How old is English?



[1] I came independently to the same conclusions before Oppenheimer published his book.

[2] Denmark

Genetic origin


The most important reference for this chapter is Stephen Oppenheimer's book "The Origins of the British (a genetic detective story)".

Half the book discusses the genetic background of the British and the link with the Continent, complete with charts and statistics. The other half consists of other arguments, such as language problems, the real origin of the Celts, etcetera. Oppenheimer came to the conclusion that the Anglo-Saxons probably did not import English into Britain. Next to genetic findings, he uses virtually the same arguments as in this website [1]. The main genetic reason ? The Anglo-Saxons were not numerous enough. There was no massive migration into Britain. Here is perhaps one of the most interesting quotes: (page 381):

Perhaps the best validation of my matching approach to specific gene flow into Britain from southern Scandinavia and the Cimbrian Peninsula [Denmark] is the nearly complete absence from the British Isles of the numerous gene types specific to Frisia. Frisia is so much nearer geographically to eastern Britain, and so much closer in language and gene-group mix, that, on the basis of neighbourly affinities it would be expected to have more valid matches than the Cimbrian Peninsula [2] - but it has virtually none.

And there was no wipeout in Britain.

Matched Danish gene types in the British Isles, although to some extend overlapping, also differ sharply from the 'Anglo-Saxon' ones in that they are found both within and outside England in a characteristic coastal distribution, geographically suggestive of historically recorded Viking raids. Their different distribution but similar approximate dating suggest that the Vikings are more likely culprits than the Angles.."

Genetic relationships in Europe

Ni link with Friesland.

Sorry for the quality of this reproduction. The gray zone represents the British Isles. 'Ruisko' is the link with the Basque, and is on the left. 'Ivan' (Serbia) and 'Rostov' (Ukraine) are other Ice Age refuge markers, on the right. Notice that the Dutch, Germans and Scandinavians are closer to 'Rostov' and 'Ivan', and remote from the British. The Belgians are however in the middle of the British zone which is closer to 'Ruisko', the Basque genetic marker. The French are on the border, the Fries just outside. The more 'Welsh', the more they are found on the left hand side.

About the presence of the Celts in Britain, Oppenheimer came to this conclusion (page 409):

Gildas's Dark Ages horror story of the Saxon invasion has generated the view that Celts were somehow the aboriginal population of the British Isles. The view that languages in Britain were 100% celtic when the Romans invaded is part of this false assumption. If 'aboriginal' means Neolithic immigrants speaking celtic languages who had replaced the former inhabitants of Britain, then nothing could be further from the truth. The genetic evidence does not support this at all. There was no Celtic replacement, any more than there was an Anglo-Saxon replacement.

Clearly, both British peoples were already there just after the LGM (Last Glacial Maximum) (page 128):

"My re-analysis confirms the general trend of similarity across the North Sea. However, there are older reasons - and evidence- for this genetic neighbourliness than a massive swamping of England during the Dark Ages. The drowned North Sea Plain is one of the oldest geographical indicators of the beginning of an eastern British identity, and there is genetic evidence to support this. "

Oppenheimer confirms the presence of a Germanic language in England and a 'celtic' language in proto-Wales. As I will explain later, all began when the North Sea filled up.

The real origin of the British lies in northern Spain, especially for the 'west-Britons'. I feel however that the presence of the Brythonic language in West-Britain causes a problem. Why is Basque not spoken in West-Britain? Maybe there was 'once upon a pre-Celtic time' a substantial language change in West-Britain. The Basques could have been less adapted to the cold in the winter, forced to shelter in their southern homeland and so their coastal territories might be invaded by inland people. Or, quite simply, they preferred to pass the winter in the warm south, with family.