Amm Gumbraek

Cumbraek is a constructed language based on the historical but now lost language of Cumbric, which was spoken up to the 12th century in those parts of northern England and southern Scotland usually referred to as The Old North. Cumbric was a Celtic language closely related to Welsh, Cornish and Breton, the descendants of the common Brythonic language once spoken across much of Great Britain from at least the Iron Age (c. 500BC) and possibly earlier. Though no written texts remain in Cumbric the language is attested by place names such as Glasgow, Carlisle and Lanark. Some of the ancient Welsh poems attributed to Aneirin and Taliesin were also written in The Old North at a time when Cumbric and Welsh were essentially the same language.

Cumbraek began life as an attempt to reconstruct the Cumbric language as it might have been spoken in the Middle Ages. By comparing the available evidence of Cumbric with information on Medieval Welsh and other contemporary Celtic languages, it was hoped that a realistic picture of the language might emerge. However, it eventually became apparent that the evidence we have of Cumbric is too limited and often too opaque to build a valid reconstruction from. It is an unfortunate fact that not a single word of Cumbric comes to us directly: place names have all been borrowed into and influenced by English or Scottish Gaelic and the early poetry was passed on orally until it was recorded in Medieval Welsh making it impossible to determine in many cases what features may or may not be continued from the original Cumbric. Without any texts of continuous prose or poetry, there are far too many gaps in our knowledge of Cumbric to make a genuine reconstruction feasible.

From that point, Cumbraek became less of an academic exercise to reconstruct the medieval language and more of a personal effort to construct an artistic language based on what Cumbric might be like if it were still spoken today. Cumbraek is still based, as far as possible, on historical evidence and all aspects of the language have been carefully developed over several years based on thorough research and logic, but it cannot claim to be anything other than a constructed language. Far too many personal decisions have been made over phonology, grammar, vocabulary etc. for it to have any real resemblence to the historic language of Cumbric.

I began working on Cumbraek in about 2008 and it has undergone innumerable changes and revisions over that time. What is presented on this site is the latest and most comprehensive version of Cumbraek to date. Having thoroughly reviewed every aspect of the language it should now represent a cohesive and substantial work – the solid foundation of a language on which more can be built over time.

Neil Whalley