Spoken Latin in Britain

purasbabosadas

Senior Member
English-USA
Why is it that there was never a descendent of spoken Latin in the Roman province of Brittania?The area was part of the Roman empire for hundreds of years but,unlike Hispania and Gaul,there seems to be virtually no trace of a spoken language from Latin.
 
  • Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Why is it that there was never a descendent of spoken Latin in the Roman province of Brittania?The area was part of the Roman empire for hundreds of years but,unlike Hispania and Gaul,there seems to be virtually no trace of a spoken language from Latin.
    Apparently the number of latin speakers was for small after the Anglo-Saxon invasion and evacuation of the Roman military presence from Britain.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There are various theories, but no one is really sure. The answer is probably that Britain was not as thoroughly Romanised as, say, Gaul. The fact that Celtic rather than Romance languages survived in the West for long after the Germanic invasions seems to confirm it.
     

    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    The area was part of the Roman empire for hundreds of years but,unlike Hispania and Gaul,there seems to be virtually no trace of a spoken language from Latin.
    Latin didn't survive as a spoken language in Britain, but the native British Celtic language borrowed heavily from Latin, an influence still visible if you look at the vocabulary of modern Welsh.

    .

    It seems that Britannia is not the only such example: the Roman provinces in the Balkans, the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa did not develop a Romance language either.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    In the highly Romanized parts of Roman Britain, the region called Lloegyr in Brittonic tradition, none of the languages spoken there survived the Anglo-Saxon invasion. We don't know and have no way to tell to what extent Latin had entered into the popular language.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Do you mean that the many Latin loanwords in Welsh may not necessarily be a direct result of the Roman rule in Britain?
    There is no Welsh spoken that region. The Brittonic languages spoken there have not surivied the Anglo-Saxon invasion. Welch survived, but not in the previously Romanized parts of Britain.
     
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    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    The Brittonic languages spoken there have not surivied the Anglo-Saxon invasion. Welch survived, but not in the previously Romanized parts of Britain.
    The Roman province of Britannia did include most of present-day Wales.

    .

    May I ask why you prefer the spelling "Welch"? It's archaic. (I think it only survives in surnames today.)
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    The Roman province of Britannia did include most of present-day Wales.
    Please re-read my original post, especially this part:
    the highly Romanized parts of Roman Britain, the region called Lloegyr
    There was a relatively hard regional split, which is also corroborated by archaeological evidence. If you draw a line from the mouth of the river Severn to the Humber (see the map in the linked article), areas South-East of this line were highly Romanized with Roman Cologniae (cities) and Villae (manors, parishes). Areas North-West of this line showed very little sign of Romanization. People there basically lived as before and the Romans just kept military outposts (with their surrounding civilian settlements), like cavalry forts in Indian territories in Western movies.
    May I ask why you prefer the spelling "Welch"?
    Simple typo. Corrected.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    The question of this thread is not if individual Latin words had entered Brythonic (of course they have) but if there were areas in Roman Britain where Vulgar Latin had completely replaced the Brythonic vernacular.
     
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    jimquk

    Member
    British English
    As far as I understand, Brittany in France was settled by refugees from Britain, presumably from the Lloegyr area. The language they brought with them was Celtic rather than any variant of Latin. Does anyone know if Breton shows traces of Roman-era Latin influence? It seems remarkable that the Bretons were so little Romanised that even when settling in a by then wholly Latinate speaking country, they kept their own language.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    The insular Celtic language closest to Breton is Cornish. The language was spoken in Cornwall as a first language until the 18. century. The West Country was not part of the heavily Romanized part of Roman Britain. But of course, the Celtic speaking population of Cornwall might have been the decendents of Brythonic people from further east who have fled the Anglo-Saxon invasion. Those things are difficult to reconstruct.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    Devils, nuns, schools in Chester, castles in Kent...


    PD: As I've been told that the comment is not understood, I was just mentioning in a simple sentence words that seem to have been developed straight from Latin into Old English (that is, not via any Oil languages). Had they been many, Old English could have been regarded as a local Romance.
     
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    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    Loan words does not make a language change it genetic categorisation. Even if they are many.

    No doubt. My intention was merely to point out that a local development of Romance in Britannia could have followed that way. The OP said there was no trace at all and I somehow differ.
     

    AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    The OP said there was no trace at all and I somehow differ.
    The OP says there was no trace of a spoken Romance language.

    Anyway, the earliest influence of Latin on Old English and related Germanic languages comes from the time of the Roman Empire, i.e. the contact took place on the continent, before the Anglo-Saxon tribes invaded Britain.
     

    LeifGoodwin

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Why is it that there was never a descendent of spoken Latin in the Roman province of Brittania?The area was part of the Roman empire for hundreds of years but,unlike Hispania and Gaul,there seems to be virtually no trace of a spoken language from Latin.
    As far as I know there is no concensus as to what happened, due to the lack of evidence for spoken language. Most accounts I have read suggest that the celts in Britain were never truly latinised due to the small number of Roman inhabitants. However, it is conceivable that vulgar Latin was widely spoken by the celts, until the arrival of Germanic tribes, who gently persuaded them to speak Anglo Saxon.

    The Normans also failed to impose a romance language on our fair isle, which I believe was because they formed a distinct social group of modest size ie royalty and nobility, thus constituting a ruling elite. The Germanic tribes came to Britain as migrants and large numbers colonised the land. The fact that the Vikings did not impose Norse on us is presumably because they did not arrive in such large numbers and indeed English DNA does not indicate a significant contribution of Viking origin.

    It is hard work to learn another language, and in the past someone would not normally reach a good level unless they were from a wealthy family (who could hire tutors) or a parent spoke that language. Thus a small ruling elite might find it hard to impose their language. That said, India has adopted English as an official language, and I believe that all well educated Indians speak English fluently, albeit the Indian dialect. I think this is because for example it avoids an Indian who speaks Gujarati natively having to learn Punjabi as a national language, thereby indicating that the Punjab was superior. Thus English is seen as not favouring any specific region, and of course it was the language of the ruling elite for many years. And of course today the adoption of English is driven by American commerce and culture.
     
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