[Spellyans] Fwd: The development and spread of Celtic

Dai Hawkins dafydd at inbox.com
Sun Dec 1 00:41:48 GMT 2013

Here's what I think, Craig: A clip of a talk by Sir Barrington Cunliffe has been going the rounds on the internet.THis gives no indication that his ideas are hypothetical, and that most leading scholars in this field, linguists, rather than archæologists, while willingly admitting that the traditional view needs considerable qualification, are unconvinced that the Cunliffe-Koch hypothesis can bear the weight of available evidence.

"What we are now seeing is that IN FACT the story was PROBABLY the reverse of that; that the Celts or Celtic languages VERY PROBABLY began in the Atlantic zone."
It is clear that there are features of modern Celtic languages which can have arisen only in the Atlantic zone; no scholar would dispute that. The $64,000 questions are where and when Celtic originally arose as a separate, identifiably Celtic, language; at the present state of play the burden of proof lies on the Atlantic enthusiasts.

"IN FACT our ... Celtic speakers are not immigrants from Europe in the 1st millennium BC; they are local people, indigenous populations, who have been speaking the same language as their ancestors deep back in time."
The dating of protoCeltic is crucial in this discussion. If Celtic developed late, as compared with e.g. Germanic, as some people maintain, then the Atlantic hypothesis looks more attractive. However, the evidence for a late genesis of Celtic ignores the fact [sic] that languages differ very considerably in their degrees of progressivism or conservatism. While by no means as conservative as e.g. Greek, the Celtic languages have been remarkably conservative, leading to the the widespread myth ("myth" in the sense of "untruth") that "Welsh is the oldest living language in Europe". There's a lot of teasing out of scarce material yet to be done on this issue.

I may one day be forced to eat my words on this issue, but, like many people who are far more informed on the matter than I am, I remain at the moment highly sceptical of the Celtic Atlantic hypothesis, as presented to us by Cunliffe-Koch, and unhappy about the fait-accompli way in which it is consistently presented by the duo.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: craig at agantavas.org
> Sent: Sat, 30 Nov 2013 12:45:01 +0000
> To: agantavas at spyrys.org, spellyans at kernowek.net
> Subject: [Spellyans] Fwd: The development and spread of Celtic
> Begin forwarded message:
>> From: Craig Weatherhill <craig at agantavas.org>
>> Subject: The development and spread of Celtic
>> Date: 2013 Mys Du 30 12:40:54 GMT+00:00
>> To: Michael Everson <everson at evertype.com>, Nicholas Williams
>> <njawilliams at gmail.com>, Ray Chubb <ray at spyrys.org>
>> This is a précis of the hypothesis developed by Prof. Sir Barry Cunliffe
>> and Dr John Koch, which (at long last) turns the old idea on its head.
>> By running linguistic and archaeological research together, this
>> hypothesis makes a great deal more sense than the "Early Iron Age
>> central-European origins" first postulated in the 17th century, and
>> which has lingered without being seriously questioned for far too long.
>> The old theory concentrated upon the supposed movement of peoples,
>> rather than the spread of trade and techniques requiring a common
>> language to deal with its complexities.
>> Koch and Cunliffe are currently attempting to pin down dating even more
>> firmly than they have (if that is possible).  However, if this
>> hypothesis is reasonably correct, then Cornwall's Neolithic
>> megalith-builders spoke an early form of Q-Celtic and, therefore, no
>> surviving structures can be called "pre-Celtic".
>> I'd be interested to hear what you think.
>> Craig

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