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From: Mary Jo Neyer <>
Subject: Britannia
Date: Sat, 25 Jun 2005 13:03:53 -0400


For an excellent description of the various tribes of early Britain, I
highly recommend THE STORIES OF ENGLISH by David Crystal.
Bede, writing in 730, used the name Britannia for the entire land.
He used names like Picts, Saxons, etc. for the various tribes. Britain
is a word which comes from the Welsh language. The common tongue for
the inhabitants of Britain, if one could be said to exist, was Latin.
By common I mean in the way English today is a common tongue among many
peoples, no matter what their heritage.
Anglo-Saxon was a term used to differentiate the Saxons of England
from the Saxons in Europe. Saxons in turn were named after a weapon
they carried, the short axe called a seasc, rather than as a tribal or
linguisitic distinction in particular. In this time period, people did
not think of themselves as nations but rather tribes. READING simply
means the people of the Red-haired one.There were smll tribes and larger
tribes. Danes, for example , could be any Viking, because that is what
people were in the habit of clling them. We impose distinctions with
names which may be quite different than that which were meant by the
original speakers.
"English:, for example, is used in a treaty between King Alfred and
Guthrum of Denmark(ca. 880), where the terms "English" people is opposed
to "Danish" people. By" English" people, the Danes are using the term
as meaning all the inhabitants of Britain, with the exception of Danes.
Since all these languages are Indo-European, these people all share
a common linguistic heritage. Intermarriage must have been occurring all
along. For example, Caedwalla, King of Saxon Wessex in633, has a Welsh
name.
Mary JO


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