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Continental Celtic
Geographic
distribution:
Formerly continental Europe; Asia Minor
Genetic
classification
:
Indo-European
 Celtic
  Continental Celtic
Subdivisions:

The Continental Celtic languages are the Celtic languages, now extinct, that were spoken on the continent of Europe, as distinguished from the Insular Celtic languages of Britain and Ireland. The Continental Celtic languages were spoken by the people known to Roman and Greek writers as Keltoi, Celtae, Galli and Galatae. These languages were spoken from Iberia to the Balkans and in Asia Minor.

Contents

Attested languages

Although it is likely that Celts spoke dozens of different languages and dialects across Europe in pre-Roman times, only four such languages are commonly said to be actually attested:

A further two languages can be listed as Continental Celtic:

  • Lusitanian (before the 2nd century AD), which may also be an Indo-European, but non-Celtic language with many traits which make it close to Celtic (some researchers include it into Italic languages[1][citation needed])
  • Noric (4th century BC to 1st or 2nd century AD), which is the name given sometimes to the Celtic dialects spoken in Central and Eastern Europe, very few vestiges of which remain outside toponymy.

Lepontic was spoken on the southern side of the Alps. Lepontic is generally considered an early dialect of Gaulish, and Galatian may be a late one as well. It is evidenced in a number of inscriptions as well as place names.

Gaulish was one of the languages spoken in greater Gaul. This is often considered to be divided into two dialects, Cisalpine (the Italian side) and Transalpine (the French side). It is evidenced in a number of inscriptions as well as place names and tribal names in writings of classical authors. It may have been a substratum to Breton, as noted below.

Galatian was spoken around Ankara. Classical writers say that the language is similar to that of Gaul. There is also evidence of invasion of Celts from Europe.

Celtiberian is the name given to the language in northeast Iberia, between the headwaters of the Douro, Tagus, Júcar and Turia rivers and the Ebro river. It is attested to by some 200 incriptions as well as place names. It is distinct from the Iberian language. A non-Indo-European language may also have been spoken by the Tartesian people in SW Iberia.

Lusitanian was spoken in the area between the Douro and Tagus rivers in what is now Portugal and part of Spain. It is only attested by five inscriptions, together with various place names. It is sometimes claimed to be a Celtic language but the claim is disputed in the literature.

Noric was spoken in Austria and Slovenia; only two fragmentary texts are preserved.

Use of term

The modern term Continental Celtic is used in contrast to Insular Celtic. While most researchers agree that Insular Celtic is a distinct branch of Celtic (Cowgill 1975; McCone 1991, 1992; Schrijver 1995), having undergone common linguistic innovations, there is no evidence that the Continental Celtic languages can be similarly grouped. Instead, the term Continental Celtic is polyphyletic and refers simply to non-Insular Celtic languages. Since little material has been preserved in any of the Continental Celtic languages, historical linguistic analysis based on the comparative method is difficult to perform. However, some researchers see the Brythonic languages and Gaulish as forming a sub-group of Indo-European, see Celtic languages. The Continental languages are P-Celtic, except for the Celtiberian language which is Q-Celtic, and have had an influence on French and Spanish.

Note on Breton

Even though Breton is spoken in continental Europe, and has been for a thousand years, it is not considered one of the Continental Celtic languages. It is a Brythonic language closely related to Welsh and Cornish, although it has been suggested that there is a Gaulish substratum in the Vannetais dialect (Galliou and Jones 1991). François Falc'hun considered Breton as a descendant of Gaulish, but the historical and linguistic evidence shows otherwise.

References

  1. ^ Francisco Villar and F. Beltrán (eds), Pueblos, lenguas y escrituras de la Hispania prerromana. Salamanca: Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca.

Bibliography

  • Ball M and Fife J (1993). The Celtic Languages.
  • Cowgill, Warren (1975). "The origins of the Insular Celtic conjunct and absolute verbal endings". in H. Rix (ed.). Flexion und Wortbildung: Akten der V. Fachtagung der Indogermanischen Gesellschaft, Regensburg, 9.–14. September 1973. Wiesbaden: Reichert. pp. 40–70. ISBN 3-920153-40-5. 
  • Galliou, Patrick; Michael Jones (1991). The Bretons. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 063120105X. 
  • McCone, Kim (1991). "The PIE stops and syllabic nasals in Celtic". Studia Celtica Japonica 4: 37–69. 
  • McCone, Kim (1992). "Relative Chronologie: Keltisch". in R. Beekes, A. Lubotsky, and J. Weitenberg (eds.). Rekonstruktion und relative Chronologie: Akten Der VIII. Fachtagung Der Indogermanischen Gesellschaft, Leiden, 31. August–4. September 1987. Institut für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Innsbruck. pp. 12–39. ISBN 3-85124-613-6. 
  • Schrijver, Peter (1995). Studies in British Celtic historical phonology. Amsterdam: Rodopi. ISBN 90-5183-820-4. 
  • Stifter, David (2008), Old Celtic 2008 (classroom material), [1]
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