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the Term "Celt"

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« on: February 18, 2007, 11:37:24 pm »

The term in English

The English word is modern, attested from 1707 in the writings of Edward Lhuyd whose work, along with that of other late 17th century scholars, brought academic attention to the languages and history of these early inhabitants of Great Britain.[2] In the 18th century the interest in "primitivism" which led to the idea of the "noble savage" brought a wave of enthusiasm for all things "Celtic". The antiquarian William Stukeley pictured a race of "Ancient Britons" putting up the "Temples of the Ancient Celts" such as Stonehenge before he decided in 1733 to recast the Celts in his book as Druids. The Ossian fables written by James Macpherson and portrayed as ancient Scottish Gaelic language poems added to this romantic enthusiasm. The "Irish revival" came after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 as a conscious attempt to demonstrate an Irish national identity, and with its counterpart in other countries subsequently became the "Celtic revival".[3]

Nowadays "Celt" and "Celtic" are usually pronounced /kɛlt/ and /kɛltɪk/, derived from a Greek root keltoi, when referring to the ethnic group and its languages. The pronunciation /'sɛltɪk/, derived from the French celtique, is mainly used for the names of sports teams (for example the NBA team, Boston Celtics and the SPL side, Celtic F.C. in Glasgow.[4]

Modern uses

In a historical context, the terms "Celt" and "Celtic" can be used in several senses: they can denote peoples speaking Celtic languages; the peoples of prehistoric and early historic Europe who shared common cultural traits which are thought to have originated in the Hallstatt and La Tne cultures; or the peoples known to the Greeks as Keltoi, to the Romans as Celtae and to either by cognate terms such as Gallae or Galatae. The extent to which each of these meanings refers to the same group of people is a matter of debate.

In a modern context, the term "Celt" or "Celtic" can be used to denote areas where Celtic languages are spoken this is the criterion employed by the Celtic League and the Celtic Congress. In this sense, there are six modern nations that can be defined as Celtic: Brittany, Cornwall, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales. Only four, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Brittany have 'mother-tongue' speakers of Celtic languages and in none of them is it the language of the majority. However, all six have significant traces of a Celtic language in personal and place names, and in culture and traditions.

Galicia and Asturias in north-western Spain can also be considered Celtic because of the strong Celtic cultural identity and acknowledgement of their Celtic past. Regions of England such as Cumbria and Devon likewise retain some Celtic influences, yet haven't retained a Celtic language (even Cornwall became fully English-speaking during the 18th century) and are therefore not categorised as Celtic regions or nations. Northumbria, or North East England, isn't considered a Celtic nation but possesses the oldest worn tartan in Britain and has its own bagpipes. Cornish aside, the last attested Celtic language native to England was Cumbric, spoken in Cumbria and southern Scotland and which may have survived until the 13th century, but was most likely dead by the eleventh. As in the case of Cornish, there have been recent attempts to revive it, although the evidence upon which this is based is slight in the extreme. Another area of Europe associated with the Celts is France, which traces its roots to the Gauls. In Scotland, the Gaelic language traces at least some of its roots to migration and settlement by the Irish Dl Riata/Scotti. The settlement of Germanic immigrants in the lowlands among other things reduced the spread of the Gaelic language which was supplanting Brythonic in Scotland; this has meant that Scots-Gaelic-speaking communities survive chiefly in the country's northern and western fringes.




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