Celtic Language Resources

These resources delve into Celtic language, which is a living manifestation of ongoing Celtic cultures. Six cultures and their languages are extant today, although the languages of Cornwall and the Isle of Man are on the brink of extinction despite efforts to bring these back.

The Celtic languages are divided into two branches: the Goedelic or Gaelic (Irish, Scots Gaelic, Manx), and the Brythonic (Welsh, Cornish, and Breton). Goedelic is also known as Q-Celtic, and Brythonic as P-Celtic, the essential differences arising from sound-shifts. (Otherwise known as "minding one's P's and Q's"...) My friends the Picts may have spoken a Brythonic-based Celtic language, at least in part.

Resources here deal with books (dictionaries, grammars, language), cassettes, Internet mailing lists, and websites devoted to language and culture of the various Celtic peoples. You will find that the lists are biased towards my own interests, and thus apologies for the many gaping holes herein. In addition, you will discover that most of the websites out there on the language topic are NOT run by Pagans.

[General]

[Scots Gaelic] ^ [Irish] ^ [Welsh (Cymraeg)] ^ [Cornish (Kernewek)] ^ [Breton (Brezhoneg)] ^ [Manx (Mannin)]

I'll give comments for these, but no ratings. I'm new at this language biz, m'self...

This is by no means a final list of what is available -- I have purposefully omitted some books, while other books which may be good just have not come into my possession. And there are only so many languages one has time to learn... (My personal interests are Scots Gaelic and Cornish. It's a sloooooowww process, especially considering I'm working one full time plus job, trying to start up my own business, dealing with a personal life, and etc., but whatever the speed, the process is a part of the point.)

-- Jehana Silverwing

Any comments or resource recommendations, leave me e-mail at jehana@candledark.net.

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GENERAL: Herein are general resources pertinant to all or several of the Celtic languages.

Books (For descriptions of these, please see Celtic Reading Resources; these books are listed here as well since they give a rationale for the study of language):

  • Kondratiev, Alexei. 1998. The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual.
    The Collins Press, Ireland. ISBN 1-898256-42-x.

  • Ellis, Peter Berresford. 1994. The Druids.
    Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. ISBN 0-8028-4158-9.

Online Mailing Lists:

  • Celtic-language.
    This is a Onelist mailing list. Pagans and Celtic languages, finding resources, general pointers. Rather quiet right now, assuming it still exists.

  • CelticPath.
    Learning about the roots of a Pagan Celtic background. To this reader, this mailing list and the next are the most interesting of those I have found. Currently, there's an ongoing "Irish Word of the Day", with info filled in about that same word in the other Celtic tongues. Intended for those well-past the Douglas Monroe phase.

  • Celtic-P.
    A good place to start your studies with discussions on the Celtic Path. Sort of an introductory "companion" to CelticPath. Another excellent place.

  • Imbas-list.
    Strong opinions and all, this also delves into Pagan Celtic Reconstructionism. Can be a bit noisy. Noisy enough that I don't read it any more, even if I'm still listed as a member.

  • Celtic_Well.
    I haven't investigated this one very closely, but it also seems to be Celtic Pagan Reconstructionism and principles.

Websites:

  • The Rowan Leaf Bookstore.
    They've culled a good selection of Celtic and Celtic-related books for you to peruse, over there at the Summerlands.

  • The Ogmios Celtic Language Project.
    Organized by Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans, this site is only now just beginning. Some Irish material is up, as well as general articles on the purpose of studying languages to know the culture.

  • Language Resources on the Web
    A great collection of websites.

  • Celtic Books for Scholars.
    An excellent resource located in Tennessee for some pretty obscure Celtic books, including ones on language. Irish and Brythonic, although Scotland is pretty much ignored.

  • Everything Celtic on the Internet.
    As it says. If they're missing anything, it's not their fault!

  • Celtic Cultural Studies.
    An Interdisciplinary Online Journal.

  • A Web of Online Dictionaries.
    Lots and lots of languages, including all of the extant Celtic languages except Cornish. Someday???

  • Imbas
    Some interesting articles on what value studying languages has. Along with other Celtic info.

  • Celtic Studies: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of the Ancient Celts.
    An excellent, well-thought-site which encourages hours of study. Language, religion, society...

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Gaidhlig / Gaelic / Scots Gaelic / The language of ALBA or SCOTLAND: The Scots Leid of poet Robert Burns, or of Star Trek's Scotty is a different language entirely, also a part of Scotland's heritage, but not Celtic in origin. It is close enough to English that a good "squint" can help the casual reader make sense of most of it.

Books:

  • Dwelly, Edward, 1994. Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary: Containing Every Gaelic Word and Meaning Given in All Previously Published Dictionaries.
    Colton Book Imports. ISBN 1871901286.
    This is supposed to be the one to get. However, it is out of stock at Amazon and at the publisher. No doubt some specialty or used-book sources can sell you a copy; I need to find one myself.

  • MacBain, Alexander. 1998. Etymological Dictionary of Scottish-Gaelic.
    Hippocrene Books. ISBN 0-7818-0632-1.
    The original was written in 1896 by an author who made an excellent attempt at deciphering the etymological roots of the Scottish language. Fascinating material, which also includes a short discussion on the Ogham. Many words are defined and sourced. The prime difficulty lies in the fact that this dictionary goes only from Gaelic to English, and not in reverse. The pronounciation guide is geared for linguists, and is only somewhat useful to the layperson.

  • MacLellan, Malcolm. 1997. Gaelic Dictionary: Gaelic-English / English - Gaelic.
    Acair Mercat. ISBN 1-873644-11-6.
    Useful pronounciation guide, as well as a more extensive dictionary than the Renton-MacDonald dictionary, but decidely pricier. No grammar rules, no rules on forming plurals. Highly recommended.

  • Ó Maolalaigh. 1999. Hugo's Scottish Gaelic in Three Months: Simplified Language Course.
    DK Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-7894-4430.5.
    Comes with two cassette tapes (if there is a version without tapes, get the one with them). While three months seems optimistic, it is my impression that this course is better organized than the Robertson, Boyd and Taylor one listed below.

  • Renton, R.W., and J.A. MacDonald. 1994. Scottish Gaelic: Scottish Gaelic -- English / English -- Scottish Gaelic Dictionary.
    Hippocrene Books. ISBN 0-7818-0316-0.
    Basic grammar rules, and a good dictionary which translates in both directions. Not nearly as extensive as the MacBain dictionary, but not shabby, either. Pocket size. No pronounciation guide. Recommended.

  • Robertson, Boyd, and Iain Taylor. 1975. Teach Yourself Gaelic: A Complete Course for Beginners.
    NTC Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8442-3776-0.
    This comes with two cassette tapes, a brief pronounciation guide, and many exercises to hone the use of grammar. Vocabulary is worked into the exercises. This one is pretty easy to find.

Online Mailing Lists:

  • Gaidhlig4U.
    On this one, mail to: MAJORDOMO@SUB.SONIC.NET.
    with the command: SUBSCRIBE GAIDHLIG4U
    You can then send correspondence to GAIDHLIG4U@SUB.SONIC.NET
    Not obstensibly Pagan, it is nonetheless a good resource for practicing the language.

  • GaelicLearners.
    A brand-new mailing list, it hasn't really gotten its feet wet as of this writing. Give it time, however. It is not obstensibly Pagan. Some folks interested in Irish also show up.

Websites:

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Gaeilge / Irish / The language of EIRE or IRELAND Of all the Celtic languages, this one has the most native speakers. Much early and mythic source material can be read in this language.

Websites:

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Cymraeg / Welsh / The language of CYMRU or WALES Welsh is a vibrant language still spoken by native speakers in sections of Wales. Dialect varies somewhat from north Wales to South Wales. The language, however, is under stress as English peoples sprawl into Welsh lands. It is the language of the Mabigonion as well as of many other historical documents.

Books:

  • Gruffudd, Heini. 1998. Beginner's Welsh.
    Hippocrene Books. ISBN 0-7818-0589-9. Grammar, exercises, pronounciation guide (although nothing would beat actually hearing a language), a short short Welsh-to-English dictionary. Looks accessible.

Online Mailing Lists:

  • Cymraeg-L.
    For students of the Welsh language.

  • All Things Welsh..
    Contains Pagans and non-Pagan membership; the focus is not on religion or spirituality. Language is actually an afterthought here, but people can guide one to resources, and several I think know something of the language.

Websites:

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Kernewek / Cornish / The language of KERNOW or CORNWALL This language essentially died, but there is a good effort underway to revive it, in any of three variants.

Books:

  • Caradar. 1972. Cornish Simplified, Part I.
    Dyllansow Truran - Cornish Publications. ISBN 0907566-09-x. The first edition of this came about in 1939, it is not extremely accessible, but it looks pretty thorough as far as grammar goes. There is also a pronounciation guide (written for linguists), and many exercises. Most vocabulary is picked up by the context of the lessons themselves.

  • Edwards, Ray. 1995. Verbow Kernewek.
    Kesva an Taves Kernewek / Cornish Language Board. ISBN 0-907064-48-5. Regular and irregular verbs, in their myriad forms, and rules for use. Arranged alphabetically (Cornish to English).

  • Fudge, Crysten and Graham Sandercock. Kernewek Mar Plek: A First Course in Cornish.
    Dyllansow Truran - Cornish Publications. No date, no ISBN number, but this looks like a modern book. Grammar, and easy exercises, suitable for a child as well as an adult. A short short Cornish to English dictionary of words used in the grammar is provided. No pronounciation guide.

  • Truran, Christine. 1986. A Short Cornish Dictionary: Gerlyver Ber.
    Tor Mark Press. ISBN 0-85025-368-3.
    A dictionary going both directions, this is still a slim but useful volume.

Websites:

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Brezhoneg / Breton / The language of BREIZH or BRITTANY The French have claimed Brittany for their own, and have made great inroads in wiping out this language. However, it yet persists.

Websites:

  • Brezhoneg-ceanglaichaean.
    A good comprehensive listing of information and links concerning Breizh and its language.

  • Kervarker.
    Learn the language, find out more info, and contact others in online forums.

  • English to Breton Dictionary.
    Underway, but still apparently useful.

  • Breizh.Net
    The goals are the promotion of Brittany and its language. The site is not all that comprehensive regarding language, but maybe this will come with time.

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Manx / The language of MANNIN or the ISLE OF MAN The Irish settled here. The language, which has almost disappeared despite some efforts to keep it alive, owes much to English spelling conventions. It probably doesn't help that the Isle of Man is not a large place.

Websites:

  • Fockleyr Gaelg.
    A short Manx to English dictionary. Alas, not vice versa as well.

  • Yn Ghaelig.
    A reasonably inclusive site for language and culture relating to the Isle of Man.

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Last Updated: August 5, 2000, ce.

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