrast Anglo-Saxon kingdoms wrote their texts in Old English. Probably that's why it replaced Celtic languages.

So here is the main difference (not necessarily in proportions of Germanic settlers to native Celtic / Latin populations).

Recent study by Oxford University shows that English people are only in 10% - 40% of Germanic ancestry, depending on region. So a minority imposed their language upon a majority. There was also Germanic settlement in parts of Gaul - they could easily be 10% there.

That said, in France Celtic language had been replaced by Latin before.

And contribution of Latin-speaking settlers from Italy was also rather not greater than 10% - 20%. So in Gaul Celtic-speaking majority was as well assimilated by a Latin-speaking minority.

johnincornwall April 1st, 2015 11:41 PM

I agree Celtic is a vastly-overused word.

Dauritas April 1st, 2015 11:47 PM

It is not any more overused than other similar words "Germanic" or "Slavic" or "Romance".

Celtic languages used to be very widespread in the past.

Celtic was spoken by many groups from Iberia to Ukraine and from Britain to Asia Minor.

Just like Europeans used to speak Non-Indo-European languages 5000 years ago.

Celtic cultures also existed in the same sense as later Roman, Germanic, etc. ones.

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