Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig)

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Scotish Gaelic is a Celtic language primarily spoken in the Highlands and western isles of Scotland. It is closely related to Irish, although there exists no mutual intelligibility between speakers today. It is largely thought that Gaelic was brought to Scotland by Irish settlers in the 6th century where it proceeded through various phases of expansion and decline, ousting Pictish (a language spoken by the Picts who inhabited Scotland until the Early Middle Ages) and later competing with Scots and English. The Gàidhealtacht of the Highlands and the Outer Hebrides has remained somewhat stable for many centuries and is viewed as the epicenter of Gaelic language activity. There are also small Gaelic-speaking communities in Canada, notably Nova Scotia, as a result of wide-scale emigration in the 18th century. Despite its restricted geography, Gaelic manifests dialectal variation which has made linguistic description a challenge; a ‘central dialect’ has been adopted for the development of a number of grammars. 


Of the Celtic languages still spoken, Gaelic is the most severely endangered. The 2001 census tallies the number of speakers who use Gaelic in their everyday lives at 58,650; this is largely considered an overestimation. Furthermore, no speakers are monolingual. The influx of tourism and new industry to the Gaelic speaking areas has resulted in a steady drift towards English. Many parents choose to raise their children speaking English for the economic and social advantages that it brings them. Revitalization efforts have taken the form of national language policy, Gaelic Medium Education, community initiatives, and media and cultural programs. Despite the enthusiasm with which revitalization efforts are met, the language is declining.


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