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CHAT: Pre-Celtic substrate (was: CHAT: RE: R: Italian Particles)

From:Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Thursday, April 27, 2000, 12:23
At 4:47 pm -0400 26/4/00, Padraic Brown wrote:
>On Wed, 26 Apr 2000, And Rosta wrote: > >>Ray: >>> All the evidence points to (insular) Celtic as being _originally_ VSO. Why >>> this should be so is AFAIK unknown and one of those features that >>> "Celto-Semitists" like to point as evidence of Semitic influence :) >> >>Why the smiley? Is the notion of there being a Semitic substrate beneath >>insular Celtic so daft?
In a word - yes.
>>(What I find less plausible is that there'd be >>a Semitic substrate in the British Isles but not in Iberia or Atlantic >>France.)
.....which IMHO is even less likely. The only actual evidence we have for Semitic penetration to this part of the world is for that of the Phoenicians. We know that they established a fourishing colony in north Africa, called Carthage, that they had settlements (for a time) in Sicily, Malta, southern seaboard of France and western Spain, and that they traded for tin with the Cornish peninsular (no evidence of settlement there). None of this is enough to establish a pre-Celtic _substrate_ influence in these areas. I have seen it suggested that a Semitic-based trade jargon developed in the Cornish peninsular and that this was responsible for the subsequent move of insular Celtic (a) to VSO, post-posited adjectives, conjagated prepositions, use of definite article only, the 'construct state' to express the genitive & other 'Semitic features', and (b) towards analytic rather than synthetic structures. But I find it difficult to see how such a trade jargon would sequently effect the Celtic languages of Ireland & the whole of Britain. Yet the structural resemblences that have been noted between (insular) Celtic and Semitic are noteworthy.
>I think that's the idea. What I'd been taught is that there was some >kind of substrate influence on the Celtic that went from Europe to the >British Isles. But not Semitic; the influenceing language(s) would be >those of the pre-IE Europeans.
This is more plausible possibility IMHO. The substrate is then considered to be Hamito-Semitic rather than Semitic in the narrow sense and the be most closely related to modern Berber, i.e. an 'Iberian' substrate spreading from north west Africa, up through the Iberian peninsular, western Gaul, Britain & Ireland. This is held to account for the short, swarthy types still much in evidence in south Wales and parts of Ireland. Also some people like to point out from time to time the co-incidence that the personal name Idris occurs both in Wales and in north Africa - a co-incidence? But things are not so simple. The Basques don't fit in here. Their language shows no affinity to the Hamito-Semitic group nor does it exhibit any of these "traditional" Celtic traits; yet their language is unquestionably of ancient origin, as are the Basque peoples. Another area was called Iberia for many centuries - Georgia (the one in the Caucasus - not in the US :) Those I've met who've visited Georgia have remarked on that the people they see there are similar to many one sees in south Wales & Ireland. The most plausible (or least daft) links with Basque that I've seen made do suggest some ultimate connexion with Georgian & the Kartvelian languages. These considerations must make us cautious in adopting a simple Berber-Iberian substrate theory, as though that solved all problems. Western Europe & the Iberian peninsular are big enough to have housed more than one pre-IE population. And who did live in Ireland & Britain before the various Celtic-speaking peoples moved here? One thing I've never been able to find the answer to is whether these 'Semitic' features of insular Celtic are strictly "insular" (i.e. peculiar to the Celtic of Ireland & Britain) or were they features of continental Celtic? Did the Galatians, e.g. take these features with them into Asia Minor? Were they always part of Celtic ever since its development in the upper Danube region? Maybe our knowledge of continental Celtic is too meagre to give any answer. Do any of the Celtophiles on the list know? If these traits are shown to have been integral to Celtic from the start (and not a Hiberno-British development), then we're looking in the wrong area for the 'Semitic' explanation! Ray. ========================================= A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language. [J.G. Hamann 1760] =========================================