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Welsh and Cornish - Texts


Medieval Welsh, or rather Old and Middle Welsh, is one of the surviving Brittonic Celtic languages along with Cornish and Breton. These languages, together with remnants of a language known as Cumbric further north (which survives only as elements in place-names and personal names), go to make up the Brittonic group of the insular Celtic languages. The language spoken by the British tribesmen facing Caesar in 55 BC was an ancestor of these. The evidence for the later stages of these languages emerges rather later than for Irish. The earliest evidence mainly post-dates the separation out of the three languages and takes the form of glosses on Latin manuscripts of the eighth to ninth centuries and later. While the composition of some poems and prose tales in Welsh may well date to this period and perhaps earlier, they are only preserved in manuscripts of the thirteenth century and later.

As noted above, Cornish is the Celtic language of Cornwall, closely related to Breton and to Welsh. It died out in the eighteenth century but has undergone a revival in the twentieth century. In addition to some sparse remains of Old Cornish in the form of glosses, literary texts, mainly plays, survive from the fifteenth century and later (even later than in Welsh).