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Is this language a 'theoretical' link, or is there any actual writings from this? Its just that if It is a hypotheical linking language then I think there should be some re-wording, even if it is generally accepted.

Why is this article here?Edit

I thought we VfDed this fiction. Evertype 16:22, July 12, 2005 (UTC)

The consensus was that the article on Old Devonian should have been merged into one on Southwestern Brythonic, so I wrote a stub which was desigend to make a tentative first stab at doing just that.Nick xylas 23:04, 16 July 2005 (UTC)
This article is at least supposed to be about the proto-language. The real fiction is at Devonian language The real fiction was at Devonian language, but I've merged that into Cornish language and left a redirect in its place. --Angr/tɔk tə mi 16:52, 12 July 2005 (UTC)
I know you redirected the Devonian Language article, but it's back now. Looks like another VfD war is inevitable. Sigh.Nick xylas 17:05, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
Update - I tagged the Devonian Language article for speedy deletion, but admin redirected it here instead Nick xylas 20:27, 14 December 2006 (UTC)
The real fiction was at Westcountry Brythonic, which deserves linking here so the discussion (pleasant as it wasn't) won't be lost.. Evertype 10:09, July 23, 2005 (UTC)

A Critical Review of the Deunansek Lord's PrayerEdit

Deunansek (sic) purports to be a scholarly reconstruction of the Brythonic language of Dumnonia (Devon and surrounding areas) as it was around 700 c.e. before it gave rise to Cornish and Breton as separate languages.

See: Old Devonian

The following is an analysis of the only continuous text (more than a single sentence) that I have seen in this language.

First the text itself :


I compared the above text with several versions of the Lord's Prayer
in Welsh, Cornish and Breton, and found that the best match was with
the Middle Breton text in Lewis' _Llawlyfr_. Large parts are
identical with just some MB oddities changed. <fu, u> for /v/ is
written <f>; <z> from Brit. /D/ or /T/ becomes <dh> or <th>, not
always correctly; and all <c>'s whether for /k/ or /g/ come out as <k>
even before back vowels, unlike anything in MC, MB, OW or MW.

Where there are bits of Breton vocabulary that seem alien to
Welsh/Cornish, then bits of Unified (I think) Cornish have been
inserted, or in some cases the words are just left out(!) as if the
text was never finished. A few forms seem to have been inspired by Welsh.

Here's the Middle Breton line by line, with additions in boldface, deletions marked [thus] and differences italicised. Notes follow each line.

1. hagon tat [pe heny so] en nef[u]ou,

<hagon> is a hybred of B _hon_ with C _agan_. In fact W _ein_ shows
that the _ag_ was a C innovation, perhaps needed to beef up the word
for "our" from just _*a_ to the more distinctive _aga_, with the other
plural possessives following suit. The _ag_ is probably the same word
as _(h)ag_ "and, with". The SWB word for "our" would I guess have been
The words <pe heny so> "the one who is" are ignored. A UC version has
_us_ "that is" here. The text as given thus reads just "Our father in
  • Comment Rereading Biddulph's book, he suggests (later in his book) that "Our father who art in Heaven" should be " Hagon Tat so in Nefiou". Here he refers to the special present tense relative form for the verb 'to be'. Dewnans 11:56, 17 July 2005 (UTC)

2. [ho hanu bezet sanctifiet] sanktedhit bedhet dhe hanu,

Here the word order has been changed, perhaps to conform to UC
"benygys re bo dha hanow". <ho> your has been changed to <dhe> C.
"thou". <*hages> or <*hagos> might have been predicted from <hagon>.
<sanktedh-> seems to be from W. _sancteidd(i)-_. The past part. ending
should be <-et> not <-it> for /-Id/ to be consistent with the rest of
the text. Why was not some form of /bennig-/ or /bennath-/ used?

3. [deuet] defu [ho] dhe r[o]uanteleth

<deuet> "let it come" replaced by <defu> probably representing the C.
optative _(re)_dheffo_ "may it come", again probably inspired by the
UC version "re dheffo dha wlascor". The /-ff-/ << /-vh-/ root
extension in this form might well be a C. inovation since it is not
found in B, and W uses /-l-/ by analogy with the verb "to go".
B. <ou> is regularly rewritten as <u> which makes one wonder how /y/
would be represented. It does not seem to occure in the sample.

4. [ho] dhe [uolontez] fodh bedhet [graet]

<uolontez> replaced by <fodh> for WC /voD/. This is valid, but C does
also have _bolonjedh_, later _blonojadh_. The word <graet> "done" has
been missed, so the phrase reads "thy will be (in earth ...)".
Something like <*gwra-et> /gwra-Id/ might have been expected.

5. en do[u]ar [e]fel en nef[u]

MB <euel> /evel/ has been shortened to <fel> /vel/? as in W. The MC
is _avel_. All go back to a weakened form of _hevel_ "like, similar".
<*(h)euel> might have been expected.

6. roit [dimp] dhen hedhiu hagon bara pebdedh[yec]

B <dimp> "to us" replaced by <dhen> for MC/UC _dhyn_, presumably
because <dimp> is just "too Breton"? The ancestoral form might have
been /dIm(m)/, cf. MW _ym_ /1mm/.
<pemdezyec> "everyday" (adj) replaced by <pebdedh> "everyday" (n?),
again from UC _pup_deth-(oll)_. <pub> is the unstressed form of _peub_
which might perhaps have been <pop> /pOb/ in SWB.

7. hak [pardonnet] [dimp] dhen hagon [offansou] kamuedh

<pardonnet> "pardon, forgive" (imperative) is ommitted. <offansou>
"offenses" is replaced by <kamuedh> from UC _camwyth_, KK _kammweyth_
"misdeed" with <dh> for <th> (cf. W. _gwaith_). The line reads "and to
us our misdeeds", with the key word "forgive" missing!

8. [e]fel [maz pardonnomp] [da nep] dhen re-na

Again the key phrase "as we forgive" is missing. <da nep> "to
whoever" (singular) is replaced by C _dhe'n re-na_ "to those" (pl.),
giving "as to those (ones)". If <pardonn-> looks too F, and C _gav_
too English, then here W _maddau_ might usefully be adapted.

9. [an deueux] hagon [offanset] kamuol

<kanuol> seems to be for UC _camwul_ "misdeed, wrong-doing". The B
phrase <an deueux hon offanset> lit. "that have offended us", uses
_am_eus_ with a past part. to form a perfect as in E and F. This usage
is special to B, just as the use of _wedi_ is special to W. The MC
construction with _re-_, also found occasionally in MW is most
probably the original pattern. Thus a back-dating of "dhe'n re-na
re-gammwrug er-agan-pynn" or "... re'(ga)n kammwrug" might have been
expected. In fact this phrase has just been left without a verb. As it
stands this whole sentence reads "and to us our misdeeds, as to those
ones our wrong-doing", which is pretty much garbage.

10. hak [non] na [leset da couezo] en den[p]tation

<ha no'n leset da couezo> "and allow us not to fall" has simply been
replaced by C _na_ "(that) not", or "(do) not". This is odd as C
_koedhe_ "to fall, to be due", is well attested, and W _cwyddo_ shows
that it would back-date to something like /ku:jDIM/, while <leset>
could be replaced by the SWB equivalent of C _gaze_, W _gada_, _gadael_.
<dentation> is probably the work of an out of control spell-checker,
leg. <temtation>?

11. [hoguen] mat [hon] deliurit ni [uez an] dherak dr[o]uc

<hoguen> "moreover", (C _hogen_, MW _hagen_), has been replaced by
<mat>, leg. <met>? as in ModB, C _mez_, all pointing to an earlier SWB
/med/. There is no clear reason for this replacement, unless the word
_hogen_ was unknown to the adaptor. The possessive <hon> has been
dropped and replaced by the suffixed pronoun <ni> which shouldn't be
able to stand alone at this early date. <(hag)on deliurit ni> would
have been expected. <uez a'n>  C _a-ves a'n_ "away from the" has for
some reason been replaced by <dherak> UC for "in front of, before",
perhaps influenced by W _rhag_ "lest". The UC text has _dyworth_ and
ModB, its equivalent _diouzh_, "from beside".


The above sample of "Westcountry Brythonic" turns out to be essentially a Middle Breton text taken from an well known handbook, partially respelled, and with any distinctly Breton looking words replaced by their equivalents from a Unified Cornish version. Some "difficult" words and constructions have simply been dropped, so that a literal translation is often nonsense. The person publishing this piece clearly couldn't understand it, nor did its author have any real idea of historical linguistics or the development of the Brittonic languages, even though work on the history of Cornish has made such information more readily available than it might otherwise have been. To suggest that a text composed of an amalgam of Middle Breton and Middle Cornish (i.e. nothing earlier than 1400 c.e.) could in any meaningful way represent the South West Brythonic speech of some 700 years earlier is ridiculous.

While it might be an interesting exercise to reconstruct SWB prior to the C/B split, the present attempt is naive, amaturish and careless. I could probably do better over a wet weekend, with a Welsh-Breton dictionary and the etymologies in GLKK.

Mongvras 12:55, 26 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I should point out that I have a copy of Biddulph's work in front of me, and it does address some of the issues raised above.

For example Biddulph indicates that he is unsure of the translation of 'who art' in the first line (and in his work he renders it in English in brackets in his text). He also expresses similar uncertainty about the 'pardon' in the sixth and seventh lines and agains renders it in English in brackets.

The text Mongvras refers to is not a literal reflection of Biddulph's work and as such these limitations should not be sheeted home to him.

Why oh why are people so keen to put down work that they have not studied properly themselves.

I will pass the comments above to the site I believe Mongvras took the text from so they may address these deficiencies.

Dewnans 11:27, 16 July 2005 (UTC)

Later in his text Biddulph suggests that the special present tense relative form would render "Our father who art in heaven" as "Hagon Tat so in nefiou". I will re-iterate however that this article is not promoting Biddulph's reconstruction per-se, but rather the subject is the 'south-western brythonic language' - of which Biddulph is only one attempting reconstruction. Refer the reference to Schrijver (below) - who I am sure all here would consider as a recognised linguist.

Dewnans 12:05, 17 July 2005 (UTC)

Since writing the above I have obtained a copy of Mr. Biddulph's book, and corresponded a little with the author. It is quite clear that Biddulph is not making any exaggerated claims about his work, he is in effect saying, "Middle Cornish and Middle Breton are really quite similar, let's see if we can combine them into a common language". The whole work is tentative and experimental, and as Dewnans says, the Lord's Prayer translation (Biddulph's only attempt at more than isolated sentences) is full of untranslated English words, queries and alternative translation equivalents. Biddulph's reference list, and comments here and there in the work, show that his sources are Lewis' Handbooks, and various popular works on Modern Breton and Revived (Middle) Cornish. He was not aware of Kenneth Jackson's key works on Breton and Brittonic historical phonology, nor indeed does he seem to have any background in historical and comparative linguistics, which whatever you may think of them, a good many conlangers do. To be fair, why should he? These are not high profile subjects in the UK. So in effect Biddulph has joyfully "reinvented the wheel", or in this case, independently discovered comparative philology, though without, I think, appreciating the extent to which languages change over time.

For comparison, here is the text exactly as Biddulph gives it :

Hagon tat who art en nefou, sanktedhit/bendigeit bedhet dhe hanu, deuet dhe (kingdom: ruanteleth or gulaskor or teirnas etc.), dhe fodh (from bodh) bedhet done en doar fel/afel en nef, roit dhen (i) hedhiu hagon bara peb dedh, hak pardon dhen hagon kamueth/kamuedh, fel/mal we pardon dhen re-na who hagon ?kamuol, hak na lead us en temptation, mat deliurit ni dherak druk (rak druk). Amen.

What is odd/interesting, is that someone should take Biddulph's tentative reconstruction, and put it up on a web site, with all the caveats removed, so as to give the impression that SWB was a known language.

Mongvras 23:35, 10 October 2005 (UTC)

Old South-West BritishEdit

In Peter Schrijver's book Studies in the History of Celtic Pronouns and Particles (Maynooth 1997, ISBN 0-901519-59-6) he cites a dozen words in a language he calls "Old South-West British" which apparently come from manuscripts called "Ang477A" and "LeidLeech". The words are:

  • dodo i "to them"
  • dudo em "to him"
  • guarnoeth-ou "on them"
  • henneth "that (near you)"
  • hepdo em "without him"
  • (h)ou "their"
  • i "they"
  • (in)no "that of them"
  • Macoer "wall"
  • ois "was"

If anybody has any information on these manuscripts, such as if they've been published, and if it's been established that the language is neither Old Cornish nor Old Breton, then maybe we'll be able to talk about an attested language here rather than a hypothetical one! --Angr/tɔk tə mi 22:08, 11 July 2005 (UTC)

  • My guess would be that these glosses are Old Breton, although some of them could equally well be Old Cornish, and faced with any one of them in isolation, even Old Welsh could not always be ruled out. For instance macoer ought to be macuir in OW (but given the variation in medieval spelling ...). Mongvras 03:36, 13 October 2005 (UTC)

Old South West British appears on a number of language lists, including the one used by the Indo-European Etymological Dictionary

This is linked to Leiden university, which I would guess provides a clue on the source of the 'LeidLeech' referenced above. Dewnans 03:58, 18 July 2005 (UTC)

I sent an e-mail to Peter Schrijver asking him what precisely "Old South-West British" means in his book. His answer:
South-West British is a cover term for Breton and Cornish. It is especially useful for Old Breton and Old Cornish, since before about 1100 there is not a single identifiable difference between the two 'languages'. Put differently, distinguishing Old Breton from Old Cornish is only geographically useful. I combine both as OSWBr.
So as I see it, this page should be for describing Old Breton and Old Cornish together, and for discussing how they evolved from Proto-Brythonic in a way distinct from Welsh. --Angr/tɔk tə mi 13:36, 22 July 2005 (UTC)
  • I think PS is overstating his case. There were a number of distinct differences between OC and OB (svarabhakti in final consonant groups only in Cornish; /I/ merging into /e/ only in Breton; etc.) but nevertheless the two languages were still developing in tandem to some extent, and were less differentiated than modern Breton or Welsh dialects. Synchronically they do look like one language (with clear dialect differences). Conventionally they're treated as two languages only because each "dialect" went on to give rise to Middle Cornish and Middle Breton which were separate languages. I would be inclined to call this stage something like "Old Cornu-Bretonic", and perhaps reserve "South-West Brittonic" for the period from say 600 - 800 c.e. There's agreement, I think, over what happened and broadly when it happened, the difficulty is just a matter of terminology and outlook. Mongvras 03:36, 13 October 2005 (UTC)
  • Interesting feedback and I like the information on the differentiation between this language and Western Brythonic.

Schrijver is not the only one who includes this language in Celtic family trees (eg McCone or Schmidt) although under a variety of names. The article should also note that fact.

I also suggest that we do not attribute Schrivjer's words on 'Old South West British' in absolute terms, as after all they are still only one persons stated opinion - however educated and informed Schrivjer is - and his terminology does differ from others..

I also believe we should note the recent interest in the language, or in approximations to it. However unpalateable Biddulph or his work may be to some (even if they haven't read it) the interest and publication does exist. Perhaps this should be shown as a footnote, as the article is about the language, not (just) Biddulph's reconstruction. Dewnans 02:56, 23 July 2005 (UTC)

  • Further to my comment about not attributing Schrivjer's words as fact, the following link suggests that some (at least) may see the situation as slightly more complex. Vocabularium Cornicum Dewnans 03:10, 23 July 2005 (UTC)
When McCone and Schmidt talk about "Southwest Brittonic", they're not talking about an (attested) language, they're talking about a group of related languages, the same way one can say "West Germanic" to mean Old High German, Old Saxon, Old Low Franconian, Old Frisian, Old English, and their modern descendants. But you're right that it is probably only Schrijver's opinion that Old Cornish and Old Breton are similar enough to be grouped together as a single language. I'm still suspicious of mentioning "recent interest in the language" when it isn't even clear what language we're referring to. Is there recent interest in reconstructed Proto-Southwest Brythonic? Is there recent interest in the set {Old Cornish, Old Breton}? Or is there recent interest in the idea that Southwest Brythonic includes a third language, Devonian, which is completely unattested, and on the basis of which Biddulph has invented his conlang? Finally, I don't see how the Vocabularium Cornicum link is inconsistent with what Schrijver said. He said Old Cornish and Old Breton were basically the same language before 1100; the V.C. link is discussing the Cornish language of about 1150-1200. --Angr/tɔk tə mi 07:21, 23 July 2005 (UTC)
  • I am not sure where you source your comment that McCone and Schmidt talk about "Southwest Brythonic" as a group of languages. The language family trees seem to indicate something more specific. What members are there in this "family"?
As to references to the "Devonian" language, this is simply one of the names that Biddulph uses to describe the language he attempted to reconstruct - Southwest Brythonic, Old South-west British or whichever name you like. He also referred to the language as "Westcountry Brythonic" although it is clear that he means the Brythonic language spoken in Southwest Britain around 700AD and not just a particular language of Devon. Dewnans 03:56, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
The members in the group of Southwest Brythonic languages, of course, are Cornish and Breton. The node "Southwest Brythonic" in those trees is no different from the node "Insular Celtic" in McCone's vision and the node "Gallo-Brittonic" in Schmidt's. Neither is claiming that there is an attested "Insular Celtic" or an attested "Gallo-Brittonic" language; both are labels used to group together languages believed by the author to be genetically related and to have a reconstructable proto-language. --Angr/tɔk tə mi 05:41, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
What then do you make of this site?
Van de Meer claims to have had his qautrain translated into 2 different versions of south west brythonic - one 'insular' dialect the other 'amorican'. Dewnans 08:49, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
I suppose only the translator, one Talat Chaudhri, can say what he means by "Reconstructed South West Brythonic (Insular dialect)" and "Reconstructed South West Brythonic (Armorican dialect)". By "attested" historical linguists mean "attested from the period in which the language was spoken", either by inscriptions or by manuscripts. --Angr/tɔk tə mi 09:07, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
  • He also contributed Cornish and Breton versions. The SWB versions seem to be his own Biddulph style amalgams of the two, based I think on Modern Breton and Revived Cornish. The translations are not especially accurate or grammatical.
What exactly do the Devonians want their language to be? SWB at the time of the migrations (c 700 c.e.), if so Dumnonia might be /deμ'nent/ Demnent. Or at the end of the OC/OB period (c 1100 c.e.?) /deβ'nent/ Deunent Deffnent. Or perhaps the language of some isolated pocket(s) of Britons who resisted anglicisation well into the medieval period. /'devnent, 'devnen, 'dewnent, 'djunen, 'downant/ ?? Or would they have had enough contact with Cornish to have copied the /-nt#/ >> /-ns#/ change? Mongvras 03:36, 13 October 2005 (UTC)
Not to wake the dead, but toponyms appear to show t>s changes anyway, such as Brinsabach and Goosemoor (Cos, Welsh Coed - if that is indeed the right interpretation of Goosemoor as Cos Mor/Great Wood). More interesting (and damning to Deunansek as a name) would be Breton 'Devnent' and Welsh 'Dyfnaint' - odd that Breton and Welsh would retain 'v' while Breton's ancestor language didn't have it - but I don't know enough about how those 'v's got there - 'v' is weak in Welsh and disappears, and it mutates from 'm'. I would have thought the sequence would be 'm'>'v'>'silent' like weak 'f' in Welsh and 'mh' in Irish. Any protolanguage would be earlier in the sequence, not later. Anyway, I'm just a punter. Maybe the argument would be that parallel forms existed together, and then crystallised later but then that does rather get around the whole point of this kind of philological game, n'est-ce pas?. An interested (fairly) neutral observer. Stevebritgimp (talk) 13:58, 18 May 2008 (UTC)
And another thing: The French called north east Britanny 'Domnonee' - so the 'm' must have got across the channel. 'Dewnansek' would then be properly a Cornish word (north of the Channel - whether uttered on the West or East side of the Tamar). If the Deunansek attempt was at a protolanguage for Cornish and Breton, an 'm' would have been more appropriate than 'u', although again this is just my opinion as a punter, rather than a linguist. Cheers. Stevebritgimp (talk) 14:10, 18 May 2008 (UTC)


The current title of this article, "Proto-Southwestern Brythonic", is not attested in any books I can find. Here's the Google Books search. This language is typically referred to as just "Southwestern Brythonic". If there are no objections I'll move the page back.--Cúchullain t/c 17:32, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

"Typically referred to"? I don't see much evidence that this language is referred to in the linguistic literature at all. When I do the same Google Books search as your link above but without the "Proto-", all I get is a bunch of quotes from Wikipedia and one mention of "northern, western and southwestern Brythonic dialects". I moved it to "Proto-" in the first place to make it clear that this language is only reconstructed, not attested, but now I'm wondering if it should be kept at all. +Angr 22:20, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
Yes, actually I can't anywhere that uses "Southwestern Brythonic" either, though I found some for variants like "Southwest Brythonic", "Southwest British", etc. I also found a reference to Jackson arguing that Primitive Cornish and Primitive Breton were in fact indistinguishable, but no name for both languages together was given. I don't know what to do with this thing.--Cúchullain t/c 23:34, 21 May 2010 (UTC)
Even later than their proto-stages, Peter Schrijver has said that Old Cornish and Old Breton (i.e. the attested languages) are linguistically identical, the only criterion for deciding whether to call a text "Cornish" or "Breton" being whether it was written in Cornwall or Brittany. Perhaps we should move the article to Southwestern Brythonic languages and deemphasize the reconstruction of the proto-language, though it needn't be removed entirely. +Angr 07:46, 22 May 2010 (UTC)
That sounds reasonable to me.--Cúchullain t/c 00:52, 25 May 2010 (UTC)
I've finally complete the move. Still needs sources, etc. --Cúchullain t/c 20:05, 15 July 2010 (UTC)
In Die keltischen Primärverben (2004: p. 90, footnote 92), Stefan Schumacher writes (translated): "In many cases, a clear linguistic separation between the written testimonies of Old Cornish and Old Breton cannot be found; traditionally, only few testimonies are addressed as Old Cornish (cf. LHEB 59–62), in fact, however, part of the texts called Old Breton could also originate from Cornwall [...]".
LHEB is, of course, a referrence to Jackson's book. His chronology of sound changes reveals, if I remember right, that until 800, Primitive Cornish and Primitive Breton were absolutely indistinguishable (at least on the phonological level), while between 800–1100, Old Cornish and Old Breton developped in parallel, though not precisely in lockstep – not quite unlike the contemporary Old High German dialects. So, if Jackson's chronology can be trusted in this respect, Old Cornish and Old Breton samples could be distinguished in principle if they could be dated relatively precisely and contain relevant diagnostic traits, i. e., sound changes which one of the two dialects had already undergone but the other not yet. (Also, you need to have absolute confidence in the spelling not to mislead you.) But these differences must have been incredibly marginal and so it's probably not worth the bother to make the attempt even for the most dedicated specialist (or nerd). --Florian Blaschke (talk) 19:36, 16 February 2014 (UTC)
Return to "Southwestern Brittonic languages" page.