Home > 555. The Golden Thread, 8. The Dragons of Grammar > One Word, Important Questions

One Word, Important Questions

File:Breton dialectesiji2009.gif

welcome= English (360 million speakers)

croeso= welcome in Welsh (722,000 speakers)

dynnargh=welcome in Cornish (3,500 speakers)

deuet mat=welcome in Breton (200,000 speakers)

bin la v’nu=welcome in Gallo (unknown number of speakers, mostly older people)

bienvenue = welcome in French (75 million speakers)

Here are the facts, as RT has been able to determine them. Most people have heard of Welsh, the most widely spoken Celtic language today; the situation with Cornish and Breton is somewhat more dire: though these Celtic languages are spoken and taught, many people may not be aware that they exist. Gallo faces the most difficulties in terms of support for its use: it is often viewed as a dialect of French, though it may well be different enough to qualify as a language.

Over the next several weeks (or, more plainly, for as long as it takes), RT will be considering these  languages, two of which are near extinction. What features of history, the natural landscape, and the mind do languages encode? Why is diversity in language important? Why should people bother to learn “outmoded” or “obsolete” languages and why should their governments support their efforts? These questions have cropped up in this blog before, but RT hopes to gain a better understanding of his intuitive response: diversity in speech is vital.

Map: The spread of Upper Brittany at the Expense of Lower Brittany; User: Lotusfluerie; WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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  1. March 9, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Looking forward to these posts. As an Anglophone living in Wales I’m constantly aware that the survival of Welsh through positive discrimination is a very controversial issue when English is so dominant. A real political hot potato (poeth taten perhaps?).

    Just a couple of points. Welcome in Welsh is Croeso (I suppose related to croes ‘cross’, in the sense of two people’s paths crossing); I’m assuming your spelling is a slip of the key, or off the key.

    Secondly, is your Cornish spelling in Unified Cornish? I believe there are at least two competing modern traditions of speaking and writing Cornish, which is of course a revived language, having died out in, I seem to recall, the 18th or 19th century.

  2. March 10, 2013 at 3:54 am

    calmgrove: i’m recovering from a head cold, and any spelling mistakes are to be laid at its doorstep. i know nothing as yet about the history of cornish, but suspect that cornish will be the subject of the next post in this thread. gallo is the language/dialect that will prove most difficult to write about, i guess–lacking the glamour of the celtic languages, it will have a hard time proving it isn’t just french “badly spoken.” but i also think it may provide the most insight on the development of languages and the point where ignorance becomes invention. RT

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