‘Celtic’ is a linguistic term (pronounced with a hard ‘c’) which describes a group of languages nowadays represented by Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx, which belong to the ‘q’ Celtic group, and Welsh, Breton and Cornish, which make up the ‘p’ Celtic group.
The ‘q’ Celts could not pronounce ‘p’ and so either dropped it completely (pater in Latin, meaning ‘father’, is athair in modern Irish) or changed it to a ‘q’ type sound, thus purpura in Latin, meaning ‘purple’, is corcora in Irish.
Speakers of Irish can understand Scots Gaelic without much difficulty, but will not be able to understand Welsh or Breton at all, as the two groups of languages have been developing separately for over 2,000 years.
The Celtic insular languages are mostly those spoken on the islands, typically Britain, Ireland, Man and part of France. The Insular languages are divided into two branches, the Goidelic and the Brythonic. Manx is a form of Gaelic spoken on the Isle of Man. The last native speaker of Manx died in 1974, but many are learning the language today, and recordings exist of native speakers. There are many native speakers of both Irish and Scottish Gaelic today, not only in Ireland and Scotland, but also in Nova Scotia, in Canada. Language became central to the culture of the Irish, much more so than other Celtic races. It was, and is, a source of great pride and identity.
Modern Ireland has only four provinces, Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht. Meath was the fifth and cuige, the Irish word for province, retains the tradition – cuig means five.
Image: ‘Give Way’ sign in Connemara, Co Galway Alison Toon Photography