Fri, 14 Jul 95 12:36:03 -0500

NE>I am wondering about the extinction of the gallic language. Any ideas on
NE>why it disappeared? I find it hard to believe that large numbers of
NE>latin-speaking settlers moved to gaul during the roman occupation, relative

I believe it. Roman army veterans were given lands in Gaul, and moved
there, taking their "superior" culture and language with them. Roman
roads and Roman civil administrators provided the framework for all
economic activity because that way the Emperor was sure to get his tax
money. By this time Latin had supplanted Greek as the "lingua franca"
of Europe. <g>

NE>to the celtic population which lived there before, yet by 400 ad, celtic
NE>appears to have already been supplanted by latin. Why?

See above. The pockets of Celtic (or other languages like Basque) which
remained were maintained by isolated groups pushed into marginal
economic territories (Britanny, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and
the Pyrennes), usually mountainous and lacking in exploitable resources.
The Romans just pushed them up there and left them; the Celts didn't
have anything worth going after.

Then, after 400 AD, the Roman Empire began to collapse.

NE>The german conquest of modern france does not appear to have left a
NE>significant linguistic impact on french; why was gallic given-up for latin,
NE>but latin retained when german became the language of the ruling class?

You are speaking, I presume, of the Franks, a horde (I resist calling
them a tribe, as they weren't that well organized then) from east of the
Rhine, who poured into northern France from 400-800 AD. Interestingly
enough there has always been a noticeable difference between the French
languages of the north and the south of France, the southern version
retaining more Latinate characteristics. Moreover, even before crossing
the Rhine, the Franks had for centuries been in contact with Roman
civilization and, when the borders could no longer be defended, they
immigrated into the more technologically advanced culture, assuming its
language and mores. Notice, however, how much farther removed from
Latin French is than is Spanish or Italian. The Franks had a huge
impact on the spoken language of the culture they gradually overwhelmed.
For one thing, the precise nature of Latin inflections denoting person,
case, gender, mood, tense, etc., rapidly disappeared, tending toward the
Germanic system of using position, connectors, and modifiers to denote
this meanings. In the beginning, many Franks probably spoke a pidgin

NE>Welsh, scots, and irish have hung-on to a precarious existance, but they
NE>appear destined to also disappear as a living language. I once read a
NE>prediction that dutch would soon go the same route, subsumed into the
NE>english-speaking world. Any thoughts on the evolutionary pathways of
NE>language, why some survive and some go extinct?

It has to do with the pathways of economic goods. Ambitious people
learn to speak the language of the guys with the money. If the U.S.
manages to hold on for another 200 years to its position of economic
strength, most of the world will speak some dialect of English, at least
as a second language. There may be small holdout pockets, like Tibet,
or Gobi, or Paris, which are not worth our effort to convert ;), but
American entertainment media will have reached everywhere else and will
have taught its bastard form of English to the impressionable children.
It is not that English is the most beautiful, or the most precise, or
the most efficient language; it is simply the language of the dollar and
of nuclear physics.


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