|Era||6th century BC to 6th century AD|
|Writing system||Old Italic, Greek, Latin|
xtg – Transalpine Gaulish
xcg – Cisalpine Gaulish
xlp – Lepontic
xga – Galatian
|Linguist List||xtg Transalpine Gaulish|
|xcg Cisalpine Gaulish|
The Gaulish (also Gallic) language is an extinct Celtic language that was spoken by the Gauls, a Celtic people who inhabited the region known as Gaul (Cisalpine and Transalpine) from the Iron Age to the Roman period. It was historically spoken through what are now mainly France, Northern Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and western Germany before being supplanted by Vulgar Latin and various Germanic languages from around the 4th century onwards. Gaulish is paraphyletically grouped with Celtiberian as Continental Celtic. Lepontic is considered to be either a dialect of or a language closely related to Gaulish. Galatian is the form of Gaulish spoken in Asia Minor after 281 BC.
Gaulish is a P-Celtic language, though some inscriptions (e.g. the Coligny Calendar) potentially show Q-Celtic characteristics (however, this is a matter of debate among Celticists). Gaulish has a very close relationship to Insular Celtic (Goidelic and Brythonic), and many forms are identical in the two. Epigraphical remains have been uncovered across all of what used to be Roman Gaul, which covered modern France, as well as parts of Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and Belgium.
Written evidence 
Gaulish inscriptions have been found throughout present-day France – with the notable exception of Aquitaine – and in northern Italy. The Gaulish language was spoken outside of Gaul further north (Belgium, southern part of the Netherlands) and east (southern Germany, Switzerland, Hungary). The spread of Gaulish is generally believed to be connected with the spread of Iron Age La Tene culture from the 5th century BC onwards. Inscriptions vary among short dedications, funerary monuments, proprietary statements, and expressions of human sentiments, but the Gauls also left some longer documents of a legal or magical-religious nature. The most famous is the Coligny Calendar, a much mutilated bronze tablet providing the names of Celtic months over a five year span and designating days as "bad" or "good". It is clear from the subject matter of the records that the language was in use at all levels of society.
Knowledge of Gaulish derives from a number of sources: the few Gaulish loanwords in French; Gaulish words, personal and tribal names, and toponyms, in Greek and Latin sources; and most importantly, the hundreds of Gaulish inscriptions. Many inscriptions consist of only a few words (often names) in rote phrases, and many are fragmentary. They provide some evidence for morphology and better evidence for personal and mythological names. Occasionally, marked surface clausal configurations provide some evidence of a more formal, or poetic, register.
The earliest Continental Celtic inscriptions, dating to as early as the 6th century BC, are in Lepontic, found in Cisalpine Gaul, and were written in a form of the Old Italic alphabet. Inscriptions in the Greek alphabet dating from the 3rd century BC to the 1st century AD have been found mainly in the Rhône delta, while later inscriptions dating to Roman Gaul are mostly in the Latin alphabet and were found principally in central France.
Today, the French language contains approximately 150 to 180 words known to be of Gaulish origin, most of which concern pastoral or daily activity. If dialectal and derived words are included, the total is approximately 400 words, the largest stock of Celtic words in any Romance language.
Language death 
Latin was quickly adopted by the urban Gaulish aristocracy after the Roman conquest to maintain their elite power and influence, but Gaulish continued to be the native language in rural areas. Gaulish is attested in several accounts. Saint Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, still needed to preach in Gaulish in his diocese during the last quarter of the 2nd century AD. We are told that the senator Dio Cassius was appalled to hear Gaulish being spoken by soldiers at Rome. Saint Jerome (ca. 340-425) remarked in a commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians that the Treveri from the Trier hinterlands spoke almost the same language as the Galatians, a claim supported by 3rd or 4th-century inscriptions found in the Morban region. During the same period, the doctor Ausonius admits to speaking poor Latin as part of an address. In the 5th century, the existence of Gaulish is attested in modern German Switzerland, and Gregory of Tours wrote in the 6th century that a sanctuary in the Auvergne was "called Vasso Galate in the Gallic tongue", which has been taken to mean that Gaulish was still spoken in the region in his time. However, his remark primarily refers to the linguistic origin of the placename, not necessarily to the survival of the language. Finally, social conditions such as serfdom and the shift of urban power to a villa economy moved large numbers of Latin-speakers into the countryside and upset the linguistic balance, ending in the abandonment of Gaulish.
|Close||i iː||u uː|
|Mid||e eː||o oː|
- short: a, e, i, o u
- long: ā, ē, ī, (ō), ū
- diphthongs: ai, ei, oi, au, eu, ou
|Plosive||p b||t d||k ɡ|
- [x] is an allophone of /k/ before /t/.
- voiceless: p, t, k
- voiced: b, d, g
- nasals: m, n
- liquids r, l
- sibilant: s
- affricate: ts
- semi-vowels: w, y
The diphthongs all transformed over the historical period. Ai and oi changed into long ī; eu merged with ou, both becoming long ō. Ei became long ē early, probably before Gaulish was attested. In general, long diphthongs became short diphthongs and then long vowels. Long vowels shortened before nasals in Auslaut.
Other transformations include: unstressed i became e, ln became ll, a stop + s became ss, and a nasal + velar became /ng/ + velar.
The occlusives also seem to have been both lenis, unlike Latin, which distinguished voiced occlusives with a lenis realization from voiceless occlusives with a fortis realization, hence confusions like Glanum for Clanum, vergobretos for vercobreto, Britannia for Pritannia.
The alphabet of Lugano does not distinguish voiced and unvoiced occlusives, i.e. P represents /b/ or /p/, T is for /d/ or /t/, K for /g/ or /k/. Z is probably for /ts/. U /u/ and V /w/ are distinguished only in one early inscription. Θ is probably for /t/ and X for /g/ (Lejeune 1971, Solinas 1985).
Χ is used for [x], θ for /ts/, ου for /u/, /ū/, /w/, η and ω for both long and short /e/, /ē/ and /o/, /ō/, while ι is for short /i/ and ει for /ī/. Note that the Sigma in the Eastern Greek alphabet looks like a C (lunate sigma). All Greek letters were used except phi and psi.
Latin alphabet (monumental and cursive) in use in Roman Gaul:
G and K are sometimes used interchangeably (especially after R). Ð/ð, ds and s may represent /ts/ and/or /dz/. X, x is for [x] or /ks/. Q is only used rarely (e.g. Sequanni, Equos) and may represent an archaism (a retained *kw) or, as in Latin, an alternate spelling of -cu- (for original /kuu/, /kou/, or /kom-u/). Ð and ð are used here to represent the letter (tau gallicum, the Gaulish dental affricate), which has not yet been added to Unicode.
Sound laws 
- Gaulish changed the PIE voiceless labiovelar kʷ to p (hence P-Celtic), a development also observed in Brythonic (as well as Greek and some Italic languages), while the other Celtic, 'Q-Celtic', retained the labiovelar. Thus the Gaulish word for "son" was mapos, contrasting with Ogamic Irish *maqqos (attested genitive maqqi), which became mac (gen. mic) in modern Irish. In modern Welsh the word map, mab (or its contracted form ap, ab) is found in surnames. Similarly one Gaulish word for "horse" was epos (in Old Breton eb and modern Breton keneb "pregnant mare") while Old Irish has ech, modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic each, Manx egh; all derived from Indo-European *eḱʷos.
- Voiced labiovelar gʷ became w, e. g. *gʷediūmi → uediiumi "I pray" (but Irish guidhim, Welsh gweddi "to pray").
- PIE ds, dz became /tˢ/, spelled đ, e.g. *neds-samo → neđđamon (cf. Irish nesamh "nearest", Welsh nesaf "next").
- PIE eu became ou, and later ō, e.g. *teutā → touta → tōta "tribe" (cf. Irish tuath, Welsh tud "people").
- Additionally, intervocalic /st/ became the affricate [tˢ] (alveolar stop + voiceless alveolar stop) and intervocalic /sr/ became [ðr] and /str/ became [θr]. Finally, when a labial or velar stop came before either a /t/ or /s/ the two sounds merged into the fricative [χ].
There was some areal (or genetic, see Italo-Celtic) similarity to Latin grammar, and the French historian A. Lot argued that this helped the rapid adoption of vulgar Latin in Roman Gaul.
Noun cases 
Gaulish had six or seven cases. Like Latin, Gaulish had nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, and dative cases; however, where Latin had an ablative, Gaulish had an instrumental and may also have had a locative case. Greater epigraphical evidence attests common cases (nominative and accusative) and common stems (-o- and -a- stems) than for cases less frequently used in inscriptions, or rarer -i-, -n- and -r- stems. The following table summarizes the best-attested case endings. A blank means that the form is unattested.
|Nominative||tōtā||mapos||vātis||dorus||brātīr||tōtas||mapoi > mapī||vātes||doroues||brāteres|
|Dative||tōtai > tōtī||mapūi > mapū||vāte||dorou||brāteri||tōtabo||mapobo||*vātibo||doruebo||brāterebo|
In some cases a historical evolution is attested; for example, the dative singular of a-stems is -āi in the oldest inscriptions, becoming first *-ăi and finally -ī (as in Irish a-stem nouns with attenuated (slender) consonants: nom. lámh "hand, arm" (cf. Gaul. lāmā) and dat. láimh (< *lāmi; cf. Gaul. lāmāi > *lāmăi > lāmī). Further, the plural instrumental had begun to encroach on the dative plural (dative atrebo and matrebo vs. instrumental gobedbi and suiorebe), and in the modern Insular languages the instrumental form is known to have completely replaced the dative.
For o-stems, Gaulish also innovated the pronominal ending for the nominative plural -oi and genitive singular -ī in place of expected -ōs and -os still present in Celtiberian (-oś, -o). In a-stems, the inherited genitive singular -as is attested but was subsequently replaced by -ias as in Insular Celtic. The expected genitive plural -a-om appears innovated as -anom (vs. Celtiberian -aum).
Verbs show a number of innovations as well. The Indo-European s-aorist has evolved into the Gaulish t-preterit which was formed by merging an old 3rd personal singular imperfect ending -t- to a 3rd personal singular perfect ending -u or -e and subsequent affixation to all forms of the t-preterit tense. Similarly, the s-preterit is formed from the extension of -ss (originally from the 3rd person singular) and the affixation of -it to the 3rd person singular (to distinguish it as such). Third personal plurals are also marked by the addition of -s in the preterit system.
- cintus, cintuxos (Welsh cynt "before", cyntaf "first", Breton kent "in front" kentañ "first", Cornish kynsa "first", Old Irish céta, Irish céad "first")
- allos (W ail, Br eil, OIr aile "other", Ir eile)
- tritios (W trydydd, Br trede, OIr treide)
- petuarios (W pedwerydd, Br pevare)
- pinpetos (W pumed, Br pempet, OIr cóiced)
- suexos (maybe mistaken for suextos; W chweched, Br c'hwec'hved, OIr seissed)
- sextametos (W seithfed, Br seizhved, OIr sechtmad)
- oxtumetos (W wythfed, Br eizhved, OIr ochtmad)
- nametos (W nawfed, Br naved, OIr nómad)
- decametos, decometos (CIb dekametam, W degfed, Br degvet, OIr dechmad)
Other Gaulish numerals attested in Latin inscriptions include *petrudecametos "fourteenth" (rendered as petrudecameto, with Latinized dative-ablative singular ending) and *triconts "thirty" (rendered as tricontis, with a Latinized ablative plural ending; compare Irish tríocha). A Latinized phrase for a "ten-night festival of (Apollo) Grannus", decamnoctiacis Granni, is mentioned in a Latin inscription from Limoges. A similar formation is to be found in the Gaulish-language Calendar of Coligny, where mention is made of a trinox[...] Samoni "three-night (festival?) of (the month of) Samonios".
As is to be expected, the ancient Gaulish language was more similar to Latin than modern Celtic languages are to modern Romance languages. The ordinal numerals in Latin are prīmus / prior, secundus / alter (the first form when more than two objects are counted, the second form only when two, note also that alius, like alter means "the other", the former used when more than two and the latter when only two), tertius, quārtus, quīntus, sextus, septimus, octāvus, nōnus, and decimus.
Word order 
The majority of Gaulish sentences seem to consist of subject, then verb, then object, as in:
Subject Verb Indirect Object Direct Object martialis dannotali ieuru ucuete sosin celicnon Martialis, son of Dannotalos, dedicated this edifice to Ucuetis
Some, however, have patterns such as the verb first, then subject, then object (as in the normal Welsh sentence), with the verb between subject and object (or object and subject), or with the verb last. The latter can be seen as a survival from an earlier stage in the language, very much like the more archaic Celtiberian language. Sentences with the verb first can be interpreted, however, as indicating a special purpose, such as an imperative, emphasis, contrast, and so on: or the verb may contain or be next to an enclitic pronoun or with "and" or "but", etc. According to J. F. Eska, Gaulish was certainly not a verb-second language, as the following shows:
ratin briuatiom frontu tarbetisonios ie(i)uru NP.Acc.Sg. NP.Nom.Sg. V.3rd Sg. Frontus Tarbetisonios dedicated the board of the bridge.
Whenever there is a pronoun object element, it has to stand next to the verb, as per Vendryes' Restriction. The general Celtic grammar shows Wackernagel's Rule, so putting the verb at the beginning of the clause or sentence. As in Old Irish  and traditional literary Welsh, the verb can be preceded by a particle which has no real meaning by itself, but which originally was used to make the utterance easier.
sioxt-i albanos panna(s) extra tuð(on) CCC V-Pro.Neut. NP.Nom.Sg. NP.Fem.Acc.Pl. PP Num. Albanos added them, vessels beyond the allotment (in the amount of) 300.
to-me-declai obalda natina Conn.-Pro.1st.Sg.Acc.-V.3rd.Sg. NP.Nom.Sg. Appositive Obalda, (their) dear daughter, set me up.
According to Eska's model, Vendryes' Restriction is believed to have played a large rôle in the development of Insular Celtic verb-subject-object word order. Other authorities such as John T. Koch, dispute this interpretation.
Considering that Gaulish is not a verb-final language, it is not surprising to find other "head-initial" features.
- Genitives follow their head nouns:
atom deuogdonion The border of gods and men.
- The unmarked position for adjectives is after their head nouns:
toutious namausatis citizen of Nîmes
- Prepositional phrases have the preposition, naturally, first:
in alixie in Alesia
- Passive clauses:
uatiounui so nemetos commu escengilu To Vatiounos this shrine (was dedicated) by Commos Escengilos
Subordinate clauses follow the main clause and have an uninflected element (jo) to show the subordinate clause. This is attached to the first verb of the subordinate clause.
gobedbi dugijonti-jo ucuetin in alisija NP.Dat/Inst.Pl. V.3rd.Pl.- Pcl. NP.Acc.Sg. PP to the smiths who serve Ucuetis in Alisia
Jo is also used in relative clauses and to construct the equivalent of THAT-clauses
scrisu-mi-jo uelor V.1st.Sg.-Pro.1st Sg.-Pcl. V.1st Sg. I wish that I spit
This element is found residually in the Insular Languages and appears as an independent inflected relative pronoun in Celtiberian, thus:
- modern sydd "which is" ← Middle Welsh yssyd ← *esti-jo
- vs. Welsh ys "is" ← *esti
- Old Irish relative cartae "they love" ← *caront-jo
Gaulish had object pronouns that infixed inside a word:
to- so -ko -te Conn.- Pro.3rd Sg.Acc - PerfVZ - V.3rd Sg he gave it
Disjunctive pronouns also occur as clitics: mi, tu, id. These act like the emphasizing particles known as notae augentes in the Insular Celtic languages.
dessu- mii -iis V.1st.Sg. Emph.-Pcl.1st Sg.Nom. Pro.3rd Pl.Acc. I prepare them
buet- id V.3rd Sg.Pres.Subjunc.- Emph.Pcl.3rd Sg.Nom.Neut. it should be
Clitic doubling is also found (along with left dislocation) when a noun antecedent referring to an inanimate object is nonetheless grammatically animate. (There is a similar construction in Old Irish.)
The Gaulish corpus is edited in the Recueil des Inscriptions Gauloises (R.I.G.), in four volumes:
- Vol. 1: Inscriptions in the Greek alphabet, edited by Michel Lejeune (items G-1 –G-281)
- Vol. 2.1: Inscriptions in the Etruscan alphabet (Lepontic, items E-1 – E-6), and inscriptions in the Latin alphabet in stone (items l. 1 – l. 16), edited by Michel Lejeune
- Vol. 2.2: inscriptions in the Latin alphabet on instruments (ceramic, lead, glass etc.), edited by Pierre-Yves Lambert (items l. 18 – l. 139)
- Vol. 3: The calendars of Coligny (73 fragments) and Villards d'Heria (8 fragments), edited by Paul-Marie Duval and Georges Pinault
- Vol. 4: inscriptions on coins, edited by Jean-Baptiste Colbert de Beaulieu and Brigitte Fischer (338 items)
The longest known Gaulish text was found in 1983 in L'Hospitalet-du-Larzac ( ) in Aveyron. It is inscribed in Latin cursive script on both sides of two small sheets of lead. Probably curse tablets (defixio), they contain magical incantations regarding one Severa Tertionicna and a group of women (often thought to be a rival group of witches), but the exact meaning of the text remains unclear.
The Coligny calendar was found in Coligny near Lyon, France with a statue identified as Apollo. The Coligny Calendar is a lunisolar calendar that divides the year into two parts with the months underneath. SAMON "summer" and GIAMON "winter". The date of SAMON- xvii is identified as TRINVX[tion] SAMO[nii] SINDIV.
Another major text is the lead tablet of Chamalières (l. 100), written on lead in Latin cursive script, in twelve lines, apparently a curse or incantation addressed to the god Maponos. It was deposited in a spring, much like defixiones often are.
The graffito of La Graufesenque, Millau, inscribed in Latin cursive on a ceramic plate, is our most important source for Gaulish numerals. It was probably written in a ceramic factory, referring to furnaces numbered 1 to 10.
A number of short inscriptions are found on spindle whorls and are among the most recent finds in the Gaulish language. Spindle whorls were apparently given to young girls by their suitors and bear such inscriptions as:
- moni gnatha gabi / buððutton imon (l. 119) "my girl, take my penis(?)"
- geneta imi / daga uimpi (l. 120) '"I am a young girl, good (and) pretty".
Inscriptions found in Switzerland are rare, but many modern Swiss placenames are derived from Gaulish names as they are in the rest of Gaul. There is a statue of a seated goddess with a bear, Artio, found in Muri near Bern, with a Latin inscription DEAE ARTIONI LIVINIA SABILLINA, suggesting a Gaulish Artiū "Bear (goddess)". A number of coins with Gaulish inscriptions in the Greek alphabet have been found in Switzerland, e.g. RIG IV Nrs. 92 (Lingones) and 267 (Leuci). A sword dating to the La Tène period was found in Port near Biel/Bienne, its blade inscribed with KORICIOC (Korisos), probably the name of the smith. The most notable inscription found in Helvetic parts is the Bern zinc tablet, inscribed ΔΟΒΝΟΡΗΔΟ ΓΟΒΑΝΟ ΒΡΕΝΟΔΩΡ ΝΑΝΤΑΡΩΡ (Dobnorēdo gobano brenodōr nantarōr), and apparently dedicated to Gobannus, the Celtic god of smithcraft. Caesar relates that census accounts written in the Greek alphabet were found among the Helvetii.
- Meid 1994
- Peter Schrijver, “Gaulish”, in Encyclopedia of the Languages of Europe, ed. Glanville Price (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), 192.
- Joseph Eska, "Celtic Languages", Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages, ed. Roger G. Woodward (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004) 166.
- Schmidt, Karl Horst, "The Celtic Languages of Continental Europe" in: Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies volume XXVIII. 1980. University of Wales Press.
- article by Lambert, Pierre-Yves, Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies volume XXXIV. 1987. University of Wales Press.
- Pierre-Yves Lambert, La langue gauloise, éditions errance 1994. p. 185.
- M. H. Offord, French words: past, present, and future, pp. 36-37
- W. Meyer-Lübke, Romanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, Heidelberg, 3rd edition 1935.
- LAMBERT 185
- On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis; Adv. haer., book I, praef. 3; book III, 4,1.
- Hist. Franc., book I, 32.
- Paul Russell, An Introduction to the Celtic Languages, (London: Longman, 1995), 206-7.
- Delamarre, Xavier. Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise. Editions Errance, Paris, 2008, p. 299
- Stifter, David. (Recension of) Helmut Birkhan, Kelten. Celts. Bilder ihrer Kultur. Images of their Culture, Wien 1999, in: Die Sprache, 43/2, 2002-2003, pp. 237-243
- Delamarre 2008, p. 215-216
- Delamarre 2008, p. 163
- Lambert 2003 pp.51–67
- Thurneysen, R., A Grammar of Old Irish. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. 1980, etc.
- Williams, Stephen J., Elfennau Gramadeg Cymraeg. Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru, Caerdydd. 1959.
- Koch 2005, p. 1106
- Lejeune, Michel; Fleuriot, L.; Lambert, P. Y.; Marichal, R.; Vernhet, A. (1985), Le plomb magique du Larzac et les sorcières gauloises, CNRS, ISBN 2-222-03667-4
- Inscriptions and French translations on the lead tablets from Larzac
- Delamarre 2008, p. 92-93
See also 
- Languages of France
- List of English words of Gaulish origin
- List of French words of Gaulish origin
- Ball, Martin; Fife, James (1993), The Celtic Languages, Routledge, pp. 26–63, ISBN 0-415-01035-7
- Delamarre, Xavier. Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise, 2nd ed. Paris: Editions Errance, 2003. NB many index entries are listed with page numbers too by one.
- Eska, Joseph F. and D. Ellis Evans. "Continental Celtic", The Celtic Languages, ed. Martin J. Ball. London: Routledge, 1993.
- Koch, John T. (2005), Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 1-85109-440-7. Also available as an e-book, ISBN 1-85109-445-8.
- Lambert, Pierre-Yves. La langue gauloise, 2nd ed. Paris: Editions Errance, 2003.
- Lejeune, Michel. Lepontica (Monographies linguistiques, 1). Paris: Société d’edition "les Belles Lettres", 1971.
- Meid, Wolfgang (1994), Gaulish Inscriptions, Archaeolingua
- Recueil des inscriptions gauloises (XLVe supplément à «GALLIA»). ed. Paul-Marie Duval et al. 4 vols. Paris: CNRS, 1985-2002. ISBN 2-271-05844-9
- Russell, Paul. An Introduction to the Celtic Languages. London: Longman, 1995.
- Savignac, Jean-Paul. Dictionnaire français-gaulois. Paris: Éditions de la Différence, 2004.
- Savignac, Jean-Paul. Les Gaulois, leurs écrits retrouvés : « Merde à César ». Paris: Éditions de la Différence, 1994.
- Solinas, Patrizia (1995). ‘Il celtico in Italia’. Studi Etruschi 60:311-408
- Woodward, Roger G, ed. "Celtic Languages". Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
|For a list of words relating to Gaulish language, see the Gaulish language category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- L.A. Curchin, "Gaulish language"
- Gaulish language on TIED
- The Coligny Calendar
- All Saints Day: Coligny Calendar
- two sample inscriptions on TITUS
- (French) Langues et écriture en Gaule Romaine by Hélène Chew of the Musée des Antiquités Nationales