Johann Kaspar Zeuss and Grammatica Celtica.

Charles Dillon, editor of the Foclóir Stairiúil Gaeilge [Historical Dictionary of Irish], writes (for the Royal Irish Academy’s library blog) about Johann Kaspar Zeuss (1806-1856), whose magnum opus Grammatica Celtica (1853) “established incontrovertibly through the study of Old Irish sources the relationship of the Celtic languages to the Indo-European family”:

This was the age of ‘Celtomania’, a phenomenon which for want of learned, scientific and empirical research into their origins, had ascribed various fanciful and unproven ancestry to the Celtic languages, often relating them to mysterious peoples and exotic tongues. Only tentatively, by the time of Zeuss, had serious scholars suggested that Celtic was related to the Indo-European family, and it is notable that the great philologists Jacob Ludwig Grimm (he, with his brother Wilhelm, of fairytale fame) and Franz Bopp did not include Celtic in their great comparative surveys of German, Sanskrit, Zend (Avestan), Greek, Latin, Lithuanian and Gothic, which traced the ancestry of the premier European languages eastwards to the heart of India. […]

It was to this gap in the knowledge of the situation of Celtic that Zeuss addressed himself, setting about his task through his study of Old Irish sources. What is perhaps most remarkable by today’s standards is that he never visited Ireland, and it is questionable whether indeed he ever met an Irish speaker. His approach to the problem led him ad fontes; he travelled to libraries across Europe wherein were housed the earliest examples of written Irish. These were in the form of glosses, such as those found in Würzburg, Karlsruhe, Milan and Turin (mostly from the 8th century, but some in the so-called prima manus, from the 7th), in which commentaries in Irish on, for example, the epistles of Paul are found between lines and in text margins. Zeuss transcribed and interpreted these and other such examples and from his analysis he was able to lay out in Grammatica Celtica, for the first time, the grammar of the language. In his return to the earliest extant forms of the language, Zeuss was a pioneer; earlier in the eighteenth century the glosses had been identified as Irish but mistakes had been made in their interpretation. Zeuss brought to their study his modern training that enabled him to tackle the scientific study of any language. His reliance on the glosses is almost absolute, and he barely refers to any extant scholarship in Celtic, obviously preferring to build all his conclusions solely on the foundation of the sources.

Studying Old Irish made me happier than almost anything else I did in grad school, and the very words “Würzburg glosses” send me back forty years and more to the period when I was carrying around my beat-up copy of Thurneysen’s Grammar of Old Irish (1970 reprint of the 1946 translation); I now learn that Thurneysen’s work would have been impossible without his predecessor Zeuss, and I join Dillon in honoring him. Thanks, Trevor!

Comments

  1. Rodger C says:

    Ah, them was the days. My favorite gloss (on St. Paul in fact): Is oc precept Soscéli attó, which I loved to translate word-for-word as “It’s a(t) preachin(g) of the Gospel I am.”

  2. Excellent!

  3. Etienne says:

    Ah, Old Irish…two colleagues once asked me if I knew of any language which was what they called an “anti-creole”: that is to say, whereas creoles are isolating languages, with (in some creoles) the occasional prefix or suffix (which typically is both semantically transparent and does not trigger any kind of morphophonemic change), they were looking for a language that was the polar opposite of a creole: that is to say, a language with a great deal of morphology involving an unusually high degree of irregularity and/or morphophonemic alternations. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I knew of such a language, and I sent them a reference to Thurneysen…and a few months later one of them told me that he had consulted it, and his tentative conclusion was that Old Irish was quite possibly the best anti-creole (i.e. the most un-creole-like language) he had ever encountered.

    Dillon’s article is misleading in one respect, however: he ascribes to “Celtomania” the inability/refusal on the part of the scholarly community to recognize the Indo-European affiliation of Celtic. It seems to me that the more important reason is that the Celtic languages known at the time (including Old Irish) had all undergone such radical sound changes that their Indo-European affiliation was much less obvious than the Indo-European affiliation of Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Gothic or Old Church Slavonic. Indeed, the Indo-European affiliation of Lithuanian, Latvian or Modern Greek would probably be easier to prove than the Indo-European affiliation of Old Irish.

  4. minus273 says:

    It’s a-preachin’ of the Gospel I am

    Ah, that must be why they claimed the English progressive a Celtism!

  5. Unfortunately, Old Irish seems to lack tones. If it had tones (unrepresented in the orthography, of course!) it would be even more of an anti-creole than it is.

  6. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Conlangery had a very entertaining episode about Old Irish a few months ago: http://conlangery.com/2016/10/03/conlangery-124-old-irish-natlang/

  7. David Eddyshaw says:

    Thurneysen’s Grammar of Old Irish is indeed a thing of beauty. Can’t beat its meticulous German scholarship (in all the best senses) bringing order to chaos, so far at least as the genius of the language permits such counting of the pigs of Crúachan.

    It also teaches you how very simple Old Norse is.

  8. Yes, I may well have been taking Old Norse the same year, and I found it a doddle (as I believe the Brits say).

  9. J.W. Brewer says:

    As I have no doubt mentioned here before I made the mistake of doing a semester of Old Norse just before trying Old Irish and was thus lulled into complacency, which is probably one of the reasons the latter language defeated me.

  10. David Marjanović says:

    If it had tones (unrepresented in the orthography, of course!) it would be even more of an anti-creole than it is.

    Several of the lesser-known, more isolated English-based creoles have tones (reanalyzed from English stress). I think I’m talking about rural Suriname.

    None of the French-based creoles have tones, the same forgotten source said, because there’s nothing in French that could be reanalyzed as tone.

  11. Perhaps it would be a Good Thing to translate Thurneysen into Old Norse and then burn all the German and English copies, so that people would have to learn ON before OI rather than concurrently.

    The chain of dialects leading from Standard Portuguese to Standard English runs through Saramaccan and Sranan.

  12. Saramaccan (of Suriname) is one. This article says, “While it is true that part of its lexicon exhibits a robust high/low opposition, the majority of its words are marked not for tone but pitch accent. The Saramaccan lexicon, therefore, is split with some words being marked for tone and other words marked for accent.”

    Papiamentu (of the ABC islands in the Caribbean) has coexisting tone, lexical stress, and prosodic accent.

  13. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Several of the lesser-known, more isolated English-based creoles have tones”

    Nigerian Pidgin (which, despite the name, has many first-language speakers) has tones. Most of the minimal pairs involve full words versus particles and pronouns and the like, but not all.

    http://www.hawaii.edu/satocenter/langnet/definitions/naija.html#sounds-hce

  14. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Perhaps it would be a Good Thing to translate Thurneysen into Old Norse and then burn all the German and English copies, so that people would have to learn ON before OI rather than concurrently.”

    Something similar used to be fairly standard in English public schools with Greek in the nineteenth century. I used to own a Classical Greek grammar, in Latin, intended for the use of English schoolboys.

    I suppose just as Old Irish makes Old Norse look simple, you could make a good case for saying that only those who have learnt Classical Greek can truly appreciate the creole-like simplicity of Latin. What! only two numbers? Only two voices? No aorist? No optative? Only four principal parts for a verb? No prepositions which take more than two different cases?! It’s practically Esperanto …

  15. David Eddyshaw says:

    This

    http://webdoc.ubn.ru.nl/mono/y/yakpo_k/gramofpi.pdf

    is a grammar of the English-based creole of Fernando Po, very like Krio and Nigerian Pidgin; section 4.1.4 is about suprasegmentals.

  16. David Eddyshaw says:

    and

    http://web.csulb.edu/~mfinney/images/Finney2004_tone_assignment.pdf

    this goes into a lot of detail about the Atlantic English-lexifier creoles in general.

  17. @Greg Pandatshang Conlangery had a very entertaining episode about Old Irish a few months ago:

    Whether a few guys kicking around a subject as if over a few beers is “entertaining”, I guess is in the eye of the beholder. What was remarkable was that none of them seemed to speak any sort of Irish. (Perhaps in that respect they were merely following Zeuss’s lead.) There were some phonemes, but no actual words or sentences — at least not before I had to stop it in annoyance.

    This, though, did stand out: “Irish should never have been written with the Latin alphabet.”

    I can think of another language of the British Isles about which that could be said.

  18. January First-of-May says:

    Old Irish did have a native alphabet – the Ogham – but while a fairly decent fit for the phonetics (IIRC, it was developed for what was essentially Proto-Q-Celtic, and by the time of Old Irish there were some divergences, but it was still pretty close), it had perhaps the silliest writing system ever.

  19. David Marjanović says:

    Nigerian Pidgin

    …Whoa.

    Today the language has more speakers than any other language in the country. […] Current estimates show that around 5 million people speak Naijá as first language while over 75 million people use it as a second language in Nigeria and in Nigerian Diaspora communities in Europe, America and other parts of the world.

    Is this the “Rotten English” that Ken Saro-Wiwa wrote in? Is its description of speeches in Standard English as having “lots of grammar” literally accurate?

    I’ll read the pdfs tonight!

    you could make a good case for saying that only those who have learnt Classical Greek can truly appreciate the creole-like simplicity of Latin. What! only two numbers? Only two voices? No aorist? No optative? Only four principal parts for a verb? No prepositions which take more than two different cases?! It’s practically Esperanto …

    Also, no articles. On the other hand, more cases.

    Ogham

    Corresponds 1 : 1 to the Latin alphabet (other than the unsurprising lack of P), was evidently developed as a code for it – before the sound changes that made Old Irish so weird had begun to happen.

  20. Rodger C says:

    Ogam evidently originated as a finger-signal code inspired by the Roman alphabet, but “Corresponds 1 : 1” is IMO an exaggeration. IIRC It has signs for *w, *gw, and *ts (keyed in the MSS as F, NG and Z).

  21. It’s my opinion that Latin script in the British Isles should be reserved for Welsh. That way, English and Cornish can be written in Quikscript (an improved descendant of Shavian) and Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx in Cyrillic, which will go a long way to making them mutually intelligible again.

  22. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Whether a few guys kicking around a subject as if over a few beers is “entertaining”, I guess is in the eye of the beholder.

    I don’t know, maybe there’s someone out there who doesn’t find this a promising formula for an entertaining podcast; I don’t know, and, frankly, I don’t want to know.

    Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx in Cyrillic

    Correct. Cyrillic should be used for all languages that have a consistent palatal vs. nonpalatal contrast, esp. Slavic, Gaelic, Mongolian, and Old Chinese.

  23. Etienne says:

    David Marjanović : while you are correct is stating that phonemic tone is unknown to any French creole, I disagree with your source’s claim that this is due to French lacking any feature in its vowel system which could have been re-analyzed as tone: bear in mind that seventeenth-century French did have phonemic vowel length, which could very readily have been re-analyzed as tone.

    More broadly, this lack of tone in French creoles and its presence in English ones is part of a pattern: basically, several English creoles have, in addition to phonemic tone, borrowed consonant phonemes from West African languages: in French creoles, borrowed African phonemes appear to be non-existent. Phonotactically, too, no French creole diverges from French as radically as the Surinamese creoles do from English. In short, English creoles as a whole are further removed from English than French creoles are from French. I actually gave a paper a few years ago in which I offered a historical explanation for this state of affairs: it was not well-received (to put it mildly), but I have yet to see anyone else offer a better explanation.

    David Eddyshaw: to me what makes Latin so much more creole- or Esperanto-like than Greek is its much, MUCH more regular morphology: I began learning Attic Greek after a couple of years of Latin, and what struck me as difficult (after I had surmounted the hurdle of the Greek alphabet) was the high number of irregularities in declension and conjugation alike.

    On the ideal script for Old Irish: considering its elaborate morphophonemics, a case could be made for a non-alphabetical script: perhaps Chinese characters for its nominal/verbal roots, and some syllabic or alphabetical system to represent prefixes and suffixes: for native Old Irish speakers the morphophonemics could be left unrepresented, much in the same fashion that many Old Irish mutations were unrepresented in the Roman script…

  24. what struck me as difficult (after I had surmounted the hurdle of the Greek alphabet) was the high number of irregularities in declension and conjugation alike.

    And that’s one of the things that makes me like Greek better; I have a deep love for irregularities and am easily bored by the reverse (e.g., Esperanto).

  25. David Eddyshaw says:

    @David M:

    ‘Is this the “Rotten English” that Ken Saro-Wiwa wrote in?’

    I’ve not come across that name for it (“Broken English” is common, though) but I would think so; the heartland of Pidgin is the Niger Delta, where most of the first-language speakers are.

    Fela Kuti used it extensively in his songs, as a deliberate political choice.

    The Wikipedia article and the link I gave somewhat overstate Pidgin’s pan-Nigerian status, it seems to me; the north tends to use Hausa as its interlanguage, and Pidgin is more of a southern thing. It’s certainly heard in the north as well, though.

    The idea dies hard in Nigeria that Pidgin is just an inadequate version of standard English; unsophisticated speakers would, for example, assume I would understand it because I was a native English speaker. Bot mi fa, a no nak am atol. (Well, hardly at all.)

    Krio and Cameroon Pidgin are pretty much dialects of this same language. I was reading a Cameroonian novel in French, set in the Francophone area, and was surprised to find the characters lapsing often into what was to all intents and purposes Nigerian pidgin.

  26. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Etienne:

    “to me what makes Latin so much more creole- or Esperanto-like than Greek is its much, MUCH more regular morphology”

    Too right! Page after page of irregular nouns in Greek, let alone verbs. Mind you, like Hat, I appreciate it aesthetically.

  27. Trond Engen says:

    Etienne: bear in mind that seventeenth-century French did have phonemic vowel length, which could very readily have been re-analyzed as tone.

    Also nasal vowels. And voicedness.

  28. David Marjanović says:

    Not reading the papers tonight, too tired.

    Good point about vowel length.

    In short, English creoles as a whole are further removed from English than French creoles are from French. I actually gave a paper a few years ago in which I offered a historical explanation for this state of affairs: it was not well-received (to put it mildly), but I have yet to see anyone else offer a better explanation.

    What was your explanation? I speculate that the French sound system is easier in being closer to the global average (other than the front rounded vowels), while English is strange enough that people are more likely to not even try…?

  29. Etienne says:

    David Marjanović: basically, I argued (in the wake of other scholars) that the Atlantic English creoles have a common pidgin ancestor which arose in West Africa, in a context where contact with L1 anglophones was marginal/rare, whereas the common pidgin ancestor of the Atlantic French creoles must have arisen outside West Africa, in a context where West Africans were in much closer contact with L1 French speakers.

    David Eddyshaw: “West African pidgin English” is thus probably a more accurate label than “Nigerian pidgin English”.

  30. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Etienne:

    No, in speaking of “Nigerian Pidgin” I meant exactly that; the fact that it is mostly mutually intelligible with Krio etc is a non-trivial (and interesting) fact, not an a priori, and I was citing it specifically as an example that evidently wasn’t “more isolated.”

    Although the very evident connexions with various West African languages certainly make it look obvious that the English-lexifier Atlantic creoles must have arisen in West Africa, there seems in fact to be a substantial body of opinion that they have actually migrated back across the Atlantic from the Caribbean, via Sierra Leone. According to John McWhorter and Jeff Good in their grammar of Saramaccan, for example, “most suppose that this ancestor [of all these creoles] originated in the Caribbean.”

  31. David Marjanović says:

    A Caribbean origin seems to make it harder to explain the Portuguese words in Nigerian Pidgin, though.

  32. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Etienne:

    On reflection, rereading my post (bad habit) mentioning Cameroonian Pidgin, I see what you mean; I did put it sloppily. Apologies for the touchiness…

    What do you think about the supposed Caribbean origin, though? I was surprised to find that this was (apparently) received opinion, though my surprise was, I suppose, not that surprising given that I myself first encountered the whole thing from the perspective of West Africa. The plausibility (or otherwise) seems to turn very much on the role of Krio speakers from Sierra Leone in spreading the language(s) in West Africa.

    I’m beginning to feel that if you ask three creolists what they think you will get five opinions…

  33. Etienne says:

    David Marjanović: John McWhorter actually has argued that the Portuguese element in Atlantic English creoles is one of several pieces of evidence in favor of a West African point of origin for the ancestor of these creoles. The presence of English pidgins/creoles in West Africa, however, is to his mind due to varieties in the Americas having been transplanted there: he assumes that the proto-pidgin was born in West Africa, was transplanted to the Americas (where it diversified, with Gullah in the Carolinas its northernmost and the Surinamese creoles its southernmost offspring), died out in West Africa, and that Atlantic English pidgins/creoles were introduced (re-introduced, technically) to West Africa long after the original pidgin had died out in its original homeland.

    Most creolists, unfortunately, continue to assume that each of these creoles arose more-or-less in the country where it is spoken today.

    David Eddyshaw: no apology required. Creolistics is a very frustrating field, with a huge “diversity” of opinion, but its core problem is that a majority of creolists see themselves as advocates for creole languages instead of scholars who work on creole languages: as a result divisions of opinion within the field have more to do with identity politics than with language data. Among the more detached scholars most are either sociolinguists or syntax specialists, who unfortunately are all too willing to pontificate on issues of creole genesis no matter how little they know of historical linguistics…

  34. David Eddyshaw says:

    @David Marjanović

    Saramaccan, of course, has a huge Portuguese component, to the point where it is not mutually comprehensible with Sranan. Admittedly, that was for very specific historical reasons, though.

    Might the pikin type words be from British sailorese? They used to be prayed in aid of the idea that all creoles were descended from one romance Creole to Rule Them All, which had got (mostly) relexified with English words in West Africa, but it seems no proper creolist subscribes to that idea nowadays.

    (Addendum: comment rendered redundant by Etienne’s)

    @Etienne:

    Thanks for the clarification re John McWhorter; that’s illuminating. It certainly means that his view is not as counterintuitive as I thought. My first – inaccurate – feeling on encountering Nigerian Pidgin was that it was practically Yoruba with English words. It just screams ‘West Africa.’ So all one has to accept is that it died out in its land of origin and got reintroduced…

  35. minus273 says:

    it seems no proper creolist subscribes to that idea nowadays.

    It’s their loss, I say.

    Saramaccan is one hell of a trompe-l’œil, though. The monogeneticist bias would lead one to see the Portuguese lexical items as earlier, while in fact pikí for small must belong to an earlier layer of Lusitanisms than wójo for eye or máu for hand.

  36. SFReader says:

    Saramaccan (and almost all other Atlantic creoles) is descended from the original Portuguese atlantic creole language born in 15 th century West Africa/Atlantic. And this creole language was actually based on earlier creole language used in the Mediterranean – the lingua franca.

  37. David Eddyshaw says:

    “So all one has to accept is that it [West African Pidgin] died out in its land of origin and got reintroduced…”

    … I said, somewhat sniffily.

    Just been reading Robert Blust’s splendid “Austronesian Languages”, in the course of which he says that of the three English-lexifier creoles, Tok Pisin, Solomons Pijin, and Bislama, only Bislama arose in situ, while the other two were reintroduced, having actually developed among indentured labourers originating from New Guinea and the Solomons while elsewhere in the Pacific. (In fact, I was also reading something about Bislama which suggested pretty strongly that it too essentially was a reimport.) It looks like my skepticism regarding a similar process in West Africa is pretty misplaced.

  38. David Eddyshaw says:

    @SFReader:

    Apparently not. Certainly, the high Portuguese content of Saramaccan doesn’t reflect conservativism vis-a-vis Sranan; the McWhorter/Good book goes into quite a lot of detail about how a language originally pretty much like Sranan got partly relexified with Portuguese. None of this seems to be at all controversial.

    minus273’s point is also relevant; the words like pikin can’t be of the same vintage as most of the Portuguese element in Saramaccan.

  39. Etienne says:

    David Eddyshaw: Actually, I could have phrased McWhorter’s thesis better: the pidgin ancestral to Atlantic English creoles was, according to him, originally spoken at the slave fort of Cormantin (in present-day Ghana), from whence were sent the first slaves to the nascent English plantation colonies in the New World. In writing that he claimed that it “died in West Africa” I may have unwittingly given the impression that it had originally been a widespread West African pidgin.

    Incidentally, the uniformity of English pidgin/creoles in West Africa today, when compared to their much higher diversity in the Americas, likewise point to the former varieties having been more recently introduced into West Africa than the latter varieties were into the Americas…

    SFReader: what David Eddyshaw wrote. It is telling that most of the words of Portuguese origin found in Saramaccan do not share the sound changes which transformed English into the Surinamese creoles: for instance /v/ is a Saramaccan phoneme, found in words of Portuguese but not of English origin: this is because English /v/ became /b/ in all the Surinamese creoles. This Saramaccan distribution of /b/ and /v/ makes perfect sense if we assume that at some stage in its history Saramaccan, like the other creoles of Surinam, lacked a /v/ phoneme as well as its Portuguese component, and that at some later stage in its history it acquired its Portuguese vocabulary, which (inter alia) caused the phoneme /v/ to be introduced into the language.

    Many scholars would disagree with your claim that the Mediterranean lingua franca played a role in the genesis of Atlantic Romance creoles, but I suspect it played more of a role than is generally acknowledged.

  40. English dictionaries have a word, agama, that may have passed through Sranan or Saramaccan on its way to English, if I remember the story correctly. The genus name Agama was a repurposing of agama, the specific epithet of Lacerta agama, the name of a lizard species proposed by Linnaeus, who in establishing it perhaps conflated the Neotropical lizard Plica plica and an African species of the current genus Agama. Linnaeus localized the species in the Americas, so he was working from specimens, or information about specimens, originating in the Americas. Sranan has agama, “large lizard”, and Saramaccan agama, “chameleon”, ultimately from a Gbe source such as Ewe àgàmà or Fon àgãmã. The Fon word is also retained in Haitian creole, though. (Perhaps this word owes its persistence to the role of the chameleon in myth and religious imagery in African religion?)

  41. David Marjanović says:

    Agamas and chameleons are closely related, as it happens.

  42. Trond Engen says:

    L’agame aux caméléons., roman naturaliste d’Alexandre Dumas (fils).

  43. Thanks, that gave me a good Monday-morning laugh!

  44. Trond Engen says:

    I forgot to say that when I google the phrase l’agame aux caméléons I don’t get any exact hits (which probably just means it doesn’t really work in the intended French), but the very first page of not-so-exact ones turns up this linguistic report from Mars.

  45. The comment thread there is great.

  46. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Speaking of Celtomania, I was surprised at one point to realise that some post-19th century linguists have taken seriously the idea that an Afro-Asiatic-like substratum is detectable in Insular Celtic. Consulting Wikipedia, the names I recognise in the pro column are Pokorny and Venemann, but I don’t know a great deal about either. So, dear LH comment thread readers, how seriously should I take Pokorny and Venemann generally, and how in regard to their Afro-Asiatico-Celtic ideas?

  47. David Eddyshaw says:

    Pokorny, at any rate, was a Grand Old Man of Celtic linguistics, but being a Grand Old Man does not always confer wisdom in this area. Vennemann is a great finder of fanciful substrata everywhere.

    Current explanations for some admittedly quite striking syntactic parallels between Insular Celtic and older Semitic (at least) go long on the fact that different typological features often correlate strongly, regardless of history, so that much of the similarity just aligns with the VSO word order, for example.

    The idea doubtless also gained traction for non-linguistic reasons, because there is a long British parahistorical tradition which attempts to derive the Ancient Britons from the Lost Tribes of Israel; this was once a much less lunatic-fringe idea than it is nowadays. Phoenician tin-miners in Cornwall sometimes play a starring role too; to say nothing of Joseph of Arimathea. And “And did those feet, in ancient time/Walk upon England’s mountains green?” [Spoiler: no.]

    I cannot resist moving towards a Grand Unification of All Language Hat Threads by mentioning that Bloom and Stephen discuss resemblances between Hebrew and Irish in “Ulysses.” I think this is confined to comparison of the scripts, though.

  48. Trond Engen says:

    What David said.

    However, it’s not a priori impossible that something related to Afro-Asiatic was spoken in Western Europe before IE. The language brought by the first farmers could very well have come with them all the way from the Golden Crescent. A language expanding with trade along the Atlantic coast from the Meditteranean is also well within the range of the possible. But Phoenician in the 5th millenium BCE is not.

  49. David Eddyshaw says:

    Speakers of Celtic languages may only have arrived in the British Isles a millennium or so before the Anglo-Saxon hordes; though certainly early enough that the classical name of the big island is Celtic, anyway (“Land of the Painted People.” Probably. Although – would you call it that if you actually were a Painted Person? Sounds a bit exonymic to me…)

    Pseudodruidical appropriation of Stonehenge is very irritating to those of us who remember why we really built it, when those Johnny-come-lately Celts were still living in Czechoslovakia, or wherever.

  50. L’agame aux caméléons
    Hats off to you! (Or bonnets, whatever.)

  51. David Marjanović says:

    We don’t know how old Island Celtic is, though.

    The language brought by the first farmers could very well have come with them all the way from the Golden Crescent.

    Sure, but farming came to Europe from Anatolia, so Hattic is a better candidate. I kid you not.

  52. David Marjanović says:

    when those Johnny-come-lately Celts were still living in Czechoslovakia, or somewhere

    Then the sky fell on their heads. And so the survivors took the ferrum noricum, fashioned the heavenly material into weapons and went on a conquest spree, the story goes. The rest is history.

  53. Guus Kroonen has done recent work on Germanic substrates. I think the speculation on Hattic as a plausible source is his.

    He thinks that other European non-IE substrates have the same source, picked up by IE speakers in Anatolia, before they entered Europe.

  54. Greg Pandatshang says:

    The idea doubtless also gained traction for non-linguistic reasons, because there is a long British parahistorical tradition which attempts to derive the Ancient Britons from the Lost Tribes of Israel

    I need hardly add that connecting this idea with an “Afroasiatic-like” substratum is quite perverse, as there’s a huge difference in specificity between “Afroasiatic-like” and a particular NW Semitic lang viz Hebrew (or viz Punic). One might as well try to derive the Ancient Britons from the Lost Tribes of Omotistan. Not that parahistorical enthusiast types typically care about such fine points.

  55. Trond Engen says:

    I agree that para-Hattic is a better guess, geographically speaking. But all sorts of migrations and language shifts might have happened in Anatolia between the first farmers took their Bos across the Porus und die Hethiter hatten Hattusa gehitten, so neither is much better than the other.

  56. David Eddyshaw says:

    “there’s a huge difference in specificity between “Afroasiatic-like” and a particular NW Semitic lang viz Hebrew (or viz Punic).”

    Well, yes. There’s no real logical connexion; I’m just saying that this sort of nonsense creates an environment in which somewhat less outré ideas seem more plausible than they otherwise might. Not even sensible scholars operate in a vacuum. And if you’re determined to believe that Insular Celtic could only conceivably have developed VSO word order because of a non-IE substratum, Afroasiatic (not that most Afroasiatic languages are VSO anyway) is at least less of a stretch than Austronesian or Maya or something.

    Incidentally, the aforementioned Vennemann apparently feels that Punic [sic] speakers are behind Germanic strong verbs. At least, thus speaks Wikipedia; in charity, I will assume that the ‘pedia article misrepresents his views. Life is too short for me to attempt to follow them to the source, when I could be reading about actual linguistics instead.

  57. David Eddyshaw says:

    Not that I wish to repudiate my Austronesian forebears. Madagascar? Pshaw! What about the historic migration to Port Madryn?

  58. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Austronesian? Pshaw! I insist that many of personal idiosyncracies are explained parsimoniously by the effects of an Austroasiatic adstratum. Austroasiatic a.k.a. Best Austric.

  59. David Eddyshaw says:

    Right. I’ll see you your Austroasiatic, and raise you …

    Myself, I operate my own personal Bioprogram. I am also the only remaining speaker of Proto-World.

  60. Sal, ber, yon, rosh!

  61. David Eddyshaw says:

    Aaaargh! Maaargh!

  62. David Marjanović says:

    I think the speculation on Hattic as a plausible source is his.

    I was thinking of at least one of Peter Schrijver’s papers (on academia.edu).

    Incidentally, the aforementioned Vennemann apparently feels that Punic [sic] speakers are behind Germanic strong verbs. At least, thus speaks Wikipedia; in charity, I will assume that the ‘pedia article misrepresents his views. Life is too short for me to attempt to follow them to the source, when I could be reading about actual linguistics instead.

    Following to a source is so 20th century. In the Shiny Digital Future, you can just click on the source! Most of Vennemann’s work (half of which is in English, and much of which would have been rejected by journals in the natural sciences as duplicate publication) is on academia.edu, ordered by topic, where I’ve read it; the strong verbs – preservation and unusual canalization of PIE ablaut – are very briefly mentioned there.

    Aaaargh! Maaargh!

    Ağ!

  63. Trond Engen says:

    Some alternative history: How far was Southeast Asia (Malay, Javanese, Hokkien Chinese et al.) from beating Europe for dominance of the oceans?

  64. Rodger C says:

    @Y: I just read Kroonen’s article for the second time, and he seems to be saying that this substrate borrowing happened in Europe, not Anatolia, showing that the first farmers that had fanned out across Europe from Anatolia spoke related languages.

  65. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, right. Y must have meant to write “picked up by Hattic speakers in Anatolia, before they entered Europe.”

    Guus Kroonen is also fifth inter the alia of this recent paper in Antiquity on the cultural transition from Funnel Beaker to Corded Ware in light of recent genetic evidence:

    Kristiansen & al.: Re-theorising mobility and the formation of culture and language among the Corded Ware Culture in Europe.

  66. Trond Engen says:

    Me: The language brought by the first farmers could very well have come with them all the way from all the way from the Golden Crescent

    Heh. The language of the first poppy farmers.

    Poppycock!

  67. I remember seeing mentioned, in an otherwise quite informative and sober popular book about the Hittites, a “theory” that the Germanic tribe of the Chatti (ancestors of the modern Hessen) could have been descendants of the Hittites…

    In that vein, the Austroasiatic influence in Europe clearly manifests in the name of Austria. 😉

  68. David Marjanović says:

    I remember seeing mentioned, in an otherwise quite informative and sober popular book about the Hittites

    Me too! 🙂 It’ll be a few days before I can look up the citation.

  69. Me too! It’ll be a few days before I can look up the citation.
    I checked – it’s Johannes Lehman, “Die Hethiter. Volk der tausend Götter”. In my edition (Bertelsmann, no publication year mentioned, but I got it in 1977) the theory is mentioned on pp. 76-77.

  70. David Marjanović says:

    That’s the one.

  71. David Marjanović says:

    I remember it’s mentioned together with the idea that the Hittites being mundfaul und labialschwach – using the cuneiform signs for aspirated, voiced and emphatic consonants at random, because evidently they had no such distinctions in their language – was inherited from a Swabian ancestry! 😀 Lehman presented it for its amusement value.

  72. inherited from a Swabian ancestry
    Saxonian (I just re-read it, that’s why I know.).

  73. David Marjanović says:

    I had forgotten which end of the Inderior German Gonsonant Weagening it was.

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