Are UK Languages of Germanic Origin?

I was wondering if languages, such as Gaelic, Welch, Irish, and/or Scottish, have any common ties to English or German? And if not, do any of these languages have common bonds…and back to what root language? (Extra Credit: What did the Druids speak?)

  • Jinx :confused:

Celtic and Germanic languages are part of the greater Indo-European family of languages (some more info here, but you could plug in “Indo-European” into Google and come up with scores of sites.)

So yes – Celtic languages such as Gaelic and Germanic ones such as English have a common root.

For my money – the Druids spoke a Celtic variant.

Druidism is generally “Celtic Druidism.” I think that is self-explanatory.

Don’t let Mebyon Kernow hear you say that … The Cornish Nationalists have made a fairly determined attempt to restore Cornish as a viable language, though not, so far as I know, with any great measure of success.

(Yes, Virginia, there are such things as Cornish Nationalists. You might think the conquest of Cornwall by King Athelstan in 920 CE was too long ago for anyone to get worked up about it. You’d be wrong.)

Here’s another page on Indo-European:

Ethnologue is a good quick source for information about the relations between languages. (Yeah, there are some problems with it, but, no, I’m not interested in getting into another long thread about those problems.) If you have a question about the relationship between languages, it’s the place to go to for a quick answer.

Brythonic Celtic languages: Welsh, Breton, Cornish (dead)

Goidelic Celtic/Gaelic languages: Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Manx

The Brythonic language is thought to be simlair to the Gaulish Celtic spoken in France, Belgium, etc., whereas the Goidelic Celtic language is thought to have been simlair to the Ibero-Celtic spoken on the Iberian penisula.

Celtic and Germanic are both groups within the Indo-European family of languages and are also both western Indo-European “centum” language groups (though others group Celtic with Italic and Germanic with Balto-Slavic, which is a member of the eastern “satem” group).

The druids in Ireland would of spoken Goidleic and the driuds in Great Britain would of spoken Brythonic.

Quick answer for the OP: Aside from a few loanwords and place names, no. The Celtic languages are no more closely related to English than Russian.

Wendell’s link demostrates that.

And, of course English and Scots (not Scots Gaelic) are two extremely closely related languages of the Germanic family – the excursions into Celtic tongues seem to have missed this point in the OP.

The last surviving “native speaker” of Manx – i.e., the last person for whom it was the cradle language, as opposed to people bilingual in English and Manx who are trying to preserve the language – died within the lifetime of even the youngest reader of this board.


As the last native Manx speaker died in 1974, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.


But is Scots a separate language from English or is it a dialect of English? A proper English dictionary would list Scots words too and the two are still mutually intelligible, even if Scots has a different pronunication and a slightly different vocabulary.

… and a different orthography and a different history and (in some cases) a different syntax. I’d call it a separate language, but it’s a matter of opinion, really. Here is a good, although very strongly biased, overview on the subject.

And to add my own nitpick, Irish is not a “UK language”.

So I’m off a few years! :slight_smile:

Well – there are a few speakers of Irish in Northern Ireland, which remains part of the U.K. And there are a lot of Irish living in the larger cities of England for one reason or another; I’d be surprised if at least a few of them didn’t speak Irish as well as English.

Re: Scots. It is a language with its own orthography, syntax, a few unique words (“fash” comes to mind), spoken in what was for many centuries a separate nation, with a separate literary tradition, which has grown much closer to standard English over the 20th century. They are mutually intelligible, but by all the classic standards for distinguishing “language” from “dialect” it deserves recognition as a distinct language. (If Coldfire stops by this thread, he may have some comments on Flemish in relation to Dutch that could shed some light on this disputable point.)

Usually Scots is included as a dialect of English (well, in the book I read on the history of the English language and a others).

But there is no real defintion for what constitutes a language and what constitutes a dialect, for example Chinese is often seen as one language even though some of it’s various dialets, while sharing the same written form, are completely mutually intelligible. Wheras Portuguese and Spanish and Danish, Norweigian and Swedish are usually seen as separate languages though they are to quite a reasonable degree mutually intelligible.

Looking on the internet, though I do see thy are quite a few people in both camps for whether Scots is a language or a dialect.

And no one has any idea what Pictish fit into, or even whether it was Indo-European or not. Pictish was spoken in what is now Scotland and the only records we have of it are names–and not as the Picts would have pronounced them, but as the old British would have pronounced them. That’d lead to a lot of mutilation. It’s long extinct and there are no known relatives.

By the mutual comprehensibility standard (which is not, however, the only one for determining what’s a language and what’s a dialect, as speakers of Dutch/Flemish, or some Scandinavian languages, can attest), Scots is a dialect of English. Or, rather, several mutually comprehensible and closely related dialects of English, given that there’s a lot of regional variation among Scots speakers.