The extent and influence of imperialism on regional language and culture is nothing new. The Romans were guilty of it wherever they made a province. Nowadays, however, modernism and nationalism are the new enslaving masters of regionalism. I read an article published today concerning the many languages of India; the contents both pleased and disappointed me. On the one hand, there is a great effort to preserve and record regional languages, but on the other, those languages are declining, because of either migration to cities for better pay or policies of centralization that neglect to provide for schooling in a regional manner. From 1,652 languages about 50 years ago, the number has dwindled to less than 800 in the present time. That is to say, half of the number of languages were lost within the short period of two generations! And what’s worse, about a quarter of the surviving ones are endangered.
Far to the west of Europe, an extinct language, once spoken in many dialects over much of the continent’s west and center, is now being revived, after about 1,500 years of entombment. But fortunately, several of its cousins still survive, namely, Welsh, Irish, Bretonic, Welsh, and Gaelic, contributing to the ability to achieve a more accurate reconstruction. This Celtic language has been given the name of Gaulish; it was once the native tongue of the Celts inhabiting Gaul (modern France). A similar language was also shared by Celtic tribes in western Spain and Portugal, as well as in throughout the region of the Alps. Two scholars in particular have accomplished considerable progress in their earnest and noble work, enabling them to write some simple verse and prose, strengthened by a speculative knowledge of the phonology. I was extremely pleased to hear the language spoken for the first time yesterday, both its ancient and modern form. The ancient has a smack of Latin in its sounds, confirming the very ancient relation of Italic and Celtic languages. But the modern bears more affinity to its living relations. Some years ago, Cornish, a Celtic language spoken in South west England, was revived with some success, and today, we should all rejoice that Gaulish shows some promising signs of being able to join in the noble company of its Celtic cousins.