HiSoN Summer School, 7-13 August 2008

Celtic and English language contact and shift

The Celtic languages have been in contact with English for some 1600 years. The nature of these contacts have been diverse. For much of their history in the British Isles, the story has been one of language shift from Celtic languages to English, first in what was to become England, later in the Celtic countries themselves. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, migrants from Celtic countries settled extensively in the United States, Canada, Australia and Argentina. The linguistic effects of language shift by speakers of Celtic languages on English has been much debated. We will look at the evidence from within a general theory of language contact. More recently, the Celtic languages have all been the subject of well organised revitalisation efforts, to some extent reversing language shift. While English cultural influence on Celtic languages goes back to the Middle Ages, the recent revitalisation efforts have had profound linguistic consequences on the Celtic languages themselves, often of a rather different, more structural kind. We will be looking at the nature of these changes and how to account for them within the social changes that gave rise to them.

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