View Full Version : Romano-Britans and their language
09-24-2002, 04:13 PM
Is there an explanation for why the English language contains virtually no trace at all of the language spoken by the inhabitants of the island of Britania prior to the influx of Anglo-Saxon and Jutish invaders following the withdrawal of the Roman legions ? I would have expected to find remnants of either the original Celtic tongue or of the Latin language that they were said to have adopted , or a combination of both. Were the people completely wiped out ,murdered ? Or did these people migrate to what is now known as Wales or Cornwal ? If they migrated , you would have expected to see traces of Latin in the modern languages spoken in the region, but we don't as far I can see
09-24-2002, 05:16 PM
Yes, it is interesting that mostly place names survived. But according to this page there was a major Latin influence on Old English: http://mockingbird.creighton.edu/english/worldlit/teaching/upperdiv/oldeng.htm
My WAG? Two things - 1.) Unlike many other expanding Germanic peoples, the Angles and Saxons et al had the "luxury" of continual waves of reinforcements from mainland Germania ( including Scandinavia ). While other tribes like the Visigoths or Suevi were discrete groups of 40,000-120,000 semi-nomadic individuals, England was continually re-seeded with fresh groups that allowed them to demographically as well as militarily eventually outcompete, or at least hold their own with the natives. As the dominant political force and with a strong demographic presense, they eventually linguistically absorbed native British peoples, rather than the other way around.
2.) The areas the Germans settled were also the most "Romanized". Whereas the Celtic speakers had already retreated into the west and north, were Germanic penetration was initially minor. Hence the strong Latin influence and weak Celtic influence.
09-24-2002, 07:02 PM
For a complex of reasons, the language of the Germanic invaders generally referred to as the Anglo-Saxons seems to have completely replaced, rather than subsuming, Brythonic in most of England. As noted, a lot of place names were adopted or adapted by the invaders.
One may assume several things, a combination of which is probably the best explanation: (1) The language of the dominant part of the culture, the Anglo-Saxon overlords, was adopted by the subservient part of the culture, the conquered Britons. (2) Many of the leading Britons were killed in the incursions, particularly the leaders that might have been expected to rally the remnants. (3) No doubt many Britons retreated to the various redoubts -- and you miss the fact that most of the Northwest of England and more than Cornwall in the Southwest remained British for some time -- not to mention the truly complex (too complex to summarize well here) situation in Scotland at the time.
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