Re: Brezhoneg and its Influences

From: Anders
Message: 68772
Date: 2012-03-05

-- In, "bowlweevils" <jamiepolichak@...> wrote:
> I know Dutch, German, and French, and I was going through Wikipedia to
> find the pages for dialects or closely-related languages to these 3. I
> found the page for Brezhoneg, and though that it was a very extreme
> variant or creole, but that I could moderately understand the
> information.

That's a bit surprising to me. Especially since the variety Breton used for Wikipedia etc. tends to be quite puristic, often avoiding transparent French loan words.

> However, a bit more searching revealed that Brezhoneg is a Celtic
> language. Some more internet searching for the relationship between the
> West Germanic or Romance languages did not provide much information.
> So I am wondering if anyone knows more about the influences of the West
> Germanic languages and French on the Brezhoneg language.
> It seems clear to me that there has been much vocabulary derived from
> French and Germanic (whether Dutch, English, or German, or a
> combination, I'm not sure) with some phonemic and semantic twists, along
> with some suffix and prefix related changes in morphology, but am having
> trouble finding any evidence. And Cymraeg seems much more opaque to me,
> leading me to wonder why Brezhoneg is somewhat decipherable to me.
> Thanks,
> Jamie

French influence on Breton is old and profound. When the Bretons settled in Brittany, there were already speakers of (Late) Latin, some of which must have been assimilated to the Bretons. Later on, Breton expanded eastwards, which led to a linguistically mixed area (Old Breton and Old French) in a part of eastern Brittany. It is likely that there was widespread bilingualism in this area and probably in pockets in Western Brittany as well. Before the disappearance of Breton in Eastern Brittany (1200-1300), Breton adopted numerous loan words and a number of structural features, probably connected with the bilingualism.

On the other hand, English influence on Breton seems to be almost non-existent. I am not sure what in particular you are thinking of. The early date of French loan words in Breton _and_ in English (from the Normans) sometimes makes the similarity between Breton and English seem larger than with French, e.g. Breton/English forest from Old French forest, but ModFrench forĂȘt with -st > -t. But this is simply because Breton and English has preserved the shape of the French loan word better than French itself.

As to Frankish loan words in Breton, some have been claimed. This is not at all unlikely, since we know that Franks were present in Eastern Brittany, judging from the numerous Frankish personal names in e.g. the Cartulary of Redon (late 8th-12th c.). However, the words in question always seem to have been borrowed into Old French as well, which means that they could just as well have passed through French on their way to Breton.

Then there are the obligatory Dutch nautical vocabulary, but that's probably not what you're getting at.