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Talk:Brittonicisms in English

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the editsEdit

Thanks for tidying the introduction. re: discussion on "wipe out" theory - maybe a rewording, if no central linguist have taken this theory seriously. I think some mention of the discrediting of the clean sweep model should be present. The linguists do it. There are public acceptance, funding issues. Im not sure about Tolkein as an Oxford Anglosaxonist. The term Anglosaxonist may be used in a critical fashion. Is he primarily known for promoting the English as Anglo-saxons? Describing him as _the author_, will indicate that he is _the_ Tolkein and his work in philology is I think next in line in importance. The dates - The Celtic Englishes programme was a ten year project from 1995-2005(in the intro to CE IV) - but assessing when a peripheral idea becomes prominent is difficult. --Fodbynag (talk) 08:18, 22 May 2010 (UTC)

Tolkien (Tolkien) is an Anglo-Saxonist because his field was Old English philology. What do you mean, "promoting the English as Anglo-saxons?" Tolkien's is cited here as an authority on Old English, not as a fantasy author.

I am grateful for this detailed article, but I cannot help noticing a certain bias on your part. You seem intent on emphasizing the "recent" results. To do this, you would seem to play down the degree to which "Brittonicism" are and always have been perfectly undisputed. Saying that the influence of Welsh on English has been "minimal" is a typological statement, comparing the influence of other substates on other languages. You cannot dispel the claim that the influence was "minimal" by listing a bunch of examples. It is, of course, undisputed, that there are Brittonicisms in English. The fact just remains that people familiar with other substrates, say the non-Greek substrate in Greek or the non-IE substrate in Sanskrit, will be surprised at just how little traces Welsh left on English. It is certainly respectable to perform detailed research into such traces as there are, and of course such research is bound to uncover more information on the substrate, but I fail to see any evidence that any independent reviewer came away with the impression that there is "recent" evidence that there had been more influence than had hitherto been assumed.

Consequently, I think some of the material in the article needs to be put in proper perspective wrt WP:DUE. For example, the presentation of the "w, θ and ð" case to me seems rather tendentious. The article text seems to propose that the presence of w, θ and ð in English can somehow be taken as due to Welsh influence. Only those turning to the footnote will then learn that the source cited rejects this possibility. This is one example of the article trying to make more of a case for substrate influence that would be strictly WP:DUE. --dab (𒁳) 19:34, 22 May 2010 (UTC)

The assertion of the Celtic hypothesists is that the Brittonic effect on English are extensive - much of the change from Old English to Middle English. These are assertions by respected authorities. Part of the 'proof' for this position is that many possibilities do add up to a certainty(White). So I think its fair to give examples and people are interested to know. The recent aspect comes among other things from the funded programmes and the possibilties of data mining into English texts - the Helsinki Corpus.

I'll change the introduction to make it clearer we're dealing mainly with the inovations in Middle English. Also Brittonicisms are not necessarily from a substratum. Alex Woolf(Apartheid and Economics in Anglo-Saxon England) suspects a later influence(e.g. from Welsh, but also Irish) - so the change "influence of Brittonic speakers".

The article is written as a significant minority view. It seems to have a significant academic following. I've written what I know of the issue. I dont think the public should be denied the information. A reference to an alternative view on dental fricatives etc is in the foot note - I cited Isaac because of his summary of the occurances of the fricatives. The other two citations suggests Celtic influence is supportive. I dont know if theres a consensus on either view.

So for each item, what are the alternative views? Are you suggesting a caveat at the end of each? --Fodbynag (talk) 03:14, 25 May 2010 (UTC)

Yes, I appreciate that this articles presents a significant minority view. I wouldn't dream of trying to "deny the information" to the public, I am glad for your contributions. All I am saying is that it should be put into some perspective as a minority view. I.e. give adequate screen time to its opponents.

Ideally, we should give an overview of the proponent's line of argument, and then a summary of the gist of the opponents. We should single out the "Middle English is significantly due to Welsh substrate influence" hypothesis as a thing apart from a mere list of possible or likely Brittonicisms. This hypothesis strikes me as rather far from the received consensus on the transition to Middle English, in the sense of WP:REDFLAG. I am well aware of the Middle English creole hypothesis, but this usually assumes that the creolization was due to contact of Old English with Old Norse and/or Old French, not Welsh.

I find the identification of himself or the survival of /w/ as Brittonicisms rather daring in itself, but since both are clearly present in Old English, it is even more tenuous to suggest that, if accepted, they somehow lend support or plausibility to the "Middle English hypothesis". Be that as it may, I do not wish to pretend to be an expert. I simply request the inclusion of the view of experts critical of this hypothesis. --dab (𒁳) 13:19, 26 May 2010 (UTC)

I tried to arrange the material chronologically. I.e., we should try to discuss proposed influence in Old English, in the transition to Middle English, and in Modern English due to "continual influence of Celtic" in separate sections.

I also took the liberty of separating out Vennemann's stuff into a separate section. If the "Middle English hypothesis" is a respected minority view, Vennemann's "Atlantic/Semitid" ideas are very clearly considerably further out on the fringe. --dab (𒁳) 13:46, 26 May 2010 (UTC)

I specifically mentioned the creole hypothesis as an alternative view. I thought it was clear that it doesnt involve Brittonic(please not Welsh) influence. Under the old page layout the Brittonicisms were under the heading Possible Brittonicisms. I'm sure all of them have at least one detracter. Separating the items that support Vennemanns hypothesis out makes it seam like other Celtic Hypothesists who don't support his Affro-Asiatic contentions dont see the items as evidence. As a citation Vennemanns work is recent and he's obviously an expert in the field but ideally his hypothesis would be on a different page(keeping them on this page as well). As regards opposing hypotheses, language internal developement is a big one, with the extreme view being that if English language changes can be modeled without Brittonic influence then they must be - which makes it difficult to model the large scale language adoption of Brittonic speakers. So, I'm supposing, the dominant hypothesis will depend on who you ask.

I suppose you've read some of the citations and agree that they are reliable. The Oxford History of English(2006) doesnt go into Celtic influence because the issue is disputed. As is in the article, they put inflexion attrition down to Norse influence and Germanic accent. For the origin of DO they dont know, they mention Celtic influence in passing, theyre waiting for a bigger corpus.199-209 Apparently there isn't a standard hypothesis.

The reflexive pronoun use is as an intensifier. I don't have a reference for an opposing view. The /w/ item does contain an opposing view obviously. I suppose it's significance is it indicates sustained language contact making it a better candidate for other changes.

I planned this page as hopefully an impartial reference point for all the possible Brittonic influence and not necessarily items that prove the change to analyticism. So for instance, maybe the regularity in Old English compared with Old High German(M.Gorlach in 1991) and a phonological system(P,Schrijver - recent) could be included if I have time to look into the issue--Fodbynag (talk) 08:28, 27 May 2010 (UTC)

The /w/ item is very weak a priori because it brings in substratum influence to explain an archaism. The reflexive pronoun use is as an intensifier to be sure, but we lack any suggestion that this is due to Welsh influence. Lists like "They share this feature only with Dutch, Maltese, Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian in Europe" are a red herring.

I understand the term "Brittonic" btw. I may still say "Welsh" for convenience. I realize it is possible to distinguish Welsh from Cornish, Cumbric and possibly Pictish within Brittonic, but after all "Welsh" originates as the catch-all term for these languages, and became narrowed only because some of the dialects died out. --dab (𒁳) 10:11, 28 May 2010 (UTC)


Tolkein - "But I mention this feature of Old English morphology here only because the _same distinction of functions is associated with similar phonetic forms_ in Welsh. In Welsh one finds a true present without b-forms, and a tense with a b-stem used both as a future and a consuetudinal. The 3sg. of the latter tense is bydd from earlier *bið. The resemblance between this and the OE form is perhaps made more remarkable if we observe that the short vowel of OE is difficult to explain and cannot be a regular development from earlier Germanic, whereas in Welsh it is regularly derived." - so he's the reference for the similarity between bydd and bið.--Fodbynag (talk) 01:02, 28 May 2010 (UTC)

I will point out once again that the man is called Tolkien.

Yes, I have checked out the English and Welsh essay, and you are correct. --dab (𒁳) 09:57, 28 May 2010 (UTC)

Intensifier - reflexive pronounEdit

The replacement of the old intensifier info. is taken from Claudia Lange in Celtic Englishes IV - "Similarly, early Middle English witnessed the replacement of the old intensifier self by a fused form pronoun + self; when plain pronouns ceased to be used reflexively and the compound form became obligatory as the reflexive marker in Early Modern English, the modern pattern of formal identity between intensifier and reflexive pronoun was established (cf. König and Siemund 2000 a, b; Lange 2005)."--Fodbynag (talk) 01:23, 28 May 2010 (UTC)

Reordering the pageEdit

The various Brittonicisms should be under the title 'possible' , I'm sure they're disputed. Phonetics should have its own category because other items that arent in modern English may be added. Vennemanns further ideas don't really belong here but perhaps its thought his pre-Celtic hypothesis discredits him as an authority so theres a brief description and a link out on tag questions but not on external possessor because Filppula and co is present for a modern citation(they have a detailed examination). I think there needs to be an example of what an external possessor is. Vennemann has 30 years as prof of linguistics at Munich and he's an expert in historical linguistics, so I think his citations should stay. One of his articles is on line.--Fodbynag (talk) 03:48, 28 May 2010 (UTC)

My main concern here is not the "possible", because obviously each point made here can be debated. It is the "1500 years of contact" which we need to arrange in some meaningful way. The major hypothesis transported by this article is the substrate influence in spoken Old English, invisible in written Old English, that becomes visible only in Middle English. I would prefer it material related to this hypothesis was put under a separate "transition to Middle English" section, separate from both items already present in written Old English and items that are clearly of modern origin.

Regarding Vennemann: please cite a better source for the "external possessor" thing. Vennemann in his Rotary lecture uses it to build his Semitic hypothesis, but even he admits that the interpretation as Celtic substratum "was suggested eighty years ago by an Indo-Europeanist" even though he cannot help claiming it was "recently proved by myself" (wth?). Our aim must be to make the intended points without getting bogged down in Vennemann's Semitic cruft. I understand that "White (2004) enumerates 92 items, of which 32 are attributed to other academic works" (does this mean that the other 60 are original to White?) -- it may therefore be better to dump the Vennemann references in favour of White. --dab (𒁳) 09:56, 28 May 2010 (UTC)

"external possessor" is already cited by Markku Filppula, Juhani Klemola, Heli Paulasto (2008) "English and Celtic in Contact" which gives a detailed discussion and is not concerned with the Semitic hypothesis. The Semitic hypothesis doesnt need to be mentioned. Vennemann has 30 years as Prof of linguistics at Munich and is an expert in historical-linguistics - I dont thinks he's a snake oil salesman. "does that mean 60 are original to White?" - I doubt it, but I counted them just in case. You can download and read this article.

I dont think the categorisation should be more specific. It is likely to create errors. For instance, the definition of Brittonicisms was changed from the "influence of Brittonic speakers" to "influence of a Brittonic substratum" - which is only a subset. The use of the sounds in the phonetics paragraph arent a modern developement, so shouldnt be in Modern English. The items arent easily categorised, the tag question might start in Old English, Northern Subject Rule is still used. More specific categorisation may make the article less accurate.

Unless there's any objection, I'll take away the dubious discuss tags--Fodbynag (talk) 02:58, 30 May 2010 (UTC)

Vennemann is not a historical linguist. His chair was for "Germanistische und Theoretische Linguistik", i. e., essentially Chomsky-school linguistics with a focus on standard written German (in Munich, the seminar for Theoretical Linguistics is found in the building that houses the institute for German philology). He does dabble in Old Germanic, Welsh, Basque, Semitic languages, and historical linguistics, but he's infamous for his eccentric ideas in those fields. No expert on historical linguistics, Celtic, Semitic, Basque etc. I know of (with the exception of his own alumni, of course) takes his speculation seriously, and his views are very isolated. My experience is actually that everything he has ever written on any topic should be taken with more than a grain of salt, because his methodical approach is substandard and he has an uncanny knack to pick and side with the wrong camp, supporting superficially appealing but specious views that do not hold up to closer examination if you ask the specialists. (It should also be kept in mind that his "professor" title is based on a course of education not quite comparable with the standard usually required in Germany for professorship. AFAIK he never received a proper habilitation and his position as assistant professor at UCLA was recognised as sufficient anyway.) He's basically this uncle who revels in telling tall tales, although the way he once accused his opponents of "anti-Semitic" tendencies for being sceptical of his Semitic etymologies casts doubt on his good faith and "nice uncle" image.
It's a pity because substratum and language contact research has become a very lively field recently, and his frivolous and maddeningly popular speculation taints all of it and devalues the painstaking work of real historical linguists. His free-wheeling, speculative and careless approach is exactly how not to do substratum research. Sound-alike etymologies, the bane of historical linguistics, abound, even if his approach is inverted in that he tends to reject the traditional, straightforward explanation as pseudo-etymology, erring on the side of exoticism – a form of hyper-scepticism that discounts obvious interpretations for reasons that attempt to be overly clever but just end up being uninformed nonsense.
Ignoring inconvenient expert opinions and appealing to the public directly is a hallmark of crank science. Other red flags are playing the martyr, appealing to the Galileo gambit, or positing a conspiracy that suppresses your unconventional opinion. Having a chair at a renowned university does not confer instant credibility (that's why appeal to authority is an infamous fallacy): it seems to be an unfortunately frequent occurrence that academics start out producing serious work and venture more and more into low-grade, speculative or populist "research" or go full-on bonkers once they have a chair and cannot be fired anymore.
That's why it is important to always show respect for the mainstream in a field even if you do not agree with it. Tolkien did it right: he did not agree that Celtic influence on English was insignificant, as most scholars thought at the time, but he didn't simply discount the mainstream opinion, he patiently and politely presented carefully argued points in an attempt to sway his opponents, who could actually evaluate the argument, as opposed to the general public or experts in other fields; but he was not arrogant about his dissenting opinion and acknowledged his weaknesses. (Scientific inquiry is so complicated now that blindly trusting anyone's opinion without any relevant specialist credentials is simply a bad idea. That doesn't mean no academic is allowed ever venture out of their narrow specialisation, but they need to be extra careful and solicit the opinions of experts in other relevant fields, ask for peer review, or co-operate openly and directly, to ensure that their facts are correct, their argument is solid and their reasoning holds water. For example, Vennemann should have worked with scholars who have actually worked on the history of Basque, Semitic/Afro-Asiatic languages, Germanic/Celtic/Indo-European, etc., independently of him, and who are acknowledged as highly competent in those fields, or ideally, even go-to experts such as Trask was for Basque.) If you don't respect the specialists, you can't expect them to respect you. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 20:36, 16 December 2014 (UTC)

Progressive tenseEdit

Why is the theory of the progressive tense being a Brytonic influence not mentioned in the article? --Jidu Boite (talk) 13:56, 21 December 2010 (UTC)

I don't know, I am sure it has been proposed, because anything that is even remotely possible is sure to "have been proposed" in this field. But if you have good references to proponents of this, you are welcome to add them. --dab (𒁳) 14:08, 21 December 2010 (UTC)

Main problem remainsEdit

The new proposals are interesting, but it doesn't seem that they do much to resolve the longstanding main problem -- namely that it's likely that there was fairly extended contact between Celtic and Germanic speakers, but such contact left almost no Celtic loanwords whatsoever in Old English... AnonMoos (talk) 17:56, 1 November 2011 (UTC)

Not necessarily: Per Thomason and Kaufman, this is not at all unusual in cases of substratum influence. This has been phrased as a general rule that superstratum (language maintenance, in Thomason and Kaufman's terms) influence focuses on the material (especially lexical) level and substratum (interference through shift, per T&K) on the structural (especially grammatical). --Florian Blaschke (talk) 15:40, 16 December 2014 (UTC)
Others (such as Peter Schrijver) have suggested an additional possible reason for the dearth of Celtic loans, or indeed any kind of Celticisms, in Old English, namely that Old English was initially, in south-east England, not in contact with Celtic directly, but with British Latin/Romance instead, as it is plausible that Latin/Romance had already supplanted Celtic in the southeast by the 5th century. Only after the spread of English to Northern England and Southwestern England did Celticisms appear.
Note that it is probably not true that there are no British Celtic loanwords in Old English at all. There are a few likely candidates, such as brocc "badger", which is in any case a Celtic loanword (even if mediated through Latin, or possibly already borrowed into Germanic on the continent, or both). --Florian Blaschke (talk) 21:57, 16 December 2014 (UTC)

External PossessorEdit

Could someone give an explanation of what an external possessor actually is? There is just one example, which is not very clear. Vincent Moon (talk) 12:55, 12 March 2012 (UTC)

Because there is no external Possessor in English it is hard to explain in English what an external Possessor is. But I will have a try. If you want to use External Possessor in a language, that has this feature, you need:

- Two Persons and a thing. (the thing can be a part of the body)

- The thing is owned by one of the two person, (the possessor).

- The other Person manipulates the thing, which belongs to the possessor.

Now there are two cases:

First case : The possessor isn't affected by the manipulation of his/her thing.

Second case: The possessor is affected by the manipulation of his/her thing.

In the first case you set the possessor in genitiv (internal). In the second case you use another construct, for example in german and old english you set the possessor in dativ. Languages without dativ ( eg: norwegian) use a praeposition instead.

External: Seo cwen het þa þæm cyninge þæt heafod of aceorfan

cwen : First Person (queen)

cyninge : Second Person, the possessor (king) -þæm cyninge- is dativ

heafod : Thing, (here a part of the body: head of the king)

For the recipient of this message this means: the king was affected from the procedure. But if the king would have been left dead on the battle ground and the queen had ordered to cut off the head from the dead body, you must say:

Internal: Seo cwen het þa þæs cyninges heafod of aceorfan

-þæs cyninges- is in genitiv and this is internal possessor.

This means for the recipient of this message: the king wasn't affected from the procedure (because he was dead, he couldn't be affected). In modern English you must use in both cases the last form with internal possessor:

The Queen then ordered to cut off the king's head (possessor in genitiv: king's)

In modern English it is impossible to code whether the possessor is affected or not.

External Possessors are used in all continental languages. From european languages only the insular-celtic languages and english lacks this construct. Also the semitic and hamitic languages don't have external Possessors. The celtic languages inherited this feature from am extinct semitic-hamitic language, spoken once in Britain and bequeathed(?) it to English.

For a person speaking modern english it is nearly impossible to learn the use of external possessor, so my experience.

(Can someone put this in "good english" and place it in the article) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Gimpel43 (talkcontribs) 23:59, 21 July 2012 (UTC)

I've been asked to explain what external and internal means here:

"external" means outside the phrase (Satzglied). In the external-example "þæm cyninge" and "þæt heafod" are both phrases, so the king ist outside of the "heafod" phrase.

"internal": "þæs cyninges heafod" is one phrase, so the king (the possessor) is inside the "heafod" phrase.

Gimpel43 (talk) 20:16, 2 February 2013 (UTC)

Ambiguous wording "suspicion of influence"Edit

"Tolkien expressed his suspicion of Brittonic influence"

This could mean "Tolkien suspected Brittonic influence", or the almost opposite "Tolkien was suspicious of theories of Brittonic influence".

Given that Tolkien posited Brittonic influence but did not accept all theories of such influence, both of these interpretations are plausible. The surrounding text doesn't help to remove the ambiguity; if anything it makes it worse.

In my opinion this badly needs rewording, but I can't do so myself because I can't tell what it was trying to say. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:48, 13 June 2013 (UTC)

Hear, hear! I stumbled at precisely the same point. This section stands in serious need of rewording to make the intended meaning clear. The article as it stands states
1) "The received view that [the] Romano-British impact on English [had] been minimal on all levels became established at the beginning of the 20th century following work by such scholars as [...] Max Förster."
2) "Tolkien expressed his suspicion of Brittonic influence and pointed out some anomalies in support of this view in his 1955 valedictory lecture English and Welsh, in which [he] cites Förster."
If the sceptical view about the Romano-British impact on English followed work by Förster, and Tolkien, in expressing his own view, cited Förster, then that suggests Tolkien was a sceptic too.
But that is not made at all clear. Come to that, even Förster's view is not made explicit! What WAS Tolkien's suspicion?
-- Picapica (talk) 19:55, 5 November 2013 (UTC)
Tolkien cites Förster's 1921 work on Celtic lexical material in English, where Förster establishes the presence of onomastic material (i. e., names, such as placenames and personal names) in English, specifically in English surnames, in order to bolster his suspicion that Celtic influence on English has been more significant than assumed by most scholars then, including (presumably) Förster himself. That is, Förster appears to have thought that his own work did not help establish a significant influence of Celtic on English in general, onomastic influence generally considered rather unimportant and thus beglected, while Tolkien disagreed insofar as he took it as evidence potentially able to support an argument for significant influence. That is, Tolkien argued that onomastic evidence should be accorded more importance, to support his call for intensified inquiry of the issue.
It's probably easiest to simply quote Tolkien's own words:
Among the things envisaged by Mr O'Donnell, one of the lines of inquiry that seems indeed to have specially attracted him, was nomenclature, particularly personal and family names. Now English surnames have received some attention, though not much of it has been well informed or conducted scientifically. But even such an essay as that of Max Förster in 1921 (Keltisches Wortgut im Englischen) shows that many 'English' surnames, ranging from the rarest to the most familiar, are linguistically derived from Welsh (or British), from place-names, patronymics, personal names, or nick-names; or are in part so derived, even when that origin is no longer obvious. Names such as Gough, Dewey, Yarnal, Merrick, Onions, or Vowles, to mention only a few.
This kind of inquiry is, of course, significant for the purpose of discovering the etymological origin of elements current in English speech, and characteristic of modern Englishry, of which names and surnames are a very important feature even though they do not appear in ordinary dictionaries. But for other purposes its significance is less certain.
Does that help? --Florian Blaschke (talk) 15:28, 16 December 2014 (UTC)

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More discussion of the debate? example of DO-periphrasisEdit

I don't see in this article enough discussion of the fact that these Celtic influences are debated. As far as I know -- my doctorate is in Literature, not Linguistics, so I'm no expert -- there is no consensus among linguists that Celtic languages had a wide range of effects on English. For example, the DO-periphrasis can certainly be found in other Germanic languages, even if it's not used in the standard versions of those languages. It's inaccurate to claim that it /had/ to come from Celtic languages. See the discussion in this book for evidence: Nils Langer. Linguistic Purism in Action: How auxiliary tun was stigmatized in Early New High German. Walter de Gruyter, 2001. On a far more anecdotal level, I have heard German schoolchildren use the DO-periphrasis only to be corrected by their parents. Adults sometimes also use the construction when they're being playful with the language. The DO-periphrasis is not considered standard German, but it's still very much in the language. Jk180 (talk) 21:47, 28 August 2017 (UTC)

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