> Since the Anglo-Saxons--at least some of them--got their initial
> exposure to Christianity from Celtic clergy, isn't it possible that the
> borrowings went from Latin to Welsh or Irish to English?
First of all, I am not a philologist and cannot comment expertly on
this -- certainly we can tell from Bede's orthography that
Anglo-Saxon literacy was influenced by Irish literacy (eg. the use of
a 'd' for a 'th' sound). I think that while what you propose sounds
perfectly plausible (and I suspect that there are examples of it),
only in a small number of cases would this be the 'route' of
loan-words. The reason I think this is that Irish and British
clerics, in teaching Anglo-Saxons, would not have taught them Irish
or British first, and then instructed them in a Celtic language.
Instead, they would have taught them Latin by instructing in
Anglo-Saxon (either through interpreters or directly), with the
result being that exposure to Celtic language would have been less
than we might expect. Although Anglo-Saxon oblates would obviously
have heard Irish or British monks chatting amongst themselves in
their own language some of the time, we know that Irish monks spoke
better Latin, and that Gildas wrote better Latin, than native
speakers on the continent, and this suggests that Celtic monks used
Latin a great deal as a language of written and spoken discourse. So
Anglo-Saxon oblates were probably more likely to hear the new words
in Latin than in British or Irish.
Moreover, Latin continued to influence Anglo-Saxon and English for a
thousand years, so that loan-words that did take the path you suggest
may well have become 'corrected' at a later date to harmonise more
with Latin. It is at least possible (although difficult to prove)
that part of the reason that Celtic loan-words to English seem so few
stems from this replacement by more 'cultured' Latin or Norman-French
words by later generations.
Dept of Celtic
University of Edinburgh