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A Handbook of the English Language by Latham

The agglutinate character of their verbal inflections


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CHAPTER VI.

THE CELTIC STOCK OF LANGUAGES, AND THEIR RELATIONS TO THE ENGLISH.

s. 57. The languages of Great Britain at the invasion of Julius Caesar were of the Celtic stock.

Of the Celtic stock there are two branches.

1. The British or Cambrian branch, represented by the present Welsh, and containing, besides, the Cornish of Cornwall (lately extinct), and the Armorican of the French province of Brittany. It is almost certain that the old British, the ancient language of Gaul, and the Pictish were of this branch.

2. The Gaelic or Erse branch, represented by the present Irish Gaelic, and containing, besides, the Gaelic of the Highlands of Scotland and the Manks of the Isle of Man.

s. 58. Taken altogether the Celtic tongues form a very remarkable class. As compared with those of the Gothic stock they are marked by the following characteristics:--

_The scantiness of the declension of Celtic nouns._--In Irish there is a peculiar form for the dative plural, as _cos_ = _foot_, _cos-aibh_ = _to feet_ (ped-ibus); and beyond this there is nothing else whatever in the way of _case_, as found in the German, Latin, Greek, and other tongues. Even the isolated form in question

is not found in the Welsh and Breton. Hence the Celtic tongues are pre-eminently uninflected in the way of _declension_.

s. 59. The _agglutinate character of their verbal inflections_.--In Welsh the pronouns for _we_, _ye_, and _they_, are _ni_, _chwyi_, and _hwynt_ _respectively_. In Welsh also the root = _love_ is _car_. As conjugated in the plural number this is--

car-wn = am-amus. car-ych = am-atis. car-ant = am-ant.

Now the -wn, -ych, and -ant, of the persons of the verbs are the personal pronouns, so that the inflection is really a verb and a pronoun in a state of _agglutination_; i.e., in a state where the original separate existence of the two sorts of words is still manifest. This is probably the case with languages in general. The Celtic, however, has the peculiarity of exhibiting it in an unmistakable manner; showing, as it were, an inflection in the process of formation, and (as such) exhibiting an early stage of language.

s. 60. _The system of initial mutations._--The Celtic, as has been seen, is deficient in the ordinary means of expressing case. How does it make up for this? Even thus. The noun changes its initial letter according to its relation to the other words of the sentence. Of course this is subject to rule. As, however, I am only writing for the sake of illustrating in a general way the peculiarities of the Celtic tongues, the following table, from Prichard's "Eastern Origin of the Celtic Nations," is sufficient.

C[^a]r, _a kinsman_.

1. _form_, C[^a]r agos, _a near kinsman_. 2. Ei g[^a]r, _his kinsman_. 3. Ei ch[^a]r, _her kinsman_. 4. Vy ngh[^a]r, _my kinsman_.

T[^a]d, _a father_.

1. _form_, T[^a]d y plentyn, _the child's father_. 2. Ei d[^a]d, _his father_. 3. Ei th[^a]d, _her father_. 4. Vy nh[^a]d, _my father_.


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