Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Coming of Welsh

The construction of Offa's Dyke in the late eighth century was a turning point in Britain's history. It effectively marked out a boundary between the Britons of the west (now Wales) and Germanic tribes of the east (now England) - although there still remained Welsh speakers living to the east of the boundary and English speakers to the west.

Wales, given a geographic expression by the Dyke, was to enjoy a cultural and political autonomy that lasted until the Norman invasions. The word Cymry had been used as early as the seventh century, but it now became popular to describe the Welsh. Derived from the Brittonic word Combrogi, meaning fellow countryman, it is also the origin of the place name Cumbria.

As the Welsh kingdoms developed behind the Dyke, the Welsh language began to assume official status. Whereas previously Latin was the main language of writing, early in the ninth century its alphabet was adapted for the writing of Welsh.

A memorial in Tywyn dated to 810 AD carries an inscription in Early Welsh, barely understandable to a modern Welsh speaker: "Cingen celen tricet nitanam" translates as "The body of Cingen dwells beneath". And glosses in Welsh - that is, written notes in margins - have been found on ninth and 10th century medieval manuscript.

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1 comment:

  1. It is more ancient than Codex Calixtinus. IT is beautiful


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