The history of the variation of opinion about the Celtic languages would make a curious and instructive chapter of literary history. Their relationships with other languages, like those of the peoples who spoke them with other branches of the human race, depended rather upon the dictates of passion than of reason. There was indeed but little room in most cases for the exercise of the reason, because those who theorized about the Celtic languages were generally wholly ignorant of them, or, at least, knew them very imperfectly, and in their most modern and corrupt forms. The rudest tongue is dear to those whose first thoughts were expressed in it. The pride which the Irish or Welsh take in their language is legitimate, and the exaggerated estimate which they may sometimes form of the beauties and powers of their respective dialects can readily be pardoned But the same indulgence cannot be extended to writers who contribute to bring science into discredit, and contempt upon the language and literature of a people, and therefore upon the people themselves, by fanciful and baseless speculations. There seems to have always existed among writers on languages a belief in the great antiquity of the Celtic tongues, —that they were much more ancient than most other Eruopean languages ; and under this impression is was suggested that the Greek, Latin, and even the Sanskrit tongues were derived from them, or rather from a primitive Celtic mother-tongue. If even a fourth or fifth cousinship could not be permitted with the Greek or the Gothic, how could it be tolerated that Celtic should be made the progenitor of them all? Accordingly, such pretensions were thus summarily dismissed by a writer who, whatever may have been his pretensions as an Orientalist, seems to have had no claim to be considered a Celtic scholar, except perhaps that of having a Gaedhelic name.


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Celtic Studies from the German - HW Ebel 1863