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Gaulish language

Region Gaul
Ethnicity Gauls
Era 6th century BC to 6th century AD
Old Italic, Greek, Latin
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
xtg – Transalpine Gaulish
xga – Galatian
xcg – ?Cisalpine Gaulish
xlp – ?Lepontic
Linguist list
xtg Transalpine Gaulish
  xga Galatian
  xcg ?Cisalpine Gaulish
  xlp ?Lepontic
Glottolog tran1289  (Transalpine–Galatian Celtic)
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Gaulish is an ancient Celtic language that was spoken in parts of Europe as late as the Roman Empire. In the narrow sense, Gaulish was the language spoken by the Celtic inhabitants of Gaul (modern France, Belgium and Northern Italy). In a wider sense, it also comprises varieties of Celtic that were spoken across much of central Europe ("Noric"), parts of the Balkans, and Asia Minor ("Galatian"), which are thought to have been closely related. The more divergent Lepontic of Northern Italy has also sometimes been subsumed under Gaulish.

Together with Lepontic and the Celtiberian language spoken in the Iberian Peninsula, Gaulish forms the geographic group of Continental Celtic languages. The precise linguistic relationships among them, as well as between them and the modern Insular Celtic languages, are uncertain and a matter of ongoing debate because of their sparse attestation.

Gaulish is found in about 800, often fragmentary, inscriptions including calendars, pottery accounts, funeral monuments, short dedications to gods, coin inscriptions, statements of ownership, and other texts, possibly curse tablets. Gaulish texts were first written in the Greek alphabet in southern France and in a variety of the Old Italic script in northern Italy. After the Roman conquest of those regions, writing shifted to the use of the Latin alphabet.

Gaulish was supplanted by Vulgar Latin and various Germanic languages from around the 5th century AD onwards.

It is estimated that during the Bronze Age, Proto-Celtic started fragmenting into distinct languages, including Celtiberian and Gaulish. As a result of the expansion of Celtic tribes during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, closely related varieties of Celtic came to be spoken in a vast arc extending from present-day Britain and France through the Alpine region and Pannonia in central Europe, and into parts of the Balkans and Anatolia. Their precise linguistic relationships are uncertain because of the fragmentary nature of the evidence.