Goidelic languages: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Goidelic languages

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man
  Insular Celtic

The Goidelic languages are one of the two branches of the Insular Celtic languages, the other consisting of the Brythonic languages. Goidelic languages historically formed a dialect continuum stretching from the south of Ireland through the Isle of Man to the north of Scotland. There are three modern Goidelic languages: Irish (Gaeilge), Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig), and Manx (Gaelg).

Early Modern Irish was used as a literary language in Ireland until the 17th century, and its equivalent, Classical Gaelic was used as a literary language in Scotland until the 18th century. Later orthographic divergence has resulted in standardised pluricentric diasystems. Manx orthography, based on English and Welsh, was introduced in 1610 but was never widely used.

The Goidelic languages have also been classified as part of the Q-Celtic division of the Celtic languages.



Although Irish and Manx may be referred to as Irish Gaelic and Manx Gaelic (as they are Goidelic or Gaelic languages) the use of the word Gaelic is unnecessary because the terms Irish and Manx, when referring to language, only ever refer to these languages, whereas Scots by itself refers to a Germanic language and Scottish can refer to things not at all Gaelic. The word Gaelic by itself is sometimes used to refer to Scottish Gaelic and is thus ambiguous.

The names used in languages themselves (Gaeilge in Irish, Gaelg/Gailck in Manx, and Gàidhlig in Scottish Gaelic) are derived from Old Irish Goídelc, which comes from the Old Welsh Guoidel meaning "pirate, raider".


The family tree of the Goidelic languages is as follows:

History and range

Britain & Ireland in the mid-late 400s CE.
Red: mainly Brythonic areas.
Green: mainly Gaelic areas.
Blue: mainly Pictish areas.

Goidelic languages were once restricted to Ireland, but sometime between the 3rd century and the 6th century a group of the Irish Celts known to the Romans as Scoti began migrating from Ireland to what is now Scotland[1] and eventually assimilated the Picts (a group of peoples who may have originally spoken a Brythonic language) who lived there. Manx, the former common language of the Isle of Man, is closely akin to the Irish spoken in northeast Ireland and the now extinct Gaelic of Galloway (in southwest Scotland), with heavy influence from Old Norse because of the Viking invasions.

The oldest written Goidelic language is Primitive Irish, which is attested in Ogham inscriptions up to about the 4th century AD. Old Irish is found in the margins of Latin religious manuscripts from the 6th century to the 10th century. Middle Irish, the ancestor of the modern Goidelic languages, is the name for the language as used from the 10th to the 12th century: a great deal of literature survives in it, including the early Irish law texts. Early Modern Irish covers the period from the 13th to the 17th century: a form of it was used as a literary language in Ireland and Scotland consistently until the 17th century and in some cases well into the 18th century. This is often called Classical Irish while the Ethnologue gives the name "Hiberno-Scottish Gaelic" to this purely written language. As long as this written language was the norm, Ireland was considered the Gaelic homeland to the Scottish literati.


Irish is one of Ireland's two official languages (along with English) and is still fairly widely spoken in the south, west, and northwest of Ireland. The legally defined Irish-speaking areas are called the Gaeltacht; all government institutions of the Republic of Ireland (in particular, the parliament (Oireachtas), its upper house (Seanad) and lower house (Dáil), and the prime minister (Taoiseach)) are officially named in this language, even in English. At present, Irish is primarily spoken in Counties Cork, Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Kerry, and, to a lesser extent, in Waterford and Meath. 1,656,790 (41.9% of the total population aged three years and over) regard themselves as competent Irish speakers.[2] Of these, 538,283 (32.5%) speak Irish on a daily basis.[2] Irish is also undergoing a revival in Northern Ireland and has been accorded some legal status there under the 1998 Belfast Agreement. The 2001 census in Northern Ireland showed that 167,487 (10.4%) people "had some knowledge of Irish". Combined, this means that around one in three people (~1.8 million) on the island of Ireland can understand Irish to some extent. Before the Great Famine of the 1840s, the language was spoken by the vast majority of the population, but the famine and emigration, as well as an implication by the English ruling classes that Irish was for the ignorant, led to a decline which has begun to reverse only very recently. The census figures do not take into account those Irish who have emigrated, and it has been estimated (rightly or wrongly) that there are more native speakers of Irish in Britain, the US, Australia, and other parts of the world than there are in Ireland itself.

The Irish language has been officially recognised as a working language by the European Union. Ireland's national language is the twenty-first to be given such recognition by the EU and previously had the status of a treaty language.

Scottish Gaelic

Some people in the north and west of mainland Scotland and most people in the Hebrides still speak Scottish Gaelic, but the language has been in decline. There are now believed to be approximately 1,000 native speakers of Scottish Gaelic in Nova Scotia and 60,000 in Scotland.

Its historical range was much larger. For example, it was the everyday language of most of the rest of the Highlands until little more than a century ago. Galloway was once also a Gaelic-speaking region, but the Galwegian dialect has been extinct there for approximately three centuries. It is believed to have been home to dialects that were transitional between Scottish Gaelic and the two other Goidelic languages. While Gaelic was spoken across the Scottish Borders and Lothian during the early High Middle Ages it doesn’t seem to have been spoken by the majority and was likely the language of the ruling elite, land owners and religious clerics. The rest of the Lowlands also spoke forms of Gaelic, the only exceptions being the northern isles of Orkney and Shetland.

The very word Scotland in fact takes its name from the Latin word for a Gael, Scotus. So Scotland originally meant Land of the Scots, or Land of the Gaels. Moreover, until late in the 15th century, it was solely the Gaelic language used in Scotland which in English was called Scottish or - more authentically - Scottis and the speakers of this language who were identified ethnically as Scots. Scottis continued to be the English name for the language, although it was gradually superseded by the word Erse, an act of cultural disassociation which contributed to the language's declining status. In the early 16th century the dialects of northern Middle English, also known as Early Scots, which had developed in Lothian and had come to be spoken elsewhere in the Kingdom of Scotland themselves later appropriated the name Scots. By the seventeenth century Gaelic speakers were restricted largely to the Highlands and the Hebrides. Furthermore, the culturally repressive measures taken against the rebellious highland communities by the British crown following the 2nd Jacobite Rebellion of 1746 caused still further decline in the language's use - to a large extent by enforced emigration. Even more decline followed in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Scottish Parliament has afforded the language a secure statutory status and equal respect (but not full equality in legal status within Scots Law [1]) with English, sparking hopes that Scottish Gaelic can be saved from extinction and perhaps even revived.


Today Manx is used as the sole medium for teaching at five of the island's pre-schools by a company named Mooinjer Veggey, which also operates the sole Manx primary school—the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh. Manx is taught as a second language at all of the Island's primary and secondary schools and also at the Isle of Man College and Centre for Manx Studies.




# Irish Scottish Gaelic Manx
1 aon aon un, nane
2 dó, dhá dà, dhà daa
3 trí trì tree
4 ceathair ceithir kiare
5 cúig còig queig
6 sia shey
7 seacht seachd shiaght
8 hocht ochd hoght
9 naoi naoi nuy
10 deich deich jeih
11 aon déag aon deug nane jeig
12 dó dhéag dà dheug daa yeig

Common phrases

Irish Scottish Gaelic Manx English translation
Fáilte Fàilte Failt Welcome
Conas atá tú? /Cad é mar atá tú? Ciamar a tha thu? Kys t'ou? How are you?
Cad é an t-ainm atá ort? Dè an t-ainm a tha ort? Cre'n ennym t'ort? What is your name?
Is mise... Is mise... Mish... I am...
Lá maith Latha math Laa mie A good day
Maidin mhaith Madainn mhath Moghrey mie A good morning
Trathnóna maith Feasgar math Fastyr mie A good afternoon
Oíche mhaith Oidhche mhath Oie vie Good night
Go raibh maith agat Tapadh leat Gura mie ayd Thank you
Slán leat Slàn leat Slane lhiat Goodbye
Sláinte Slàinte Slaynt "Health" (used as a toast [cf. English "cheers"])

Influence on other languages

There are two languages that show Goidelic influence, although they are not Goidelic languages themselves.

Shelta language is sometimes thought to be a Goidelic language, but it is, in fact, a cant based on Irish and English, with a primarily English-based syntax.

The Bungee language in Canada is an English dialect spoken by Métis that was influenced by Orkney English, Scots English, Cree, Ojibwe, and Scottish Gaelic.

See also


  1. ^ Gillies, William (1993). "Scottish Gaelic". in Martin J. Ball and James Fife (eds.). The Celtic languages. London: Routledge. pp. 145–227. ISBN 0-415-01035-7.  
  2. ^ a b "Census 2006 – Principal Demographic Results" (PDF). Central Statistics Office. http://www.cso.ie/census/documents/Final%20Principal%20Demographic%20Results%202006.pdf. Retrieved 2007-06-19.  

External links

Simple English

The Goidelic languages or Gaelic languages are a language family of the Celtic languages. They are spoken in Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man.

There are three Goidelic languages:


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address