Revival of the Cumbric Language

This is the fomer language of all northern Britain and lowland Scotland. It has recently been revived by scholars, the Bible translated into Cumbric, and there is a movement to revive it as a spoken language. It was probably spoken by Sir William Wallace. The survival all over Britain of the ancient British Celtic has also been studied closely by scholars, for example the word for “five”, which is “pump” in modern Welsh and closely similar in Cornish and Breton. Ancient counting traditions in northern England and lowland Scotland have been used to show that in various towns and counties it was as follows: Furness pimp; Borrowsdale pimp; Kirkby Stephen pimp; Nidderdale pitts; Westmoreland mimp; Pollockshaws a bamf; Hawick baombe; Edinburgh banful. There are similar results for the numbers one to ten, fifteen and twenty. To a modern Welsh speaker they are easily recognizable once pointed out by scholars. Hawick is in the Region of ancient Rheged and Strathclyde (Ystrad Clud, Beautiful Estuary or Outflow), so this shows that the British Celtic was spoken all over Britain. Also, one of the earliest extant poems in British Celtic has been reconstructed in Cumbric from mediaeval Welsh. It was written down in mediaeval Welsh after several hundred years of verbal transmission back to about 500 A.D. or earlier. This is known from the fact that it refers to the lynx (“llewyn” in both mediaeval and modern Welsh, “lewirn” in Cumbric, a medium sized wild cat) which became extinct in about 500 A. D. from dating techniques. The first two lines in mediaeval Welsh are

Peis Dinogad e vreith vreith
O grwyn balaod ban wreith,

In modern Welsh I translate it as follows:

Pais Dinogad, fraeth, fraeth,
O grwyn balaod fe’i wnaeth,

In Cumbric it is

Pes Dinngat iw breth-vreth,
O groon beleet bann wreth,

The poet Anthony Conran’s charming and memorable translation is

Dinogad’s smock is pied, pied,
Made it out of marten hide,

So it is very obvious where the Scottish lowland accent comes from originally and why it is similar to Welsh. It has been mixed over many centuries with the Scots language, revived by my Civil List predecessor Huw MacDiarmaid, (Christopher Murray Grieve), generally considered to be Scotland’s foremost twentieth century poet. Scots is essentially old English, akin to modern Dutch, but Cumbric is the far more ancient British Celtic (as much as six thousand years ago it might have been spoken by the Picts to the far north of Britain. These were woad covered or painted people – the Picts to the Romans. I will translate and write out the whole poem in the four languages: Cumbric, mediaeval and modern Welsh, and Anthony Conran’s translation. Cornish was revived some time ago, and Breton and Welsh are of course living six thousand year old languages, as are Irish and Gaelic. I think that Manx has also been revived by scholars. The poem refers to the marten, hunting dogs, slaves, deer, roebuck, boar, stag, boar, lynx, fox and small fish and birds, al caught with a hunting spear.


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