The Celtic Languages Edited by Dr. Martin J. Balls and Dr. Nicole Muller

Editors: Dr. Martin J. Balls and Dr. Nicole Muller
ISBN 13: 9780415422796
Pages: 816
Publisher: Routledge
Copyright: Second Edition 2009

Synopsis: The Celtic Languages describes in depth all the Celtic languages from historical, structural and sociolinguistic perspectives with individual chapters on Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Breton and Cornish.

This second edition has been thoroughly revised to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date account of the modern Celtic languages and their current sociolinguistic status along with complete descriptions of the historical languages.

This comprehensive volume is arranged in four parts. The first part offers a description of the typological aspects of the Celtic languages followed by a scene setting historical account of the emergence of these languages. Chapters devoted to Continental Celtic, Old and Middle Irish, and Old and Middle Welsh follow. Parts two and three are devoted to linguistic descriptions of the contemporary languages. Part two has chapters on Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx, while Part three covers Welsh, Breton and Cornish. Part four is devoted to the sociolinguistic situation of the four contemporary Celtic languages and a final chapter describes the status of the two revived languages Cornish and Manx.

With contributions from a variety of scholars of the highest reputation, The Celtic Languages continues to be an invaluable tool for both students and teachers of linguistics, especially those with an interest in typology, language universals and the unique sociolinguistic position which the Celtic languages occupy.

Review: With a book like this (written by different people) I always worry about who these people are. The list is VERY impressive, and the fact that it was professors and researchers who were also in most cases native speakers of the language they are writing about makes them even more interesting. Also I’m kind of glad I’ve read Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction because when talking about the structure of the languages the authors write assuming that the reader knows what technical linguistic terms like ablaut and velar. It would also be a good idea to know one of the Celtic languages since they talk about their grammatical structure.

The essays in this book are concerned with the status and structure of the Celtic languages. The beauty of this book is that I got to learn about all the different theories on how the Celtic Languages were broken (I always assumed that there was no controversy there, boy was I wrong). I also got the background on languages that you don’t hear to much about like Cislapine Celtic and Gaulish. Then of course, you get a good background and an outline of grammar for many of the Celtic languages. I paid special attention to Irish and I learned a lot.

I have to say that this book is more for the linguist than the historian, but if you are interested in learning what the structure of the Celtic languages is and where they are today then this is a good book to read. Just be prepared for a little technical discussion that might send you to the dictionary.


5 thoughts on “The Celtic Languages Edited by Dr. Martin J. Balls and Dr. Nicole Muller

  1. Dafydd says:

    Great review!

    Sounds like an interesting if complex book. I haven’t read much on Indo-European linguistics, so this book would probably be too difficult for me to understand. Also I’m no linguist. That said, I have an interest in the development of Gaulish, its relation to Brythonic, as well as modern Celtic Languages like Irish Gaelic and Welsh. I doubt this book has much on Gaulish, considering very little ancient inscriptions survive to this day.

    • celticscholar says:

      You know you brought up a good point. I’ve yet to read anything in the linguistic department pertaining to Gaulish…

      • Dafydd says:

        Yes, it’s a real shame considering it was one of the most widely spoken Celtic languages in the ancient world. It can also give us some interesting clues on the origin of words in Irish, Breton and Welsh.

  2. After immediately finding a glaring error involving a matter of simple grammar, I lost confidence in the supposed expertise of the authors. How can these professors produce such an academically obtuse work, yet be unable to correctly use possessive pronouns in Irish? This is material that beginning students learn in their first few weeks of proper instruction.

    Shoddy work like this is one more reason why students of Irish cannot properly produce their own sentences in Irish today. At the very least, this work was undone by dodgy editing. To see the mistake for oneself, review Table 4.4 on page 121.

    • celticscholar says:

      I’ll check it out, but no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes which can be corrected in the next edition. Did you write to the author via the editor?

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