Celtic Pathways – Languages and Tongues

Celtic Pathways is a new series on Radio Omniglot that will be exploring connections between Celtic languages, and looking for Celtic roots in other languages.

The Six Celtic languages currently spoken are all members of the insular branch of the Celtic language family, which is part of the Indo-European language family. They can be divided into two groups: the Goidelic or Q-Celtic languages: Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic, and the Brythonic or P-Celtic languages: Welsh, Cornish and Breton. They are spoken mainly in the British Isles, Ireland, and Brittany in the northwest of France. There are also Welsh speakers in Patagonia in Argentina, and Scottish Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia in Canada.

Other Celtic languages were spoken in the past in parts of Continental Europe, particularly in what is now France, Spain, Portugual, northern Italy and across central Europe perhaps as far as Turkey. They are all extinct, although there is a little written material in some of them, such as Gaulish, Celtiberian and Leptonic.

I’ve been collecting words that are cognate (related) in some or all of the modern Celtic languages since 2009 and putting them together in the Celtic cognates section of Omniglot. In 2018 I started exploring these words in more depth on the Celtiadur blog. I look for related words in the modern Celtic languages, in earlier versions of the Celtic languages, such as Middle Welsh and Old Irish, and in their extinct and reconstructed relatives, right back to Proto-Celtic. I also look for words from the same roots in other languages, such as English, French and Spanish.

Words of Celtic origin in other languages
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_English_words_of_Celtic_origin
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_French_words_of_Gaulish_origin
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Galician_words_of_Celtic_origin
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Spanish_words_of_Celtic_origin
https://www.uni-trier.de/en/forschung/zat/celtic-studies/celtic-cultures/celtic-words

By the way, I speak Welsh and Irish more or less fluently, can get by in Scottish Gaelic and Manx, and have a smattering of Breton and Cornish. I’ve been interested in Welsh for a long time as my mother’s family is mostly Welsh, although she doesn’t speak it. I got into Irish and Scottish Gaelic through a love of tradition music and songs from Ireland and Scotland, and I learnt the others out of interest. While doing an MA in Linguistics at Bangor University, I wrote a dissertation on the Death and Revival of Manx. Find out more in my Language Learning Adventures.

Let’s start this first episode of Celtic Pathways by looking at words for language and tongue.

The Proto-Celtic word for language was *yaxtī, which comes from the Proto-Indo-European *yek- (to utter) [source].

Descendents in the modern Celtic languages include:

  • iaith [jai̯θ] = language, tongue; people, nation, race, tribe in Welsh
  • yeth [eːθ / jeːθ] = tongue, language in Cornish
  • yezh [ˈjeːs] = language in Breton

The Middle Irish word icht (race, people, tribe; province, district) possibly comes from the same Proto-Celtic root.

Words from the same PIE root include: joke and Yule in English, jul (Yule, Christmas) in Danish and Norwegian, juego (play, game, sport) in Spanish, and joc (game, play, dance) in Romanian [source].

The Proto-Celtic word for tongue was *tangʷāss, tangʷāt, from the Proto-Indo-European *dn̥ǵʰwéh₂s (tongue). Descendents in the modern Celtic langauges include:

  • teanga [ˈtʲaŋə / ˈtʲaŋɡə] = tongue, language in Irish
  • teanga [tʲɛŋgə] = tongue speech, spit (of land) in Scottish Gaelic
  • çhengey [ˈtʃɛnʲə] = bell-clapper, clasp, feather, strap-hinge; catch (of buckle); tongue; language, speech; utterance in Manx
  • tafod [ˈtavɔd / ˈtaːvɔd] = tongue, faculty of speech, power of expression; language, speech, dialect, accent in Welsh
  • taves = language, tongue in Cornish
  • teod [ˈtɛwt] = language, tongue in Breton

Words from the same PIE root include: tongue and language in English, lingua (tongue, language) in Italian, язик [jɐˈzɪk] (tongue) in Ukrainian, and jazyk (tongue, language) in Czech and Slovak [source].

An Old Irish word for language and speech was bélrae [ˈbʲeːl͈re], from the Old Irish bél (mouth). This became Béarla [ˈbʲeːɾˠl̪ˠə] in modern Irish, Beurla [bjɤːr̪ˠl̪ˠə] in Scottish Gaelic and Baarle [bɛːᵈl], all of which mean English (language) [source].

More details about these words on the Celtiadur.

I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

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Adventures in Etymology – Daff

Today we’re playing with the word daff.

Daff

A Daff [dæf] is:

  • A fool, idiot or blockhead

It comes from the Middle English daf(fe) (fool, idiot), from the Old Norse daufr (deaf, stupid), from the Proto-Germanic *daubaz [ˈdɑu̯.βɑz] (stunned, deaf), from the PIE *dʰewbʰ- (hazy, unclear, dark, smoke, obscure) [source].

In northern dialects of English and in Scots, daff is a verb that means to be foolish, play, make sport or frolic. It comes from the same root as the noun daff, via the Middle English daffen (to render foolish) [source].

Words from the same PIE root include deaf and dumb in English; and words for black in Celtic languages, such as du [dɨː/diː] in Welsh, and dubh [d̪ˠʊvˠ/d̪ˠʊw/duh] in Irish and Scottish Gaelic [source].

Some words derived from daff include bedaff (to befool, make a fool of, confound), daffen (to make a daff, stun), daffish (stupid, silly), and daffy (somewhat mad or eccentric). Only the last one is much used these days. The others are obsolete or used only in some English dialects, and in Scots [source].

Daff is not related to daft (foolish, silly, stupid), which comes from the Middle English dafte/defte (gentle, humble, modest, awkward, dull), from the Old English dæfte (gentle, meek, mild), from the Proto-West Germanic *daftī (fitting, suitable), from the PIE *dʰh₂ebʰ- (fitting; to fit together) [source].

The English word deft comes from the same PIE root [source], as do words for good in Slavic languages, such as dobrý in Czech and Slovak, and добър [doˈbɤɾ] in Bulgarian [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly [afflilate link].

I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog, and I explore etymological connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

The Fastest Way to Learn Japanese Guaranteed with JapanesePod101.com

Adventures in Etymology – Roof

Today we’re exploring the origins of the word roof.

Castell Penrhyn Castle

A roof [ɹuːf / ɹʊf] is:

  • the cover of a building
  • material used for a roof
  • the highest point
  • an upper limit
  • the vaulted upper boundary of the mouth

It comes from the Middle English rof [roːf] (roof, house, top of the mouth), or from the Old English hrōf [xroːf] (roof, the sky or heavens), from the Proto-Germanic *hrōfą (roof), from the Proto-Indo-European *krāpo- (roof), from *krāwə- (to cover, heap) [source].

Words from the same roots include: roef [ruf] (a cabin on a boat) in Dutch, ruf (deckhouse, doghouse) in Danish, rouf [ʁuf] (deckhouse) in French, strop (ceiling) in Croatian, Czech, Polish, Serbian and Slovenian, and the old Russian word строп [strop] (roof, attic, loft) [source].

Incidentally, the Dutch word roef is only used to refer to a cabin on a river boat. A cabin on a big ship is a kajuit the origins of which are uncertain. It possibly comes from the Old French cabane (cabin, hut, shack, shed) and hutte (hut) [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly [afflilate link].

I also write about words, etymology and other language-related topics on the Omniglot Blog, and I explore etymological connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

The Fastest Way to Learn Japanese Guaranteed with JapanesePod101.com

Episode 39 – What a Year!

In this episode I look back at 2020 and talk about what I’ve been up to this year in terms of work, language learning and other stuff.

Music featured in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

Goats / Geifr

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM, podtail and or via this RSS feed.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Episode 38 – Success and Failure

In this episode I discuss success and failure, particularly in relation to learning languages. Are they just different ways of look at the same thing? At what point can you say that you have succeeded to learn a language, or have failed? Does it matter?

I was inspired to make this episode by a video in which Jack Conte, the CEO of Patreon shares his most epic failures.

Here’s an example of a ‘real’ polyglot – a friend of mine called Richard Simcott, who runs the Polyglot Conference and similar events.

Music featured in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM, podtail and or via this RSS feed.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Episode 37 – The Hardest Languages

In this episode I discuss which languages are hardest to learn, and what makes some languages more difficult to learn than others. It’s not possible to provide a definitive list of the most challenging languages as it depends on a variety of factors. This hasn’t stopped people from doing this anyway. Here are some examples:

https://www.fluentu.com/blog/hardest-languages-to-learn/
https://www.languagedrops.com/blog/10-hardest-languages-to-learn
https://www.lingholic.com/hardest-languages-learn/
https://effectivelanguagelearning.com/language-guide/language-difficulty/
https://bestlifeonline.com/most-difficult-languages/

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM, podtail and or via this RSS feed.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Episode 36 – The Easiest Languages

In this episode I discuss which languages are easiest to learn for native speakers of English, and what factors make languages easy or difficult to learn, including grammar, spelling, pronunciation, vocabulary, the availablity of resources, and so on.

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

The Happy Hedgehog / Y Draenog Hapus

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM, podtail and or via this RSS feed.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Episode 33 – Giving Up

In this episode I talk about reasons why we stop learning learning langauges. Why we give up on them and quit. This is based on a poll I posted on the Omniglot Fan Club on Facebook.

Top reasons for giving up on a language include losing interest, not having enough time, getting distracted, another language seemed more interesting, and it being too hard.

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

Lifting the Lid / Codi’r Caead – a tune I wrote on the cavaquinho in 2020.

See the score of this tune

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Episode 32 – Acutal Fluency

In this episode I talk to fellow podcaster and language nerd, Kris Broholm. He makes The Acutal Fluency Podcast, on which he talks to language learners about their language learning experiences and journeys. We talk about language learning, about Danish (Kris is from Denmark), and other language-related things.

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

The Loose Moose / Yr Elc Rhydd – a tune I wrote on the harp in 2016.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Episode 31 – Talent

In this episode I talk about talent, particularly talent for languages. Do some people have an innate talent for learning languages? Do others lack such a talent? If you don’t have a talent for languages, can you learn one anyway?

Further reading:
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-innate-talent-a-myth/

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

Little Red Boats / Cychod bach coch – a tune I wrote on the cavaquinho in 2017.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting