Thame Local History
The Brythonic Language

The Celtic language from which 'Thame' or 'Tame' comes is thought to have been spoken in the Thame region from around 600 BC to around 500 AD, although there is no real certainty at either end of this timeline. Some believe it to be much older.

Linguistic historians believe that there were two separate waves of Celtic cultural incursion into the British Isles, both from north west Europe, around 2,600 years ago.

This accords with the archaeological interpretation of Celtic or Iron Age pottery found in Britain from this period as conforming to a type associated with the Continental Celts.

The one wave reached Ireland and from there spread into the Isle of Man and Scotland. The other wave reached the southern part of England and Wales.

(Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales of course did not have their modern day boundaries or distinctions at this time.)

There are correspondingly two branches of Celtic language to be found in the British Isles.

The so called Q-Celtic languages, descended from a language called Goidelic, are Irish Gaelic, Manx and Scottish Gaelic.

The so called P-Celtic languages, descended from a language called Brythonic, are Welsh and Cornish. Breton is also descended from Brythonic.

The Breton language is spoken in Brittany, France. It spread to Brittany from Cornwall and southern England much later.

The Welsh and Cornish languages remained very closely related until the Middle Ages. The geographical separation of these two regions, with English spoken in between, led eventually to linguistic divergence, and then to their individual decline. The only language related to Brythonic spoken in large numbers in Britain today is the Welsh language.

Two thousand years ago, with linguistic continuity between the regions of modern day Cornwall, southern England and Wales, a single language is thought to have been spoken across the whole of southern Britain.

It is this language, the P-Celtic Brythonic tongue, from which the name of Thame derives.

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  Thame, Oxfordshire, England