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Re: Some suggestions
At 4:42 pm +1300 24/1/99, Andrew Smith wrote:
>On Thu, 21 Jan 1999, Raymond A. Brown wrote:
>> Surely it's the other way round! Welsh is a _Celtic_ language, not a
>> neo-Latin language as Brithenig is. One thing we can be certain about is
>> that the Celts had a calendar with months well before the Romans took over.
>> And we can certainly discount such reconstructions as the "Gravesian"
>What is clear is there was a celtic calendar, but the intrepretation of
>how widespread its use in Celtic society was, and how it is/was used
I think it likely there were calendarS - and presumably at one time they
would've been used universally before giving way to the Roman Calendar.
>If Padraic wishes to preserve the Kernu calendar,
>then I would suggest that its legal latin version is universal to the
>Kemrese lawcourts, although I would suggest that it would be a historical
>construct rather than an 'authentic calendar'. An intellectual game that
>appealed to national sentiment would not be beyond the bounds of medieval
I've no quarrel with that.
Indeed at 11:33 pm -0500 23/1/99, Padraic Brown wrote:
>I meant to reply to this earlier...
>I feel I may have sown some confusion here. The Legal Calendar is _not_
>the Celtic calendar a la Coligny with its multiyear cycle and intercalary
>months and all that. It is indeed a construct: not just my construction,
>but a product of legal scholars' construction *there*; of the very early
>dark ages for Britain, not before the late sixth century, certainly
>settled by the 8th. For they put together what was still known of the
>Roman and Celtic calendars, mixing and harmonising the two and weeding out
>what was then irrelevant or not understood. It is essentially the Roman
>calendar with Celtic names. I have the feeling that most of the names
>have no more meaning to the average Cambrian than our Western months have
Thanks for confirming what Andrew suspected. As I say, I've no quarrel
with the idea of a learned medieval scholarly construction.
>Now, the one problem I have with this system is that the month names are,
>well, Gaulish. I would prefer that British names could be used for the
>purpose, but the only Celtic calendar I've ever heard of is that of
>Coligny. Certainly the only quite complete one!
AFAIK it is the only complete one. I personally doubt that a common system
ever existed throughout Celtic Britain. The Celts seem to have been
divided among themselves and to warred among themselves as much as the
ancient Greeks ever did. The latter shared dialects of a common language
and shared common religious beliefs. All had the same type of calendar -
the familiar luni-solar calendar of alternate 20 & 30 day months with a
13th intercalary month every two or three years (originally in an
eight-year cycle but eventually in the 19-year Metonic cycle). But each
city had its own choice of month names, its own choice of which season to
begin its year, its own arrangement of the 19-year cycle. I'd hazard a
guess that things were much the same among the Celts. So it may well be
that Kernu scholars had no choice but to turn to the only complete Celtic
calendar still extant.
>Unless something better
>comes along, or if one of our Welsh scholars can reconstruct British forms
>of the Welsh names, I think it will suffice well enough.
Far too few names survive into Welsh, Cornish or Breton - half the names
are Latin, most of the rest have meanings like "White Straw" etc.
Now back to Andrew :)
>> These seem to me the most likely to have gone and Celtic names might have
>> replaced them. I know no actual evidence that the Gaulish names were ever
>> used in Briton - or indeed that all Gallic Celts used the same names. The
>> only safe evidence it seems to me is what the modern Brittonic languages
>> actually do:
>> WELSH CORNISH BRETON
>> Sep. Medi Gwyngala gwengolo
>> Oct. Hydref Hedra here
>> Nov. Tachwedd mys-Du du (miz du)
>> Dec. Rhagfyr Kevardhu kerzu
>It was these four months that I have in mind when I started on this
>thread, and you have provided more comparative information than I could
>discover, mullt reid!
Some of the later Emperors tried to rename these months just as Julius
Caesar had renamed 'Quintilis' as 'Iulius', and Augustus had renamed
'Sextilis' after himself! But they never caught on. The British
alternatives, however, did so.
>> Welsh 'Medi' is, I'm sure, of the same origin as 'medi' "to reap" - the
>> harvest month. In Cornish & Breton it is the month of "White Straw" (gwyn
>> + cala, gwenn + kolo). Maybe "White Straw" also in Brithenig?
>Straw is ystref (m) and white is blanc; possibly Ystreblanc.
>> 'Hydref' also means "autumn" in Welsh, but the words for "autumn are quite
>> different in its two sister languages. I don't know the etymology of the
>> word, but it does look as though it was an old Celtic month name *Setrem-
>> to which the GMP could be applied :)
>That would be Sedref as Brithenig does not turn [s] into a fricative.
>> Both Cornish and Breton simply call November the "Black Month" (which it
>> certainly is up in these islands!) and, indeed, "y Mis Du" is common in
>> Welsh also as a name for November. But if the Chomro did the same, I guess
>> they'd simply use the Brithenig words for "Black Month". I'm afraid I
>> don't know the origin of the Welsh "Tachwedd".
>I have not managed to find "Tachwedd" either. "Black Month" would be
>Muis-Nir, or ill Muis Nir.
>> The Welsh, I assume, is the prefix 'rhag-' = "pre-", "fore-", and 'byr' =
>> "short", since the month begins in the days before the shortest day, the
>> winter solstice. The Cornish and Breton is "Black Acre" month! Nothing
>> doing on the farm.
>The word for acre is 'areben' (m), cognate with French arpent, so December
>could be "Arebennir", or possibly shortened to "Arbennir"
>I think they sound better than Sethembr, Oethembr, Noembr, Decembr. I had
>not noticed it was the anacronistic numbered months that were removed.
I think they sound better.
Indeed they were. But, to complete, the picture for the interested: June &
July were also renamed:
WELSH CORNISH BRETON
June Mehefin Metheven mezeven
July Gorffennaf Gortheren gouere
The Cornish and Breton suggest that the Welsh was originally *Methefin. I
don't know the etymolgy of the word. Maybe it's connect with the Cornish
'me:th' = "nuture, feeding, fosterage" ?
'Gorffennaf' is, of course, 'gorffen haf' (to-finish summer). The Cornish
& Breton are no so obvious. The Cornish seems to be of similar formation
as 'gorthewen' "(late) evening", and the first syllable is, I guess,
cognate with the adjective 'gorth "opposed, contrary"; I'm sure it also had
the idea of end of summer, late summer. The Breton is even more puzzling.
All three languages perpetuate Augustus' month, however, even though they
don't treat it much better than the French do! Thus: Awst (Welsh), E:st
(Cornish - Unified spelling), eost (Breton).
I didn't include those two last time as I was trying to think of reasons
_within Romance_ why some month names might be changed. The anachronistic
number prefixes are surely just such a reason and I'm darn sure that it's
no coincidence that those the Latin names of those four months are not
taken over into the modern Brittonic langs.
My own feeling is that if June & July are changed for no good reason then
it might look as though Brithenig is merely aping Welsh, Cornish & Breton.
Why did the latter not adopt the Latin names? Both names begin /ju:/ in
Latin. I wonder if that combination was disliked or not readily
accommodated in old British phonology?