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:

I. Introduction
The Gaulish language
This document presents the revival of the Gaulish language. Gaulish is a Celtic language which was spoken widely throughout Western Europe from at least the seventh century BCE, when it was first attested, until the sixth century CE, when it was last attested. Its range covered the areas west and south of the Rhine, east of the Atlantic, north of the Pyrenees, throughout the Alps from west to east, south of the Alps into the Po valley, and eastwards into the Balkans and the Hungarian Plain. Through immigration it was carried into Asia Minor in the fourth century BCE and survived there at least until the fourth century CE. In the first century CE it was recorded by Tacitus as being virtually identical to and mutually intelligible with the language of the British Isles (referred to as Brittonic), which would later develop into the Welsh, Cornish and Breton languages. In the framework of the Celtic language family, Gaulish is also, but more distantly, related to Irish, and its daughter languages Scottish Gaelic and Manx. The area in which Gaulish was spoken was conquered by the Romans between approximately 150 BCE and 52 BCE, and incorporated into the Roman Empire. The language was put under pressure by Latin, first as used by the administration and military of the Empire, then as used by the state enforced christian religion, and finally by the early medieval christian church. Eventually the language gave way to a variety of Romance and Germanic languages, and ceased to be spoken.
The Gaulish language is reasonably well attested, if imperfectly. There is a certain amount of recorded material available, and new material continues to be unearthed at a steady pace (e.g. the Chartres find, discovered early 2012). Drawing on the existent available material, and making use of the surviving Brittonic languages, as well as the Gaelic languages, for support and comparitive studies of such things as vocabulary, semantics and grammatic structure, a modernised version of the Gaulish language is here presented. Departing from the state in which Gaulish was last attested, that is Late Gaulish, the language of circa the fifth century CE, a series of soundchanges, phonetic evolutionary processes and grammatic innovations are postulated. As such, a hypothetical evolution of the language is constructed, the proposed outcome of which is a practically useable modern Celtic language, to be situated in the framework of the modern Celtic languages.
While the process of reconstructing or reassembling a language is challenging, it has been done as conscientiously as possible, starting from the original material and attempting to stay as faithful as possible to it, while applying a set of changes which could have been reasonably expected to have happened to the language had it not ceased to be spoken. These changes are based on evolutionary processes which can be observed in the available authentic material, as well as on related processes which have occurred in the related surviving languages. As much as possible, justification for changes and adaptation is provided by drawing from the original material. Creative imagination, or, to put it differently, making up random stuff , has been kept to a minimum. These various changes, adaptations and processes will be discussed in detail in the various sections dealing with them in the body of this document.
Historical Survival of Minority Languages
The Gaulish language was – possibly – last attested in the mid sixth century by Gregory of Tours, giving a date of approx. 550 CE. It is easy to imagine that in remote rural areas it survived a lot longer than that; a wild guess might put its demise in those areas into the late 700’s. This position is supported by the fact that there is evidence of non-culturally dominant languages in conquest situations that have survived as peasant languages for several hundred years. While the longest historically attested such survival (Elamite) runs up to 1300 years post conquest, there is a certain indication that a survival of 800-900 years is quite common. Several examples of such a survival of minority peasant languages not supported by the culturally and politically dominant classes are known and documented, such as the previously mentioned Elamite (1300 years without written attestation, Central Asia), Ladin (850 years, South Tyrol), Cornish (approx. 850 years), Polabe (775 years, Central Europe), Crimean Gothic (1100-1300 years, arguably; Eastern Europe), and Dalmatian (approx. 1000 years, extinct 1898, descended from Latin, Mediterranean) (Sala & Vintila-Radelescu 1984).
Survival of Gaulish
Charlemagne gathered a collection of ancient folktales, beliefs and legends from among the people of the countryside. There is speculation that it may well have contained the last records of the language. The collection was burned by one of his successors as being pagan and therefore evil. The time of Charlemagne has been suggested as the period of widespread decline of the language (Piqueron 2006), because of state-enforced Christianity, and there are claims that the last survivals lasted into the 12th century in remote mountainous areas. Suggestions to this effect are found mainly in the work of Hubschmied (1938). Although this has in more recent years been severely criticised by linguists and experts in the field, there is also qualified and informed support for the concept (e.g. Bhrghros, 2010, 2012). Therefore, estimations for the time of extinction of the language range from the most optimistic, 800 years ago, through the cautiously speculative, 1200 years ago, to the conservative, 1500 years ago.
Evolution of Gaulish
The construction of the modern Gaulish language situates the evolution of modern Gaulish in the cultural continuum of the surviving Celtic languages, and adopts grammatical innovations that are common to all surviving or revived Celtic languages. As such, this work subscribes to the notion forwarded by Isaac (2007) which holds that many of the unusual features of modern Celtic languages are due to linguistic factors demonstrably inherent and innate to the Celtic language family, and are not due to the presence of a presumed and unproven prehistoric Afro-Asiatic substrate language, as suggested and defended most recently by Venneman (2003), building on the earlier work of Morris-Jones, Pokorny and Gensler (in Venneman 2003).
Broadly speaking, the hypothetical proposed evolution of Gaulish is characterised by two main processes, both of which are attested in the Gaulish material, and abundantly recorded in the early historical stages of the surviving Celtic languages. These processes, which are best thought of as “phonetic erosion”, are apocope, or the loss of wordfinal endings and syllables, and lenition of word-internal consonants. The resulting loss of case markings led to profound changes in the grammatical structure of the language. These processes and their outcomes will be discussed in detail in the body of this document.
Designation of the Gauls: Keltoi
The question of how the Gauls refered to themselves has long been and continues to be the subject of intense debate, heated argument and imaginative speculation. Two parallel terms can be identified as having historical and cultural authenticity. On the one hand, the word “Keltoi” has been associated with the Celtic people of Western Europe since they were first mentioned by Classical Greek authors (McCone 2006). Caesar indicated that in his day, the Gauls refered to themselves as “Celtae” – at least those Gauls inhabiting the area between the Garonne and Seine rivers (see e.g. McCone 2006). The etymology of the word “Keltoi/ Celtae” is not widely agreed upon, and is sometimes held to refer to a state of being hidden, or unseen, which in turn is often tentatively linked to Caesar’s statement that the Celts considered themselves to be descended from their god of the underworld (Caesar’s “Dis Pater”). The notion of hailing from the underworld and therefore coming from under the ground, can with some goodwill be conceptually linked with the concept of being “hidden”, as someone who is under the ground can certainly be said to be hidden from the view of someone above the ground (McCone 2006). Be that as it may, the fact remains that the name “Keltoi”, whatever its meaning may have been, is historically inextricably linked with the people of Western Europe.
A second appellation that is historically linked with the people of prehistoric Western Europe is that of “Galatae” (McCone 2006). It has been argued that the term “Galatae” refered to the young, possibly landless and presumably restless male warriors of Celtic society, and was derived from the root *gal-, meaning “vigour, fighting”, endowed with the regular Celtic suffix of agency –(i)ati. The meaning of “Galatae” would thus be “the warriors, the vigorous ones” (McCone 2006, Bernard Mees 2008, pers. com.). This interpretation is reinforced by the documented existence in central Gaul (Auvergne) of a shrine or temple dedicated to or named in honour of “Uasso Galatae”, a name in which the component “Uasso” appears to refer to “young male(s)” (McCone 2006). The term “Uasso Galatae” appears to have survived to this day in the name of the Central French village Jaude (*galat- > *gald- > *jald- > * jaud-), and the word “Galatae” has been argued to have led, through a process of linguistic distortion and cultural misinterpretation, to the appellation “Galli” as used by Caesar (McCone 2006).
Keltoi versus Galatae
In view of the above information, it would appear that the two terms are mutually compatible and complementary, in as much that it appears that the word “Celtae” seems to refer to the main body of the nation(s), and that the word “Galatae” seems to refer to the young males who set forth to carve out a piece of world of their own. The association of the term “Galatae” with roving warrior bands and groups of mercenaries, such as those who settled in Asia Minor, appears to confirm this notion. A parallel can be drawn with the middle ages, when the crusades were welcomed by certain sections of society as a way of getting rid of young males with nothing to do, no land to inherit and altogether too much time on their hands. As such, it could be said that the word “Celtae” refers to the core of the people or nations who stayed at home, tended their fields and told stories to their kids, and that the word “Galatae” refers to the young guns who left home to fight, rape and pillage and generically seek their fortune elsewhere.
The above notion also appears to be reinforced by the report of the Sicilian-Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, writing between 60 and 35 BC, who describes the people referred to as “Celts” as living “in the hinterland of Massilia and on the slopes of the Alps and Pyrenees”, i.e. the area roughly corresponding to the Roman Province of Narbonensis. According to Siculus, the people North of that region were known as “Galatae”, all the way North and East to Scythia. In addition, Siculus provides a suitably heroic mythology for the origin of the name, which, tellingly, was based on conquest and expansion by force.
Although it may appear that the term “Celtae” has the older tradition, it seems quite certain that the term “Galatae” is a native appellation, and one, moreover, which seems to have been associated with rather a larger area, i.e. all of Gaul North of Narbonensis and Galatia in Asia Minor. In addition, it appears to be this term which has led to the use of the word “Galli” by the Romans, which in turn, handed down through the centuries, has come to be associated with the Celtic people of Western Europe, and which has become absorbed into most if not all Western European languages to designate those people, their culture and their language (Eng. Gallic, Fr. (formerly) Gallique, Ger. Gallisch; Eng. Gaulish and Fr. Gaulois are derived from Germanic *walha-, a term designating a non-Germanic speaking person found living in erstwhile Roman provinces; this term was applied to Romance and Celtic speakers indiscriminately, and is at the origin of the designations Wales, Welsh, Wallonia, Walloon and Wallachia, among others). As such, it seems that the root “gal-“ is linked inextricably with the ethnographic designation of the first recorded people of Western Europe between the Rhine, the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Garonne.
In the above context it is also worth noting that the Central Gaulish village now known as Jaude was located in the heart of what was designated by Caesar as “Gallia Celtica”, indicating either that a) Caesar was a liar; b) Caesar made things up as he wished to suit his own purposes; or c) that the use of the term “Celtae” was confined to the area South of the Massif Central, i.e. Gallia Narbonensis, or was at the very least used in conjunction with the term Galatae in Auvergne and presumably North from there, if Siculus is to be believed. Then again, while points a) and b) made in reference to Caesar above are certainly valid, it is also worthwhile being aware of the fact that Siculus at various times has been referred to as “the greatest liar in history”.
Designation of the Gaulish language
In the 21st century, the Celtic language family is well defined as containing Welsh, Cornish, Breton, Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic. None of these languages retain a linguistic link with the word “Celtic”, nor indeed were they ever linked to the concept of “Celtic” until 1707 when Edward Lluyd published his linguistic analysis of the languages of Britain. As such, it would seem both misleading and presumptuous to lay claim to the word “Celtic” to refer to what is known in English as Gaulish. Therefore, for the sake of clarity as well as historical accuracy and continuity, the name of the modern Gaulish language will be derived from the attested term “galatia” (designating Gaul), an adjectival derivative of which would take the form *galataca. This word, through the application of the regular modern Gaulish sound changes, becomes “Galáthach” in modern Gaulish. In keeping with historical records, the term of “galatia” itself, rendered as “Galathía”, will be proposed as the indigenous name of Gaul and will be used as such.
The word “athevíu” to designate “modern” is of contemporary origin and only translates as “modern” by proxy. Literally translating as “ again-alive”, a better rendition is “revived”. As such it is a combination of two historically attested words, the prefix
“ate“, indicating a repetition or renewal of something (Delamarre 2003, p. 59), and the word “bio-“, meaning “alive” (Delamarre 2003, p. 77). Applying the proposed modern sound changes to the word “atebio” gives “athevíu”. It is reasoned that while “Galáthach hAthevíu” accurately conveys the essential idea of the revived language, the term “modern Gaulish” is a more straightforward practical working term for discussion of the language in the English language. Therefore, Galáthach hAthevíu is the modern Gaulish language.
It may also be appropriate to provide justification for the choice of the word “tengu” to mean “language”. While “tengu” appears to have Indoeuropean cognates in English (“tongue” – although it is contested that this is a cognate – W. De Reuse, pers. Com. 2009) as well as in Gaelic (“teanga”), the word is historically attested in a Cisalpine Celtic inscription from Oderzo under the form “pompete(n)guaios”, i.e. “(son of) he who speaks five languages” (Koch 2006, p.969; Coskun & Zeidler 2003, p. 44; Stifter 2008; Bernard Mees 2007 & 2009 pers. comm.). The attested word “tengua”, leads through a straightforward standard loss of final syllable [–a] directly to the form “tengu”. Conversely, it has been asserted that there is no evidence on the continent of a word - Celtic or other - for “language” that would be derived from the root *yek-, which has produced the Welsh and Breton words for language, “ieith” and “yezh” respectively (Mees 2009, pers. comm.). Therefore, Galáthach hAthevíu is “Tengu in Galáthé”, i.e. “the language of the Gauls”.
The language speaks
An indication of the phonetical and grammatical evolution of the language may be gleaned from the comparison of a few phrases in both modern and Classical / Late Gaulish. The first is a translation of the lines introducing modern Gaulish to the world. One hypothetical Classical Gaulish version (marked for case) could run like this:
     esi galataca atebia tengua sena indias brogias galatacias auuot inte nouion ris bitou nouiou indos cantaios uoconti
In modern Gaulish this is rendered as follows:
     esi Galáthach hAthevíu tengu sen in brói Galáthach, avóthu in nhói ri vithu nói in aiu’chan gwochon cin.
Finally, it is possible to produce a representation of the famous last words of Dumnorix, chief of the Aedui, when murdered on Caesar’s orders in 54 BCE, given here first in the tentatively reconstructed original Classical Gaulish, and followed by its rendition in Modern Gaulish:
emmi uiros rios ex toutia ria
esi mi gwir ríu e dóth ríu
I am a free man from a free nation