Did Latin merge with Celtic languages to form Romance languages ?

Maciamo

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What is know of Gaulish and Lepontic Celtic shows that it was very similar to Latin. The syntax and grammar were apparently almost identical and many words very also identical or similar enough to be intelligible.

For example, the Gaulish word for "horse" is equos and the Latin is equus. Divine is divo in Gaulish and divinus in Latin. King is rix in Gaulish and rex in Latin. Gauls drank cervesia ("beer") while Romans had cervisia. Mediolanum, Milan's ancient name, can mean "middle plain" in either Celtic or Latin.

Some words seem to have their letters jumbled from one language to the other. The Latin mundus ("world") is dumno in Gaulish. A bull is taurus (or tavrvs as Romans didn't distinguish "v" from "u") in Latin, but tarvos in Gaulish.

Many Gaulish words have closer equivalents in Germanic languages than in Latin or modern Romance languages. "iron" was isarno in Gaulish, which relates to the modern German Eisen, Gothic eisarn and Old English isern or iren, but not at all to the Latin ferrum. In all likelihood it is Germanic languages that imported the Celtic term, as the Celts of the Hallstatt culture were the first to mine, work and export iron ore. The Gaulish word for mountain could have been perkun, related to the Gothic fairguni and the modern German/Dutch/Scandinavian berg(en). But this could stem from an older Indo-European root.

Naturally, Celtic, Italic and Germanic languages all stem from a common ancestor, the "Centum" dialect of Indo-European, most probably spoken by the R1b people who arrived in Europe from Anatolia along the Danube around 4300 ybp. The question is, does it make sense to divide them in three branches, or are Brythonic, Goidelic, Celtiberian, Gaulish, Lepontic, Latin and Oscan all part of a bigger Italo-Celtic family ? There was probably more difference between ancient Irish and Gaulish than between Gaulish, Lepontic and Latin. Even nowadays Welsh, Cornish and Breton cluster together, but are a world apart from Irish or Scottish Gaelic.

Nicholas Ostler explains in his remarkable book Empires of the Word, A Language History of the World, that languages are easily replaced by a closely related language, but rarely by a very different language unless their is a massive migration accompanying it. This is how Akkadian was quickly replaced by its cousin Aramaic in the Fertile Crescent, without invasion needed (Aramaic was the language of dessert nomads, as opposed to Akkadian that was spoken in the big cities). Yet Aramaic survived 1000 years of Greek and Roman rule, only to be replaced in a few decades by Arabic, another closely related Semitic language. The same happened with Egyptian, which the Greeks and Romans never managed to replace, but which was taken over by Arabic during the Muslim conquest. What was different ? Aramaic and Egyptian speakers could learn Arabic easily : same syntax, similar grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Only a mild adjustment was needed. It was more like learning a new dialect than a completely foreign tongue like Latin, Greek or Persian.

The same must have been true between Celtic and Latin. Gaulish, Celtiberian and Lepontic speakers could learn Latin fairly easily, without changing the word order in their head and starting with a lot of common words. It would be like for a modern Spaniard to learn Italian or French, which is much easier than to learn Greek, Russian or Japanese. It could even be argued that Vulgar Latin, which evolved in the modern Romance languages, was an admixture of Latin with the various regional Celtic dialects. This would explain some pronunciation changes such as the Classical Latin -us ending into the Vulgar Latin -o ending, just like in Gaulish. If this really did happen, French, Occitan, Italian, Catalan, Castillan, Galician and Portuguese would not be direct descendants of Latin, but blends of Latin with regional Celtic dialects, explaining most of the present regional variations. The dialects of Arabic also appear to have incorporated quite a lot of words from the languages that preceded it. Egyptian Arabic blended Classical Arabic with Egyptian, while Maghrebian Arabic has Berber as well as Carthaginian influences. As a result, Maghrebian Arabic is no more intelligible to someone from Saudi Arabia as Portuguese is to an Italian.

It is telling that the Romans never managed to impose their language on anybody else than the Celts, and not even the Britons among them (apparently their Brythonic dialect was too remote from Latin, compared to Gaulish or Lepontic). The Greeks, Syrian, Jews or Egyptians never learned Latin (except for a small elite). In fact, the Jews of Egypt preferred to communicate in Greek rather than in Latin. From the the division of the Roman Empire in 286 CE, Greek regained its former status of official language of the Eastern Mediterranean. The only other region where Latin was spoken by the majority of the population was Dacia (modern Romania), which was also Celtic before the Roman conquest, and was massively resettled by Romans from Italy.

The Basques are another good example of the difficulty of imposing a completely different language on a population. Although all the surrounding Celtic speakers quickly adopted Latin, the Basques, whose language is not part of the Indo-European family, retained their language up to the present day.

Germanic invaders of the Western Roman Empire adopted Latin because it was seen as a prestige language. They needed to speak it in order to administrate the conquered people who vastly outnumbered them. Speaking Latin also gave legitimacy to any wanna-be heirs of the Romans, be them the Goths, the Burgunds or the Franks. Germanic languages only survived in regions close to the Germanic homeland, where massive migration took place, like in England, Flanders, Rhineland, Bavaria or Austria.

In other words, Germanic languages must have been different enough from Latin to prevent the masses to learn Latin when they could live without it, and vice versa. Only when outnumbered did speaker of one language adopt the other. The few Roman Britons who didn't escape to Wales, Cornwall or Scotland had no choice but to learn Anglo-Saxon. The Gallo-Romans who stayed in Flanders or Rhineland had to learn Frankish due to the vast number of Germanic immigrants. But wherever the Gallo-Roman population exceeded the newcomers, Latin survived, sometimes after a bilingual period where both Frankish and Latin were spoken, like in Wallonia, French Flanders or Lorraine. Luxembourg has remained bilingual to this day.
 
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Maciamo, I just read through this article, and I have to make a few nitpicks regarding Gaulish:

For example, the Gaulish word for "horse" is equos and the Latin is equus. Divine is divo in Gaulish and divinus in Latin. King is rix in Gaulish and rex in Latin. Gauls drank cervesia ("beer") while Romans had cervisia. Mediolanum, Milan's ancient name, can mean "middle plain" in either Celtic or Latin.

- In Gaulish, it being a P-Celtic language, the word for horse was "Epos" (compare Welsh "Ebol" and Breton "Ebeul" - both which actually mean "foal" but are clearly cognates with Gaulish "Epos"). The Common Celtic (as well as Q-Celtic), the form of the word would have been "Equos", which is indeed very similar to Latin "Equus". Indeed, the word is attested in Celtiberian as "Ekuos", and it is "Ech" in Old Irish and "Each" in modern Irish.

- The town name "Mediolanum" is actually latinized Gaulish. In Gaulish, the name would have been rendered as "Mediolanon". A common feature of the Celtic languages is the loss of the initial "P", perhaps via the intermediate stage of an "H". Therefore, the cognate of Latin "Planum" (plain) in Gaulish was "Lanon" (compare Old Irish "Lann", Welsh "Llan" and Breton "Leun").
 
@marciano

Then this snippet from Treviso history
the ancient city of Tarvisium derived its name from a settlement of the Celtic tribe of the Taurusci. Others have attributed the name instead to the Indo European root tarvos, meaning "bull". Tarvisium, then a city of the Veneti,

Indicates that the word bull is gaulish , yet this says celtic

While the terms in eupedia confused me for the realtionship of Gaulish with celtic. Can you clarify what is this association .

Same for the city of Oderzo
From the mid-9th century BC the Veneti occupied site and gave it its name. Etymologically, "-terg-" in Opitergium stems from a Venetic root word indicating a market (q.v. Tergeste, the old name of Trieste).
 
I quite agree with your post, but :

The same must have been true between Celtic and Latin. Gaulish, Celtiberian and Lepontic speakers could learn Latin fairly easily, without changing the word order in their head and starting with a lot of common words.

Even if Gaulish and Latin were similar, Caesar required interpreters to understang the Gauls or to be understood from them, which tends to mean it was not so easy to pass from a language to the other one.

The Basques are another good example of the difficulty of imposing a completely different language on a population. Although all the surrounding Celtic speakers quickly adopted Latin, the Basques, whose language is not part of the Indo-European family, retained their language up to the present day.
Yes, but why was the Latin imposed to the Iberian speakers, as there was a priori the same difficulty ?
 
Celts, and not even the Britons among them (apparently their Brythonic dialect was too remote from Latin, compared to Gaulish or Lepontic).

This is not true Brythonic at that time the language was not to different from Gaulish.
From Tacitus:

Forming
a general judgment, however, it is credible that the Gauls seized the
neighbouring island. One sees here their sacred rites and their religious
beliefs; even the speech does not differ much;there is the same
boldness in seeking dangers, and the same shrinking from meeting them when they
are present. The Britons show more savageness, as those not yet civilized by a
long-continued peace. We have been given to understand that the Gauls, too, were
formerly conspicuous for their fighting; sluggishness, however, entered with
ease, and bravery was lost together with liberty. The same thing has happened to
those of the Britons who were formerly conquered, while the rest remain as the
Gauls were.
 
@marciano

Then this snippet from Treviso history
the ancient city of Tarvisium derived its name from a settlement of the Celtic tribe of the Taurusci. Others have attributed the name instead to the Indo European root tarvos, meaning "bull". Tarvisium, then a city of the Veneti,

Indicates that the word bull is gaulish , yet this says celtic

While the terms in eupedia confused me for the realtionship of Gaulish with celtic. Can you clarify what is this association .

"Tarwos" is the Gaulish word for "bull". Similar words exist in modern Celtic languages: Irish "Tarbh", Welsh "Tarw" and Breton "Tarv".

In regard for the usage of the terms "Gaulish" and "Celtic", I might somewhat sarcastically say this could be used interchangably, but only nearly so. For one, the "Gauls" refered to themselves as "Celts"*, for two from what little we know, the languages of the Norici and Galatians were very similar to Gaulish. However, on the other hand, the term "Gaul" is also a geographic term.

Also, in modern usage "Celts" refers to speakers of the Celtic languages as a whole, which the Gaulish language belongs to, alongside with Celtiberian, the Goidelic languages (Irish, Manx Gaelic and Scots Gaelic) and the Brythonic languages (Breton, Cornish and Welsh).

*compare with the beginning of Caesar's commentary on the Gallic War. Also, the "Keltoi" that Herodotus places at the source of the Danube.
 
Yes, that pdf file is pretty accurate and detailed. It also happens to be from the university of Vienna's department for Indo-European studies.
How can you explain the expansion of the La Tene culture to the Lepontic area (page 2 of the referenced document) as the Lepontic inscriptions are older (and before the 5th century) ?
And what does the arrow towards the Celtiberians mean ?
 
As there is no comment about my previous post, I precise my idea.
I have nothing special to say about page 1 of the pdf file.
On the contrary, I consider the page 2 as representative of a model which has been abandoned at least for 10 years by most of historians, so I don't consider this document as accurate (for the main reasons subjects of my two previous questions).
 
How can you explain the expansion of the La Tene culture to the Lepontic area (page 2 of the referenced document) as the Lepontic inscriptions are older (and before the 5th century) ?
And what does the arrow towards the Celtiberians mean ?

As there is no comment about my previous post, I precise my idea.
I have nothing special to say about page 1 of the pdf file.
On the contrary, I consider the page 2 as representative of a model which has been abandoned at least for 10 years by most of historians, so I don't consider this document as accurate (for the main reasons subjects of my two previous questions).

Sorry, I had not seen your posts until today.

I admit that I only glanced at the document, with primary focus on the overview on the first page, as well as on the details given later on about sound laws found in various branches of Celtic languages (it was there where my statement regarding "accurate" refered to).

To answer your questions on the map on page 2: I agree that the map is outdated, and Hallstatt and La-Tene does alone not explain the spread of the Celtic languages, especially due to the existence of Lepontic and Celtiberian.

Having said that, I have not seen any satisfying model yet that explains the spread of the Celtic languages as we see it. For instance, I vehemently oppose the so-called Atlantic School (who argues the Celtic languages originated in the Atlantic Bronze Age or even on the Iberian penninsula), due abundant evidence of the contrary.
 
I agree with your post. I haven't either seen a new satisfactory model.
However I am always surprised to still see maps explaining the Celtic language expansion from "the Hallstatt - La Tene core". The fact we have not yet found a new satisfactory model is not a sufficient reason to continue to explain that the old model is a (the) right model !
 
I agree with your post. I haven't either seen a new satisfactory model.
However I am always surprised to still see maps explaining the Celtic language expansion from "the Hallstatt - La Tene core". The fact we have not yet found a new satisfactory model is not a sufficient reason to continue to explain that the old model is a (the) right model !

Well let me say this:

- the spread of Hallstatt and La-Tene very much explains the spread and distribution of Gaulish (as well it's eastern relatives, Galatian and Noric). The problem is, what was before Hallstatt? The Urnfield Culture spreads across large areas which are decisively known to be later on inhabited by non-Celtic peoples (most drastically Catalonia, but also for instance Poland). Having said this, Urnfield might explain the presence of the Lepontii, because the Golasecca Culture is just like Hallstatt is an offshot of Urnfield.

- The problem with the Atlantic Bronze Age hypothesis is similar: the abundance of non-Celtic languages (Basque/Aquitanian, Iberian, Lusitanian, Tartessian - which with exception of Lusitanian are also all non-Indo-European) in the Atlantic region.

- What neither archaeological cultures can sufficiently explain in my opinion is the situation on the British Isles, especially the complete lack of non-Celtic languages.

I think the consensus can be that if we go back sufficiently in time, correlation of archaeological cultures with ethnolinguistic groups gets problematic at best. And also, that a common archaeological culture doesn't automatically mean linguistic homogenity.
 
I think the consensus can be that if we go back sufficiently in time, correlation of archaeological cultures with ethnolinguistic groups gets problematic at best. And also, that a common archaeological culture doesn't automatically mean linguistic homogenity.

That is certainly one of the major results of the past few years!

And it is precisely for that reason that I would not explain the spread and distribution of Gaulish (and more generally of the Celtic languages) by the spread of the Hallstatt and La Tene cultures.

For the 10 past years, the trend has been more and more to accept the idea that the Celtic languages would have been present in Europe during the IInd millennium, during the late Bronze Age (V.Kruta, D.Vitali, B.Cunnlife,…).
Obviously it is a speculative idea, but it is the hypothesis I prefer.

Among these people, among them being Celtic speakers, some cultures would have emerged, as the Hallstatt, La Tene, Celtiberian, Armorican, British… cultures, related or not related one to another.
For instance, V.Kruta explains that some “latenian cultures” could have emerged independently of the “La Tene” core, as the effect of the Greek, Etruscan and more generally Mediterranean influences on different Celtic people could have had about the same results.

And moreover, the historical correlation between the Urnfield culture and the Halstatt culture seems to loose some credit.

Apart from that, I agree with you (and with most historians) when considering the Atlantic hypothesis as audacious, even if I am interested by the idea.

And the situation of the British Isles, according to my former “prefered hypothesis” doesn’t have to be explained by an archaeological culture.

But finally, the explanation of the arrival of the Celtic languages during the late Bronze Age has still to be understood.

And as there are no traces of people movements during the IInd millennium, P.Brun makes the supposition they were already there during the IIIrd millennium… !
 
That is certainly one of the major results of the past few years!

And it is precisely for that reason that I would not explain the spread and distribution of Gaulish (and more generally of the Celtic languages) by the spread of the Hallstatt and La Tene cultures.

Yes and no.

If we look at the extend of Celtic name influence in Central Europe, it very much matches the extend of Hallstatt/La-Tene. What little we know about the Noric and Galatian languages clearly shows that they were similar to (if not almost the same as) Gaulish. This also matches the statements of Tacitus and St. Jerome about the languages of the Cotini (Celtic people in the Western Carpathians) and the Galatians in Anatolia.

Another decisive argument in my opinion is the number of Celtic borrowings into Proto-Germanic (that is, Proto-Germanic before the First Germanic Sound Shift). The most visible example is the adoption of the Gaulish word for iron ("Isarnos") into Proto-Germanic.

For the 10 past years, the trend has been more and more to accept the idea that the Celtic languages would have been present in Europe during the IInd millennium, during the late Bronze Age (V.Kruta, D.Vitali, B.Cunnlife,…).
Obviously it is a speculative idea, but it is the hypothesis I prefer.

Among these people, among them being Celtic speakers, some cultures would have emerged, as the Hallstatt, La Tene, Celtiberian, Armorican, British… cultures, related or not related one to another.
For instance, V.Kruta explains that some “latenian cultures” could have emerged independently of the “La Tene” core, as the effect of the Greek, Etruscan and more generally Mediterranean influences on different Celtic people could have had about the same results.

Let me say this: I tend to both agree and disagree. I would argue this: I think for the tremendous spread of the Hallstatt and La-Tene Cultures it is certainly more plausible to assume that they already were speaking Celtic languages in these areas.

And moreover, the historical correlation between the Urnfield culture and the Halstatt culture seems to loose some credit.

How? It always appeared to me that Hallstatt was basically an outgrowth of the Urnfield Culture. Granted, it was not the only one (you also have the Lusatian Culture in Poland, and the Golasecca Culture in the western Alps). I would appreciate if you could cite anything for this.

Apart from that, I agree with you (and with most historians) when considering the Atlantic hypothesis as audacious, even if I am interested by the idea

Well, the problem I have with the Atlantic hypothesis is that both linguistically and archaeologically, the movement appears to have been from the east (ie, central europe) into the west, not vice versa. If you look at the Celtic languages, the center of innovation was clearly in the east, and it is at the western peripheries (Ireland, Iberia) that the more archaic languages survived. This is espectially drastic on the Iberian penninsula because in addition, you have the survival of several non-Indo-European languages in Antiquity, and in addition, you also had a non-Celtic Indo-European language on the Iberian penninsula in Antiquity (Lusitanian).

And the situation of the British Isles, according to my former “prefered hypothesis” doesn’t have to be explained by an archaeological culture.

But finally, the explanation of the arrival of the Celtic languages during the late Bronze Age has still to be understood.

Well, one possibility I have contemplated on is the possibility that there were already non-Celtic Indo-Europeans on the British Isles. We know that this was the case on the Iberian penninsula (see above), so I don't see why it couldn't have been the case in Britain/Ireland, either.

And as there are no traces of people movements during the IInd millennium, P.Brun makes the supposition they were already there during the IIIrd millennium… !

Actually, the best case you can make, I would personally say, are the great upheavals that occur Europe-wide and also coincide with the Bronze Age Collapse in the eastern Mediterranean.

Another decisive argument that I think that can be made against the idea that the Celtic languages are very old (ie 3rd millennium BC) is another linguistic one: first off, the Celtic languages in Antiquity were too similar to each other to be particularly old. Archaic Irish of the 4th century AD (the language used in the Ogham inscriptions) is in many cases very similar to Gaulish. The other issue is the similarity of the Celtic languages to the Italic languages (common words, similar declensions/endings, common sound laws, etc.).
 
Yes and no.

If we look at the extend of Celtic name influence in Central Europe, it very much matches the extend of Hallstatt/La-Tene. What little we know about the Noric and Galatian languages clearly shows that they were similar to (if not almost the same as) Gaulish. This also matches the statements of Tacitus and St. Jerome about the languages of the Cotini (Celtic people in the Western Carpathians) and the Galatians in Anatolia.

I was more thinking about the west part of the Celtic word, and before the East expansion (which is well documented). If we agree that the Celtiberian cannot be explained by the spread of the Halstatt / La Tene cultures, why would it be obvious that there would not be any other Celtic languages (for instance west of Gaul) prior to the La Tene culture spread ?

Another decisive argument in my opinion is the number of Celtic borrowings into Proto-Germanic (that is, Proto-Germanic before the First Germanic Sound Shift). The most visible example is the adoption of the Gaulish word for iron ("Isarnos") into Proto-Germanic.

I don’t understand this point. I agree that the word has been early borrowed by the Proto-Germans, but why would it be related only to the cultures spread?
How? It always appeared to me that Hallstatt was basically an outgrowth of the Urnfield Culture. Granted, it was not the only one (you also have the Lusatian Culture in Poland, and the Golasecca Culture in the western Alps). I would appreciate if you could cite anything for this.
V.Kruta (Les Celtes – 2000) doesn’t imagine the Urnfield culture expansion as a homogeneous ethnic group expansion, but more as a general cultural change of already differentiated groups.
 
I was more thinking about the west part of the Celtic word, and before the East expansion (which is well documented). If we agree that the Celtiberian cannot be explained by the spread of the Halstatt / La Tene cultures, why would it be obvious that there would not be any other Celtic languages (for instance west of Gaul) prior to the La Tene culture spread ?

What east expansion are you talking about? You mean the expansion from Central Europe into the Balkans? Because I haven't seen any evidence for an expansion from Gaul into Central Europe.

But otherwise, I agree, we would expect other Celtic languages to have been spoken in western Gaul before the spread of Hallstatt/La-Tene under this scenario. The other possibility is that of non-Celtic Indo-European languages being spoken in the region (specifically on the British Isles, and in particular Ireland). There are a few possibe indications for this, specifically words with initial *p (as you know, Proto-Celtic famously loses the Initial *p from Proto-Indo-European) found in Irish, which are not borrowings from Latin, either.

I don’t understand this point. I agree that the word has been early borrowed by the Proto-Germans, but why would it be related only to the cultures spread?

Well, I'm just arguing that there happens to be a match between archaeological spread and linguistics at work there: we see in archaeology that iron-working into the (Proto-Germanic, presumably) Jastorf Culture occured from the Hallstatt Culture, and we see that the Germanic word for iron was borrowed from Celtic, I think it's logical to assume that Hallstatt was apparently Celtic-speaking. I'm not arguing that Hallstatt was the only Celtic-speaking area at that time, but I merely argue that it clearly must have been Celtic-speaking.

V.Kruta (Les Celtes – 2000) doesn’t imagine the Urnfield culture expansion as a homogeneous ethnic group expansion, but more as a general cultural change of already differentiated groups.

Well, that Urnfield wasn't homogenous is clear (the best examples the Urnfields in Catalonia, in an area that is later on inhabited by the non-Indo-European Iberians).
 
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What east expansion are you talking about?

Obviously the expansion from central Europe.

To conclude, I think our opinions are close one to another, even if we agree that everything is not explained.

I would like to ask you a question (but it is out of this subject) :
Do you have an opinion on the interpretation of J Koch about the Tartessian inscriptions ?
(I have just received his later book Tartessian 2 ). I am personnally totally unable to have an opinion.
 

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