INTRODUCTION TO THE GAULISH LANGUAGE
Gaulish was the language spoken by the Continental Celtic tribes who inhabited basically beginning in modern-day France in the west and extending eastwards to the west bank of the Rhine river, and then south down to Italy. Gaulish was a part of the P-Celtic branch of Celtic as opposed to the Q-Celtic branch. The difference between the two subgroups is how the Proto-Celtic labial-velar stop /kʷ/ was transformed into a /p/ in Gaulish and Brittonic while it remained /kʷ/ in Celt-Iberian and Goidelic.
Our evidence for the Gaulish language relies mainly on epigraphy (inscriptions) and Gaulish words mentioned by Classical writers including proper names, ethnonyms, and toponyms.
The Gauls left no written literature of their own but they did make use of the Lugano, Greek, and Latin alphabets in inscriptions.
ALPHABET AND PRONUNCIATION
Below is a list of the Latin letters used in Gaulish and how they were believed to be pronounced.
|B||as in Boy|
|C||as in Come and never as in City|
|D||as in Dog|
|Ð||as in geTS and never as in THese|
|G||as in Good and never as in General|
|L||as in Love|
|M||as in Man|
|N||as in Now|
|P||as in Pen|
|R||rolled R as in Spanish peRo|
|S||as in Sing and never as in waS|
|T||as in Top|
|X||as in loCK and never as in foX|
Gaulish inscriptions were written in all capital letters and with no spaces between the words. The exception is inscriptions written in the Lugano alphabet, which indicates word divisions with one dot (.) or two dots (:). However, in modern usage, we utilize lowercase letters more than capitals and we put spaces between the words as we do in English.
The lowercase Ð is written as ð. All the remaining letters are written in normal lowercase forms as in English usage.
The consonantal cluster sr is pronounced as in THRee.
Gaulish had both short and long vowels. They were pronounced in the following way:
|ā||as in fAther|
|a||as the U in bUt|
|ē||as the A in mArry|
|e||as in bEt|
|ī||as the EE in knEE|
|i||as in hIt|
|ō||as in nOte|
|o||as in tOp|
|ū||as OO in fOOt|
|u||as in pUt|
In addition, the vowels i and y also had consonantal sounds when they appeared before certain letters. In general, if they appear before another vowel, then they are pronounced in the following way:
|i||Y as in Yet|
|u||W as in Wet|
You will sometimes see this written as y or w in modern usage to help with pronunciation. However, they will be written as i and u in these lessons because it is the more standard practice.
A diphthong is a combination of two vowels which produce a new sound. Below are the dipthongs in Gaulish.
|ai||as in AIsle|
|au||OW as in hOW|
|ei||as in EIght|
|eu||vowels separately as in sAY OOps|
|oi||OY as in bOY|
|ou||OW as in blOW|
|ui||rare but vowels separate|
Also, double consonants are pronounced separately and never together as a single sound. For example, we pronounce the ll in “fall” as one sound, but the ll in “fallen” as two sounds which are broken up by the syllables.
Final Note: Pronunciation can be the hardest thing to learn when learning a new language. Don’t get frustrated by it. Keep practicing. Understanding how the language works is more important than how it was pronounced especially since reconstructed Gaulish is more of a written language than a spoken language.