What happened to the British language?

Jul 2016
35
United States
I am talking specifically about the native language of Britain, before the English. For some reason it simply disappeared when the Anglo-Saxons arrived on the coast of the North Sea in the 5th century AD. The Welsh and Scottish tongue survived, but the main of Britain has passed into history with not even a trace. What is the reason for this mysterious vanishing?
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,205
Welsh Marches
The common British (Brittonic) language survived on the margins, in NW England/S Scotland, the SW peninsula, and Wales, where it evolved into Cumbric (became extinct in the Middle Ages, c C12), Cornish (became extinct in C19, although there has been some 'revival' by hobbyists), and Welsh, which still survives as a living language. Scottish Gaelic is of different origin, descended from old Irish.
 
Aug 2016
338
Poland
This is interesting phenomenon in history.
Looking at similiar examples the outcome can be different and looks random.

- Germanic Franks conquer areas of France, but France did not start speak Germanic: they got Latinized
- Norman Vikings settle in Normandy - within 200 years they started to speak Frankish
- Swedish Vikings start Russian state: in quite short time they become Slavicized
- Germany incorporates huge numbers of Western Slavs from Elbe to Oder river: within some 600 years they forget own language and become Germanized
- Hungarians from steppes conquer Slavs in Pannonia: invaders impose Hungarian language on locals in short time
- Avars conquer Slavs in Danube region: within 200 years Avars disappear completly and become Slavicized
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,733
Small elites adopt the common language of the people they rule efter moving in — Scandinavians in Russia or Normandy, Franks, etc. The original Bulgars spoke a Turkish language, but switched to the Slavic of the people they ended up ruling.

The language shift seems to occur when the rank and file turn up in bulk, and form a new settlement. Intermarriage, or not, seems to be one key.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,447
Dispargum
Small elites adopt the common language of the people they rule efter moving in — Scandinavians in Russia or Normandy, Franks, etc. The original Bulgars spoke a Turkish language, but switched to the Slavic of the people they ended up ruling.

The language shift seems to occur when the rank and file turn up in bulk, and form a new settlement. Intermarriage, or not, seems to be one key.
I agree with the examples you cite, and I'm sure you are not suggesting that the Anglo Saxons outnumbered the native Britons. So what happened in Britain seems to be an exception to the general rule.

There's also an issue of prestige. People who speak the language of lower prestige will learn the language of higher prestige. Of course, how prestige is defined varies from place to place. If you look at the process of Roman collapse in Britain it's easy to understand that the native Britons were going through a crisis of confidence. 'What are we doing wrong?' 'Why is our world coming to an end?' What happened in Britain seems to have been much worse than what happened on the continent with the collapsing Roman Empire. When the Anglo Saxons arrived they seemed to have their act together, so their culture and language became the one of higher prestige.
 

Kevinmeath

Ad Honoris
May 2011
14,020
Navan, Ireland
The common British (Brittonic) language survived on the margins, in NW England/S Scotland, the SW peninsula, and Wales, where it evolved into Cumbric (became extinct in the Middle Ages, c C12), Cornish (became extinct in C19, although there has been some 'revival' by hobbyists), and Welsh, which still survives as a living language. Scottish Gaelic is of different origin, descended from old Irish.
As I understand it correct -- it did not disappear.

The common language maintained in areas such a Cornwall, Cumbria and what we today call Wales.

Early 'welsh' literature actually comes from a 'Welsh' of modern Edinburgh.

To say it disappeared is wrong.

Why English replaced it so strongly in the 'lost lands' is a different question
 

Pacific_Victory

Ad Honorem
Oct 2011
7,654
MARE PACIFICVM
I've always wondered what role Latin, or the memory of Latin played in this scenario. For a population who was accustomed to a ruling class who spoke a different language, the adoption of Aenglisc as a means to secure a position in society wouldn't have been offensive. With the germanics coming over and settling in big numbers, it wouldn't be long before British was pushed to the edges.
 

Sindane

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
4,686
Europe
I am talking specifically about the native language of Britain, before the English. For some reason it simply disappeared when the Anglo-Saxons arrived on the coast of the North Sea in the 5th century AD. The Welsh and Scottish tongue survived, but the main of Britain has passed into history with not even a trace. What is the reason for this mysterious vanishing?
:confused:
Wales and Scotland is in Britain !

The south of England is closer to the continent, so more influence from there mixed in with the English language?
 
Jun 2016
1,859
England, 200 yards from Wales
What do people think of the idea (as in Oppenheimer 'Origins of the British') that the differences between West and East Britain were much older, and due to sea contact either across the North Sea or down the West Atlantic coast - this possibly even giving rise to some Germanic language being used in Eastern England even in or before the Roman period - which would help to explain the degree of replacement there?
 

Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,614
Westmorland
What do people think of the idea (as in Oppenheimer 'Origins of the British') that the differences between West and East Britain were much older, and due to sea contact either across the North Sea or down the West Atlantic coast - this possibly even giving rise to some Germanic language being used in Eastern England even in or before the Roman period - which would help to explain the degree of replacement there?
It's an intriguing theory, but not one which is borne out by any persuasive evidence. That the south and east has always looked to the Continent for ideas seems pretty clear, but those ideas came from Gaul as often as they came from beyond the limes.

One clue comes from place and personal names recorded by Roman writers. Many Roman place names are simply Latinised versions of earlier names. As such, it is possible to recover and draw conclusions about the provenance of those names. They are all 'Celtic', although one or two might be Q Celtic (the ancestor of Irish) rather than P Celtic (the ancestor of Welsh). York is a godo example. The original name reconstructs as Eboracon (Romanised to Eboracum) which means 'place of the yew trees'. P-Celtic for 'yew trees' would be ywen, but Q Celtic gives you a root of ibor.

Similarly, names such as Boudicca, Cartimandua, Caradoc et al all have Celtic roots. I'm not aware of any names which display Germanic origins which rather counts against Oppenheimer's spreadsheet.