Celtic, English, and Norse in Contact


This course has three main objectives:

  • An introduction to Celtic linguistics, via familiarizing students with the structural properties of Celtic languages
  • An brief introduction to the study of language contact, with particular attention to criteria used to diagnose contact features
  • A discussion of various ways in which Celtic and North Germanic languages interacted with each other and with English in the British Isles

This course presupposes no knowledge of any modern or ancient Celtic language. However, it is also open to students pursuing Honours degrees in Celtic, as long as they have passed one of the second-year Gaelic courses — while some of the linguistic concepts may require a bit of effort (especially if you haven’t taken at least LEL1 in pre-Honours), much of the language material will be familiar or sufficiently similar to Gaelic.

It may be helpful (albeit not at all obligatory) for the early part of the course (which isn’t really about linguistics) to get some background on the early medieval period in Britain and Ireland. For a light but very informative introduction, one suggestion is Max Adams’ In the land of giants.

Here is the preliminary weekly plan for this year, subject to change with extreme prejudice

  1. Introduction and the historical setting
    1. Celtic and the Anglo-Saxon conquest
    2. Celtic and English in the Middle Ages. The Norse presence in England, Scotland, and Ireland
    3. Language shift. ‘Celtic Englishes’
  2. Celtic language structures
    1. Old Irish
    2. Modern Irish phonology
    3. Modern Irish morphosyntax
  3. Celtic language structures continued
    1. Scottish Gaelic
    2. Middle Welsh
    3. Modern Welsh phonology
  4. Celtic language structures; language contact
    1. Modern Welsh morphosyntax
    2. An introduction to language contact. Agency in language contact
    3. Sociolinguistic complexity and language contact
  5. Language contact; early Celtic-English contacts
    1. Diagnosing historical language contact
    2. The ‘Celtic hypothesis’: was Early English influenced by Celtic?
  6. The Celtic hypothesis; the Norse influence in the Atlantic Isles
    1. The Celtic hypothesis continued
    2. Norse influence in the Old and Middle English periods
  7. The Norse influence in Scotland
    1. Class test (worth 30% of the mark)
    2. The Norse influence and Gaelic
    3. Celtic, Norse and Scots in the Northern Isles
  8. Celtic Englishes
    1. Irish English
    2. Celtic, Scots and Scottish English
  9. Celtic Englishes continued
    1. Welsh English
    2. ‘Substrate’ transfer vs. learning mechanisms. Simplification under contact conditions and ‘Angloversals’
    3. Course summary

The remaining 70% of the mark will be assessed by a final essay of 3,000 words, to be written between the end of teaching and the start of the exam period.

See LASC10092 on DRPS.

About me

I’m Pavel Iosad, and I’m a Senior Lecturer in the department of Linguistics and English Language at the University of Edinburgh. ¶ You can always go to the start page to learn more.



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