The language of the ancient Gauls remains little-known to the general public, with only a modest amount of works available for a popular audience on the subject (virtually none of which can be found in English). So for an Anglophone enthusiast, knowledge of Gaulish can be hard to come by. Luckily, just a few years ago the most accessible, engaging, comprehensive—and free—guide to the Gaulish language was written in French. And now for the first time, it is available here, fully translated into English:
Yextis Keltikā: A Classical Gaulish Handbook, by Olivier Piqueron
About the Author
Oliver Piqueron is a member of the Société Belge d’Études Celtiques (SBEC), and describes himself as an amateur Celticist with emphasis on linguistics (his formal education being a Master’s in the field of economics). As an informal researcher himself, he is well-poised to understand the needs of a non-professional audience. In that vein, his work takes the form of a free PDF e-book that synthesizes findings from a range of scholarly publications (as well as his own original research) into a concise, yet comprehensive guide that should sate the appetite of any Gaulish enthusiast who has been looking for a straightforward approach to learning this dead and obscure language.
The original French edition (Yextis Keltikā : Précis de gaulois classique) can be found at academia.edu.
Please note that this translation is termed “unofficial” because it was produced by Tegos Skrībbātous rather than the original author, meaning no translation errors or flaws may be attributed to him. If the reader is ever in doubt about the content of the book or the author’s official view, please always refer to the original French edition.
This work is intended above all for amateur Celticists who, like me, feel invested in a language whose reach was nearly as extensive as that of Latin or Greek and which must have played a role that was hardly inferior to them, but which had the great mistake of not being a written language—and so, did not leave a material trace in a world where materialism is everything.— Olivier Piqueron
The book is over 180 pages, ranging from introductory concepts to technical linguistic details. Its contents include:
- An overview of the Celtic language family and its history
- An overview of key linguistics terms and concepts
- Noun and adjective declensions
- Verb conjugations
- Word formation
- Syntax (e.g. word order)
- A glossary with over 1,000 entries, including over 100 verbs, both in Gaulish-English and English-Gaulish formats
- A comparative essay on several major theonyms
- An in-depth analysis and translations of several key Gaulish texts, ranging from funerary, magical, and religious inscriptions to legal and accounting documents
- A list of over 240 French words thought to have Gaulish etymologies, as well as their hypothetical Gaulish etymons
- An extensive collection of Gaulish, Lepontic, Brittonic, Celtiberian, and Lusitanian inscriptions that have been transliterated and accompanied by an assortment of photos or facsimiles of the artifacts
Of special interest are Piqueron’s writings on the topics of verb conjugation and word formation, both of which are little-covered elsewhere. Gaulish verbs are particularly difficult to reconstruct due to a paucity of evidence we have about them. This has been a major pain point to anyone attempting to make use of the Gaulish language. While Piqueron cautions that his work in this area is hypothetical and necessarily approaches a “conlang” that is based largely on reconstructions from Old Irish, Brittonic languages, and Proto-Indo-European studies, it remains without doubt the most emminently thorough, plausible, and practical framework for conjugating Gaulish verbs yet published.
Additionally, the Gaulish speaking community has a frequent need to coin hypothetical words and neologisms in order to express our present-day realities. The “Compounding & Derivation” section is a must-read reference for this purpose, filled with an assortment of prefixes, suffixes, and other strategies for extending the Gaulish vocabulary indefinitely.
It can’t be stressed enough that this book is essential to every student of Gaulish for these two sections alone, besides the wealth of other material it has to offer.
It should be noted that Piqueron’s conclusions are his own, and should not be assumed to represent Tegos Skrībbātous’ views on all matters, and vice versa. For example, Piqueron has arrived at a different conclusion for Gaulish accentuation than Tegos Skrībbātous has (for those interested in reading our alternative take on that subject, you can find the four-part blog series about Celtic prosody here). Another example would be his analysis of selected theonyms. While that section presents a range of interesting arguments and viewpoints that remain recommended reading, Tegos Skrībbātous does not endorse or share all viewpoints within it.
On a separate note, when reading the verb “Conjugation Models” section, it should be noted that the verbs for each tense are unmarked but listed in order of person. E.g., 1st sing., 2nd sing., 3rd sing., 1st pl., 2nd pl., 3rd pl.; or in other words, “I, you (sing.), he/she/they (sing.), We, You (pl.), They (pl.)
For any typos or errors found in the work, please don’t hesitate to notify here in the comments so they can be corrected. For any inquiries regarding the original French edition, please contact Mr. Piqueron directly via the contact information he provides in his book.
I would like to extend my thanks to Olivier Piqueron, who has made a great stride in advancing the nascent “Gallophone” community. It was an honor to translate Piqueron’s work and help make it accessible to an English-speaking audience, which I hope will assist many students and researchers as a launchpad for further reconstruction and development of the language.
A special thanks is also in order to the Free Software community, whose countless hours of volunteer efforts have provided the programs needed to make this work a reality. The translation could not be presented to you today without them, so please take a moment to check out and support these invaluable and empowering projects: