Date:    Wed, 13 Mar 2002 11:14:18 +0000
From:    Martin Nichols <nic@EORTC.DEMON.CO.UK>
Subject: Re: Romano-Briton speech in SE England

>Message text written by ANSAXNET Discussion Forum by myself
>Or AD 43 when the Romans got the locals speaking Latin. Enough time?
>I am not sure that anybody important is actually saying this and neither am
>I. I have just not ruled it out.
>Actually, I assumed (seemed the best bet) they were, but now I am not so
>sure. <
>None other than Professor Tolkien (1963) said that Latin became the
>language of most areas of Celtic speech known to Germanic peoples, but also
>the ability of Germans to recognise similiarities.
>walh is from Volcae.
>Andy Horton.

** I am well aware that this is supposed to be the case, but as usual
I am a heretic.

The problem is that of the German Sound Shift.

The usual reasoning is as follows:

Latin/Gaulish V is really a W
Gaulish O is equivalent to Germanic A (the Gaulish nominative
singular masculine ending is -os, the Gothic ditto is -az)
L is unchanged
C (=K) becomes H in Germanic, due to the Germanic Sound Shift (GSS)
(aka Grimm's Law), cf Latin 'Centum' vs English Hundred.


V       W
O       A
L       L
C       H

This is the conventional explanation, as I say.  However, there are
several problems with this, in my view lazy, explanation.

1) The GSS is (by everyone I am aware of) dated to around 500BC.
This therefore presumes that the Germans (whoever they may be)
encountered a Gaulish people called the Volcae or Wolcoi (which I
believe is the plural of Wolcos in Gaulish) BEFORE that date.  The
historians don't seem to recognise that this is a one-off change,
that words encountered BEFORE c.500BC changed, but words encountered
AFTER the change process was complete did NOT change.  For example,
very old Irish changed Proto-Celtic P- to Q-, but the change predated
Christianity, so Episcopus was borrowed into Irish as Epscop, not

2) We are therefore expected to believe that a political unit called
the Volcae existed before c.500BC, and remained unchanged for
hundreds of years.  Given the nature of the LPRIA societies, do we
believe this?

3) The attestation of the Volcae is in and around Nimes, deep into
Gaulish territory as we understand it and westward into the area of
Toulouse and over towards the Basque area.  Why would the Germans, if
by that we mean the peoples east of the Rhine, pick that one group,
not a border people, but one with which contact would not have been
immediate or direct?  If the idea is that they picked the name of the
nearest non-German group and extended it to all the others, it would
normally be a border group.

4) There is a well-known feature of Gaulish (and Welsh), which
extended into French, to use a G where other peoples would use a V or
W.  Hence Germanic, 'Warden', French 'Guardian', German. Wardrobe, Fr
'Gardrobe', etc etc.   I think that the word is the same route as
Galli/a, and that the word is just the German spelling of Galli.
Whether there is fortition from W to H or lenition from H to W, I
don't know, I suspect the former.  Morover, according to Robinson,
non-initial H in Old Saxon, Old High German and other languages is
pronounced as a -ch as in 'loch' or Modern German 'ich'.

5) A perfect example of the G/V(W) business is the rendition of
Votadini as Gododdin, in Yr Gododdin.  In the same work, Dies Veneris
is transliterated as Diw Gwener, Wine as Gwin, the equivalent of
Verus (true) is Gwir, likewise cf Vir vs Gwr (and OE ; OE Wudu vs
Gwydd.  Vortigern is (something like) Gwarthigern.  The OW word
Gwallt means 'hair', and it is the common cliche of Roman writers
that the Gauls are hairy (Gallia Comata = Hairy Gaul).  Thus I come
to the conclusion that it is equally possibly to see Wal- as a
Germanic version of Gall-, meaning 'the hairy people' originally, and
absolutely zip to do with the Volcae.  Likewise 'Germani' (from the
Gaulish for neighbour) is cognate with Herman- roots in Germanic

There you go!


OHG Uualh

For the most popular explanation among linguists, see D. H. Green, "Language and History in the Early Germanic World", pg. 162-3: - The Celtic tribal name Uolcae "was borrowed into Germanic, yielding the form *Walh- (attested in OHG, OE, ON), where the development of _k_ to _x_ shows that the loan preceded the First Sound Shift and that contact between Germani and this Celtic tribe was probably made before the third century BC."
There were more than one Celtic peoples called Uolcae - and that Caesar describes another branch of this tribe existing in the region of the Hercynia silva - easily putting them in contact with Germanic peoples (it is believed that Uolcae may have once been settled east of the Boii in Moravia).

Chris Gwinn
 "C.G." <rigveda3@HOTMAIL.COM>