> Dear Non-Conformist
> Your long and eloquent pieces are full of wisdom, and I find
> myself agreeing with you over and over again. The one problem
> is that despite being told over and over and over again you
> keep on insisting that I think the original population of
> Britan spoke a Celtc language.
> Give that premise, everything you say in criticism of myself
> (and of Ishamel) is absolutely true. BUT I DON'T SAY IT.
> What I say (and you are perfecty free to disagree with THIS
> version) is
> 1. The original population of Britain spoke English.
a non-Celtic language, then.
> 2. There were small pockets of Celtic-speakers in Wales,
> Cornwall, Cumbria and the Highlands of Scotland.
Those were Picts and Scots up in the Highlands of Scotland, a non-Indo-European ethnolinguistic group, possibly related to the Finns or possibly an indigenous linguistic group like the Basques of France and Spain. We really don't have any idea because they didn't leave behind any traces of their language. The Celtic Scots Gaelic speakers are more recent newcomers to the Scottish Highlands from Ireland.
> 3. In other words, the language situation in Britain then
> was basically what it is now.
The Picts had been eliminated leaving speakers of Old English in Britain with speakers of Old Welsh an Old Cornish to the west and Old Irish in Ireland. Meanwhile, Old Frisian was spoken on the continent across the Channel with Old High German beyond that, Old Franconian farther south, Old Breton in Brittany and Old French beyond that. Then you've got your Old Norse in Northern Europe who at the end of the first millennium AD spread across the Northern Atlantic to Vinland leaving colonies of Old Norse speakers in Britain and Iceland.
> 4. Various invaders speaking quite different languages came,
> ruled and went (or disappeared into the native population).
> 5. One of these invading groups, the Anglo-Saxons, spoke a
> language that has a certan family resemblance to English.
> 6. English-speaking historans, not wishing their language's
> origins to be, as it were, lost in the mists of time,
> constructed a theory that English is derived from Anglo-Saxon.
In searching for the English or non-English speaking historians who first put this theory forward, all you find is "tradition has it that..."
The tradition is that around 450 AD the king of Kent, a Celt named Vortigern, invited a group of Germanic warriors, Jutes, Saxons and Angles led by two brothers, Hengist and Horsa, to help defeat the Picts.
What is the earliest date this tradition was put down in writing? Any idea?
Still, this says nothing about languages. I have no doubt that in the early part of the first millenium AD there were adventurous Germanic mercenaries traveling from Germany to all parts of the world. Russian history refers to a group of Vikings known as the Rus' who first established their kingdom in the city of Kiev. While Kiev had been settled hundreds of years earlier, tradition has it by three brothers, Kiy, Shchek and Khorin, the Vikings led by Rurik in the late 800s established the Rurikaid line of Tsars (a word derived from Kaisar and Ceasar.) But these Rurikaid princes spoke the native Slavic language from early on, and there are very few loan words borrowed from Germanic languages that date back to this time.
If what happened in Britain was anything like what happened later in Russia, then the Germanic immigrants would have spoken the language indigenous to the area at the time. Orthodox theory says that language was Celtic, but Old English was not closely related to Old Irish, Old Welsh or any of the other Celtic languages in the area. Old English was more closely related to Old Frisian across the Channel which was a Germanic language.
Now, another factor to consider is that the Royalty for some time were known to be ethnically Germanic, Angles and Saxons. Assuming they spoke the indigenous language of the kingdom, the name of which may have been pronounced "English," they were known themselves as Angles and Saxons, so neighboring kingdoms would have referred to the language they spoke as both "English," the indigenous name, and "Anglo-Saxon," the enthic name of their rulers.
That actually makes a lot of sense.
Then comes the naive English speaking historian who is familiar with the legend of the supposedly Celtic king of Kent, Vortigern. He believes that before the invasion, everyone spoke a Celtic language and afterwards English is more closely related to Old Frisian across the Channel, and he assumes that everyone just started speaking the language of these Anglo-Saxon immigrants.
> 7. This in turn required that the pre-Anglo-Saxon population
> be given another language to speak.
> 8. Since Celtic languages are also spoken on the island of
> Britain (see paragraph 2) it was decided that that language
> was Celtic.
> 9. Since it is difficult to construct a scenario whereby the
> language of a very small group of invaders could entirely
> replace the language of a very large native population, a
> lively (but in my view, spurious) debate is ongoing between
> the "exterminationist" school and the "integrationist" school.
> I would very much welcome your comments on THIS version of my
> thesis rather than the one you have hitherto been analysing
> so ably.
Ok, your thesis seems to make more sense here in comparison to the Orthodox view.
What the "Exterminationists" have to explain is how so many Celts could be displaced without leaving behind any Celtic legends of the English genocidal ethnic cleansing. They also must explain how so few Anglo-Saxon speaking immigrants who were part of the Royalty could populate Britain so rapidly with so many English speaking peasants.
Another difficulty is the striking dissimilarity of English to what is assumed to be the original language spoken in the Angles region of Germany. That language was spoken with all sorts of case, gender and number suffixes many of which are missing even in Old English. How could the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxon royalty become so bastardized among the English peasantry?
The solution is that apparently a Germanic tribe settled in Britain anciently. Their language was originally probably indistinguishable from the Germanic tribes that settled in parts of the continent, but after centuries and perhaps millennia of relative isolation it changed, as all living languages do, to something quite different from the other Germanic languages.
What the "integrationists" still have to explain is the missing settlement legend, although we can quite reasonably understand how it would be missing if the original settlement occurred in the first or second millennium BC rather than the first millennium AD.