How old is English?



Coastal Germanic in Britain

Courtesy to Wikipedia

The alternative Welsh word for the territory we call England today is Lloegr or Lloegyr ("Lloegr the lost land") in Welsh. Pronounce 'leuger'. The Welsh 'y' is a 'u' sound that no longer exist in English. It is the same 'u' as in French or German. Even in Old English, all 'y' have to be read as a French 'u'.
The etymology of Lloegr has always been unclear. The Loire river in France was called Liger in Latin. That word is temptingly close. Was it an old Azelian word for lowland? Or is Lloegr simply a Germanic loanword in old Welsh meaning lower land?
Compare with 'lager' in Dutch, possibly 'loager' in Old English, its modern cognate is 'low' and 'layer'. The oldest meaning of 'low' is flat, levelled, a plain.
Compare the possible semantic of Lloegyr with the one of 'Danes' : cognate in English is 'den' (= lair, low place), Danes were originally southern lowland people in Sweden, referring to the lowlands in the southern tip of Sweden.

The border of Lloegr is actually a bit more to the east, more from the Wash to the Solent. Stonehenge was no part of Lloegr. Curiously enough, this corresponds with lowland Britain.

The Cymry ("our people") regions remembered that England was once upon a time Azelian speaking. Most Azelian speakers in the west had now changed their language into Brythonic. The inhabitants of LLoegyr did not. They had adopted a specific form of Germanic from the Belgic people on the other side of the English Channel: coastal Germanic. Brothers were no longer brothers. Lloegyr became the lost land. All that happened around 3900 BC.

Germanic substrate words

There might have been several waves of words in proto-Germanic (pgm), and not always in the same direction. 'Glasus' is said to be the word for amber according to Tacitus. Tempting is glasus = amber and because of that, our modern glass objects.

Yet we doubt that amber, which was rare anyhow, had such a specific word in Old Germanic. The word is too monosyllabic for that. No, what if amber was called glasus, because its resemblance with clear and transparent objects? Was glass not the oldest proto-German word for ice? The word in Latin is glacies, pronounced glakies. The word, maybe up to 3000 BC, was 'glakies', then changed via the well known procedure: /k/->/h/->/'/ =>glakis->glahis-> gla'ies -> glas. So, glass was the original Germanic word for 'transparent, shiny, glowing object' such as frozen water and directly derived from PIE *gleh1- and related to 'to glow' and 'glimmer'. But, the word was eventually replaced by the non-PIE word 'ice'. Glasus survived for amber only, because of the resemblance with ice. Call amber 'special ice'. The word survived probably because glasus, amber, is only found in a linguistically remote and retarded north-German region, on the south shores of the Baltic sea. Ice is according to our etymologic dictionary a substrate word, meaning Germanic only! So, where does it come from?

Very tempting is to go to the Basque word 'izoz' = ice. What if the Basque language is related to Azelian? What if Azelian was a member of 'a' language family which we can call 'the Basque language group'? The Germanic speaking farmers conquered the coasts of the North Sea and picked up a number of local words. 'Ice' is one of them. That new loan word would then be spread back up to the Black Sea where the Germanic speaking Bastarnae lived. After all, 'iz' is supposed to be an original 'pre-Celtic' (Azelian) word for water or river in Gaul and maybe in west Britain too. In its oldest meaning 'iz' probably meant 'shiny, glimmering'. When water begins to glimmer it is probably frozen solid. 'Iz' could even be the ancestor word of (Dutch) ijzer, (German) eisen, (English) iron or .. (Brythonic) *isarno. In modern Basque: izarne (glittering, shining).

Glastum is thought to be an diagnostic Brythonic for woad, but after some study we think that it was north-Gaul, that is Germanic-speaking country, for dandelion. The flower has indeed a glowing yellow shine hence its name which is probably not directly related with the 'amber' meaning. Dandelion can be used to stain the skin brownish. Woad is the base for making the blue indigo colour. Indigo is a dye which washes off the skin very easily, a dandelion or glastum stain, however, is very difficult to remove, so it lasts much longer.
The modern word 'glass' is a direct descendent from glasus = 'amber'.

So, ora (gravel shore), ice, dune, kant and a number of other old Germanic words could have been of Azelian origin. It would explain a lot. The explanation would be that these words became substrate words in both the Germanic and Brythonic languages. However, other old Germanic substrate words must have been of Maglemosian origin only (e.g. oak, birch, etc.).
Until today, Germanic was supposed to have only one substrate language. Here we propose two very different substrate languages. They explain why the Germanic languages have so much substrate words and why there is a difference between coastal German (English, Dutch, Frisian) and inland (high) German. Both regions had different aboriginal (original) languages before the arrival of agriculture and its PIE language.

Oppenheimer found Basque genes notably numerous in Scandinavia. The Scandinavian languages use the 'are'-form of 'to be' (mind you - the original 'Anglia' and 'Saxonia' region in northern Germany is NOT a part of Scandinavia - they use the 'sind' -form). This could mean that the 'are' form was brought by the very first PIE-Germanic wave (from Hungary to the North Sea, in that direction, following Danube and Rhine - 6000-4500 BC). The 'bist, sind'-form came later with a second wave (4000-3000 BC?). However, this second wave was not powerful enough to reach the English North and Midlands and Scandinavia. We suggest that this second wave was a wave that brought cattle to Western Europe.

In the mean time, a returning linguistic wave (in the opposite direction, from the North sea back to Hungary) brought a string of new substrate words such as 'ice' and more (5000 - 4000 BC) to the southern continental Germanic regions. So, the coming of PIE happened in successive waves over and back, until the whole Germanic language zone eventually stabilized (around 1000 BC?). The weakness of the second wave can be explained by the fact that agriculture was already, at least partly, imported in the remote northern regions. The shock was less significant. A possible explanation is that the new domesticated cattle could not support the cold northern climate and that cold resisting breeding still had to be achieved. This predicts that for instance the Scottish Highland Cattle was developed late.

What about Pictish?

Nobody knows what Pictish was, even if it ever existed. All we have are a very limited number of indirect indications. Bede (early eight century) mentioned Pictish next to Welsh, Gaelic and English. Pictish was since proposed to be (a) a form of Brythonic, (b) a non-PIE language or (c) Germanic, coming from Scandinavia. The latter is maybe the best possibility, as dr. Oppenheimer found clear Scandinavian genes in Scotland. But clearly, nobody knows for sure.

filling North Sea
Filling up North Sea. The hunter-gatherers were forced to move house to dry ground.

We propose that Pictish could be a leftover of northern Maglemosian. Or one of its dialects, locked up in a tribe. Maglemosians were PIE-hunter-gatherers who recolonized northwest Europe around 12 000 BC, the start of the Younger Dryas. They came from the shores of the Black Sea or east Balkan. They spoke an ancestral version of PIE. The northern Maglemosians lived for a short while in Doggerland (500 years?). With the filling of the sea, they were forced to seek higher ground. It would not be surprising if some of them ended up in east Scotland. Real PIE would come some 5500 years later. In the mean time, Pictish had plenty of time to develop a very specific character. The language became probably heavily influenced by Azelian, later by the 'coming up languages', Brythonic and Germanic (proto-English). The move of the Azelian speakers to the east explains the presence of Coastal Germanic in those regions (Frisian, Anglian ..)

Most of the Yorkshire and Midland Maglemosians in Britain creolized proto-English when they adopted agriculture. In the process, they created a specific version of Germanic that eventually would dominate the whole of Britain. This creolisation also happened in Scandinavia, explaining why these northern Germanic languages have so much atavisms in their language that many linguists believe that they are the original source of all Germanic languages.

A few more northern Maglemosians, probably members of a remote northern tribe, living far away in the Scottish highlands and northeast coast, failed to do so and could have maintained their language for a few thousand years longer. Fact is that the region is not well suited for agriculture.

Motivation: we found Germanic sounding old place-names in the Scottish highlands. Place-names that cannot be explained in Brythonic. These place-names could be of northern Maglemosian origin. But we know that such a thing will be difficult to prove.

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