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Re: Celtic, Semitic, Galician, &c.

From:Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Tuesday, May 2, 2000, 5:54
At 6:45 pm -0400 1/5/00, T. Leigh/M. Carchrie wrote:
>Ha Ray a skrifas: > >>I know Galicia is often added, tho I've never really understood why. >>Galician is well & truly a Romance language and AFAIK there's no >tangible >>'Celtic' survival there? > >I have read, though I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this information, >that there are some archaeological remains and artefacts of some >description (though nothing linguistic) found in Galicia which bear >similarities to things found elsewhere in Spain and France which are >identified as "Celtic", so on that basis some scholars have concluded >that at some point long ago it is likely that a Celtic-speaking tribe or >tribes
<groab> I've known people identify all sorts of unlikely groups (e.g. ancient Monoans, modern Georgians) as "Celtic" on the basis of artefacts. Without any any linguistic evidence, i.e. inscriptions, one simply cannot say that the people living in a particular area spoke a Celtic language - any claim to do otherwise is bogus.
>(perhaps Celtiberians, perhaps another group) lived in at least >part of what is now Galicia.
..and the very name suggests that these people could equally well have been Iberian speaking.
>This in itself, of course, does not prove >any link between those ancient people and the modern Galicians, who have >never AFAIK spoken a Celtic language.
Indeed, it does not.
>My personal opinion is that it >comes down to politics -- in an effort to emphasise to themselves and >the rest of the world their non-Spanishness, the Galicians have latched >onto these pre-Spanish (and indeed ancient) people as their "true >ancestors", so if those ancestors were Celts then they must be too.
I thought it was probably political - and 20th cent. politics at that. To talk about pre-Spanish means there's an identifiable group called "Spanish" who moved into the Iberian peninsular at some time. Who were this group? They don't exist. The modern Spanish, like the modern Brits, are an amalgam of the many different populations that have settle in or passed through those areas over millennia.
> The >main stumbling block for me, personally, here is that basically the only >thing which links all the disparate modern and ancient peoples who are >labelled "Celtic" is language: they all speak, spoke, or are believed by >scholars to have spoken, a language which belongs to that group of >languages which we call "Celtic". And the Galicians don't have that >link.
Yep - the language is the only common link. It would be very difficult, without going into the realms of fantasy, to find any other common factor linking the modern disparate group called "Celts".
>> But as Thomas Leigh has pointed out the whole notion of a single >"Celtic" >> identity is an 18th century invention. So what prompts the Galicians >to >> want to jump on the band-wagon and, say, the Catalonians or >Piedmontese or >> Friulians?
OOOPS!!! - I meant to say: _not_ the Catalonians, Piedmontese or Friulians. Sorry :=( [....]
>I have >no idea what would prompt the Catalans, Piemontese, or Friulans to claim >"Celticness", though. Or was there supposed to be a "not" in that >sentence (i.e. the Galicians but NOT the Catalans et al.)?
There was - tho I chose the Piedmontese on purpose. We have sound testimony from Roman sources that Italy north of the Rubicon was Gallic (i.e. in modern parlance "Celtic"). [...]
> I highly recommend an interesting (and short) book called "The Atlantic >Celts: Ancient People or Modern Invention?" (ISBN 0714121657) by Simon >James, an archaeologist from the British Museum currently at the >University of Durham. He persuasively and convincingly discredits the >notion that the ancient (or medieval, for that matter) peoples of the >British Isles had anything to do with the ancient Celts of the >continent, and explains quite clearly the invention and subsequest >spread of the idea of "Celticness" in the British Isles, based on >language, in the eighteenth century.
Sounds interesting - so both the Atlantic Celts & the Atlantic Semites vanish from *here* (as they say in Brithenig posts) to a *there* :) [...]
>Celts: they have adopted the ethnonym "Celts" for themselves, they >"arise from a sense of shared difference from another group with which >they are in contact", they "express their identity by attaching symbolic >value to aspects of their culture deemed characteristic", and so on.
It seems 'different from English and/or French' is the common characteristic. It's not too easy finding positive characteristic linking all these disparate communities; though on linguistic grounds the links between Breton, Cornish & Welsh are clear enough, as are the links between Irish, Scots & Manx Gaelic. But without the development of comparative linguistics, those linking the two groups & the the two groups to the wider IE language community would not have been obvious.
> He >further states: "The resolution of this paradox lies in chronology: the >modern Celts are not the present representatives of a people who have >existed continuously for millenia, but constitute a true case of >'ethnogenesis' -- the birth of an ethnic identity -- in early modern >Europe."
'ethnogenesis' - I like that word. :)
>I forgot to mention before that the delicious piece of irony that I >personally relish is that if it is the case that the peoples of the >British Isles are in fact not Celts at all, then I have my degree (an MA >with Honours in Gaelic/Celtic Studies) in a field which doesn't exist! >:-)
But it does! Gaelic certainly exists, and Celtic studies surely involve a study in ethogenesis. BTW in case anyone thinks this is Celtic bashing, I should remind you of my fondness for the 'Celtic' languages, and I am just as aware that the modern fondness the people of this island have for calling themselves "British" is not a dissimilar example of 'ethnogenesis'. The modern British clearly do not represent a people who have existed continuously for millennia. The concept of what constitutes "Britishness" is a relatively modern invention. Ray. ========================================= A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language. [J.G. Hamann 1760] =========================================