Old Devonian (Deunansek Koth)

Someone mentioned to me today that they had studied a bit of Old Devonian. This was the first this I’d heard of that language, and after some searching, I found a bit of information about it.

Old Devonian or Westcountry Brythonic was apparently a Celtic language that was spoken in parts of Devon, Somerset and Dorest in the southwest of England between about the 5th and 8th centuries AD. It is considered the ancestor of both Cornish and Breton and a member of the P-Celtic branch of the Insular Celtic languages.

Joseph Biddulph in his book, A Handbook of West Country Brythonic – The Forgotten Celtic Tongue of South West England c 700 AD (‘Old Devonian’), has attempted to reconstruct parts of the language using place names and the modern Celtic languages as a guide.

Here’s his version of the Lord’s Prayer in Old Devonian:

Hagon tat so in nefou,
sanktedhit bedhet dhe hanu,
defu dhe ruanteleth,
dhe fodh gwraet bedhet en doar fel en nef,
roit dhen hedhiu hagon bara peb dedh,
hak (pardon) dhen hagon kamuedh,
fel (we pardon) dhen re-na (who) hagon kamuol,
hak na en tentation,
mat deliurit ni dherak druk.

Here it is in the other P-Celtic languages:

Breton

Hon Tad, pehini zo enn env,
hoc’h hano bezet santified ;
ho rouantelez deuet deomp ;
ho polontez bezet great
var ann douar evel enn env.
Roit d’eomp hirio hor bara pemdeziek
ha pardounit d’eomp hon ofansou
evel ma pardounomp d’ar re à deuz honz offanset ;
ha na bermettit ket e kouezfemp e tentasion ;
mes hon dilivrit diouz ann drouk.
Evelse bezet great !

Cornish

Gen Taz, leb es, en Nêv,
benegas beth de Hanno,
De Gulasketh doaz, –
De Both beth gurêz en ‘aor –
pokar en Nev, Ro do ny hidhu –
gen bara pob Dêth, ha Gava do ny
gen pehazo, pokara ny Gava an Gy,
neb es peha, war agen bidn, ha –
na dro ny en Antall, buz gwitha
ny dhort droge, Rag De ew an
Glasketh, ha an Nerth,
ha an Gworyans, Bounaz heb diuath.

Welsh

Ein Tad, yr hwn wyt yn y nefoedd,
Sancteiddier dy enw.
Deled dy deyrnas.
Gwneler dy ewyllys,
megis yn yr nef, felly ar y ddaear hefyd.
Dyro i ni heddiw ein bara beunyddiol dynedded
A maddau i ni ein dyledion,
fel y maddeuwn ninnau i’n dyledwyr.
Ac nac arwain ni i brofedigaeth;
eithr gwared ni rhag drwg.
Canys eiddot ti yw’r deyrnas,
a’r nerth, a’r gogoniant, yn oes oesoedd.

There’s information about Old Devonian here, here and
here

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This entry was posted in Language.

5 Responses to Old Devonian (Deunansek Koth)

  1. Rhodri says:

    Argol! Wyddwn i ddim am fodolaeth yr iaith yma. Diolch am yr wybodaeth. Lafaraf Deunansek en vy ystafell! Hynod ddiddorol, diolch.

  2. Colm says:

    Thanks Simon! It’s the first time I had heard about the language as well. Interesting stuff.

  3. It’s essentially a continium of Brythonic.

    I guess there isn’t much difference between Old Devonian, Old Cornish and Old Welsh. I suppose you could say that people in Glamorgan or Gwynedd or other parts of Wales spoke ‘Old Devonian’ in the C7th too.

    Appart from the (to Welsh eyes) peculiar spelling; ‘dh’ for ‘dd’ and ‘u’ for ‘w’ etc it’s quite easy to understand.

    The interesting question is, were the Old Devonian/Brythonic speakers linguistically assimilated by the on-coming Anglo-Saxon/English speakers of did they flee or were they ethnically cleansed?

  4. Stuart says:

    Sion

    There are documents from the 8th century in Wessex which mention communities of Welsh speakers within the kingdom who were getting on and leading a normal life with the English around them, and although it is not known for certain it is thought by historians of the period that they eventually adopted the English language.

  5. Andrew says:

    Is there any reason to believe speakers of Old Devonian might have been ethnically cleansed? The genetic studies by Stephen Oppenheimer (as related in his book “The Origins of the British”) indicate that the overwhelming majority of the population of the British Isles belong to lineages going back into the neolithic and before even the English. The dna strains that could specifically be traced to the Anglo-Saxon invasions have a 5.5% prevalence in the English in general with the highest percentages being 15% and that confined to mostly to East Anglia. It makes interesting reading and certainly, if Oppenheimer’s studies are correct, Gildas’ account of blood-thirsty Saxon warriors on murderous rampages is thoroughly discredited.