RE: [very OT] Welsch (was: [very OT] "Slavic")

Date: Thu Sep 21 2000 - 07:17:40 EDT

Otto Stolz wrote:
> Buon giorno Marco,

Guten Tag, Otto.

> am 2000-09-21 um 8:34 h UCT hat geschrieben:
> > I read that the German dialectal word "Welsch" means "Italian"
> > (a *Romance* language) to Austrians and German-speaking Italians;
> Actually, it is standard German, and it means any Romance
> language, mostly French or Italian (cf. infra for a wider meaning).
> [...]
> The German adjective "welsch" stems from the name of the
> Celtic tribe of the Volscae (in Latin) who lived in the area now
> called France (I forgot in which part of France).

Near modern Geneve, if memory helps.

Also the name of an Italic tribe in Italy, the Voscii, possibly shared the
same root.

> After the Celts had adopted Latin, the term
> "volsc", or "welsch", changed to mean Romance. [...]
> > but it means "Polish" (a *Slavic* language) to North-East
> Germans [...]
> This is news to me; where did you read it?

It was in a book about Indo-European (I don't venture to mention the author,
as I have at least two candidates on top of my mind). The discussion was
about an alledged common PIE root (*wel-, *wol-, something like that)
apparently used to name many unrelated peoples, that had the only common
feature being "neighbors" of the people who called them by that name.

Hence the supposed meaning "neighbors" (or "strangers", "allieds",
"friends", "enemies", or "Double-doutch speakers").

Your explanation that "Welsc" originally meant "Celtic", and passed to mean
"Latin" when the former Celtic-speaker became Romance-speakers seems also
very likely. But does not completely exclude the other explanation: i.e., a
distant memory of the former generic meaning could have favorite that
meaning shift.

> Actually, German "welsch" also can refer to any
> uncomprehensable language,

And this, too, can be explained in both ways: it always had this meaning vs.
it is a late generalization assuming Romance as the uncomprehensible
languages par excellence.

> Interesting, but vastly off-topic for the Unicode list. I
> have warned you, in the subject line :-)

It seems that Unicode is not very fashionable of this list, lately. :-)

_ Marco.

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