Celtic Ps and Qs

Posted by Lewis on March 10, 2005

In Reply to: Celtic Ps and Qs posted by Shae on March 09, 2005

: : : Just an explanatory note to my response to ESC below:

: : : There are two surviving dialects of the Celtic language. Linguists label them as Q-Celtic and P-Celtic. Irish, Scottish and Manx are Q-Celtic and are believed to be older than P-Celtic. The dialect spoken in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany is/was P-Celtic.

: : : The letter 'Q' doesn't exist now in the Gaelic alphabet, but it was used in the earliest inscriptions on stone to express the 'k' sound. Thus 'Maq' was 'son of . . ' In modern Irish, the 'q' has been replaced by 'c' so we now have 'Mac.'

: : : The Brythonic Celts used the P-Celtic dialect. They used the 'P' sound instead of the 'Q' sound. So, 'son of . . .' was pronounced 'map' as opposed to 'mac.' In modern Welsh, it's often abbreviated to "'ap"

: : : Just thought you all should know that.
: : :
: : I am indeed glad to know that. Since the entire western end of Europe, Ireland through France and northern Italy, was populated by Celts, this would mean that the Celts, wherever they may have come from, would have landed (or survived) in Ireland earlier than in, say, northern Italy. Or, since newer can signify a greater rate of change, perhaps the Brythonic Celts were less conservative in adopting linguistic change. Or perhaps the Brythonic areas were overrun by Celts from a different part of the Celtic homeland or at a later date than those who entered Ireland. Any doctrine on this available? And by the way, you didn't mention the William / Gwyliam / Guillaume differentiation. Nor the oddity of the lateral fricative in Welsh. SS

: This isn't the appropriate forum, and Gary will be very annoyed but, briefly:

: The general consensus is that Gaelic (Q-Celtic) preceded Brythonic (P-Celtic) and is, therefore, more archaic. All languages evolve (e.g. English English and American English), so it shouldn't be surprising that different dialects developed among the Celtic languages. The Brythonic dialect never reached Ireland, presumably because of its isolation.

: 'William / Gwyliam / Guillaume' are just variations of the same name. 'Guillaume' is the Norman/French original. 'Liam' is the modern Irish equivalent.

: As for the Welsh lateral fricative, I was quite proud of myself last year when I asked for directions to Llandrindod and the lady didn't laugh at my pronunciation. I guess I fricatived laterally enough to satisfy her.

...sounds delightfully saucy!

Our discussions are generally edifying - I hadn't heard of "Celtic Ps and Qs" before. As the Western Isles (Britain, Ireland etc) traded with ancient civilisations in the middle-east, it makes you wonder as to what words got incorporated into Celtic at a very early stage. Traders usually use some words from the languages of the people they trade with, so it would be unusual if there was no interchange.
Mapping DNA profiles might be able to show how much physical interchange there has been between groups and that work could be brought together with linguistic analysis to suggest which way round certain words travelled. Difficult research task, but the end results of a comprehensive analysis like that could be intriguing.