are a subfamily of the Indo-European language family. Geographically
and historically, this subfamily is divided into a Continental group
(now extinct) and an Insular group. The Insular languages fall into
two groups: the Goidelic (or Gaelic), including Irish, Scottish Gaelic
(or Erse), and Manx; and the Brythonic (or British), including Breton,
Cornish, and Welsh.
||Old High German
Old Welsh; Middle Welsh
The characteristic of Celtic languages that most distinguishes them
from other Indo-European linguistic groups is their loss of the original
Indo-European sound p. Their rules of pronunciation are extremely complicated,
as the spelling generally does not correspond to the pronunciation.
All modern Celtic languages use the Roman alphabet.
Breton, Cornish, and Welsh
The Breton language
is spoken today in various dialects in Brittany ; most Breton speakers
also speak French.
Once the language of Cornwall, Cornish
survives only in a few proper names and certain words in the English
dialect spoken in Cornwall.
Welsh is the most flourishing
of the Celtic languages. It is spoken in Wales (where the majority of
its users also speak English) and in some communities in the United
States and Argentina.
Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx
Irish, or Irish Gaelic,
is the oldest of the Goidelic group of Celtic languages. It is spoken
chiefly in the western and southwestern parts of the Republic of Ireland,
where it is an official language, and in Northern Ireland.
A form of Gaelic was brought to Scotland by Irish
invaders about the 5th century, where it replaced an older Brythonic
language. By the 15th century, with the inclusion of Norse and English
loanwords, the Scottish branch differed significantly enough from the
Irish to warrant definition as a separate language. Scottish
Gaelic also has a few thousand speakers in Nova Scotia.
Manx, the language of
the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea is classed as a dialect of Scottish
Gaelic, with strong Norse influence. It began to decline in the 19th
century, and in the early 20th century it became virtually extinct.