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Welsh evolved from Common Brittonic, the Celtic language spoken by the ancient Celtic Britons. Classified as Insular Celtic, the British language probably arrived in Britain during the Bronze Age or Iron Age and was probably spoken throughout the island south of the Firth of Forth. During the Early Middle Ages the British language began to fragment due to increased dialect differentiation, thus evolving into Welsh and the other Brittonic languages. It is not clear when Welsh became distinct. Linguist Kenneth H. Jackson has suggested that the evolution in syllabic structure and sound pattern was complete by around 550 AD, and labelled the period between then and about 800 AD "Primitive Welsh". This Primitive Welsh may have been spoken in both Wales and the Hen Ogledd ("Old North") – the Brittonic-speaking areas of what is now northern England and southern Scotland – and therefore may have been the ancestor of Cumbric as well as Welsh. Jackson, however,!
believed that the two varieties were already distinct by that time. The earliest Welsh poetry – that attributed to the Cynfeirdd or "Early Poets" – is generally considered to date to the Primitive Welsh period. However, much of this poetry was supposedly composed in the Hen Ogledd, raising further questions about the dating of the material and language in which it was originally composed. This discretion stems from the fact that Cumbric was widely believed to have been the language used in Hen Ogledd. An 8th-century inscription in Tywyn shows the language already dropping inflections in the declension of nouns. Janet Davies proposed that the origins of Welsh language were much less definite; in The Welsh Language: A History, she proposes that Welsh may have been around even earlier than 600 AD. This is evidenced by the dropping of final syllables from Brittonic: *bardos "poet" became bardd, and *abona "river" became afon. Though both Davies and Jackson !
cite minor changes in syllable structure and sounds as evidence for the creation of Old Welsh, Davies suggests it may be more appropriate to refer to this derivative language as Lingua Britannica rather than characterising it as a new language altogether.