The Modern Gaulish Language
The revival of the Gaulish language: Galáthach hAthevíu


1. A discussion group on, for and in the modern Gaulish language:

2. A comprehensive English-Modern Gaulish-English dictionary:

3. A series of step-by-step lessons in several languages, including English, Portuguese, French, German and Italian:

4. A memrise course:

5. a) A collection of translations of poetry and prose in modern and in old Gaulish:áthach-hAthevíu-Poetry/dp/1511644265

b) a collection of original poetry, songs and stories in the modern Gaulish language:

6. A collection of soundfiles, including songs, in  modern Gaulish:

7. A collection of essays on aspects of Gaulish language and culture:

8. A translation of Asterix The Gaul in modern Gaulish:

9. A translation of Agrippa, a manga about Vercingetorix:

6. Adjectives
Adjectives are clearly and abundantly attested in ancient Gaulish. While the oldest material shows adjectives preceding their head nouns, the later material indicates a shift towards head nouns preceding adjectives. Attestations of both include:
     Ueru-lamium – Lama-uerus: “wide-hand” > generous (Delamarre 2003, p. 317)
Attestations of adjectives following head nouns are:
     agedo-uiros: face-man: face like a man
     Amarco-litanos: view/sight-wide: view/sight that is wide/broad/vast
     (Delamarre 2003, p. 317)
Perhaps the most incontestable attestation of an adjective following its head noun is found on the spindle whorl of Autun (Lambert 2003, p. 125; Delamarre 2003, p. 331), which reads:
        nata uimpi curmi da = girl beautiful beer give
Continuing the trend observable in late ancient Gaulish, modern Gaulish proposes a situation where adjectives follow their head nouns:
e.g.: ép: horse
        caráthach: friendly
        > ép caráthach: a friendly horse
        téi: house (< tegia, Dlamarre 2003, p. 294)
        gwin: white
        > téi gwin: white house
Adjectives qualifying plural nouns are not marked for plural. However, adjectives that follow feminine nouns, undergo a mutation to their first letter:
e.g.: aman: time
        sír: long
        > aman shír: (a) long time 
        bláth: flower
        coch: red
        > blath goch: (a) red flower
These mutations will be discussed in more detail later.
There are two broad categories of adjectives: natural ones and derived ones. These are discussed below.
     Natural adjectives
Natural adjectives are words that are inherently adjectival. A representative selection is given below:
e.g.: már: big
        méi: small
        sír: long
        bir: short
        dái: good
        druch: bad
        math: fine, favourable
        anwath: unfavourable
In addition to these, there are also adjectives derived from other sources.
     Derived adjectives
1) adjectives constructed with suffixes
In the attested Gaulish material it is possible to identify five different suffixes that were used to produce adjectives. These are used in modern Gaulish and are listed below, with examples:
a) the suffix –ach, derived from attested –aco (Lambert 2003, p. 34, p. 39). Attested examples are:
     Anualonacu = Anualo’s sanctuary (Lambert 2003, p. 39)
     Parisiaci = [people] of the Parisi (a tribe) (id.)
     Caratacos = beloved-like (< *carato- “loved” + -aco) (Delmarre 2003, p. 107)
This is the most productive and most readily used adjective marker in modern Gaulish. It is used to derive adjectives from any type of noun:
e.g.: nerth: strength
        nerthach: strong
        panthu: pain
        panthúach: painful
        caran: friend
        caranach: friendly
        achaun: stone
        achaunach: stony
        duvr: water
        duvrach: watery
b) the suffix –ch, derived from attested –(i)co (Lambert 2003, p. 34). It is attested as follows:
        uertamicos = excellent, superior quality (Delamarre 2003, p. 317)
The above is a compound *uer-tam-icos, derived from “uer” = over, “tam” = quality, “ico-“ = adjectival suffix.
Modern terms using this suffix are:
        gwerthamich: superior quality, excellent
        donich: human, adj. (attested, Delamarre 2003, p.
This suffix, which is similar to the –ach discussed above, is used as a general adjectivising suffix only for words ending on a diphthong in –i or on –u, where –ach would be impractical.
        gráu: sand (Delamarre 2003, p. 183-84)
        gráuch: sandy
        téi: house (Delamarre 2003, p. 294)
        téich: domestic, pertaining to the house or house related matters
c) the suffix –in
The suffix –in is attested in the word “bledinos” (Delamarre 2003, p. 78-79) and, among others, in the personal name “Melina” (Delamarre 2003, p. 224). It appears to lend to the word “bled-”, “wolf”, the meaning “wolfish”, and appears to infer a honey-like (mel-) quality to a female person. As such, it may be proposed that this suffix be used to describe the physical and metaphysical characteristics and attributes of animals and people only, in a direct parallel with the English –ine (derived from the Latin suffix –inus/a, only used with Latin derived words):
e.g.: blédh: wolf
        blédhin: wolfish, wolf-like (“lupine”)
        cun: dog (Delamarre 2003, p. 132)
        cunin: dog-ish, dog-like (“canine”)
        ép: horse
        épin: horsey, horse-ish, horse-like (“equine”)
        ernu: eagle (Delamarre 2003, p. 166)
        ernúin: eagle-ish, eagle-like (“aquiline”)
        mel: honey
        melin: honey-like
        tiern: boss, chief, lord (Delamarre 2003, p. 296)
        tiernin: boss-like (Delamarre 2003, 2.296, “Tigorninus”, PN)
d) the suffix -ídhu
The suffix –ídhu is derived from the attested suffix –(i)do, attested in Chateaubleau, Larzac and La Graufesenque (Mees 2010). In the context, it appears to pertain to cows:
        coro bouido = cow contract
In this instance “bouido” appears to translate as “bovine”, or as “of the cows”. It is proposed here that this suffix, of which little is known, be used in modern Gaulish as a general adjectivising suffix –ídhu that is to be used with words ending on –ch, for which –ach would be phonetically impractical:
e.g.: bruch: heather (Delamarre 2003, p. 92)
        bruchídhu: heathery, heather-like
        coch: leg (Delamarre 2003, p. 128)
        cochídhu: leggy, pertaining to legs
2) adjectives constructed with prefixes
Adjectives can be made from nouns and verbal nouns by means of the prefixes “su-“, “good”, and “du-“, “bad”.
e.g.: car-: verbal root pertaining to “love” (Delamarre 2003, p. 107)
        suchar: popular, i.e. “well-loved”
        duchar: unpopular, disliked
If the prefixes su- and du- precede a vowel and do not receive emphasis, they become sw- and dw-:
e.g.: áiedh: face, appearance (Delamarre 2003, p. 34)
        swáiedh: beautiful, good looking, handsome = “good-face/appearance”
        dwáiedh: ugly = “bad-face/appearance”
3) verbal adjectives
Verbal adjectives consist of the verbal form of the present perfect, applied as an adjective:
e.g.: rani: to divide (Delamarre 2003, p. 164-65)
        brói: land (Demamarre 2003, p. 91)
        brói raníthu: a divided land
        cara: to love
        don: a person (Delamarre 2003, p. 176)
        don caráthu: a beloved person (cf. caratos, Delamarre 2003, p. 107)
4) verbal nouns as adjectives
Verbal nouns can be used as adjectives. They follow their head noun and undergo mutation of their first consonant if the head noun is feminine.
e.g.: cun: dog
        bái: to fight/ fighting (Delamarre 2003, p. 63-64)
        cun bái: fighting dog
        gés: spear (Delamarre 2003, p,. 174)
        aghri: to hunt/ hunting (Delamarre 2003, p. 35)
        gés aghri: hunting spear
        ben: woman
        cára: to love
        ben gára: loving woman
If verbal nouns end in a vowel this is dropped when used in conjunction with prefixes:
e.g.: gwidhi: to understand
        > verbal root gwidh-
        > suchwidh: intelligent (“good understanding”)
        > duchwidh: stupid (“bad understanding”)
7. Adverbs
     Natural adverbs
Natural adverbs are words that are by definition adverbial (although some also can be used in adjectival function), i.e. they complement adjectives, nouns, verbs or other adverbs. A considerable number are attested in the ancient Gaulish material. Examples are:
        ach: and
        athé: again
        élu: a lot, many
        éth: more
        cóéth: also
        duch: therefore
     Adjectival adverbs
The way to construct adjectival adverbs is clearly attested in ancient Gaulish, in the running text of Lezoux:
        inte nouiio = newly (Delamarre 2003, p. 191)
The construction of an adverb from an adjective by means of the particle “inte” has perfect parallels in all surviving Celtic languages. In modern Gaulish, “inte” becomes “in” and causes mutation of the first consonant of the following word:
e.g.: nerthach: strong
        in nherthach: strongly
        már: big, great
        in wár: greatly
        tech: beautiful
        in dech: beautifully
8. Gender
Three genders are attested in ancient Gaulish: masculine, feminine and neutre (Delamarre 2003, 342-46). A position is adopted by modern Gaulish where the neutre has amalgamated with the masculine, leaving only two genders. This is analoguous with the situation in the surviving Celtic languages, and with neighbouring languages (e.g. Romance). As such, modern Gaulish has masculine and feminine gender. Words with a final vowel –e/é, -o/ó, -u/ú and –au are usually (but not always) masculine; words with a final vowel –a/á and -i/í are usually (but not always) feminine. The following table provides examples:
However, in cases where gender is semantically explicit the above rules don’t apply, and gender is as implied semantically:
e.g.: map: son
        gwir: man,
        rich: king
        geneth: girl
        swíor: sister
        ben: woman
In addition to these two genders, modern Gaulish has retained a vestige of a neuter gender, which is only manifested in the neuter pronoun “í” (from attested id > í, Delamarre 2003, p. 93) and which is used solely to express indefinite concepts such as the time, the weather, or an unknown and unspecified subject.
e.g. esi í dái: it (i.e. the weather) is good
Masculine words that have a feminine counterpart can construct this by the addition of
the suffix –is. This suffix is attested in ancient Gaulish:
        cunissa: “female dog” < cun- “dog” (Delamarre 2003, p. 132)
It is proposed that modern Gaulish uses this suffix to construct the feminine counter part of a masculine word, for animated subjects only (e.g. people, animals):
        cun: dog
        cunis: bitch
        ép: horse
        épis: mare
        lóern: fox
        lóernis: vixen
        drúidh: scholar, teacher
        drúidhis: female scholar, teacher
        caran: friend
        caranis: female friend
In addition, words that can be either gender can be qualified by the words “gwir” (man) or “ben” (woman) as the second component of a compound, where the second component receives the emphasis. The second component effectively acts as an attributive adjective, and constructs a meaning of “male/female”. In these cases, the gender is as indicated by the suffix. However, for compelling reasons of ease of pronunciation it is proposed here that these words take on the reduced forms of, respectively, “-wir”, postulating a maintenance of pre-fortition [w], and “-wen”, being an otherwise unparalleled evolution of [b] > [v] > [w].
E.g.: ép: horse (masculine, general term)
        ép+ wir > ép’wir: stallion, male horse (m)
        ép+wen > ép’wen: mare, female horse (f)
        cun: dog (m)
        cun’wir: male dog (m)
        cun’wen: female dog, bitch (f)
        caran – friend (m)
        caran’wir: male friend, boyfriend (m)
        caran’wen: female friend, girlfriend (f)
Support for these constructions is found in the attested word “banolucci” (Delamarre 2003, p. 72), which translates as “woman-wolf”, i.e. “she-wolf” or female wolf. While an alternative translation could be “woman for wolves”, the former interpretation is adopted here for practicality, in analogy with such usage in the Goidelic languages.
9. Article
Insular Celtic languages have a variety of articles (W y, yr/’r, I/S/M an/na, C an, Br an/ar/al – un, ur, ul) where they are thought to have been derived from the demonstrative “*sindos” (Delamarre 2003, p. 274). *Sindos is attested in ancient Gaulish (sinde, Delamarre 2003, p. 274). While there is no real attestation of the evolution of any word into an article in the available ancient Gaulish material, there is nevertheless evidence of the gradual transformation and mutation of the word “sinde” in a grammatical position which appears to have been favourable for the development of “sinde” into an article.
In Larzac, there is evidence that “sinde” evolved into “indas”, as in “indas mnas” (Delamarre 2003, p. 274), the translation of which is generally accepted as being “these women” (Delamarre 2003, p. 274, David Stifter, 2009, pers. comm.). “indas” would be a form derived from “sinde” with loss of initial s- in unstressed proclitic, pretonic position, a process which is documented in Old Irish (David Stifter 2009, pers. comm.).
A semantic shift from “these/this” to “the” is not unusual in Indo-European languages, is well documented, and is for instance the process that has given the English language the demonstrative “this”, which evolved through doubling of the original demonstrative after it had semantically weakened to beome the definite article “the” (Bernard Mees 2009, pers. comm.). The process of doubling of demonstratives appears to be attested in ancient Gaulish, namely in Larzac, which has “insinde se bnanom”, as well as elsewhere (e.g. sosin, sosio, Delamarre 2003, p. 279).
In light of the above, modern Gaulish postulates a hypothetical evolution of the word “inda(s)” into a definite article. As such, the following evolution is proposed:
     inda(s) > *inda > *ind > in
The above is a straightforward phonetic evolution, through loss of final syllable, and through the standard modern Gaulish soundchange of –nd > -n. Therefore, modern Gaulish uses the word “in” as the article; it is definite and unmutatable, and not affected by gender or number.
In analogy with most modern Celtic languages (except Breton), modern Gaulish does not use an indefinite article.
e.g.: pen: a head
        in pen: the head
        cun: a dog
        in cun: the dog
When feminine nouns, singular or plural, are preceded by the article “in” they undergo a mutation of their initial consonant:
e.g.: geneth: a girl
        in gheneth: the girl
        brí: a mountain
        in vrí: the mountain
10. Plural formation
     Standard plural formation
In ancient Gaulish, most word stems ended on vowels, and word function and meaning, including the plural, was conveyed through a variety of case endings. These case endings varied according to the final vowel of stems and according to the case the word was in. There is clear indication in the attested material that word endings were eroding (see discussion under “apocope” section), which would inevitably result in the loss of meaning of case and therefore, eventually, in the loss of case. As a direct result of the loss of word endings, a majority of words would have come to end in consonants instead of vowels.
Under the old case system, word stems ending in consonants in the nominative case took the ending “–es”:
e.g.: eurises = dedicators, donators (Nautes Parisiaques Pillar, Delamarre 2003, p. 169))
        sies = they 3rd p. pl. fem. (Larzac, 3x, Delamarre 2003, p. 338-39)
        tidres = three pl. fem. (La Graufesenque, Delamarre 2003, p. 302)
(for discussion see Delamarre 2003, p. 345; Lambert 2003, p. 63).
It is posited here that with the loss of case endings, the nomimative consonantal plural ending “–es” was retained and spread out across the word paradigm to form a single all-purpose pluralising ending. This plural ending “-es” would then be further phonetically eroded to –e, which, it is posited here, was then lengthened to “-é”. As such, modern Gaulish adopts the single, all-purpose pluralising suffix “-é”:
        ép: horse
        épé: horses
        cun: dog
        cuné: dogs
This suffix –é is also applied to nouns ending on vowels:
        bó: cow
        bóé: cows
        táru: bull
        tarúé: bulls
        cuna: bitch
        cunáé: bitches
The only exception to the standard plural formation is the plural of “ben”, “woman” (< ancient Gaulish “bena”),  which is attested under the forms “bnanom, mnanom (2x), mnas (2x)” at Larzac (Delamarre 2003, p. 338). With regular loss of case endings –nom and –s that gives a form “mna-“, which with regular lengthening of emphasised vowel in modern Gaulish becomes “mná”. This form will be the regular standard plural of the word “ben”, “woman”.
        ben: woman
        mná: women
     Plural after numbers
There are a number of instances attested in the ancient Gaulish material where a noun is preceded by a number: trimarcisia, trinoxtion, petruroton, petrumantalon, pempedula, decamnoctiacis. These can be analysed as follows:
        trimarcisia = tri+marcos+ia
                             three+horse+substantivising ending, instr. singular
        trinoxtion = tri+noxt+ion
                            three+night+subst. end., nom. neut. singular
        petruroton = petru+roto+n
                            four+wheel+subst. end., nom. neut. singular
        petrumantalon = petru+mantalo+n
                                   four+road+subst. end., nom. neut. singular
        pempedula = pempe+dula
                              five+leaf, nom. singular
        decamnoctiaca = decam+noct++io+iac+a
                                    ten+night+rel. pron.+adj.mark.+subst. end., dat-abl. neut. plural LATIN
                                    (from Demamarre 2003, p. 302, 302-3, 250, 250/216, 248, 137)
In five of the six examples listed above, the compound consists of a number, followed by a noun in the singular, followed by a substantivising ending. Translations are, respectively:
        trimarcisia: three horse (three horse riders)
        trinoxtion: three night (three nights of celebration
        petruroton: four wheel (wagon with four wheels)
        petrumantalon: four road (crossroads of four roads)
        pempedula: five leaf (flower with five leaves)
        decamnoctiaca: ten night-like-s (ten nights of celebration)
For five out of these six cases, the cardinal number is followed by a noun in the singular. The ending of the sixth is thought to be adapted to the Latin case system (Delamarre 2003, p. 137). While it is possible that the singular was employed because the compound word in question was considered a word in the singular, the fact remains nevertheless that these numbers are followed by nouns in the singular. Also, there are no attestations of numbers being followed by nouns in the plural in the ancient Gaulish material. Therefore, it is posited here that modern Gaulish does not use the plural of nouns after cardinal numbers. This is furthermore in parallel with the situation in the Brittonic languages, where numbers are followed by nouns in the singular.
e.g.: tri march: three (riding) horses
        pethr roth: four wheels
        pethr manthal: four roads
        pimp dul: five leaves
        dech nóith: ten nights
     Dual plural
It is unclear at this stage whether ancient Gaulish had a dual number, due to the incomplete nature of the attestation of the language (Lambert 2003, p. 51). Nevertheless, it is known that Old Irish has a dual number, pertaining to things that appear in the world in natural pairs (Lambert 2003, p. 51). Furthermore, the very close relationship between ancient Gaulish and Old Irish is becoming increasingly evident (Mees & Stifter 2012, pers. com.). Therefore, an analogy is made with the situation in Old Irish, and a dual-plural is proposed for modern Gaulish here. As such, things that occur naturally in the world in pairs form their plural with the prefix “dá-“, meaning “two”.
e.g.: lam: hand
        dálam: hands
        coch: leg
        dáchoch: legs
        óp: eye
        dáóp: eyes
However, these plural formations only pertain to situations where these subjects naturally occur in pairs. Therefore, “dáchoch” applies to the legs of a human, because they come in a pair of two, but not to the legs of a horse, because there are four of them:
        dáchoch: legs (of a human or other bipedal animal, e.g. a bird)
        coché: legs of a horse, or other animal with more than two legs
        dálam: hands of a human (a pair of two)
        lamé: hands of a clock (three hands: hours, minutes and seconds)
     Collective plural
In the ancient Gaulish material a word “slougo-“ is attested. This word, meaning “group, troop, gathering, crowd, assembly” (Delamarre 2003, p. 276) is used in the Brittonic languages to form a collective noun. Although it is not attested as such in ancient Gaulish, it is proposed here that this same word fulfills the same function in modern Gaulish. Regular modern Gaulish sound changes render “slougo-“ as “slói”. Furthermore, in suffix position the initial s- of slougo- is absorbed into the –l-, giving a hypothetical ancient Gaulish –ll-, reduced to –l- in modern Gaulish.
        slougo > -lói
This can now be applied as a suffix to such entities as display collectivity:
e.g.: sir: star (< stir-, Delamarre 2003, p. 282)
        sirlói: constellation (group of stars)
        brí: mountain (< briga, Delamarre 2003, p. 87)
        brílói: mountain range