Linguistic Reading Response Paper on “The Celtic Languages”

It is interesting to note that the term ‘Celt’ is a linguistic term first mentioned in the writings of Greek and Roman ethnographers and historians (MacAulay, p. 2). My idea of the concept is that of a particular people with a distinct language who once inhabited Great Britain. It turns out that this language, generally known as Continental Celtic, has a range of dialects once spread out across the various peoples of Europe such as in Gaul and northern Italy, yet died out on the European continent a few centuries back.

Celtic survived however, in the British Isles and in Ireland, which is quite a feat given the dominance of Latin and later English settlements. In terms of linguistic affinities, Celtic is recognized as an Indo-European language though it is of interest to note that experts regard it as having archaic features (MacAulay, p. 3), i.e. its lack of a fully developed infinitive, differentiation of gender in numerals 3 and 4, among others, sometimes attributed to its being a ‘peripheral’ language removed from an innovating center. Variations between the Celtic languages, i.e. Continental and Insular, appear to be a convoluted matter best left to linguists.

Ultimately the evolved form of the modern Celtic languages has special typological features which are both archaic (conservative) and innovative. Locative structures used to express location and possession are utilized to express aspectual modes, which in turn cover the range of progressive, prospective and perfective aspects in Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, and optionally in British (MacAulay, p. 6).

On the other hand, Breton and Irish have innovated based on their majority contact languages French and English, to develop new perfective constructions, as contact with these languages is a primary accelerating source of innovation in Celtic tongues. Thus, languages continue to evolve as its speakers, in the course of their interaction with those of other cultures, are exposed to foreign influences in the on-going social interface between peoples and nations in an increasingly globalizing world.

Linguistic Response Paper on the “Creole Continuum”

The so-called ‘Creole continuum‘ evolve in situations in which a creole coexists with its lexical source language and there is social motivation for creole speakers to acquire the standard so that the speech of individuals takes on features of the latter – or avoids features of the former – to varying degrees (p. 50).

Considering that linguists for a long time were unsure on how to classify varieties with both creole and non-creole features, particularly the English-based varieties of the West Indies, it appears significant to consider that among the many Negro slaves in different parts of America, the jargon upon becoming the only language of the subject group, is a creolized language considered inferior to the masters’ speech yet nonetheless subject to constant leveling-out and improvement in the direction of the latter (Bloomfield, 1933, p. 474).

Linguists such as DeCamp attempted to work out a theoretical model that could deal with variation in a sufficiently rigorous manner, in reaction to the transformational generative grammar coming to dominate American linguistics. The general usefulness of the continuum model gained wide acceptance by the mid-1970s, yet it is true that it fails to explain why Atlantic creoles in particular share so many structural features not found in their different lexical source languages (p. 58). Thus the shift back into a universalist theory giving primacy to language acquisition.

Chomsky (1965) had proposed that children were born with a predisposition to recognize certain universal properties of language that facilitated their acquisition of the language of their particular speech community (p. 58). Yet such an assertion is still open to scholarly debate and argumentation. It would thus appear that the answer to the creole question remains elusive, despite advances in linguistic studies and theory.

References

MacAulay, Donald. “The Celtic languages: an overview”