7: Some other Brythonic languages
By Linden Alexander Pentecost, written December 2021 and January 2022
Some of the things in this article: introduction to Brythonic languages, my own theories about their origins, the Kerneveg language, the Pembrokeshire Welsh language, the Gwentian language. This section contains 2071 words.
'Brythonic' languages most commonly refers to three languages, Breton, Cornish and Welsh, and sometimes to the fourth language 'Cumbric', and sometimes to the ancestral Common Brythonic languages, which seems to represent the common language, and phonology, grammar, visible in Old Breton, Old Welsh and Old Cornish. This was connected to another language more like Gaulish, called Ancient British by Edward Hatfield. I have also seen others refer to it as Common Brittonic. Somewhere between this language and the Common Brythonic language, Brythonic is also connected to Pictish in Scotland, and often the difference between Brythonic, Cumbric and Pictish seems to be very minor insofar as the commonly found lexical terms. However, in terms of the ancient language and history, there is also a likilihood I believe of cultural differences and of different languages, so I think it is hard to determine the extent of Brythonic and what exactly it was in the landscape of England and Scotland. Within the individual context of these Brythonic, Cumbric, Pictish or Brittonic names, and their associated cultural zones, for example, hill forts, shared architecture and archaeology in certain areas, it is clear that in a sense this culture was one culture and language. But within the wider context of the language, and when we start to include the possibility of other cultures in the landscape, it becomes more difficult for me to see to what extent Brythonic and Cumbric and Pictish, in the sense of this Celtic language, were spoken in England and in Scotland. My guess is that not that much 'Brythonic' was spoken in England and Scotland as a whole, in certain places I am sure, but not nearly to the extent that is visible in Wales and Cornwall and Brittany. These cultures and places are all orientated on the Atlantic coastline, and so rather than looking at Britain as a whole being Brythonic, I've sort of said to myself, what if the Brythonic languages of today, Breton, Cornish and Welsh, are still present, because this is also where the Brythonic cultures and languages were originally centered and most prevelant. This would suggest some kind of ancestral relationship to, and continuum with, the 'Brythonic' or 'Cumbric' or 'Pictish' speakers, but whether that means that the people in England (not including Cornwall, if Cornwall is considered England) and Scotland were Brythonic Celtic speakers as such, I am not sure.
If the Brythonic languages as languages we know today, are all spoken with a coastal orientation, with Cornwall and Wales across the sea from Ireland, then perhaps this is some indication that the Celtic languages we know today, as Indo-European languages, have an Atlantic, Western Orientation. Regardsless of where Continental Celtic was spoken in the past, if we consider this continuity model, then it would indicate that, at least something about the Celtic languages, perhaps their original formation within Indo-European, happened with an Atlantic Ocean orientation.
This connection between Celtic and the Atlantic Ocean is also impossible to diffrenciate from the thousands of years of contact that has been shared between Iberia, Ireland, Scotland, Western Britain, since the last ice age. But I think it fair to wonder if then, Celtic as a language family is strongly associated with this Atlantic connection shared between these cultures, that has existed for thousands of years. Perhaps at some point, there was a climatic change which brought about changes in how these Atlantic cultures interacted, and this may have more firmly imposed common languages, leading to the impression that these common languages were the ancestral languages to all Indo-European languages, when in fact they were more of a common medium developed by emphasising and making choices about how they spoke languages in a specific cultural setting. I feel it's possible for example that the Celtic numbers were earlier, Neolithic forms, adapted and changed slightly into a new system of counting which came in during the Bronze Age, probably due to how society had changed during this period, which would no doubt have also been connected to a change in how certain groups were able to take more land, requiring more numbers, after natural disasters had happened. Even though new DNA seems to appear in Bronze Age Britain, that doesn't mean to say I think that these people had to be newcomers, they could have already been present in the land, but due to climatic changes, had adopted building and other techniques from the earlier peoples, able to merge with them more, and eventually altering their languages to their language and changing how the land and its indigenous languages related to each other, at least in their official representation.
Rather than newcomers arriving, we could think about this in terms of concepts and ideas arriving, and the development of this into Ancient Indo-European. And this may not have even necessitated an invasion of newcomers, not if at least some of the language across Europe and Asia already shared things in common, which could be simultaneously redeveloped into a common Indo-European language. And this may not have happened everywhere at the same time. Although we see early evidence of Celtic culture and language in Ireland, when Primitive Irish appears, it is almost as though to me, that the system of Primitive Irish was imprinted onto whatever languages were spoken in Ireland in Ancient Times, or rather, that it was developed from them and influenced them as a form of standardisation, in a sense these ancient indigenous languages may have already been much like modern Irish. When Old Irish appears, it is almost as though Latin vocabulary is imprinted onto the Native Languages, already partially restructured by Primitive Irish. So perhaps from around the year 0 AD to around 1000 AD, large areas of the linguistic landscape of Ireland were gradually 'incorporated' into the continuation of Indo-European tradelinks, where previously these trade links may have only existed in small parts of Ireland, just as the distribution of Primitive Irish and of Ogham is not evenly distributed. It might be perhaps more accurate to say that these cultural zones were trade zones, until the Bronze Age when some of these areas started to expand and started to incorporate the indigenous regions. This is what I feel is the jist and it was likely much more complex than the aforementioned description, but it is also just my perception and should not be taken as absolute.
Kerneveg is the Breton word for both 'Cornish', in the sense of pertaining to Cornwall in England, and pertaining to that part of Brittany, Kernev, which shares the same etymological Brythonic meaning as the Cornish word Kernow. So Kerneveg is also equivalent to the Cornish word Kernewek, Kernowek - 'the Cornish language'.
Even though the etymologies are related, the Kerneveg language or dialect is not more similar to Cornish than other Breton languages are, including Breton in general and Gwenedeg. Kerneveg is also not a standard way of speaking Breton, as there are many individual, more local variants within this region, many of which are unique to Kernev. However, the name Kereveg generally refers to the, often differing language of Kernev, and the boundaries of this 'region', and therefore language, do not always coincide with linguistic boundaries; again meaning that Kerneveg refers to the Breton language spoken within Kernev, and not to a single specific dialect that only exists in Kernev.
.The standard Breton c'h is written h here, e.g. arhant - 'silver', . For the combination c'hw, I write fi for some dialects of Kerneveg, an example is the word fi, c'hwi - 'you, plural'.
.The intonation is different to other dialects, with prologued consonants
The Pembrokeshire Welsh dialect/most Southwest Welsh dialect or language
By Linden Alexander Pentecost, 12, 2021
Pembrokeshire Welsh is spoken in southwest Wales, and can be said to be a form of South Welsh, sharing features in common with other South Welsh dialects. The dialects of Pembrokeshire are also unique though in their own way, with their own particular sounds, grammar forms and vocabulary unique to the region. I have met a speaker of this dialect, and the only unique word I can remember is slabog, which refers to wet weather. In this speaker's pronunciation, the initial sl- was pronounced, what I interpret to be something like [s̪l̥]. This is only my best approximation, I haven't seen this precise sound and consonant cluster mentioned elsewhere in Welsh studies. I do not know if this pronunciation is general or common in Pembrokeshire, if it's an allophone or a localisation.
Within Pembrokeshire there are some dialectal differences too, for example cwêd or cŵed for 'forest', standard Welsh coed, Gwentian côd, Cumbric caíd - caídh, Cornish coos, Breton koad.
The schwa is not as common in Pembrokeshire Welsh, in some words that originally had [o] in Common-Brythonic, this sound is the Welsh vowel w, as in mwnydd/mwny - mountain, standard Welsh mynydd, Older Brythonic *moni(d)(os). In other parts of the Pemrbokeshire region, this sound becomes i, e.g. minydd/miny.
The disappearance of the final -dd in Pembrokeshire Welsh, may be because it was not originally present in the evolution of Celtic language here, I think. Some examples of sentences are below:
Gwentian - Yr Wenhwyseg
Gwentian is the name given to the Welsh language in southeastern Wales. This language is now nearly extinct, even though some features of the Gwentian language still survive in southeast Welsh dialects, the original form of Gwentian was quite different to Welsh as a whole, and as far as I know there are no communities who speak this dialect anymore.
Gwentian is without-doubt, Welsh. But I do not feel that Gwentian is the same Welsh language that is taught, nor that which is spoken in North Wales, so it could be considered that Gwentian is also a language in its own right, another Brythonic language, connected to Welsh, but having its own history and developments as a Brythonic language.
It is also possible in some way that Gwentian 'became' Welsh, because certain words and place-names in Gwentian appear to indicate that at one time, a language spoken here was closer to the 'Cumbric' or Brythonic language in England.
Some differences between Gwentian and Welsh as a whole (including North Welsh and the literary language)
.Medial consonants in Gwentian are sometimes voiced, for example weti for wedi, e.g. weti shiarad - for wedi siarad in more standard and north Welsh.
.The written Welsh ll sometimes becomes the sounds th and cl, perhaps indicating that the Welsh ll was historically not as a prominent, or was historically not the only such sound in Gwent.
.The first person singular pronoun is occasionally mi rather than fi. But The first person singular possessive pronoun, fy is ym in Gwentian. For example ym hÿnys - my island, for fy ynys, the h- is also inserted.
.In Welsh, the combinations gwl- and gwr- are represented by gl- and gr- in Gwentian, through syncope. For example, the word glâd in Gwentian, being equivalent to the Welsh word gwlad. A Cumbric example of this root word may exist as the personal name Gladhoc, if this is so, it would further imply a closeness between Gwentian and Cumbric.
.The a in North Welsh is represented as æ frequently here, pronounced something more like [ɛ] whilst ae is a long æ̂, or more of a diphthong äe, these are equivalent to variations within Gwentian, but I am unsure on the exact phonemes. In the book Y Wenhwyseg: A Key To The Phonology Of The Gwentian Dialect. For The Use Of Teachers Of Welsh In Glamorgan And Monmouth Schools - by John Griffith, the æ as in cæth is said to be something like more of a diphthong, which I write as eä, ceäth.
.The Schwa y is written ÿ
The information above on Gwentian came from my own limited knowledge, but I found that the book Y Wenhwyseg: A Key To The Phonology Of The Gwentian Dialect. For The Use Of Teachers Of Welsh In Glamorgan And Monmouth Schools - by John Griffith was incredibly helpful, and is one of the few resources that I know of about the language.