Celtic Languages 2017/2018
The Celts once occupied vast swathes of Europe including modern France, Austria and Switzerland, as well as Ireland and Britain. Migration during the fourth century BC saw their influence stretch as far as Italy and Asia Minor. The Celtic group of languages belongs to the Indo-European language family and although ‘continental Celtic’ only survives in early inscriptions, the Celtic languages spoken on the Atlantic western seaboard survived into the modern period. These languages may be divided into two groups: (1) Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx (Goidelic languages); and (2) Welsh, Breton and Cornish (Brythonic languages). Although still minority languages in their respective countries, the number of Irish, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic speakers has grown over the past number of decades. Welsh is the most widely-spoken of the Celtic languages, with over 600,000 speakers recorded in the last census. Irish is not only one of the official languages of the Irish state; it is also an official language of the European Union. Both modern Irish and Welsh are offered as courses from A- to C-level, and students who study either language to this level may expect to gain a good level of proficiency in their chosen language.
While studying a language provides a unique window into understanding any culture, students may also study aspects of the rich history, literature and culture of the Celts without any knowledge of the Celtic languages by taking introductory courses in Celtic history and in medieval Irish and Welsh literature. In these courses, students learn about the archaeological, historical and linguistic evidence for the existence of the Celts in Europe. They also learn about the rich vernacular literary tradition in Ireland and Wales by studying mythological tales and courtly love poetry in translation. The study of Old Irish, with its archaic structure and vocabulary, is a key part of Indo-European linguistic research. In addition to the linguistic study of Old Irish, advanced students may also read some of the mythological tales in the original vernacular. Courses in Old Irish are offered from beginner to advanced level. All courses in Celtic studies may be taken as part of a 30 credit course or as a 7.5 credit elective.
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