2007 - 2022

Gaelic in a Monolingual World

The gaelic debate is full of tensions and bizarre alliances. As Cruithneach puts it: ‘Schrödinger’s Gael is at the same time both an illiterate, backwards, neep-howking peasant *and* a latte-swilling Middle Class Parent. Both of these are Bad Things To Be”. Here Pavel Iosad, a lecturer in linguistics, looks at language privilege and the convergence of nationalists who attack gaelic.

We seem to be having another Conversation On The Internet about the promotion of Gaelic in Scotland. The context is the release of a £2.5 million tranche of funding for the development of Faclair na Gàidhlig, coupled with a parliamentary ‘debate’ on the new National Gaelic Language Plan. I say ‘debate’ because it was overwhelmingly positive, not to say anodyne, full of warm words rather than real commitments, and so, for those of us unlucky enough to care about Internet Conversations, oddly disconnected from the usual shouting matches. It was, in that sense, refreshing to see Tory MSP Donald Cameron acknowledge this gap between inoffensive political consensus and the more heated rhetoric elsewhere.

These events have brought to the fore the motivations of our culture of monolingual privilege, and an unwillingness to even try and see things from the minority’s perspective. The now-infamous Brian Beacom column is an object lesson in how a member of the majority is not so much ignorant of arguments against the status quo as simply unwilling to acknowledge even the possibility they may be valid. Unlike much other writing on the subject, Beacom’s column does not betray ignorance. Indeed, he constantly attempts to put his opponent on the back foot rhetorically: ‘they will argue bilingualism advantages the young mind… will argue that if you don’t provide the platforms, the language will die out… will argue that Welsh is spoken in a third of schools’. He speaks both for himself and for the other side, asserting his mastery of the conversation and letting us know he has already weighed all the arguments and found them wanting.

He is to be the judge of whether the arguments stand up, not the ‘powerful Gaelic lobby’ (bitter laughs all round), even as he makes claims occupying the vague space between ‘just wrong’ and ‘vacuous if true’. The Irish language, we are told, ‘has a wide support base’, to pre-empt any comparison with Gaelic. What does that even mean? That there are many more speakers of Irish in Ireland? But the difference in the number of Irish speakers and Gaelic speakers in Scotland isn’t on an order of magnitude: the optimistic estimate in the census of people ‘using Irish daily outside the education system’ — just over seventy thousand — is not that far off the totemic figure of ‘only’ 58,000 Gaelic speakers in Scotland. And if by ‘support base’ he means opinion and attitudes, well, he mustn’t have much experience with Irish media.

Gently poke any of his arguments and it falls apart. BBC Alba ‘seems dependent upon showing football matches to sustain an audience’, and hence ‘does the Gaelic language need [it]’? Well, if you don’t watch anything other than football matches, I can see how things can seem, but that’s surely not the channel’s fault — but more interestingly, the question is left hanging with a flourish, as if the ‘no’ answer is obvious. The answer, of course, is ‘yes’: how can you be serious about promoting a language if you force its speakers to watch the news, and international affairs programmes (here’s looking at you, Eòrpa), and book reviews, in the language of the majority? Of course Gaelic needs BBC Alba. Actually, I’m sure that if Gaelic speakers were offered more original content if it meant pushing the football off Alba, they would bite your hand off there and then.

The English speaker’s privilege is everywhere. With a knowing smirk, we are told Gaelic is going ‘the way of Latin as a spoken language’. We are meant to imagine fusty monasteries, or maybe public schools, such as the British Empire has been famous for. That is what happened to Latin, isn’t it? But just a few paragraphs before we were told off for how useless Gaelic is ‘in an international context’, unlike, er, Spanish — a living continuation of ‘Latin as a spoken language’, now heard from Santiago to Manila. ‘Romantic notions’, indeed.

The prevailing stance is a bafflement that not being able to live your life through Gaelic is somehow not good enough.

Why do we have Gaelic signs, they make me feel like I’m in Brigadoon! (Actually, they are sign that Gaelic is valued by the society.) Why do the pesky Gaels persist in creating divisions in society by, er, claiming a subset of the very same opportunities every English speaker enjoys without giving it a second thought? Why won’t they just go away and teach Gaelic to their children in clubs and culture centres, just like, you know, English speakers having to take huge chunks of time out of their working and personal lives, often voluntarily, just on the off chance they might be able to counterbalance the huge pull of the majority culture?

The killer blow comes in the last paragraph. Apparently in full earnest, Beacom suggests that there is no need for a standard historical dictionary of Gaelic, such as the one created at great expense for most other languages of the UK: the OED for English, the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru for Welsh, the two Dictionaries of the Scots Language for, well, Scots. Even Irish, the subject of so much wrangling, has the Dictionary of the Irish Language — whose digitization and revision was, perhaps ironically, very largely funded by UK research council grants to Northern Irish universities. But no — according to Beacom, the Gaels can make do with the equivalent of Johnson’s dictionary. Our knowledge of lexicography, we must understand, has not moved on even a bit since Dr Johnson. (His dictionary must still be the reference of choice for English speakers?) And yet Gaelic is not ‘useful in the modern world’. Literally, you cannot win.

“The most important action we must take if we want to really revitalize Gaelic is not scoring points in internet wars, and not putting signs on railway stations (laudable as that is), and even not opening Gaelic-medium units (hugely important as that is), but creating and sustaining vital communities whose main language is Gaelic.”

A similar bafflement pervades the recent blog on the subject from very different quarters.

The argument has been rehearsed to death: get with the programme and just speak English, you don’t want to be left behind, there’s a good chap. It’s all the same argument from J. S. Mill, who exhorted the Highlanders to stop ‘sulk[ing] on [their] own rocks, the half-savage relic[s] of past times, revolving in [their] own little mental orbit, without participation or interest in the general movement of the world’, to modern-day liberals tutting at the idea that people aren’t necessarily enamoured of leaving their heritage behind in favour of becoming modern, ‘dynamic and responsive’.

The Welsh academic Simon Brooks has recently treated this attitude at length in his important book Why Wales Never Was. Today, the watchword is communication — the idea that language is only for transmitting messages between brains is never seriously interrogated.

One language, one communication channel.

In the comments, someone winks: ‘Gaelic is as useful as Esperanto’. Indeed, because Esperanto, the living, most vital embodiment of the Wings Over Scotland approach to worldwide communication, is such a roaring success. (Not knocking Esperanto, by the way. One does wonder if the supporters of global English would be quite as enthusiastic on its behalf if it didn’t happen to be, by fortuitous coincidence, their first language.)

Stuart Campbell’s idea of what counts as valuable culture is something he could consume during a week’s holiday, whether it’s food, costumes, or architecture. But if it’s something most people in Scotland ‘can’t even begin to pronounce, let alone understand’, then Campbell joins arms with Beacom, who chooses to describe Gaelic as ‘gargling on Irn-Bru’, and exclaims ‘why isn’t this all about me?’. One has to laugh at the anecdote where Mr Campbell Sr had to deal with the justice system through the medium of Welsh. Being unable to use your own language in interactions with your own state — imagine that, huh? Here is another argument: I feel vaguely bad about not being part of the conversation, therefore I am excluded, therefore I should have nothing to do with it. Let them run their clubs, of course, I don’t think we should BAN Gaelic, oh no. Thank God for small mercies. Just get them out of sight.

All the while, the choice we are offered is between untroubled monolingual privilege and the official politics of milquetoast ‘promotion’.

While we expend breath over whether £2.5 million is a large or small pot of money (on a yearly basis, the Faclair na Gàidhlig funding is broadly equivalent to something like two average research grants by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, based on the latest figures), Gaelic is nearing crisis point. The most important piece on Gaelic policy that has appeared in the last couple of weeks is neither the dictionary news nor any blog or column in response to it, but this comment by Christopher Lewin. The most important action we must take if we want to really revitalize Gaelic is not scoring points in internet wars, and not putting signs on railway stations (laudable as that is), and even not opening Gaelic-medium units (hugely important as that is), but creating and sustaining vital communities whose main language is Gaelic. This is not possible without much more strategic thinking and — yes — investment than is currently on show from any party in Scotland. If you really care about Gaelic, this is what you should be angry about.

Comments (36)

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  1. Joan Macdonald says:

    Math fhein, Pavel!

  2. Welsh Sion says:

    Three Cheers for Pavel.

    Professional mother tongue linguist, holder of MA in Celtic studies, language activist and independentist.

  3. Rob Ross says:

    Perhaps acknowledging that the advantages of speaking languages, and as many as possible at that, might be enough. From improving lateral thinking to problem solving, acquiring language learning knowledge and extending communication possibilities, and so on. And besides all that, the fact that it’s one of the native languages of your own country should stimulate you to learn it.

  4. Alistair Livingston says:

    If there was a better understanding of the historic extent of Gaelic, would that create a more positive climate for Gaelic today? It will certainly be interesting to see what the response will be to our ‘Gaelic Galloway’ conference in September. Will we have protestors outside waving banners saying ‘Gaelic was never spoken in Galloway’?…

    I am working on my contribution and have found a Gaelic connection between Galloway and Gigha in the early sixteenth century.

    Tickets are still available for the conference.

    Galloway: Gaelic’s Lost Province

    One Day Conference at the Catstrand, New Galloway, Saturday 8 September 2018

    09.15 Registration/Coffee on arrival
    10.00-10.05 Welcome: Professor Ted Cowan
    10.05-10.45 ‘Kirk, Kil and the Gaelicisation of Galloway’ Professor Thomas Clancy
    10.45-11.15 ‘Gaelic influence across the Solway in the medieval period’ Dr Fiona Edmonds
    11.15-11.25 BREAK
    11.25-11.55 ‘The origins of the Galloway Cenéla’ Dr Donald McWhannell
    11.55-12.30 ‘Òran Bagraidh and Willie Matheson‘ Ronnie Black
    12.30-13.30 LUNCH
    13.30-14.00 ‘Kindreds and Ceathramh; Gaelic social and economic structures in Medieval Galloway’ Professor Richard Oram
    14.00-14.30 ‘Galloway Gaelic: Law and Society’ Professor Hector MacQueen
    14.30-15.00 ‘Looking for the Gaidhealtachd; identifying Gaels in the historical record 1560-1700’ Dr Aonghas Maccoinnich
    15:00-15:15 BREAK
    15:15-15:45 ‘The Ceathramhan of the Cree Valley’ Michael Ansell
    15:45-16:15 ‘Gaelic to Scots transition in Galloway’ Alistair Livingston
    16:15-16:25 Concluding remarks Professor Ted Cowan


    1. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

      Re Galloway Gaelic:

      In the book ‘Gaelic and Scotland / Alba agus a’ Ghàidhlig’ (Edited by William Gillies, Edinburgh Univ. Press, 1989), John MacInnes, in his essay ‘The Gaelic perception of the Lowlands’, writes:

      “Some years ago I heard Gaelic speakers in Arran describe the entire stretch of coastland from Galloway to Ayrshire as part of the Gàidhealtachd. They knew some of the place-names of that region in their Gaelic form; it was traditional knowledge among them that the Gaelic language had been spoken there in the past; and they assumed that, just as in Arran, it had survived to the present day.” (p90)

      Regarding the Lowlands more generally, MacInnes offers the interesting remarks:

      “A Lowlander (male) is a *Gall*; a Lowlander (female) a *Ban-Ghall*. The adjective is *Gallda*; and *Galldachd* is formed from it. The sharpness of the distinction that Gaelic tradition draws between Lowlander and Englishman is not always appreciated to the full by non-Gaels. Their puzzlement may not be altogether surprising. For one thing, as Lowlanders sometimes complain, Gaelic makes no distinction between English and Lowland Scots linguistically. They both speak *Beurla*. But *beurla* meant originally not ‘English’ but ‘speech’: the extended designation *Beurla Shasannach* ‘English (speech)’ is still heard. I must admit that I have never heard this employed to make a contrast with *Beurla Gallda*, but when I myself use the latter for Scots (in preference to the dreadful neologism *Albais*), all Gaelic speakers understand immediately what is intended. In any event, Lowlanders themselves originally referred to their language as ‘Inglis’.” (pp 92,93)

      “To sum up, the Gaelic perception of the Lowlands is in essential agreement with that of the medieval Scots writers who regard the Gaels of their time as ‘contemporary ancestors’, people who preserve the language and culture which were once shared by all. But from the Gaelic point of view, we the Gaels are the disinherited, the dispossessed.” (p99)

      [It should be noted that since John MacInnes wrote the above, Gaelic Orthographic Conventions now favour a “t” rather than “d” in certain contexts, hence the currently recommended spelling is: “Gallta”, “Galltachd” etc.]

      1. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

        Typo. I dropped an “h” when transcribing MacInnes’s reference to “Beurla Ghallda”. (“Beurla” is a feminine noun, hence the adjective gets aspirated, indicated by an “h”. [New spelling = “Beurla Ghallta”]).

        1. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

          Further to John MacInnes’s line of thought recommending “Beurla Ghallda” as default Gaelic for “the Lowland Scots language”, I am wondering if it could yield an acceptable neologistic synonym in the form “Galltais”, which would be both succinct and bear a certain helpful resemblance to “Lallans”.

          MacInnes’s understandable antipathy to the historically incoherent term “Albais” would obviously extend to the even more etymologically garbled “Albais Uladh”, which has gained some dictionary currency for “Ulster Scots”.

          For the Gaelic speaker, the form “Galltais Uladh” would be far more resonant than “Albais Uladh”. And “Galltais Uladh” is more concise than “Beurla Ghallta Uladh”.

          The contemporary Irish dictionary gives “Béarla na hAlban” (literally: “English of Scotland”) for “Lowland Scots”. And there is some use of “Ultais” for “Ulster Scots”. But one suspects “Ultais” would fail, and for similar reasons, MacInnes’s “Albais” test.

          “Gallda” (retaining the “d”) in Irish means (and this range is not absent from Scottish Gaelic): “Foreign, English, Anglicized”. Cf Irish: “Ar nós na nGall”. This echoes from the Irish perspective MacInnes’s observation that “Gaelic makes no distinction between English and Lowland Scots linguistically.”

          Anyhow, my point here is that maybe “Galldais” (or “Galltais”) for “Scots” and “Galldais Uladh” (or “Galltais Uladh”) for “Ulster Scots” could be usefully apposite forms. And mutually intelligible whether we are speaking Irish or “Scottish” (to throw another pebble into the terminological pond :)).

          1. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

            Authoritative online dictionaries:

            Massive contemporary language resource. Tri-dialect audio files for most main terms. Copious idioms. Tense and declension tables. Brilliant ‘Grammar Wizard’ facility for prepositional and adjectival agreement with definite and indefinite nouns.
            More modest than above Irish resource, but very useful continuously expanding contemporary usage. Also presents Dwelly as parallel column.
            “Gaelic Terminology Database for Schools”:
            So far rather timid and limited but can prove helpful.

  5. Domhnall MacCoinnich says:

    Well said.

    Particularly liked how you handled the Revs arguments.

  6. Neilyn says:

    Presumably Senor Beacom is fluent in Spanish himself?

    1. David Leask says:

      He is, yes, as it happens.

      1. Neilyn says:

        Well perhaps he’ll “relocate” at the earliest opportunity then! After all, where is Espanol spoken in Scotland? It’s about as much of a community and national language in Scotland as Gaelic is in Spain!

  7. Big Jock says:

    I agree with Stuart Campbell on most things. However his personal hobby horse crusade against Gaelic, is baffling and incoherent.

    Possibly there is too much heat and not enough light in his thinking. If something is important to 2% of my fellow Scots then it’s important to me.

    I don’t have the Gaelic but speak it regularly without knowing it. My town, the hills I climb and some of the Scots words we say are often derived from Gaelic.

    I don’t want to live in a world where everyone is expected to speak English. English is the foreign language in Scotland not Gaelic. It was spoken from Barra to Bonkle. It fell out of fashion with the Stuart’s and Lowland Scotland followed.

    1. Yeah I think it “fell out of fashion” isn’t quite what happened but apart from that I agree …

  8. Graeme Purves says:

    ‘Great to see Bella publishing intelligent articles and supporting lively debate anent Gaelic. It’s a pity she doesn’t take the same approach to Scots.

  9. Lochside says:

    Rev Stu is so wrong in his attitude on Gaelic. Aligning himself with the unspeakable Beacom is so dumb and really unforgiveable. Why socalled independence supporting Scots have an antipathy to the language is unfathomable. It’s blatantly obvious that the forces of English Imperialism and its Scottish lackeys has done everything to suppress it as part of the overall strategy they’ve employed since 1707.

    Opponents of Gaelic and its culture are unconsciously demonstrating their Scottish Cringe.
    We should be celebrating and teaching our languages: both Scots and Gaelic to our children.
    Child development studies prove that the more languages a child is exposed to or taught increase both their linguistic abilities but also their cognitive functions. Dutch kids are taught at least four languages and it shows in the level headed and rational population that inhabits that country.
    Why are we always self harming?…..well try Imperialist oppression for a start.

    1. mince'n'tatties says:

      Mentioning the Dutch as an admirable example in the same polemic as historical ‘imperialism’,’lackeys’, ‘oppression’ blah blah is utterly bizarre.
      Dutch amnesia [you call it ‘level headed’] over war crimes and well documented atrocities in their now Indonesian colonies is a national trait. Language skills are not the be all and end all in assessing rational thinking.
      Try harder.

      1. Lochside says:

        I think you are the one hard of thinking. So the Dutch are unique in their history of colonial oppression?

        Anyway, the point was child development and language acquisition. The Dutch example was a modern one and their history does mot negate their progressive education regarding languge skills. No doubt you hate the Germans for their Nazi pastas well.
        Your comment was nonsensical. Therefore,If I was you I’d change your name to simply Mince ,or possibly Doughballs would be more appropriate.

        1. Lochside says:

          Sorry for predictive text errors..’past’ not ‘pastas’!!,

    2. SB says:

      It was happening long before 1707, I’m afraid – 1609, Statutes of Iona, anyone?
      Or 1616, Scottish Privy Council’s School Establishment Act, prominent among its aims:
      “That the vulgar Inglish toung be universallie plantit and the Irische language which is one of the cheif and principall causis of the continewance of barbaritie and incivilitie amangis the inhabitantis of the Ilis and heylandis may be abolisheit and removit.”

      For Irische read Gaelic, of course. Although it was not so long before that in Scottish history that the language we now call Gaelic was universally known as Scots.

  10. kate macleod says:

    if the gaels were black these ‘debates’ about the dying language and irrelevant culture of a minority would be seen as nothing but the vilest racism. scotland get a grip.

  11. Redgauntlet says:

    Good article, Pavel, you are 100% right. The SNP have done no more for Gaelic than Labour. Either their is a national effort to save Gaelic, or it will dwindle into total irrelevance.

    The only hope for Gaelic is the numerous Europeans who study it and teach it, people like Pavel.

    Most Europeans speak at least two languages. Probably something like a third speak three or four.

    The Scots don’t care about their national languages, and never have done, not since John Knox brought an English Bible to Scotland, thereby sounding the death knell of the Scots Leid as a literary language…

    Hugh MacDiarmid saw it all clearly back in his day: “The Scots have allowed their national languages, Gaelic and Scots, to lapse almost completely, although every European nation or national minority, has fought almost desperately to use and keep its distinctive language…”

  12. Redgauntlet says:

    Anybody who is robbed of their native language suffers a huge loss, a trauma…

    Think of all the Gaelic speakers over the last 150 years who had to give up their mother tongue for what was a foreign language, English? Think on that.

    Shakespeare writes brilliantly about losing one’s mother tongue in Richard II, when Norfolk is banished to France, forbidden ever to return to England.

    And of course, Shakespeare, like most writers would do, has Norfolk lament, not the loss of England itself, so much as the loss of his mother tongue… the English language:

    “The language I have learn’d these forty years,
    My native English, now I must forego:
    And now my tongue’s use is to me no more
    Than an unstringed viol, or a harp;
    Or like a cunning instrument cas’d up,
    Or, being open, put into his hands
    That knows no touch to tune the harmony.
    Within my mouth you have engaol’d my tongue,
    Doubly porcullis’d with my teeth and lips;
    And dull, unfeeling, barren ignorance
    Is made my gaoler to attend on me.
    I am too old to fawn upon a nurse,
    Too far in years to be a pupil now;
    What is thy sentence then but speechless death
    Which robs my tongue from breathing native breath?”

    Swap “my native English” for “my native Gaelic” or indeed “my native Scots”….

    It’s hard to take Scotland seriously….

    How can you take a country seriously which doesn’t takes its national languages seriously?

    What do I have in common with the Gaelic bashers of Scotland? Less than I do with your average European… the Europeans just can’t begin to understand the lack of interest in Scots and Gaelic in Scotland… it’s an embarrassment…

  13. Redgauntlet says:

    It’s also one of Scotland’s most cherished and sacred unwritten rules that, the more brutish, ignorant, ill-informed, prejudiced and semi-literate you are, the greater your chances of getting a job as a journalist in the Scottish print media…

  14. Alf Baird says:

    With all due respect, if anything this article demonstrates the folly of certain ‘Scottish’ universities in their longstanding standard recruitment practices to appoint academics mainly from outside of Scotland and allow them to pontificate on matters related to a country and culture they actually know relatively little about. Nevertheless a Russian should really know something about Russianization language policy and its role in the cultural assimilation of peoples; the English language does more or less the same job here in Scotland and has done so now for a couple of centuries and more. The real language scandal evident in Scotland is the lack of any statutory provision and funding for the teaching of the ‘Scots’ language, here we only have English garred doon maist Scots bairns thrapples.

    Some notable differences between Scots and Gaelic seem to have escaped the author’s attention. Gaelic has its Language Act; Scots does not. Gaelic has its TV station; Scots does not. Gaelic has its £50m+ annual public funding; Scots has nothing. The latter works out at £1,000 public funding per Gaelic speaker; if the census data is correct and there are (still!) 1.6 million Scots speakers remaining in Scotland then their pro-rata funding based on the actual funding of Gaelic would amount to £1.6bn per annum. I would settle for half of that to be spent on the Scots language. But we aw ken fine why Scots will nivver be taucht tae Scots bairns.

    1. Scots and Gaelic work best hand in hand, as most of the great language and culture campaigners have known down the years.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        That sounds like the sort of meaningless rhetoric I would expect to hear from a politician, a spad, a civil servant, or the msm/BBC, Ed. As my Flanders friends used to say: “If there is no money for it there is no policy for it”.

        1. Its not meaningless rhetoric its reference to the internationalist outlook and solidarity of poets and political activists who for years saw defending and celebrating Scottish cultures diversity as a wonderful thing and knew too well that language division would do neither Scots nor Gaelic any good. You know who I mean.

          1. Alf Baird says:

            Ed, what we appear to be seeing here is a rather convenient arrangement between two Scottish elites based largely around language; on the one hand there is the totally Anglicised (‘proper’ English speaking) public school privileged who have aye been allowed to run Scotland’s higher echelons on behalf of our English maisters, and on the other there is the predominantly urban professional also largely privileged bourgeois Gael. Both of these elites are essentially unionist, indeed it was a unionist Labour/Libdem coalition which brought in the 2005 Gaelic Language Act. The Gaelic ‘lobby’ is especially strong (given its rather insignificant speaking numbers) and is to be found amongst many senior positions throughout Scotland’s government, public quangos, media, law, and in the running of key institutions such as BBC Scotland.

            The former view themselves as modern day custodians of a forever obedient if downtrodden Scotland, the latter consider themselves representing the ancient rulers and hieland clans and their equally ancient language, and the status that goes with that. Within this linguistic and prejudiced pincer movement between Scotland’s contented unionist elites, in the middle sits the working cless Scot (i.e. the majority of ‘us’), and what these elites continue to view as our ‘gutteral’ Scots language. Nothing will be done for him or his language because (aside from Billy Kay who must aye keep the Gael heid bummers in BBC Scotland happy) he has no voice anywhere in the corridors of power in Scotland.

            We should note that neither of these languages of English or Gaelic happen to be the language of the vast majority of Scots people, which is Scots as developed over the past thousand years and more due in large part to our communication and commerce with the European continent and Scandinavia as much as anywhere else. So the majority of Scots today are linguistically discriminated against, kept haud doon by oor twa unionist linguistically-based elites in thair ain sel interest.

            Scotland’s Angles and Gael elites are merely doing what they always have done, that is conspiring to protect their own narrow privileged self-interest and social status. The future of unionist Scotland is thus linguistically defined and is essentially carved up between those two privileged elites – the Anglicised and the Gael – much as was the case historically of course. This is nothing more than a caste system based on language difference and prejudice, much as the contributions below of Ottomanboi and Rob Ross imply.

  15. Ottomanboi says:

    Scotland’s language history is probably unique.
    Gaelic, Norse, Scottis, French and English were brought here as a result of invasion. They are not ‘native’. The Cymric/Cumbrian Celtic that flourished in the south of Scotland and gave to modern Welsh the culture of the Gwŷr y Gogledd (men of the north) and the extinct so-called Pictish were the autochthonous native voices of Scotland. As with much that belongs to Scotland’s pre-reformation patrimony most has been destroyed so if these languages did once occur in manuscript form in some oft ravaged, by you know who, monastery library we can only speculate as to what contribution that might have made to re-assembling Scotland’s fractured identity. Placenames, however, do keep that elemental memory alive.
    With that in mind, any view that favours Gaelic over Scots or English is simply prejudice for in the modern context all stand equal. Gaelic and Scots could, with the politico-cultural will, replace English. Both tongues during the time on our shores have been ‘scoticized’. They are of the country. Whereas English brings with it a bitter taste of imperialism and repression. Its promotion during the late 16c probably speeded up the disastrous annexation ie union.
    I do find it stunning that Scottish nationalists of all people have such narrow perspectives regarding Scottish identity and sometimes express opinions indicative of how damaged, warped and anglicised their perception of that identity has become.

  16. Rob Ross says:

    If there are three living languages in Scotland there should be space made for them all, along with the necessary respect, encouragement and tolerance to let them flourish as fully as possible, particularly by those who are not fluent in either Scots or Gaelic, supposing English is their only language.

    Is Scots not ‘standardised’ enough to be included in trilingual government and local publications yet? Come off it, language policy makers and promoters! Linguistic prejudice is one of the first indications of intolerance, is it not? Here’s a wee bit of thought about how language imposition is achieved: Phillipson, Robert (1992)”Linguistic imperialism”

  17. Pepsi and Shirley says:

    More rubbish from a ‘new speaker’ of Gaelic – the Rachel Dolezals of the language. The indigenous community should have been promoted but they haven’t – they’ve been marginalised by the ‘new speakers’ who are all over Twitter / Gaelic jobs / meeja / earning a wage. All of them totally unrealistic and related to THE Gaelic community – which is the people of the Outer Hebrides. It’s a waste of money. I despise most new speakers. They’re explorers and liars. They go on a 2 year course then they’re ‘Gaelic poets / artists. What an insult.

    1. Stuart Murray says:

      So much self hatred.

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