What Was Cumbrian Dialect that IS spoken in Cumberland

The Cumbrian Dialect was a variety of the British language spoken during the High Medical Age, in Hen Ogledd or “Old North”, a region that comprises the north of England and the south of the Scottish plain. [ 2 ] It was closely related to ancient Welsh and other British languages. The region’s toponymy suggests that the language may have extended to the north-central part of England, carried by migrants from the more northern regions, where linguistic vitality was greater. It is possible that there were speakers of the language in regions as far away from its central core as the south of Pendle and the Yorkshire Dales. Most linguists believe that the language became extinct in the 12th century, after the incorporation of Strathclyde’s semi-independent kingdom into the kingdom of Scotland.

Terminology of Cumbrian Dialect

Dauvit Broun exposes the problems with the various terms used to describe the Cumulian language and its speakers. [ 3 ] People seem to have been called * Cumbri in the same way that the Welsh are called Cymry (probably Britons kom-brogī meaning “countrymen”). The Welsh and the Cumulus-speaking people of what are now southern Scotland and northern England probably realized that they were in fact an ethnic group. Ancient Irish speakers called them “British” (Britons), “Bretnach” or “Bretain” .. [ 4 ] The Norse called us Brettar . In medieval Latin,Cumbri were Latinized respectively as Wallenses “from Wales” and “‘Cumbrenses'” from Cumbria . “The usual English was to call them Welsh. [ 5 ] In Scots, a Cumbrian speaker seems to have been called” Wallace ” , from Scotsman “Wallis / Wellis” and “Welsh”.

Cumbria Region: modern counties and regions with an indication of the early medieval kingdoms

In Cumbria itaque: regione quadam inter Angliam et Scotiam sita – “Cumbria: a region situated between England and Scotland”. [ 6 ]

The Latin term C \ ãmbria is often used in Wales; however, the Life of St Kentiger of Jocelyn of Furness has the following passage:

When King Rederech “(Rhydderch Hael)” and his people heard that Kentigern had arrived from Wallia [Wales] in Cambria [ie, Cumbria], from exile in his own country, with great joy and peace, both the king and the people came out to meet him. [ 7 ]

John T. Koch specifically defines the Cumbric region as “the area approximately between the Mersey River line and the Forth-Clyde Isthmus”, but continues to include evidence from the Wirral Peninsula. In its discussion and does not define its extent to the east. [ 2 ] Kenneth H. Jackson]] describes Cumbric as “the British dialect of Cumberland , Westmorland , northern Lancashire , and southwestern Scotland …” and continues to define the region even more as being limited in the north by the Firth of Clyde, in the south by the River Ribble and in the east by Scottish Southern Uplands and Pennine Ridge.


Cumbric’s evidence comes almost entirely from secondary sources, since contemporary written records of the language are not known. Most of the evidence comes from the names of places in the far northwest of England and southern Scotland. Other sources include the personal names of the British from Strathclyde in Scottish, Irish and Anglo-Saxon sources, and some cumulative words surviving from the High Middle Ages in southwest Scotland, such as legal terms. Although the language has been extinct for a long time, traces of its vocabulary persisted in the modern era in the form of “counts” and in some dialectal words.

From this scarce evidence, little can be deduced about the Cumbric’s unique characteristics, not even the name by which his speakers referred to it. What is generally accepted by linguists is that Cúnbrico was a West British language closely related to Welsh and, more distantly, to Cornish and Breton . [ 8 ] [ 9 ] [ 10 ]

Around the time of the battle described in the poem ” Y Gododdin “, the common Briton was in transition to their derived languages: Cumbric in Northern Briton, ancient Welsh in Wales , and Briton in the Southwest, the ancestor of Cornish and Breton . [ 11 ] Kenneth H. Jackson concludes that most of the changes that have transformed the British in early welsh occurred in the period from the fifth century through to the end of the sixth century. [ 12 ] This involved syncope and loss of final syllables. If the poem dates from that time, it would have been written in an ancient form of Cúmbtico the usual name for Hen Ogledd’s Breton speech. [ 13 ]Jackson suggested the name “Primitive Cumbric” for the dialect then spoken. [ 14 ]

Numbering edit edit source code ]

Counts of possible Cumulian origin, modern Welsh included for comparison.
* Keswick Westmorland Eskdale Millom High Furness Wasdale Teesdale Swaledale Wensleydale Ayrshire Modern Welsh
1 yan yan yaena aina yan yan yan yahn yan yinty un
2 tyan tyan taena peina taen taen tean tayhn tean tinty dau
3 tethera tetherie teddera for tedderte tudder tetherma tether tither tetheri tri
4 methera peddera meddera ask medderte anudder metherma mether mither metheri pedwar
5 pimp gip pimp pimp pimp nimph pip mimp (h) pip bamf pump
6 sethera teezie hofa ithy haata lezar hith-her teaser leetera chwech
7 lethera mithy lofa mithy slaata bad luck lith-her leaser seetera saith
8 hovera katra seckera owera lower catrah anver catra over wyth
9 dovera hornie leckera lower dowa horna danver horna dover naw
10 dick dick dec dig dick dick dic dick dik deg
15 bumfit bumfit bumfit bumfit mimph bumfit mimphit bumper pymtheg
20 giggot Jiggit ugain

Among the evidence that the Cumbric served as a substrate that influenced local English dialects, there is a group of systems, or number scores, recorded in various parts of northern England. About 100 of these systems have been collected since the 18th century; the academic consensus is that they are derived from a British language closely related to Welsh. [ 15 ] Although they are often referred to as “sheep count numerals”, most of the scores recorded were not used to count such animals, but in knitting stitches or for children’s games] or nursery rhymes. [ 15 ]These classifications are often suggested as representing a survival of the medieval Cumbric, a theory that was initially popularized in the 19th century. However, later scholars came to reject this idea, suggesting that the scores were imported later from Gale] or Scotland, but in light of the scarcity of evidence for any of these theories, Markku Filppula, Juhani Klemola and Heli Paulasto note that it is plausible that counting systems are in fact cumulative in origin. [ 15 ]

Extinction date 

It is impossible to know an exact date for the extinction of the Cumbric. However, there are some indicators that can provide a reasonably accurate estimate. In the mid-11th century, some landowners still had what appear to be Cumbrian names. Examples of such landowners are Dunegal (Dyfnwal), lord of Strathnith or Nithsdale; [ 16 ] Moryn (Morien), Lord of Cardew and Cumdivock near Carlisle; and Eilifr (Eliffer), lord of Penrith. [ 17 ]

There is a village near Carlisle called Cumwhitton (formerly Cumquinton, which appears to contain the Norman name Quinton. [ 18 ] There were no Normans in this area until at least 1069.

At the Battle of Standard in 1138, Cumbrians are referred to as a separate ethnic group. Given that their material culture was very similar to their Gaelic and Anglo-Saxon neighbors, it is arguable that what set them apart was their language. [ 19 ] Also the castle at Castle Carrock (Castell Caerog) dating from around 1160- 1170. The name Barmulloch, formerly Badermonoc (Cumbric “monk’s dwelling”) [ 20 ] ), was given to the church by Malcolm IV of Scotland between 1153 and 1165.

A more controversial point is the surname Wallace, which means “Welsh”. It is possible that all Wallaces in the Clyde area were medieval immigrants from Wales, but since the term was also used for local Cumbrians speaking Welsh Strathclyde, it also seems more likely that the surname refers to people who were seen as ” Welsh “due to its cumulus language. Surnames in Scotland were not inherited before 1200 and not regularly until 1400. William Wallace (known in Gaelic as Uilleam Breatnach – also William, the British or Welsh) came from the Renfrew area – itself a Cumbric name. Wallace killed the sheriff of Lanark (also a Cumbric name) in 1297. Even if he had inherited his father’s surname,

There are also some historical indicators for a separate and continuous ethnic identity. Before being crowned king of Scotland in 1124, David I of Scotland was invested with the title of Prince of the Cumbrians. William the Lion between 1173 and 1180 gave a speech to his subjects, identifying the Cumbrians as a separate group. [ 3 ] This does not prove that any of them still spoke Cumbric at that time.

The legal documents in the Lanercost Cartular, dating from the end of the 12th century, show witnesses with French or English Norman names, and no obviously Cumbric name. Although these people represent the upper classes, it seems significant that, at the end of the 12th century, in the Lanercost area, Cumbrico was not noticeable in these personal names. [ 21 ] In 1262, at Peebles, jurors in a legal dispute over the court peat moss also have names that mostly look like French or English Normans., [ 22 ] but there were some possible exceptions like Gauri Pluchan, Cokin Smith and Robert Gladhoc, where “Gladhoc” looks like an adjective similar to Welsh “gwladog” = “countryman”. [ 23 ]In the Priory letters near Carlisle there is a monk named Robert Minnoc who appears as a witness to 8 letters dating from around 1260. [ 24 ] His name is written in various ways Minnoc / Minot / Mynoc and an equivalent of Welsh “mynach”; – “Robert the Monk” (the monk).

Given that in other areas that stopped speaking Celtic languages ​​the anglicization of the upper classes in general happened before the anglicization of the peasantry, it is not implausible that the peasantry would continue to speak Cumbric for at least a little later. Around 1200, there is a list of the names of the men who live in the Peebles area. Among them are the names of Câmbrico such as Gospatrick: servant or follower of Saint Patrick , Gosmungo: servant of Saint Mungo, Guososwald: servant of Osvaldo of Nortumbria and Goscubrycht: servant of Cuteberto . Two of the saints – Osvaldo and Cuteberto – are from the Kingdom of Nortumbria showing Cumulian influence not found in Welsh.

The royal seal of Alexander III of Scotland (reigned on September 4, 1241 – March 19, 1286) carried the title “Rex Scotorum et Britanniarum”, or “King of Scots and Britons”.

In 1305 Edward I of England banned the “Leges inter Brettos et Scottos”. [ 25 ] The term Brets or Britons refers to the native people, traditionally speaking the Cumbric in southern Scotland.

It seems that the Cumbrian could have survived until the middle of the 12th century as a community language and even lasted until the 13th century in the languages ​​of the last remaining speakers. Certain areas seem particularly dense in names of places of Cumbrian origin even in minor features. The two most notable are around Lanercost east of Carlisle and around Torquhan south of Edinburgh. If the 1262 Peebles’ names contain traces of Cumbric personal names, then one can imagine the Cumbric becoming extinct by 1250 and 1300 at the latest.


In the 2000s, a group of enthusiasts proposed the rebirth of the Cumbric language and launched a social networking site and a “Cumbric Revived” guide to promote this, but there was little success. [ 26 ] [ 27 ] Writing in Carn magazine , Colin Lewis noticed the group’s disagreement over whether to base the “Revived Cumbric” on the language’s surviving sources or try to reconstruct the form the late Cumbric might have taken after the attested period. However, his own suggestion was simply to use current Welsh with its rich literature, culture and history. [ 28 ]


The Cumulus language used a form of the Latin alphabet without the letters J, Q, Y, Z ‘ , but using the forms Ck / Kk, Dh, Th . There are also 10 groups of 2 or 3 consonants together, and 12 groups of 2 vowels together;

Sample text 

Is ganot pop din en ridh a gant barch a chuvreythyow custadhul. In a dirbooll dudho a gli poap emdhoon du’y gilidh in spirit brodoreth.


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and must act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

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