Celtic Languages

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

‘Celtic’ is a linguistic term (pronounced with a hard ‘c’) which describes a group of languages nowadays represented by Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx, which belong to the ‘q’ Celtic group, and Welsh, Breton and Cornish, which make up the ‘p’ Celtic group.

The ‘q’ Celts could not pronounce ‘p’ and so either dropped it completely (pater in Latin, meaning ‘father’, is athair in modern Irish) or changed it to a ‘q’ type sound, thus purpura in Latin, meaning ‘purple’, is corcora in Irish.

Speakers of Irish can understand Scots Gaelic without much difficulty, but will not be able to understand Welsh or Breton at all, as the two groups of languages have been developing separately for over 2,000 years.

The Celtic insular languages are mostly those spoken on the islands, typically Britain, Ireland, Man and part of France. The Insular languages are divided into two branches, the Goidelic and…

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