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A proposed British Romance language

2. Preliminary Considerations

2.1 History

This project is essentially a linguistic one and the alternate history of BART will not be developed in detail on these pages. However, I state at the outset that if anyone is (or coherent group) is at some future date minded to develop the history of BART, then

  1. there must be one and only one point of divergence at which BART goes its separate way from our timeline;
  2. this point of divergence shall be that outlined in 2.1.1 below. The rest of the world shall continue to develop as it did here until the differences occasioned by the subsequent history of Britain impinges on them (by the 21st century possibly these differences will have affected most of or, indeed, all of the world);
  3. that the history shall be developed as objectively as possible.

This is in marked contrast to Ill Bethisad where there are many different, often unrelated, points of divergence; see, for example, the 'Points of divergence' section of the Wikipedia entry about Ill Bethisad. Also, in my opinion, some of the differences in Ill Bethisad clearly reflect personal preferences of individuals. This must be avoided; nor is there any reason why technological development should be any more or less advanced in 21st century BART than in the 21st century in our own timeline. No steampunk BART, please!

Below I give the BART unique point of divergence in subsection 2.1.1 and under 2.1.2 consider how this might have affected the British isles and its immediate neighbours.

2.1.1 Unique Point of divergence
The point of divergence has been given on the introduction page, namely that the urban centers of Roman Britain suffered no depletion of population during the 5th century and that the Germanic peoples who settled in Britain adopted Christianity when arrived and had no more effect on the proto-Romance of Britain than did the Franks and Burgundians in Gaul, the Suebi, Vandals, Alans and Visigoths in the Iberian peninsula, nor the Ostrogoths and Lombards in Italy.

More precisely, I assume that the young Vortigernus emerged as the Imperator Britanniae and that among the mercenaries who helped Vortigernus to fight off the Picts from the North were Hengist and his Saxon followers. While in Britain, Hengist and Vortigernus became friends; Hengist and his followers accepted baptism, and their alliance was cemented with the marriage of Vortigernus to Hengist's daughter, Ronwein. Hengist returned to the continent with two Christian priests and set about spreading Christianity among the Saxons and their neighboring Angles and Jutes.

Two or three years later, Vortigernus was assassinated by a British rival, and Britain looked set to fall into civil war. Hengist, fearing for his daughter's safety, invaded Britain with a federation of Saxon, Angle and Jute Christian followers, took control, established peace in Britain and was the first king of the Vectingian line (so-called from Hengist's supposed ancestor who named 'Vecta' in Latin).

Thus began the divergence of BART from our own timeline.

2.1.2 Thoughts on subsequent history of Britain and its immediate neighbors.
The thoughts given below are just that: thoughts. There is no detailed history developed. What about the the Normans and the French?
Or even, what about the Norsemen? For Vikings were as energetic in BART as they were in our own timeline. But it should be recalled that although there were Viking settlements in coastal regions around Ireland, the Scottish isles and coastal areas of Britain itself, nowhere did the Norse language take root, except in Orkney and Shetland where Norn dialects seem to have held on among an ever-diminishing number of speakers until the 19th century. There is no reason to suppose that this was not so in BART as well.

But the largest Norse settlement was, as we know, that established by Rollo (Latinized form of the Norse Hrolfr), whose baptismal name was Robertus and who became the first ruler of the Norse settlement that is known to history as the Duchy of Normandy in north-west France. Also, as we know, it was not Norse that the Normans spoke, but a version of Langue d'Oïl known as Norman (French), i.e. a Romance language.

The preceding two paragraphs are as true of BART as they are of our own timeline. The question is whether in BART there was a Norman invasion of Britain (certainly not of England, as there is no England in BART); or rather, the question is whether there was a king of Britain early in the second part of the 11th century who had had a Norman mother, had been brought up as a boy in Normandy and died without heirs, and whether the Duke of Normandy of the time considered that that king had nominated him as his heir. My answer is I simply do not know but I see no reason to suppose such a clear parallel Nor do I know whether any British king, through marriage, inherited Angevin (or any other) territories in France.

It is clear that the early history of the kings of Britain would have been different from that of the Saxon and Anglian kingdoms in Britain in our timeline; nor is there any reason to suppose that the royal house(s) of Britain in BART would have any resemblance to those of our own timeline. However, France is just across the water from Britain and it is extremely likely that the histories of the two lands would get intertwined; and, indeed, the history of medieval France would of necessity be different in BART than in our own time line.

As far as language is concerned, one should remember that in Medieval BART we have a continuum of Romance dialects from Sicily through to the lowlands of Scotland and across this whole continuum the administrative language was Latin. In our own timeline all the western Romance languages had some influence on one another and were influenced by Medieval Latin; this would be so also in BART.

Whether a Norman king occupied the British throne or a British king ruled over parts of France, in my opinion it would have made little difference to the linguistic situation; it is quite different from a Langue d'Oïl speaking nobility lording it over an Old English speaking peasantry! Civil wars and Reformation?
During the Middle Ages, England experienced two civil wars: between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda (1139 - 1154) and the Wars of the Roses (1455 - 1487). Both were concerned with rival claims to the English throne. There was and is no England in BART, so these particulars civil wars could not have happened. It is, however, quite likely that there would have been some periods of claim and counter-claim to the British throne, so we may well have had at least one similar sort of civil war. But this would have had no effect on the language, nor would it directly affect any other country, so for our purposes we need concern ourselves no further with this.

The Protestant reformation in England in our own timeline was not inevitable; the north at first remained staunchly Catholic, much of the rest of England was not over-enthusiatic for change. The main impetus seems to have come from the London, Essex and Kent region. As far as Britain in BART is concerned, I leave the question open; whether it espoused the Reformation or not will not affect the language.

Finally, was there a civil war between crown and parliament like that between Charles I and Oliver Cromwell here? Personally, I hope not; but there would have been some sort of transition from medieval feudalism to some sort of democratic polity. What about Scotland?
We have seen there is not and never has been a Wales or England in BART. The old Roman province of Britannia continued, at first under the Vectingian kings, then under subsequent monarchs. But the Romans had tried to bring the north of Britain (Caledonia) under Roman rule and in our own timeline the Norman monarchs of England certainly tried to bring Scotland under their control. In BART of the 21st century, the whole of Britain is a united country, mostly Romance-speaking, but with a small Gaelic speaking population in the north, as in Britain today.

Obviously there will have been in the early Middle ages a separate kingdom of the Scots (though not, of course, called by the English name "Scotland"!). But whether it became part of Britain through conquest or more peacefully through royal marriage or some other way does not affect the language nor Britain's position in the world; therefore, I develop no more detailed history here. What about Ireland?
Because of its proximity to Britain, it is inconceivable that at some point Britain would not have become involved in Hibernia (the island we call "Ireland" in English). It would be nice to think that in BART Britain would have been kinder to Hibernia than it was here; but, sadly, I suspect as Britain in BART would not have behaved very differently.

However, whether modern independent Hibernia in BART consists of all 32 counties or just the 26 as in our timeline, I do not know. The map on the Introduction page shows both Romance and Gaelic; this should be taken as indicative and not as precise distribution. It is possible that the Romance language spread in part, at least, through prestige value rather than direct conquest. No Breton
In BART the Brittonic languages died out; also any peoples who fled to Armorica to escape the ravages of Irish pirates at the end of the 5th century would be Romance speakers fleeing to a country of Romance speakers. I regret, therefore, in BART there is no Breton language and no Brittany (but the Gaelic speaking communities of Canada are quite safe in BART!).


2.2 Language

From what has been said on the Introduction page and in the section above, it will be seen that all the languages of our time will also exist in BART spoken as and where they are here, with the two exceptions;

  1. The Brittonic dialects gave way to Romance in Britain and eventually died out completely, just as Gallic dialects did in Gaul. Thus there is no Welsh, Cornish or Breton in BART, the Insular Celtic languages being represented only by the different varieties of Gaelic.
  2. There is no English language, it being replaced throughout by a British Romance language.

2.2.1 The language is a western Romance one
This British Romlang is part of the western Romance group. It, therefore, will share the common features of this group, i.e. the vowels will share this common early development:
 Classical Latin  Vulgar Latin Early Western Romance

It should be appreciated that the table above is somewhat simplified. In fact vowels may develop differently, whether they are stressed or unstressed, blocked or unblocked or modified by some other feature such as palatalization and so forth. This will be discussed more thoroughly when dealing with the phonology of the language.

As for consonants, it will share these features:

  • Lenition of intervocalic plosives: voiceless plosives → voiced; voiced plosives → voiced fricatives.
  • Degemination of geminate plosives, producing new intervocalic voiceless plosives after the old ones were lenited.
  • /k/ and /g/ before /e/ or /i/ are palatalized and give way to affricates.
  • /kt/ → /jt/.

As with the vowels above, so the above list is a simplification; consonant changes will be considered later in greater depth. Also it should be remembered that the development of standard Romance languages took several centuries. Prior, for example, to the development of standard French with the unification of France, we had in the north of France (besides Breton and Flemish) a collection of dialects referred to as Langue d'Oïl (while in the south we had dialects of Occitan as well Catalan and Basque). The administrative language had been Medieval Latin.

Throughout their period of formation in the Middle Ages, the Romance languages had influenced one another and been influenced by Latin which was the administrative language everywhere. So in Britain the Romance dialects would have been spoken, while the administrative language was Latin. We can, however, expect a common Britannic standard to evolve perhaps a bit earlier than in France, as I envisage Britain to have been more unified; but it will probably not be till the second millennium that we have a standard.

2.2.2 The language develops in Britain
I said on the Introduction page that I shall be aware of areal features such as the development of progressive tenses and the retention of [θ] and [ð], since the peoples of Britain will not differ very much in BART from those in our own timeline. I shall not, however, apply either early Welsh or English sound changes to the language in a so-called 'bogolang' manner. I shall from time to time refer to Welsh and English in our timeline, but only for considering common features, which might have, therefore, been common to our British Romance.
2.2.3 Implication for contemporary modern languages
There is no English language in BART; therefore, you will not hear people in France wishing one another "Bon weekend" nor will French people go to watch le football nor Spaniards watch el fútbol; nor will French people travel on le train or Spaniards on el tren. Esperantists will not travel on a trajno nor will they hear birdojn singing the dawn chorus. In other words, the host of English borrowings found in the world's natural languages and in some of its constructed languages will not exist. Their place will largely, though probably not entirely, be taken by borrowings from the British Romance language of BART (other Romance languages are likely to adapt them rather than make a direct borrowing).


2.3 Name of the language

I had hesitated at first between following the French example and name the language from the Germanic people that formed the ruling class, or following the Italian model and name it after the Old Roman province. After the above, especially Section 2.1, it is clear that the language will follow the Italian model.

2.3.1 Why not the French model?
Our word 'French' is derived from Old English Frencisc = "Frankish" and the name France is from the Latin Francia = "land of the Franks"'; and it is, of course, from the name France that the French name of the language is derived, i.e. français.

The Franks were a confederation of Germanic peoples inhabiting the Lower and Middle Rhine in the 3rd century; as the Roman Empire in the west weakened, some of them moved over the Rhine; under the leadership of the Merovingians they conquered a large part of Gaul. The name Francia was given to the territory under their control stretching from Gaul into what we now call Germany. To cut a long story short, this eventually became the Carolingian Empire before breaking into the largely German speaking "Holy Roman Empire" on the one hand, and leaving only the Romance speaking area in Gaul retaining the name Francia.

Roman Gaul had fallen apart with Franks, Visigoths and Germanic speaking Burgundians assuming power over different areas. While the word Gallia (Gaul) continued to be used in writing until the end of the Merovingian period, the name drops out of use as Francia occupies more and more of the former province.

This is quite different from the scenario given for Britain above. The old Roman province more or less holds together and we find Vortigernus is Imperator Britanniae. When he is killed, Hengist, the first of the Vectingian kings, comes over with a band of mixed Saxons, Angles and Jutes. There is no common name we can give them.

2.3.2 Language named after the country
As we have seen, in BART the province of Britannia continued in effect as an independent kingdom (even though its leader termed himself Imperator). When Hengist became the first king of the Vectingian line, he was styled Rex Britannorum (or in practice more usually, see below, Rex Brittanorum).

Even in our own timeline the idea of Britain as an entity seems to have lingered on; several of the kings of the Saxon and Anglian kingdoms were given the title Bretwalda (or Brytenwalda or Bretenanwealda) = "sovereign of Britain." In BART this notion of Britannitas was even stronger. The country retained the name of the former Roman province and, when eventually a standard British Romance language emerged it was known as "British."

But although the dictionaries give Britannia as the Latin name of the Roman province, we also find the spelling Brittania in manuscripts. We find the form Bryttania attested in Old English, and the French Bretagne can be derived only from the Latin Brittania (cf. the English form Brittany). The Latin Britannia would have given an Old French form *Breaigne (where -t- → -d- → -ð- and then falls silent); it did not. The modern English form is not a direct derivative from Latin; it comes from Old French Bretaigne and has been later re-modeled on the Classical Latin form. It is clear, then, that in Vulgar Latin the name was Brittania.

It might be noted that Ill Bethisad's Brithenig is derived from a Vulgar latin *Brittanic-, the choice probably being influence by Welsh Brythoneg, Cornish Brythonek, Breton Brezhoneg (but these are derived from *Brittonika - cf. Appendix below).

The formative suffix -icus was literary and does not appear to have been productive in Vulgar Latin. The modern French suffix -ique and the -ico in other modern western Romance language is a learned borrowing. What did survive, however, was the suffix -esis (Classic -ēnsis) which gives Italian, Spanish and Portuguese -ese and French -ais and -ois. Therefore, the word for "British" in our Romlang will be derived from Latin *Brittaniē(n)sis; this may be used as an adjective or a noun and, among other meanings, is the name of the language.

Thus to summarize

  • The name of the country (and of the island) in our Romance language is derived from Brittania;
  • The name of the language in our Romance language is derived from *Brittaniē(n)sis.

As the language is being developed, the final form of the language's name in our British Romlang is not settled. But these pages are being written in English, therefore I shall use an English form of the name, namely: Britainese.

2.3.3 Appendix: Britannī, Brittānī or Brittonēs?
The original Celtic form for the Brittonic-speaking peoples was of Britain was *Pritani, *Priteni. K. Jackson in The Problem of the Picts, edited by F.T. Wainwright (Edinburg, 1956), thinks the former was current in the south and the latter in the north; this would seem to be supported by the Welsh Prydyn = "Picts, Pictland" (← *priteni) and Prydain = "Britain" (← *pritani). The oldest Greek forms also show initial /p/, though they also always have /tt/, thus: Πρεττανοί (Prettanoí) = "Britons", Πρεττανία (Prettanía) = "Britain."; why the Greek forms have -ττ- is not known.

In later Greek, the initial was changed to Β-, under Latin influence, though the rest of the word was unaffected, thus Βρεττανοί (Brettanoí) and Βρεττανία (Prettanía).

The poet Lucretius (floruit 55 BC) has Brittannī; but the -tt- may be for reasons of meter, since Catullus (floruit 54 BC) has Britannī and Britannia, and these forms were also used by Caesar and became the norm in Classical Latin. These are likely to have been of Gallic origin. The Latin forms, however, did not remain unchanged. The forms Brittānī and Brittānia appear in Solinus (floruit 260 AD) and by the 5th century are almost as common as the standard Classical forms in literary texts. As I have noted above, the Old French Bretaigne must be derived from Brittānia (and, as we have seen, Brithenig*Brittānicus).

But there was also another Latin form for the names of the people. The word Britto = "Briton", plural Brittonēs, occurs in Martial (floruit 102 AD) and is found in other writers thereafter. The word was also taken into, or survived in, the Celtic of Britain, as we seen in Welsh Brython = "[an ancient] Briton", Brythoneg = "Brittonic, the ancient British language" (see also above; note that in Breton Brezhoneg denotes the modern Breton language)*. In the 7th century, the monk and historian Bede used the forms Bretto (plural Brettones) to refer to the Celtic inhabitants of Britain in his day.

Discussion of the origin of these different forms and how they are related to one another is beyond the scope of these notes.

* For those interested, the Welsh for "a [modern] Briton" is Prydeiniwr and "British, of or pertaining to modern Britain" is Prydeinig; the Welsh for "Brittany" is Llydaw and the Breton language is Llydaweg.


2.4 The Flag

The flag is a yellow saltire on a blue background, being the cross of St Alban, who was the first Christian martyr in Roman Britain. He was beheaded at Verulamium under the Emperor Diocletian around 305 AD.