Celtic languages

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Celtic language family tree
Map of Celtic Nations-flag shades
Bronce de Botorrita II

Celtic languages are a group of languages that belong to the Indo-European language family. These languages have historically been spoken across much of Western Europe, including especially the British Isles and parts of the Iberian Peninsula, with a history that stretches back over 2,500 years. Today, the Celtic languages that remain in use are often categorized into two groups: the Goidelic (or Gaelic) languages and the Brythonic (or Brittonic) languages.

Goidelic Languages[edit | edit source]

The Goidelic languages include Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx, which are spoken in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, respectively. Irish and Scottish Gaelic are still spoken as first languages in certain areas, known as Gaeltacht regions in Ireland and Gàidhealtachd areas in Scotland. Manx, once considered extinct as a first language, has seen a revival in recent years due to efforts in language preservation and revival.

Brythonic Languages[edit | edit source]

The Brythonic languages consist of Welsh, Breton, and Cornish. Welsh is the most widely spoken of these, with a significant number of speakers in Wales and a presence in the Welsh diaspora. Breton is spoken in Brittany, France, and, like Welsh, has seen efforts to revive its use among younger generations. Cornish, which experienced a period of extinction in the late 18th century, has been the subject of revival efforts and now has a small number of speakers.

History[edit | edit source]

The history of the Celtic languages is often divided into two main periods: Old Celtic or Common Celtic, from which all modern Celtic languages are derived, and Middle Celtic, which saw the languages begin to diverge significantly from each other. The spread of the Celtic languages in ancient times is linked to the migrations of the Celtic peoples, who at their zenith occupied an expanse from Gaul (modern-day France and surrounding areas) to Galatia (in modern-day Turkey) and the British Isles.

Decline and Revival[edit | edit source]

The decline of the Celtic languages can be attributed to a variety of factors, including military conquests, cultural assimilation, and linguistic replacement by dominant languages such as English and French. However, the 20th and 21st centuries have seen a resurgence of interest in the Celtic languages, with efforts focused on language preservation, education, and revival. These efforts include the establishment of language immersion schools, the creation of digital resources, and legislative measures to protect and promote the use of Celtic languages.

Modern Usage[edit | edit source]

In the modern era, the Celtic languages are recognized as an important part of the cultural heritage of their respective regions. They are used in a variety of contexts, from official government business to education, media, and literature. Festivals, competitions, and other cultural events also play a significant role in promoting the languages and keeping the traditions associated with them alive.

See Also[edit | edit source]


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD