HOME
        TheInfoList






Scottish Gaelic
Scots Gaelic, Gaelic
Gàidhlig
Pronunciation[ˈkaːlɪkʲ]
Native toUnited Kingdom, Canada
RegionScotland; Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
EthnicityScottish people
Native speakers
57,000 fluent L1 and L2 speakers in Scotland[1] (2011)
87,000 people in Scotland reported having some Gaelic language ability in 2011;[1] 1,300 fluent in Nova Scotia[2]
Early forms
Dialects
Scottish Gaelic orthography (Latin script)
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1gd
ISO 639-2gla
ISO 639-3gla
Glottologscot1245[3]
Linguasphere50-AAA
Scots Gaelic speakers in the 2011 census.png
2011 distribution of Gaelic speakers in Scotland
Scottish Gaelic: Gàidhlig [ˈkaːlɪkʲ] (About this soundlisten) or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic branch of the Indo-European language family) native to the Gaels of Scotland. As a Goidelic language, Scottish Gaelic, as well as both Irish and Manx, developed out of Old Irish.[4] It became a distinct spoken language sometime in the 13th century in the Middle Irish period, although a common literary language was shared by Gaels in both Ireland and Scotland down to the 16th century.[5] Most of modern Scotland was once Gaelic-speaking, as evidenced especially by Gaelic-language place names.

In the 2011 census of Scotland, 57,375 people (1.1% of the Scottish population aged over 3 years old) reported as able to speak Gaelic, 1,275 fewer than in 2001. The highest percentages of Gaelic speakers were in the Outer Hebrides. Nevertheless, there are revival efforts, and the number of speakers of the language under age 20 did not decrease between the 2001 and 2011 censuses.[6] Outside Scotland, a dialect known as Canadian Gaelic has been spoken in eastern Canada since the 18th century. In the 2016 national census, nearly 4,000 Canadian residents claimed knowledge of Scottish Gaelic, with a particular concentration in Nova Scotia.[7][8]

Scottish Gaelic is not an official language of the United Kingdom. However, it is classed as an indigenous language under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which the UK Government has ratified, and the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 established a language-development body, Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Name

Aside from "Scottish Gaelic", the language may also be referred to simply as "Gaelic", pronounced /ˈɡælɪk/ in English. "Gaelic" /ˈɡlɪk/ refers to the Irish language (Gaeilge) [9] and the Manx language (Gaelg).

Scottish Gaelic is distinct from Scots, the Middle English-derived language which had come to be spoken in most of the Lowlands of Scotland by the early modern era. Prior to the 15th century, this language was known as Inglis ("English")[10] by its own speakers, with Gaelic being called Scottis ("Scottish"). Beginning in the late 15th century, it became increasingly common for such speakers to refer to Scottish Gaelic as Erse ("Irish") and the Lowland vernacular as Scottis.[11] Today, Scottish Gaelic is recognised as a separate language from Irish, so the word Erse in reference to Scottish Gaelic is no longer used.[12]

History

Linguistic division in early 12th century Scotland.
  Gaelic speaking
  Norse-Gaelic zone, use of either or both languages
  English-speaking zone
  Cumbric may have survived in this zone

Origins

Place names in Scotland that contain the element bal- from the Scottish Gaelic baile meaning home, farmstead, town or city. These data give some indication of the extent of medieval Gaelic settlement in Scotland.

Based on medieval traditional accounts and the apparent evidence from linguistic geography, Gaelic has been commonly believed to have been brought to Scotland, in the 4th–5th centuries CE, by settlers from Ireland who founded the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata on Scotland's west coast in present-day Argyll.[13]:551In the 2011 census of Scotland, 57,375 people (1.1% of the Scottish population aged over 3 years old) reported as able to speak Gaelic, 1,275 fewer than in 2001. The highest percentages of Gaelic speakers were in the Outer Hebrides. Nevertheless, there are revival efforts, and the number of speakers of the language under age 20 did not decrease between the 2001 and 2011 censuses.[6] Outside Scotland, a dialect known as Canadian Gaelic has been spoken in eastern Canada since the 18th century. In the 2016 national census, nearly 4,000 Canadian residents claimed knowledge of Scottish Gaelic, with a particular concentration in Nova Scotia.[7][8]

Scottish Gaelic is not an official language of the United Kingdom. However, it is classed as an indigenous language under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which the UK Government has ratified, and the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 established a language-development body, Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

Aside from "Scottish Gaelic", the language may also be referred to simply as "Gaelic", pronounced /ˈɡælɪk/ in English. "Gaelic" /ˈɡlɪk/ refers to the Irish language (Gaeilge) [9] and the Manx language (Gaelg).

Scottish Gaelic is distinct from Scots, the Middle English-derived language which had come to be spoken in most of the Lowlands of Scotland by the early modern era. Prior to the 15th century, this language was known as Inglis ("English")[10] by its own speakers, with Gaelic being called Scottis ("Scottish"). Beginning in the late 15th century, it became increasingly common for such speakers to refer to Scottish Gaelic as Erse ("Irish") and the Lowland vernacular as Scottis.[11] Today, Scottish Gaelic is recognised as a separate language from Irish, so the word Erse in reference to Scottish Gaelic is no longer used.[12]

History

Linguistic division in early 12th century Scotland.
  Gaelic speaking
  Norse-Gaelic zone, use of either or both languages
  English-speaking zone
  Cumbric may have survived in this zone

Origins

Place names in Scotland that contain the element bal- from the Scottish Gaelic baile meaning home, farmstead, town or city. These data give some indication of the extent of medieval Gaelic settlement in Scotland.

Based on medieval traditional accounts and the apparent evidence from linguistic geography, Gaelic has been commonly believed to have been brought to Scotland, in the 4th–5th centuries CE, by settlers from Ireland who founded the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata on Scotland's west coast in present-day Argyll.[13]:551[14]:66 An alternative view has recently been voiced by archaeologist Dr Ewan Campbell, who has argued that the putative migration or takeover is not reflected in archaeological or placename data (as pointed out earlier by Leslie Alcock). Campbell has also questioned the age and reliability of the medieval historical sources speaking of a conquest. Instead, he has inferred that Argyll formed part of a common Q-Celtic-speaking area with Ireland, connected rather than divided by the sea, since the Iron Age.[15] These arguments have been opposed by some scholars defending the early dating of the traditional accounts and arguing for other interpretations of the archaeological evidence.[16] Regardless of how i

Scottish Gaelic is distinct from Scots, the Middle English-derived language which had come to be spoken in most of the Lowlands of Scotland by the early modern era. Prior to the 15th century, this language was known as Inglis ("English")[10] by its own speakers, with Gaelic being called Scottis ("Scottish"). Beginning in the late 15th century, it became increasingly common for such speakers to refer to Scottish Gaelic as Erse ("Irish") and the Lowland vernacular as Scottis.[11] Today, Scottish Gaelic is recognised as a separate language from Irish, so the word Erse in reference to Scottish Gaelic is no longer used.[12]

Based on medieval traditional accounts and the apparent evidence from linguistic geography, Gaelic has been commonly believed to have been brought to Scotland, in the 4th–5th centuries CE, by settlers from Ireland who founded the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata on Scotland's west coast in present-day Argyll.[13]:551[14]:66 An alternative view has recently been voiced by archaeologist Dr Ewan Campbell, who has argued that the putative migration or takeover is not reflected in archaeological or placename data (as pointed out earlier by Leslie Alcock). Campbell has also questioned the age and reliability of the medieval historical sources speaking of a conquest. Instead, he has inferred that Argyll formed part of a common Q-Celtic-speaking area with Ireland, connected rather than divided by the sea, since the Iron Age.[15] These arguments have been opposed by some scholars defending the early dating of the traditional accounts and arguing for other interpretations of the archaeological evidence.[16] Regardless of how it came to be spoken in the region, Gaelic in Scotland was mostly confined to Dál Riata until the eighth century, when it began expanding into Pictish areas north of the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde. By 900, Pictish appears to have become extinct, completely replaced by Gaelic.[17]:238–244 An exception might be made for the Northern Isles, however, where Pictish was more likely supplanted by Norse rather than by Gaelic. During the reign of Caustantín mac Áeda (Constantine II, 900–943), outsiders began to refer to the region as the kingdom of Alba rather than as the kingdom of the Picts. However, though the Pictish language did not disappear suddenly, a process of Gaelicisation (which may have begun generations earlier) was clearly under way during the reigns of Caustantín and his successors. By a certain point, probably during the 11th century, all the inhabitants of Alba had become fully Gaelicised Scots, and Pictish identity was forgotten.[18]

In 1018, after the conquest of the Lothians by the Kingdom of Scotland, Gaelic reached its social, cultural, political, and geographic zenith.[19]:16–18 Colloquial speech in Scotland had been developing independently of that in Ireland since the eighth century.[20] For the first time, the entire region of modern-day Scotland was called Scotia in Latin, and Gaelic was the lingua Scotica.[17]:276[21]:554 In southern Scotland, Gaelic was strong in Galloway, adjoining areas to the north and west, West Lothian, and parts of western Midlothian. It was spoken to a lesser degree in north Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, the Clyde Valley and eastern Dumfriesshire. In south-eastern Scotland, there is no evidence that Gaelic was ever widely spoken.[22]

Decline

Many historians mark the reign of King Malcolm Canmore (Malcolm III) as the beginning of Gaelic's eclipse in Scotland. His wife Margaret of Wessex spoke no Gaelic, gave her children Anglo-Saxon rather than Gaelic names, and brought many English bishops, priests, and monastics to Scotland.[19]:19 When Malcolm and Margaret died in 1093, the Gaelic aristocracy rejected their anglicised sons and instead backed Malcolm's brother Donald Bàn.[citation needed] Donald had spent 17 years in Gaelic Ireland and his power base was in the thoroughly Gaelic west of Scotland. He was the last Scottish monarch to be buried on Iona, the traditional burial place of the Gaelic Kings of Dàl Riada and the Kingdom of Alba.[citation needed] However, during the reigns of Malcolm Canmore's sons, Edgar, Alexander I and David I (their successive reigns lasting 1097–1153), Anglo-Norman names and practices spread throughout Scotland south of the Forth–Clyde line and along the northeastern coastal plain as far north as Moray. Norman French completely displaced Gaelic at court. The establishment of royal burghs throughout the same area, particularly under David I, attracted large numbers of foreigners speaking Old English. This was the beginning of Gaelic's status as a predominantly rural language in Scotland.Lothians by the Kingdom of Scotland, Gaelic reached its social, cultural, political, and geographic zenith.[19]:16–18 Colloquial speech in Scotland had been developing independently of that in Ireland since the eighth century.[20] For the first time, the entire region of modern-day Scotland was called Scotia in Latin, and Gaelic was the lingua Scotica.[17]:276[21]:554 In southern Scotland, Gaelic was strong in Galloway, adjoining areas to the north and west, West Lothian, and parts of western Midlothian. It was spoken to a lesser degree in north Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, the Clyde Valley and eastern Dumfriesshire. In south-eastern Scotland, there is no evidence that Gaelic was ever widely spoken.[22]

Many historians mark the reign of King Malcolm Canmore (Malcolm III) as the beginning of Gaelic's eclipse in Scotland. His wife Margaret of Wessex spoke no Gaelic, gave her children Anglo-Saxon rather than Gaelic names, and brought many English bishops, priests, and monastics to Scotland.[19]:19 When Malcolm and Margaret died in 1093, the Gaelic aristocracy rejected their anglicised sons and instead backed Malcolm's brother Donald Bàn.[citation needed] Donald had spent 17 years in Gaelic Ireland and his power base was in the thoroughly Gaelic west of Scotland. He was the last Scottish monarch to be buried on Iona, the traditional burial place of the Gaelic Kings of Dàl Riada and the Kingdom of Alba.[citation needed] However, during the reigns of Malcolm Canmore's sons, Edgar, Alexander I and David I (their successive reigns lasting 1097–1153), Anglo-Norman names and practices spread throughout Scotland south of the Forth–Clyde line and along the northeastern coastal plain as far north as Moray. Norman French completely displaced Gaelic at court. The establishment of royal burghs throughout the same area, particularly under David I, attracted large numbers of foreigners speaking Old English. This was the beginning of Gaelic's status as a predominantly rural language in Scotland.[19]:19–23

Clan chiefs in the northern and western parts of Scotland continued to support Gaelic bards who remained a central feature of court life there. The semi-independent Lordship of the Isles in the Hebrides and western coastal mainland remained thoroughly Gaelic since the language's recovery there in the 12th century, providing a political foundation for cultural prestige down to the end of the 15th century.[21]:553–6

By the mid-14th century what eventually came to be called Scots (at that time termed Inglis) emerged as the official language of government and law.[23]:139 Scotland's emergent nationalism in the era following the conclusion of the Wars of Scottish Independence was organized using Scots as well. For example, the nation's great patriotic literature including John Barbour's The Brus (1375) and Blind Harry's The Wallace (before 1488) was written in Scots, not Gaelic. By the end of the 15th century, English/Scots speakers referred to Gaelic instead as 'Yrisch' or 'Erse', i.e. Irish and their own language as 'Scottis'.Scots (at that time termed Inglis) emerged as the official language of government and law.[23]:139 Scotland's emergent nationalism in the era following the conclusion of the Wars of Scottish Independence was organized using Scots as well. For example, the nation's great patriotic literature including John Barbour's The Brus (1375) and Blind Harry's The Wallace (before 1488) was written in Scots, not Gaelic. By the end of the 15th century, English/Scots speakers referred to Gaelic instead as 'Yrisch' or 'Erse', i.e. Irish and their own language as 'Scottis'.[19]:19–23

A steady shift away from Scottish Gaelic continued into and through the modern era. Some of this was driven by policy decisions by government or other organisations, some originated from social changes. In the last quarter of the 20th century, efforts began to encourage use of the language.

The Statutes of Iona, enacted by James VI in 1609, was one piece of legislation that addressed, among other things, the Gaelic language. It compelled the heirs of clan chiefs to be educated in lowland, Protestant, English-speaking schools. James VI took several such measures to impose his rule on the Highland and Island region. In 1616 the Privy Council proclaimed that schools teaching in English should be established. Gaelic was seen, at this time, as one of the causes of the instability of the region. It was also associated with Catholicism.[24]:110–113

The Society in Scotland for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) was founded in 1709. They met in 1716, immediately after the failed Jacobite rebellion of 1715, to consider the reform and civilisation of the Highlands, which they sought to achieve by teaching English and the Protestant religion. Initially their teaching was entirely in English, but soon the impracticality of educating Gaelic-speaking children in this way gave rise to a modest concession: in 1723 teachers were allowed to translate English words in the Bible into Gaelic to aid comprehension, but there was no further permitted use. Other less prominent schools worked in the Highlands at the same time, also teaching in English. This process of anglicisation paused when evangelical preachers arrived in the Highlands, convinced that people should be able to read religious texts in their own language. The first well-known translation of the Bible into Scottish Gaelic was made in 1767 when Dr James Stuart of Killin and Dugald Buchanan of Rannoch produced a translation of the New Testament. In 1798 4 tracts in Gaelic were published by the Society for Propagating the Gospel at Home. 5,000 copies of each were printed. Other publications followed, with a full Gaelic Bible in 1801. The influential and effective Gaelic Schools Society was founded in 1811. Their purpose was to teach Gaels to read the Bible in their own language. In the first quarter of the 19th century, the SSPCK (despite their anti-Gaelic attitude in prior years) and the British and Foreign Bible Society distributed 60,000 Gaelic Bibles and 80,000 New Testaments.[25]:98 It is estimated that this overall schooling and publishing effort gave some 300,000 people in the Highlands some basic literacy.[24]:110–117 Very few European languages have made the transition to a modern literary language without an early modern translation of the Bible; the lack of a well-known translation may have contributed to the decline of Scottish Gaelic.[26]:168–202

Statutes of Iona, enacted by James VI in 1609, was one piece of legislation that addressed, among other things, the Gaelic language. It compelled the heirs of clan chiefs to be educated in lowland, Protestant, English-speaking schools. James VI took several such measures to impose his rule on the Highland and Island region. In 1616 the Privy Council proclaimed that schools teaching in English should be established. Gaelic was seen, at this time, as one of the causes of the instability of the region. It was also associated with Catholicism.[24]:110–113

The Society in Scotland for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SSPCK) was founded in 1709. They met in 1716, immediately after the failed Jacobite rebellion of 1715, to consider the reform and civilisation of the Highlands, which they sought to achieve by teaching English and the Protestant religion. Initially their teaching was entirely in English, but soon the impracticality of educating Gaelic-speaking children in this way gave rise to a modest concession: in 1723 teachers were allowed to translate English words in the Bible into Gaelic to aid comprehension, but there was no further permitted use. Other less prominent schools worked in the Highlands at the same time, also teaching in English. This process of anglicisation paused when evangelical preachers arrived in the Highlands, convinced that people should be able to read religious texts in their own language. The first well-known translation of the Bible into Scottish Gaelic was made in 1767 when Dr James Stuart of Killin and Dugald Buchanan of Rannoch produced a translation of the New Testament. In 1798 4 tracts in Gaelic were published by the Society for Propagating the Gospel at Home. 5,000 copies of each were printed. Other publications followed, with a full Gaelic Bible in 1801. The influential and effective Gaelic Schools Society was founded in 1811. Their purpose was to teach Gaels to read the Bible in their own language. In the first quarter of the 19th century, the SSPCK (despite their anti-Gaelic attitude in prior years) and the British and Foreign Bible Society distributed 60,000 Gaelic Bibles and 80,000 New Testaments.[25]:98 It is estimated that this overall schooling and publishing effort gave some 300,000 people in the Highlands some basic literacy.[24]:110–117 Very few European languages have made the transition to a modern literary language without an early modern translation of the Bible; the lack of a well-known translation may have contributed to the decline of Scottish Gaelic.[26]:168–202

Counterintuitively, access to schooling in Gaelic increased knowledge of English. In 1829 the Gaelic Schools Society reported that parents were unconcerned about their children learning Gaelic, but were anxious to have them taught English. The SSPCK also found Highlanders to have significant prejudice against Gaelic. T M Devine attributes this to an association between English and the prosperity of employment: the Highland economy relied greatly on seasonal migrant workers travelling outside the Gàidhealtachd. In 1863, an observer sympathetic to Gaelic stated that "knowledge of English is indispensable to any poor islander who wishes to learn a trade or to earn his bread beyond the limits of his native Isle." Generally, rather than Gaelic speakers, it was Celtic societies in the cities and professors of Celtic from universities who sought to preserve the language.[24]:116–117

The Education (Scotland) Act 1872 provided universal education in Scotland, but completely ignored Gaelic in its plans. The mechanism for supporting Gaelic through the Education Codes issued by the Scottish Education Department were steadily used to overcome this omission, with many concessions in place by 1918. However, the members of Highland school boards tended to have anti-Gaelic attitudes and served as an obstacle to Gaelic education in the late 19th and early 20th century.[24]:110–111

The Linguistic Survey of Scotland surveyed both the dialect of the Scottish Gaelic language, and also mixed use of English and Gaelic across the Highlands and Islands.[27]

Defunct dialects

Dialects of Lowland Gaelic have been defunct since the 18th century. Gaelic in the Eastern and Southern Scottish Highlands, although alive in the mid-20th century, is now largely defunct. Although modern Scottish Gaelic is dominated by the dialects of the Outer Hebrides and Isle of Skye, there remain some speakers of the Inner Hebridean dialects of Tiree and Islay, and even a few native speakers from Highland areas including Wester Ross, northwest Sutherland, Lochaber, and Argyll. Dialects on both sides of the Straits of Moyle (the North Channel) linking Scottish Gaelic with Irish are now extinct, though native speakers were still to be found on the Mull of Kintyre, on Rathlin and in North East Ireland as late as the

The Education (Scotland) Act 1872 provided universal education in Scotland, but completely ignored Gaelic in its plans. The mechanism for supporting Gaelic through the Education Codes issued by the Scottish Education Department were steadily used to overcome this omission, with many concessions in place by 1918. However, the members of Highland school boards tended to have anti-Gaelic attitudes and served as an obstacle to Gaelic education in the late 19th and early 20th century.[24]:110–111

The Linguistic Survey of Scotland surveyed both the dialect of the Scottish Gaelic language, and also mixed use of English and Gaelic across the Highlands and Islands.[27]

Dialects of Lowland Gaelic have been defunct since the 18th century. Gaelic in the Eastern and Southern Scottish Highlands, although alive in the mid-20th century, is now largely defunct. Although modern Scottish Gaelic is dominated by the dialects of the Outer Hebrides and Isle of Skye, there remain some speakers of the Inner Hebridean dialects of Tiree and Islay, and even a few native speakers from Highland areas including Wester Ross, northwest Sutherland, Lochaber, and Argyll. Dialects on both sides of the Straits of Moyle (the North Channel) linking Scottish Gaelic with Irish are now extinct, though native speakers were still to be found on the Mull of Kintyre, on Rathlin and in North East Ireland as late as the mid-20th century. Records of their speech show that Irish and Scottish Gaelic existed in a dialect chain with no clear language boundary.[28] Some features of moribund dialects have been preserved in Nova Scotia, including the pronunciation of the broad or velarised l (l̪ˠ) as [w], as in the Lochaber dialect.[29]:131

Status