Language and Largs

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By Daibhidh Rothach

With the comforts of modern life and education has come a softening of the edges to many of humanity’s historic rivalries, its prejudices and tribalisms, though a Scottish UKIP seat, not to mention marching season, suggests perhaps that they may merely be lying dormant, stifled by societal trends. Throughout these days of relative tolerance, however, native cultures have remained open to public denigration, their belonging, historically at least, to those who disparage them perhaps deflecting any accusations of bigotry or prejudice from the perpetrators.

The most recent incidence – unsurprisingly concerning Gaelic – came last week via the Largs and Millport Weekly News, local paper to Ayrshire’s intellectual elites and one with a previous record of ignorant attacks on the language. Scenario: editor Drew Cochrane scrambles atop Knock Hill (definitely not a Gaelic name – move along now), hastily takes aim, and fires his blunderbuss in the general direction of North Ayrshire Council’s Gaelic language plan and the threats contained therewithin to Largs’ position in the modern world. Result: an article only slightly better than the last time, when ‘young journalist’ David Walker rampaged across the pages of historical linguistics with the cultural nous of Karl Pilkington lost in 19th century Mumbai.

Mr Cochrane’s main concern was that the plan – which, regardless of his assertions to the contrary, NAC are obliged to put in place – includes a suggestion to rebrand the council logo to incorporate Comhairle Shiorrachd Àir a Tuath, considers employment of a full-time Gaelic officer, and envisages the promotion of the language in local schools. It is designed to not only to encourage the use of Gaelic, but to give it a status long denied.

It would be harsh, however, to lump Mr Cochrane in with some of the more well known offenders, because he does have a point: despite the historical spread of Gaelic in the county, there are but a handful of speakers now living in Ayrshire and, as he correctly points out, the response to North Ayrshire Council’s consultation on the plan was nothing short of feeble – thirty eight people via workshops, fourteen returning feedback online. Money spent on Gaelic in the area is then, undeniably, out of proportion to the number of speakers. Any Gaelic logos, be they on email headings or roadsigns, would be proven ludicrously out of place when one uses the square metre to Gael formula, the benchmark calculation beloved of sign post manufacturers and graphic designers.

It’s worth noting, however, that were Gaelic and its speakers actually facilitated for with a chunk of Scottish establishment money commensurate with their population decades ago, it would not only have received a far greater percentage, but the language would also currently be in far ruder health. The Gaelic of Arran (an island falling under NAC’s jurisdiction) ceased to be a spoken language only as late as the nineteen sixties, with recordings thankfully still available on the Tobar an Dualchais website and in print in The Gaelic of Arran by linguist Nils M. Homer. The thousands of Gaels who came to live in the area from other parts of the country during the Clearances would further have added to this population, and the site of Sainsbury’s in Saltcoats was once a church which held Gaelic-language services.

Undoubtedly, Arran Gaelic would have come under the same pressures currently bearing down on minority languages the world over regardless of state support, and whether intergenerational language transmission would have taken place amongst incomers on the mainland is open to debate. However, what is certain is that the death of Gaelic on Arran was aided and abetted by a school system which drove the language from the tongues of children (often with systematic violence) and by a lack of official recognition which confirmed the idea of its worthlessness to its speakers.

Mr Cochrane, then, begrudges a dying language vital support, despite this costing a mere fraction of the money used to extirpate it in the first place. The NAC budget for Gaelic currently stands at around seventy thousand pounds per annum, less than a week’s wages for some footballers, and is hardly a figure worthy of such childish hyperbole as farce, pot of gold, waste of money, and the all-time classic, political correctness gone mad. Mad, I tell thee, it’s just mad!

More worryingly, the thrust of his argument seemed to suggest that the anger was driven by more than cost, and that Gaelic would dare to be seen was a far greater issue, something which alludes to a more ominous side of his nature. At present, Gaelic is virtually invisible in Ayrshire unless one is acquainted with local toponymy or the series of adult learner classes. There is no danger of imminent takeover, and it won’t be forced on anyone, except possibility the primary school children.

Ultimately though, government policy dictates all aspects of what the state teaches us as children, and many things are forced upon us. Thankfully, the curriculum is not driven entirely by economics: what is of cultural relevance, what is of international and historical significance, what will inspire, what will prepare for the future and give a sense of place and belonging, are seen as of being of value. Although the introduction of compulsory Gaelic to schools would be an error, and probably counter-productive to the language, it is an outrageous situation that the vast majority of Scotland, a nation in which the most popular pastime per hour spent is apparently hillwalking, fails miserably to read the names on maps of the Highlands.

Perhaps, too, a Gaelic officer for a county with such few speakers could be seen as a step too far for many, and even something which would invite more aggressive resentment. Instead, North Ayrshire Council, and those which have a similar linguistic history, should look at the more neutral option of a general officer for Scottish culture. The Scots language has been sore neglected in its heartlands, and is at present still actively discriminated against in the education system and world of work, something which must be rectified. Surely only in the insular, troubled mind of Drew Cochrane is a dog warden army more important than an end to the continued social and mental damage inflicted on children, called stupid and chastised in front of their peers by teachers for speaking the language of Burns.

When a languages dies, it is gone forever, only the whistle of the wind through grass, the gurgle of the moor burn at night, left to answer its ghost. While the tongues of the Pirahã and Cherokee are of equal value in the mesmerising tapestry of world culture and language, only Scotland can save Gaelic.

It is currently, and undeniably, fading out of our story, and without a co-ordinated national plan which provides for and encourages speakers, one more step towards the grey concrete pragmatism of a monolingual world will inevitably be taken. How utterly sad that some would deem this progress, that such a thing as a letter heading would offend them.

One last look at the past before heading to an uncertain future: when King Haakon of Norway turned up at An Largaidh, The Slope, with his army from the islands in 1263, the language they spoke was Old Norse. His opponents, from that long list of heroes cut from that finest of Ayrshire cloth worn by Wallace and Bruce, spoke Gaelic. Just think, if not for the Scottish victory, all this fuss could have been avoided.



Categories: Gaelic

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45 replies

  1. As a professional first language Cymraeg/Welsh user (I teach/translate/edit in my mother tongue) and political activist, I fully endorse the views that Gaelic should be used as widely as possible. I’m sure a good many of my compatriots in language activist groups – many of whom have gone to jail in support of Cymraeg – will also agree with me.

    Full support for the retention of as many languages as possible in the world. And shame on narrow-minded, blinkered monolinguals who think that only the one language suffices.

  2. I have very mixed feelings about this. The inclusion of Gaelic place names on road signs in non Gaelic speaking areas will do nothing to preserve the language. I would far rather see NAC using their £70k per annum to help preserve the vibrant and living Ayrshire dialects before they too disappear from the area.

    • This is the real problem, isn’t it? Without reference to and respect for the vibrant living Scots varieties of Ayrshire, any promotion of Gaelic will be seen as an irrelevance at best and a weird form of linguistic imperialism at worse.

    • With respect, this thought pattern is part of the problem plaguing Gaelic. Insinuating that Gaelic has its place and should only be supported in that place suggests that Gaelic speakers, only have a right to use their language in places that are exclusively theirs. While not at all maliciously intended this is in a similar vein to the civil rights era segregation in the states. The idea that there are Gaelic places and non-Gaelic places is flawed.

      There are Gaelic speakers living throughout Scotland and they contribute to taxes. They shouldn’t be forced to abandon their language in their day to day life simply because there aren’t enough of them in a place. English language is accommodated in the Gaeltacht for tourists and English residents alike, why then cant Gaelic speakers expect the same consideration.

      Additionally one point the article is trying to make is that even though an area may not be Gaelic speaking now, many were historically and only lost their Gaelic because of direct intervention fueld by a lot more money than is being asked to help it now.

  3. The Gaelic language must be preserved. I’ve nothing against Gaelic road signs. I’d like to see Doric signs in the north-east. Passed through the town of Keith the other day; pleased to see street/road names in the local tongue.

    • Why “must” Gaelic be preserved, especially in those parts of Scotland where it’s had little or no influence or relevance for hundreds of years? (Good to hear about the Doric signs, mind.)

      • Why wouldn’t you want to save Gaelic? Why? Does it not impoverish us all if we let Scotland’s oldest living language die out? Why are we happily sliding and sleepwalking towards an almost complete and permanent immersion in a bland, soulless Anglo-American homogeneity? Gaelic and Scots are the only things that make this silly, bigotted little country unique. My foreign friends to a person are mystified at the level of anti-Gaelic prejudice that exists in Scotland – they would prefer to learn and hear Gaelic compared to the badly-spoken, and at times impenetrable English that is heard in our cities, which merely provides a source of humour for bemused visitors to Scotland.

    • Yes Dan, its not a zero sum game, we should (and will) be celebrating all of our languages. To preserve one doesn’t diminish another. Nor should we let the debate be framed like this.

      • Excuse me, but that “bland, soulless Anglo-American homogeneity” of which you, Uibhisteach, speak is made up of thousands of words appropriated from (and, arguably enriched by) numerous languages around the world, including Scots and Gaelic. And it varies significantly across the globe. In any case, the best way to “preserve” Gaelic is to ensure that it continues to be fit for purpose in the 21st century; those creating a new technological and scientific vocabulary for Gaelic, in my opinion, are doing far more to ensure it’s future than anyone posting it on road signs.

      • Uibhisteach,
        I agree entirely. It’s brilliant that you brought up the scum from the cities and their mangled English. They’re thick and can’t speak properly at all, unlike those from your part of the country. I’ve heard that some of them even stay in council houses, tenements, and high rise flats.

        Appalling people to a man, and it’s little wonder, coming from such horrific places as they do (in areas where the blood isn’t strong) that they all speak such impenetrable, humorous English, as you put it. I’ve heard some of their poets too, ‘Rabbie’ or something. He’s a complete gibbering moron! Laughable stuff. Thank God none of these people are taken seriously and don’t get any further in life than a builders yard, that’s if they even get off the dole queue.

        Again, good on you! Up with the Gaelic, up the Queen’s English, and ‘doon’ (joke – hahaha!) with those neds!

  4. Teaching 21st century Scottish children at least some Polish might be useful too. But, beyond practicality and economics, is the £70k proposal anything more than a sticking plaster on an amputated limb?

    • Paul Cockburn – you have your English, use it. You want to learn Polish, I’m sure that you can get help with that as well.

      My children though, both at home and in Gaelic medium, education are entitled to see their language on signs as much as possible. Or, are the tax pennies of English-only speakers worth more than mine?

      To re-iterate, I as a Gaelic-speaking tax-payer who uses Gaelic as his main home language – in addition to two ‘major’ tongues – wishes to see more services in Gaelic. On what grounds do you want to deny me and my children that? Because we’re in a ‘minority’? That’s dangerous ground, and well you know it.

      • I hail from NE England, and having lived in Scotland for 25 years, I love hearing Gaelic, and also the various Scottish dialect. Why not embrace Gaelic? It is a lovely language, even more so when heard in song. In my book, if the language, which was beaten out of the people by the English establishment, can be preserved, that is a good thing. It is all part of the cultural identity of Scotland, not exclusive but an expansion of learning about the world, where difference should be tolerated. It is not a backward step, but a recognition of a cultural diversity in a global setting. At the moment, we have some pressing issues, ie to stop the lies and the rot from westminster in stifling and silencing Scotland’s people once again.. Roll on Independence!

  5. I think road signs should be replaced as and when required. That is at the end of their life whether it is through rust, graffiti, new roads and destinations needed etc.

    Only then should other languages like Scots and Gaelic be added in the new signs.

    I don’t think we should pay extra to get new signs for language additions if the old signs still are viable.

    It would then be a gradual process and any cost implications would then be limited.

  6. I cannot see how independence or staying as we are will make any difference to the future to the Gaelic language in Scotland as the plans even if they are successful as projects are just too small. We all know that education and broadcasting are simply not enough, how could they be as Gaelic is a functional language and not one to put away and then only taken out for a special day. It needs to be part of the whole agenda and not relegated to the edges.

    • ” Gaelic is a functional language” you say Finlay and long may it remain so but changing the road signs in Largs will do nothing to help or promote that. By all means have road signs in Gaelic speaking areas in Gaelic but the signs in Paisley following the Mod’s visit for instance just look incongruous and have no meaning to the general population.
      Also northbritain mentions the cost and it strikes me that including Gaelic place names on signs probably trebles their cost as the names are so long in Gaelic.

      • Quote, “changing the road signs in Largs will do nothing to help or promote that.”

        How do you know that?

        Have you seen those signs through the eyes of older speakers or younger kids who can have Engerlish anywhere, anytime but Gaelic only when permitted?

        More signs please despite the naysaying and whinging of a few.

      • Do Gaelic speakers never drive through Largs? Is there a ban?

  7. Alan Mitchell I am always interested in when people talk about funding in particular considering the amount of money Gaelic cultural products put into both taxation and in creating livelihoods for people not only in Scotland but throughout Britain. It makes you think how little is spent on Gaelic when you think of the money from Whisky, Tartan, tourism among others yet we see nothing in return. Also take all the Gaelic elements of identity such as tartan, kilts and highland games plus of course the Alt-Tire (Saltire) out of Scotland and you will have a lot left but at least the Gaelic culture will be extracted from it all. I was given a figure of £11 Billion a year or so ago. Yet we see little in return.

    • Hi Finlay, Thanks for your reply but I am not sure what your point is.
      You seem to suggest that Gaelic is responsible for whisky, tartan, kilts and highland games but at least the last three owe more to Sir Walter Scott and Prince Albert’s restoration of an imagined and fictitious idyllic highland past.
      You also seem to suggest that whisky, tartan, kilts etc somehow “owe” Gaelic?

      • That’s a fairly simplistic view, Alan. Hugh Trevor Roper reckoned the whole shebang was made up but in recent years more enlightened views have superseded those of Mr Roper. Sure, the process of ‘Highlandism’ exaggerated many elements, but it remains true that many Scots identify with icons and items that are of Gaelic cultural origin. And James Macpherson of Badenoch’s yer man when it comes to the ‘restoration of an imagined and fictitious idyllic Highland past’, which the Enlightened literati of eighteenth century Lowland Scotland had been actively seeking. They practically forced it out of him.

  8. Actually, the use of road signs and other signs are fundamental to the normalization of Gaelic and its prestige and acceptance in Scottish society.

    The invisibility of Gaelic in Scotland at the institutional level, its total absence for centuries at the state level, and in things in road signs, goes some way to explaining why so many Gaelic speakers were reluctant to speak Gaelic in front of non Gaels for so long, and some probably still are today.

    This isn’t some petty, whimsical and capricious gesture by the politicians, as most people seem to understand it.

    There are people who spend their lives dedicated to language planning.

    These people are experts in how you go about saving a language and ensuring Scotland complies with the European Charter of Minority and Regional Languages and also with the UN which describes the protection of indigenous languages as a fundamental and human inalienable right.

    http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44352&Cr=language&Cr1#.U5mOdfldVyU

    We need to do much more for Gaelic and Scots, not less, and a country which does not take its indigenous languages seriously cannot expect to be taken seriously by outsiders.

  9. Trust the Scots, only the Scots!

    Only the cold calculating, penny pinching Scots could be so utterly backward and philistine as to let their indigenous languages languish, fester and die to save a few quid…

    It’s so sick it’s almost funny…

    “Aye but we could save ten bob on every road sign, ten bob X all the road signs in Scotland equals…we could invest it in premium bonds and…..”

    And so the Scots trade two languages with great literary and cultural prestige – the bedrock of their culture – though no societal prestige almost at all, and you end up with all the kitsch, all the crap, all the tartan and heather in words which pass for this plastic, worthless shortbread tin identity which is frankly an embarrassment…you could walk right down the High Street in Edinburgh, you’ll get al the crap but not a single book in Gaelic or Scots is my bet, though no doubt plenty of phrase books full of…

    “Jings crivens and michty mee…!!!”

    “It’s a braw bricht moonlicht nicht the nicht”

    .”Ye cannay shove yer granny off a bus”

    And Burns quoted out of context again and again and again, and made to sound like some folksy, kitsch, cheesy, trite poet, or like Harry Lauder…or a Glasgow music hall act.

    You despair, eventually.

    What’s the point?

  10. This is jist the same lade o auld pish fae the “We’ve naethin agin the Gaelic, we’re jist no wantin onybody daein onythin that wad big it up” tribe. An gitterin oan about Gaelic gettin mair than Scots disnae help at aw. That pits me in min o they dafties that whine about somebody else gettin a house aff the council that they wantit thirsels. Whan ye speir them “Did ye pit in fir a house?’ They aye say “Naw, A didnae bother.” Fundin fir Gaelic disnae tak awa fae onythin in Scots. Wantin tae tak spendin awa fae Gaeic an gie it tae Scots is like a blin man wantin the ee out o somebody’s heid that’s jist got the yin. Whit guid wad that dae ye? Ye cannae yaise it yersel! It winna fit in yer face!. Aye, weel, tak his ee out an we’ll baith be blin. That’s fair is it no? Here’s whit tae dae tae big up Scots. Stairt Scots playgroups. Get a haud o fowk that spik it, rent a haw, pit the bairns in thegithir an spik Scots till them. Stairt Scots schools whaur the teachers spik Scots aw the time, mak buiks an sangs an videos an CDs in Scots an tak them roun aw wheres. Pit letters aff tae the BBC compainin about how we dinnae hear Scots oan the telly or the radio. Same wi yer MPs and MSPs. Aye an ging roun aw the auld fowk an record them. Ye culd stick the recordins in an archive an never yaise them. Or ye culd learn aff them. Keepin a language in a museum is “preservation”. Learnin a tung an yaisin it is revitalisation. Gaelic is seein a wee bit o revitalisation. Whit’s wrang wi that? Hee haw.
    Try saein AYE tae guid things . . .

  11. In no way could I ever be regarded as a Gaelic language activist. That said, I do have a deep regard for the language and have often been taken-aback by the prejudices shown by people who ought to know better.

    For many would-be students, Gaelic appears impenetrable and fraught with difficulty. As a non-speaker of the language I can appreciate that particular prejudice, to an extent at least.

    I think what I am trying to say here is: If the Gaelic language is ever to become relevant to the mass of people, then a serious rethinking of how it is delivered to the mass people must take place. My own faltering way into Gaelic has been through my attempted deciphering of Anglicised place names. Thus, Paisley’s Amochrie Drive, for example, suddenly reads: a mo chrie. I’m winging it, of course, but Amochrie seems to me to translate roughly as, place ‘of my heart’. Perhaps I’m just easily amused, but my little deciphering exercises have given me the necessary buzz required to keep exploring the language.

    Because topography figures large in many Gaelic place names, I believe that the naming of places in Gaelic with the identification of their real and visible topographical features on the landscape could prove to be a useful tool for teachers. A sort of melding of language and land. Likewise the naming of Saints and their churches e.g. Kilmacolm, Kilbride etc. ( I’ll surely be told this has been happening for years, oh well.)

    As I don’t aspire to taking gold at the Mod, right now, I am not terribly interested in matters grammatical or formal at the moment. I would, though, in-common I suspect with many others, like to have more than a vague notion of what I’m experiencing when I see or hear the Gaelic language. Please don’t imagine that in order to suite my selfish needs I want to see the language dummed-down, nothing could be further from the case. What I want to see is Gaelic being made as accessible as it can be made, to as many people as possible. As ever, this is primarily a problem that must be solved by teachers.

    I am also with those people above who hold all of our living-dialects in esteem.

  12. Gaelic is a very beautiful language, poetic and musical. I have been learning it and would love to have learned it as a child. My own grandfather spoke it, but he never passed it on and stopped speaking it because it was discouraged at school. Gaelic has suffered from persecution for centuries, surely it is time we started to appreciate what we have and nurture this unique part of our culture.

    Putting road signs up gives the language status and puts it into the public consciousness, just as BBC Alba has done as well. Because of this, the number of learners are increasing and the interest in gaelic education is growing. Bi-lingual children often do much better in school, another benefit.

    I look forward to the day when people in Scotland stop measuring things in terms of money, and instead appreciate the value and riches of our unique culture for what they are.

    • As someone who expected to make a go of speaking to people in their own language whenever I went to Italy, Netherlands or France or wherever; I found myself some years ago embarrassed and shy in a shop in North Uist because I had no Gaelic; and so I felt unable to speak.
      Since then, I make small efforts where I can and feel a deeper sense of place and belonging with what little Gaelic I have. If we had collectively protected it two hundred years ago (instead of shipping the people abroad and destroying the language in the name of colonialism), I would have been able to speak to the people in that shop, who might have smiled politely at my strange east coast Gaelic.

      I’ve often wondered at how we rush to protect the rare and special in faraway places, but disdain our own world-class gems?

    • Well said Sheena, we should be proud of and support all of our many languages. It’s not one or other it’s both (and more) together. Let’s show some cultural solidarity and generosity?

    • Excellent points Sheena. I have always felt that Gaelic should be taught in schools (though not compulsory, as some have suggested) – in fact in my primary school days (a long, long time ago) myself & my pal Philip Traynor went to the headmaster & asked that we be taught Gaelic.

      Perhaps unsurprisingly, given this was early 70’s, we were told no. I have always regretted not being given the chance, most especially in early ’86 when I lived on South Uist for several months!

      The fact that an indigenous language isn’t in common use is no reason to let it fade into history; in fact I feel that is more than enough reason to do what we can to actively encourage it.

  13. Aye Drew Cochrane the ‘editor stuck in lavy overnight’ headliner from his own paper. It was in a portacabin, so he’s no Andy Dufresne.
    Another fine article from Mr Rothach…need a bilingual journalist Drew?

  14. Daibhidh Rothach is of course being facetious in saying that Knock Hill is ‘definitely not a Gaelic name’, but not everyone would know it: ‘knock’ comes from the Gaelic ‘cnoc’, meaning ‘hill’.

    I support all efforts to nurture both Gaelic and Scots, as being essential features of Scottish culture as we know it. It cannot be supposed that they will ever have such widespread popular use as they used to (in respect of Scots, I mean the old rich distinct language, not modern English with a Scottish accent and a few words of old Scots thrown in), because you can’t enforce the widespread use of a language for which most people find no use or advantage in their lives. Nevertheless, the nurture and encouragement of what we have and still know about is not just worthwhile: but akin to a duty, being good for the national conciousness, and maintaining a knowledge of the languages as, at the very least, an academic resource for the benefit of future generations.

  15. The loss of language is as damaging as the loss of land. Scotland is a perfect example of this and it’s heartbreaking. As someone who never learnt the language or heard it spoken I am bereft. If economic values is all that motivates us then we are in a sorry state. I hope that there are always those brave hearts who will fight for their heritage.
    The Scottish diaspora is alive and well here in Australia with more interest in the music and poetry than ever. There are quite a number of Gaelic learners here in West Australia and although I’m not one of them whenever I hear them speak or sing I’m reminded of my forebears and brings that sense of belonging to an old culture rich in poetry song and story.

  16. Slightly off topic, but YesAlba are looking for funding. Though maybe it’s completely on-topic as they’re producing Gaelic resources for the indy campaign and, like the roadsigns, increasging the visibility of Gaelic.

    Siuthad. Cuir taic ris. Saor Alba.
    https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/maoineachadh-yes-alba-campaign-fund#home

  17. It really saddens me that so many people in Scotland are against helping our native Gaelic tongue to recover. It is the language of our mythology and landscape and Scotland would be a sadder place without it. I can’t help but think those that are so against the language on road signs and letterheads are the end product of the British empires push to eradicate cultural diversity and make us all believe we are the same. Diversity is not necessarily a bad thing it enriches us and makes us better citizens of the world.

  18. I agree that Gaelic needs to be given more visibility in the country as a whole, but hopefully not at the expense of areas where Gaelic is still a community language and can be sustained. In the past English speakers have taken Gaelic cultural property for the own ends resulting in further losses and debasement for Gaelic culture as a whole. I hope we are not witnessing a reprise of this.
    English speakers have definitely had a love-hate relationship with Gaelic which today is largely one of indifference, but can quickly turn to outright hostility.
    Ideally, I would wish for Gaelic speakers what those working for Scottish independence are trying to achieve.

  19. A’m richt fond o Gaelic, but A find this constant deavin on aboot pittin up signs in langtime Scots-speakin airts, maistlie athoot a thocht for the local majoritie minoritie tung a bittie wrang-heidit. Pits monie fowk aff aw langage wark and IMO daes near *naethin* fur the rael forderin o Gaelic.

  20. Can I commit the ultimate sin and point to research? Signage falls under what linguists call the ‘linguistic landscape’. There are numerous research papers on the topic and its importance not only to the perception of a language but also language use. I shall just refer to one of them, Landry and Bourhis who published in Journal of Language and Social Psychology. The tell us that

    “Factor analysis results show that the linguistic landscape emerges as a distinct factor separate from other measures of linguistic contacts. This factor was an important correlate of subjective ethnolinguistic vitality representing perceptions of the vitality of the in-group language in various domains. The study also found relations between the Linguistic Landscape factor and degree of in-group language use, especially in institutional settings, suggesting a ‘carryover effect” of the linguistic landscape on language behavior.”

    In a nutshell, the old adage ‘out of sight, out of mind’ applies. So much for signs having no impact. So let’s move on from that, shall we?

    It may indeed be true that Gaelic has not been very lively in some areas of Scotland since it was driven to extinction (note the use of ‘driven’, few speakers relinquish their language willingly). But does that mean those who still do or those who would like to see it thrive there again should somehow be denied this opportunity because the extermination has been so successful? So two wrongs make a right? Is that not like driving the capercaillie to the bring of extinction and then saying ‘bog off bird, your kind has not been seen in this area for over 100 years, we’re not going to even give you a leg up to bounce back. Return in numbers and we’ll talk again’? That would surely be an odd argument to make in nature conservation. I’ll let you in on a secret… it’s equally odd in language conservation.

  21. ‘When a languages dies, it is gone forever, only the whistle of the wind through grass, the gurgle of the moor burn at night, left to answer its ghost. While the tongues of the Pirahã and Cherokee are of equal value in the mesmerising tapestry of world culture and language, only Scotland can save Gaelic.’

    Well-put. What would you say is the role of Nova Scotia in this? Just wondering. They do still have active native speakers and a certain amount of Gaelic-language community.

  22. To all the monoglot English speakers and Scots speakers with bigoted views featured in this discussion – and I know it has been said / pointed out by fellow Gaelophiles with a similar broader European outlook: I am oh-so-weary of the old road sign debate – face it, insular-minded “what’s-beyond-the-rim-of-my-plate-is-of-no-concern” people: there are countries in Europe where there are not only bilingual, but also tri- and quatrolingual road signs (e.g. Switzerland, northern Italy), and never has any road accident happened there “because the names were so long in the other language”, or too difficult to read for the drivers. I know it’s much easier to rant about minority languages and their presence in public, than to overcome old artificially bred and nurtured prejudices, but still – the only people backward in this game are not the speakers of the respective “foreign” languages, but those who cannot stop their hostile, vitriolic and ignorant attitudes to run free!!!

  23. Well as a native Welsh speaker who lived in Scotland for over a decade, I must say you are absolutely right to campaign for Gaelic. The hostility towards Gaelic from within Scotland is truly disgraceful and immature. I always thought it was idiotic how many Scottish people were really anti-English yet spoke only English. They simply could not see that without actively supporting Scotland’s languages, they were simply not credible to the outside world as being in favour of Scottish independence. Think about it; Catalonian nationalism is strong and credible not least because most people in Catalonia speak Catalan.

    However, it’s worth pointing out that a language can be revived but with massive difficulties – consider Cornish. Cornish has been revived, to an extent, but there are several modern versions and apparently lots of falling out over this. Scottish people who *say* they support Scotland’s languages but don’t speak any of them (apart from English) should study the history of Cornish closely; this should shake them out of their complacency.

Trackbacks

  1. Language and Largs - Speymouth
  2. A Cajun-Gaelic Footrace – Maia of the Birds
  3. The Origins of Gaelic » Kilted Scot

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