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Honorarprofessur Tristram



Analyticisation of the Indigenous Languages of the British Isles and Ireland
(Project funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), since October 2006)

In the past 1500 years, the indigenous languages of the British Isles and Ireland shifted, typologically speaking, from a predominant syntheticity to a predominant analycity. This shift occurred across language families, as English and Scots are commonly classed as Germanic languages, while Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish and Breton are classed as Insular Celtic languages. Among these languages, Late British, the forerunner of Welsh, Cornish and Breton, historically headed the shift by shedding nearly all of its inflections in the NP (syncretism). This shedding is believed to have occurred between c. 400 and 600 A.D. Today, English and Scots are more analytical than Welsh and Breton, because of their dramatic loss of nearly all of their inflections both in the NP and the VP. Irish and Scottish Gaelic are still somewhat more synthetic than the other Insular languages. In the spoken language, however, they are closely following suit. This shared development entailed a thorough restructuring of the morphology and syntax of the respective languages and led to convergence phenomena which have been hardly studied so far.

Salient aspects of this shared development of the Insular languages are currently under research by the member of the research team. Their research results promise a closer understanding of the present day analyticity of the English language in the context of the other indigenous languages of the British Isles and Ireland.


Members of the Research Team:

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hildegard L.C. Tristram

Dr. Patricia Ronan

Christina Bismark, M.A., (Link to her project page: "The Restructuring of Number Agreement in English and the Insular Celtic Languages")

Luminita Trasca, M.A., research assistant (october 2006 - october 2009), link to her current project page:

Related Research Project:

Dr. Britta Irslinger (Link to her project page: "The Development of the Categories of Number and Gender in the Brittonic Languages")


For recent programmatic literature, see:

TRISTRAM, Hildegard L.C., "Attrition of inflections in English and Welsh," in: Markku Filppula, Juhani Klemola & Heli Pitkänen, Hrsgg., The Celtic Roots of English, Joensuu: University of Joensuu Publications (Faculty of Humanities, Studies in Languages 37) 2002, 111-149.

TRISTRAM, Hildegard L.C., "Diglossia in Anglo-Saxon England, or what was spoken Old English like?," Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 40 (2004), 87-110

HINRICHS, Uwe & Uwe BÜTTNER, Hrsgg., Die europäischen Sprachen auf dem Wege zum analytischen Sprachtyp, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 2004.

ИП А.Б. Кошелев, Аналитизм в языках различных типов: сорок лет спустя. К 100-летию со дня рождения В. Н. Ярцевой. Материалы чтений памяти В. Н. Ярцевой. Выпуск II., Москва: Институт Языкознания Российской Академии Наук (РАН), 2006 (A.B. Koshelev, ed., Analytism in languages of different types: 40 years after. On the Occasion of the 100th centenary of the birthday of V.I. Yartseva. Reading materials in memory of V.I. Yartseva, Moskau: Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Science (RAN), 2006).

RONAN, Patricia, Aspects of Verbal Noun Construction in Medieval Irish with Reference to similar Constructions in Medieval Welsh and in Basque, unpublished PhD thesis Maynooth (Ireland) 2006.

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