In historical linguistics,
Italo-Celtic is a grouping of the Italic
and Celtic branches of the Indo-European language family on the basis
of features shared by these two branches and no others. There is
controversy about the causes of these similarities. They are usually
considered to be innovations, likely to have developed after the
breakup of the Proto-Indo-European language. It is also possible that
some of these are not innovations, but shared conservative features,
i.e. original Indo-European language features which have disappeared
in all other language groups. What is commonly accepted is that the
shared features may usefully be thought of as
4 Further reading
Italo-Celts (I-C) homeland north of the Black Sea, according to one
interpretation of the theory.
The traditional interpretation of the data is that these two subgroups
of the Indo-European language family are generally more closely
related to each other than to the other Indo-European languages. This
could imply that they are descended from a common ancestor, a
Italo-Celtic which can be partly reconstructed by the
comparative method. Those scholars who believe Proto-
an identifiable historical language estimate that it was spoken in the
third or second millennium BC somewhere in south-central
Europe but this hypothesis fell out of favour after
being reexamined by
Calvert Watkins in 1966. Some scholars, such as
Frederik Kortlandt, continued to be interested in the theory. In
2002 a paper by Ringe, Warnow, and Taylor, employing computational
methods as a supplement to the traditional linguistic subgrouping
methodology, argued in favour of an
Italo-Celtic subgroup, and in
2007 Kortlandt attempted a reconstruction of a Proto-Italo-Celtic.
The most common alternative interpretation is that the close proximity
of Proto-Celtic and Proto-Italic over a long period could have
encouraged the parallel development of what were already quite
separate languages; areal features within a Sprachbund. As Watkins
(1966) puts it, "the community of -ī in Italic and Celtic is
attributable to early contact, rather than to an original unity". The
assumed period of language contact could then be later, perhaps
continuing well into the first millennium BC.
However, if some of the forms are archaic elements of
Proto-Indo-European that were lost in other branches, neither model of
post-PIE relationship need be postulated. Italic and especially Celtic
also share some distinctive features with the
Hittite language (an
Anatolian language) and the Tocharian languages, and these features
are certainly archaisms.
Italo-Celtic forms are:
the thematic genitive in ī (dominus, dominī). Both in Italic
(Popliosio Valesiosio, Lapis Satricanus) and in Celtic (Lepontic
-oiso, Celtiberian -o), traces of the -osyo genitive of
Proto-Indo-European (PIE) have also been discovered, which might
indicate that the spread of the ī genitive occurred in the two groups
independently (or by areal diffusion). The ī genitive has been
compared to the so-called Cvi formation in Sanskrit, but that too is
probably a comparatively late development. The phenomenon is probably
related to the feminine long ī stems and the Luwian i-mutation.
the formation of superlatives with reflexes of the PIE suffix
Latin fortis, fortissimus "strong, strongest", Old Irish
sen, sinem "old, oldest",
Oscan mais, maimas "more, most"), where
branches outside Italic and Celtic derive superlatives with reflexes
of PIE *-isto- instead (Sanskrit: urús, váriṣṭhas "broad,
broadest", Ancient Greek: 'καλός, κάλλιστος "beautiful,
Old Norse rauðr, rauðastr "red, reddest", as well as, of
course, English "-est").
the ā-subjunctive. Both Italic and Celtic have a subjunctive
descended from an earlier optative in -ā-. Such an optative is not
known from other languages, but the suffix occurs in Balto-Slavic and
Tocharian past tense formations, and possibly in Hittite -ahh-.
the collapsing of the PIE aorist and perfect into a single past tense.
In both groups, this is a relatively late development of the
proto-languages, possibly dating to the time of
the assimilation of *p to a following *kʷ. This development
obviously predates the Celtic loss of *p:
PIE *penkʷe 'five' →
Old Irish cóic
PIE *perkʷu- 'oak' →
Latin quercus; Goidelic ethnonym Querni, in
northwest Hispania Querquerni.
PIE *pekʷ- 'cook' →
Latin coquere; Welsh pobi (Welsh p presupposes
Other similarities include the fact that certain common words, such as
the words for common metals (gold, silver, tin, etc.) are similar in
Italic and Celtic yet divergent from other Indo-European languages
Latin argentum, "silver", vs. Irish airgead, derived from
Proto-Celtic argantom). A number of other similarities continue to
be pointed out and debated.
The r-passive (mediopassive voice) was initially thought to be an
innovation restricted to
Italo-Celtic until it was found to be a
retained archaism shared with Hittite, Tocharian, and possibly the
^ Watkins, Calvert, "
Italo-Celtic Revisited". In: Birnbaum, Henrik;
Puhvel, Jaan, eds. (1966). Ancient Indo-European dialects. Berkeley:
University of California Press. pp. 29–50.
^ Kortlandt, Frederik H .H., "More Evidence for Italo-Celtic", in
Ériu 32 (1981): 1-22.
^ Ringe, Don; Warnow, Tandy; Taylor, Ann (March 2002). "Indo-European
and Computational Cladistics". Transactions of the Philological
Society. 100 (1): 59–129. doi:10.1111/1467-968X.00091.
^ Kortlandt, Frederik H .H.,
Italo-Celtic Origins and Prehistoric
Development of the Irish Language, Leiden Studies in Indo-European
Vol. 14, Rodopi 2007, ISBN 978-90-420-2177-8.
^ Nils M. Holmer, "A Celtic-Hittite Correspondence", in Ériu 21
^ Andrew L. Sihler, New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin, OUP
1995, p.145, §141.
^ Michael Weiss, Italo-Celtica: Linguistic and Cultural Points of
Contact between Italic and Celtic in Proceedings of the 23rd Annual
UCLA Indo-European Conference, Hempen Verlag 2012
Jay Jasanoff, "An
Italo-Celtic isogloss: the 3 pl. mediopassive in
*-ntro," in D. Q. Adams (ed.), Festschrift for Eric P. Hamp. Volume I
Journal of Indo-European Studies Monograph 23) (Washington, D.C.,
Winfred P. Lehmann, "Frozen Residues and Relative Dating", in Varia on
the Indo-European Past: Papers in Memory of Marija Gimbutas, eds.
Miriam Robbins Dexter and Edgar C. Polomé. Washington D.C.: Institute
for the Study of Man, 1997. pp. 223–46
Winfred P. Lehmann, "Early Celtic among the Indo-European
dialects"[permanent dead link], in Zeitschrift für celtische
Philologie 49-50, Issue 1 (1997): 440-54.
Schmidt, Karl Horst, “Contributions from New Data to the
Reconstruction of the Proto-Language”. In: Polomé, Edgar; Winter,
Werner, eds. (1992). Reconstructing Languages and Cultures (1st ed.).
Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 35–62.
ISBN 3-11-012671-0. OCLC 25009339.
Schrijver, Peter (2015). "Pruners and trainers of the Celtic family
tree: The rise and development of Celtic in light of language
contact". Proceedings of the XIV International Congress of Celtic
Studies, Maynooth 2011. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.
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