On Language in the British Isles

Successive waves of Nordics entering into England brought and spread their Celtic languages, Teutonic languages, and later Roman languages.

The following is an interesting passage taken from Madison Grant’s work, “The Passing of the Great Race”. In the passage, Grant summarises the linguistic history of the peoples inhabiting the British Isles, and charts how linguistic evolution corresponded to racial changes that took place on the island.

“The first Aryan languages known in western Europe were the Celtic group which first appears west of the Rhine about 1000 B.C.

Only a few dim traces of Pre-Aryan speech have been found in the British Isles, and these largely in place names. The Pre-Aryan language of the Pre-Nordic population of Britain may have survived down to historic times as Pictish.

In Britain, Celtic speech was introduced in two successive waves, first by the Goidels or “Q” Celts, who apparently appeared about 800 B.C. and this form exists to this day as Erse in western Ireland, as Manx of the Isle of Man and as Gaelic in the Scottish Highlands.

The Goidels were still in a state of bronze culture. When they reached Britain they must have found there a population preponderantly of Mediterranean type with numerous remains of still earlier races of Palaeolithic times and also some round-skulled Alpines of the Round Burrows, who have since largely faded from the living population. When the next invasion, the Cymric or Brythonic, occurred the Goidels had been absorbed very largely by the underlying Mediterranean aborigines who had meanwhile accepted the Goidelic form of Celtic speech, just as on the continent the Gauls had mixed with Alpine and Mediterranean natives and had imposed upon the conquered their own tongue. In fact, in Britain, Gaul and Spain the Goidels and Gauls were chiefly a ruling, military class, while the great bulk of the population remained unchanged although Aryanised in speech.

These Brythonic or Cymric tribes or “P” Celts followed the “Q” Celts four or five hundred years later, and drove the Goidels westward though Germany, Gaul and Britain and this movement of population was still going on when Caesar crossed the Channel. The Brythonic group gave rise to the modern Cornish, extinct within a century, the Cymric of Wales and the Armorican of Brittany.

In central Europe we find traces of these same two forms of Celtic speech with the Goidelic everywhere the older and the Cymric the more recent arrival. The cleavage between the dialects of the “Q” Celts and the “P” Celts was probably less marked two thousand years ago than at present, since in their modern form they are both Neo-Celtic languages. What vestiges of Celtic languages remain in France belong to Brythonic. Celtic was not generally spoken in Aquitaine in Caesar’s time.

When the two Celtic-speaking races came into conflict in Britain their original relationship had been greatly obscured by the crossing of the Goidels with the underlying dark Mediterranean race of Neolithic culture and by the mixture of the Belgae with Teutonic tribes. The result was that the Brythons did not distinguish between the blond Goidels and the brunet but Celticised Mediterraneans as they all spoke Goidelic dialects.

In the same way when the Saxons and the Angles entered Britain they found there a population speaking Celtic of some form, either Goidelic or Cymric, and promptly called them all Welsh (foreigners). These Welsh were preponderantly of Mediterranean type with some mixture of a blond Goidel strain and a much stronger blond strain of Cymric origin and these same elements exist today in England. The Mediterranean race is easily distinguished, but the physical types derived from Goidel and Brython alike are merged and lost in the later floods of pure Nordic blood, Angle, Saxon, Dane, Norse, and Norman. In this primitive, dark population with successive layers of blond Nordics imposed upon it, each one more purely Nordic and in the relative absence of round heads lie the secret and the solution of the anthropology of the British Isles.This Iberian sub-stratum was able to absorb to a large extent the earlier Celtic-speaking invaders, both Goidels and Brythons, but it is only just beginning to seriously threaten the later Nordics and to reassert its ancient brunet characters after three thousand years of submergence.

In northwest Scotland there is a Gaelic-speaking area where the place names are all Scandinavian and the physical types purely Nordic. This is the only spot in the British Isles where Celtic speech has reconquered a district from the Teutonic languages and it was the site of one of the conquests of the Norse Vikings, probably in the early centuries of the Christian era. In Caithness in north Scotland, as well as in some isolated spots on the Irish coasts, the language of these same Norse pirates persisted within a century. In the fifth century of our era and after the break-up of Roman domination in Britain there was much racial unrest and a back wave of Goidels crossed from Ireland and either reintroduced or reinforced the Gaelic speech in the highlands. Later, Goidelic speech was gradually driven northward and westward by the intrusive English of the lowlands and was ultimately forced over this originally Norse-speaking area. We have elsewhere in Europe evidence of similar shiftings of speech without any corresponding change in the blood of the population.

Except in the British Isles and in Brittany Celtic languages have left no modern descendants, but have everywhere been replaced by languages of Neo-Latin or of Teutonic origin. Outside of Brittany one of the last, if not quite the last, reference to Celtic speech in Gaul is the historic statement that “Celtic” tribes, as well as “Armoricans”, took part at Chalons in the great victory in 451 A.D. over Attila the Hun and his confederacy of subject nations.

On the continent the only existing populations of Celtic speech are the primitive inhabitants of central Brittany, a population noted for their religious fanaticism and for other characteristics of a backward people. This Celtic speech is claimed to have been introduced about 450-500 A.D. by Britons fleeing from the Saxons. These refugees, if there were any substantial number of them, must have been dolichocephs of either Mediterranean or Nordic race or both. We are asked by this tradition to believe that their long skull was lost, but that their language was adopted by the round-skulled Alpine population of Armorica. It is much more probable that the Cymric-speaking Alpines of Brittany have merely retained in this isolated corner of France a form of Celtic speech which was prevalent throughout northern Gaul and Britain before these provinces were conquered by Rome and Latinised and which, perhaps, was reinforced later by British Cymry. Caesar remarked that there was little difference between the speech of the Belgae in northern Gaul and in Britain. In both cases the speech was Cymric.

Long after the conquest of Gaul by the Goths and Franks, Teutonic speech remained predominant among the ruling classes and, by the time it succumbed to the Latin tongue of the Romanised natives, the old Celtic languages had been entirely forgotten outside of Brittany.

An example of similar changes of language is to be found in Normandy where the country was inhabited by the Nordic Belgae speaking a Cymric language before that tongue was replaced by Latin. This Coast was ravaged about 300 or 400 A.D. by Saxons who formed settlements along both sides of the Channel and the coasts of Brittany which were later known as the Litus Saxonicum. Their progress can best be traced by place names as our historic records of these raids is scanty.

The Normans landed in Normandy in the year 911 A.D. They were heathen, Danish barbarians, speaking a Teutonic tongue. The religion, culture and language of the old Romanised populations worked a miracle in the transformation of everything except blood in one short century. So quick was the change that 155 years later the descendants of the same Normans landed in England as Christian Frenchmen armed with all the culture of their period. The change was startling, but the Norman blood remained unchanged and entered England as a substantially Nordic type.”

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