University of Limerick
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Manx orthography and language ideology in the Gaelic continuum

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posted on 2015-01-06, 13:47 authored by Tadhg Ó hIfearnáin
Robert L. Thomson (1989), a distinguished scholar of Manx language and literature, observes that readers and speakers of Irish and Scottish Gaelic are often surprised and even shocked by the appearance of Manx Gaelic in its written form. Manx orthography is indeed very different from the normal written forms of the other two national forms of modern Gaelic, which share a common orthographic system, though not of course a standard written language. That common Gaelic orthographic system is the result of a slow but continuous development which has its roots in the earliest writing in Old Irish in the Latin script, probably as early as the sixth century (Ahlqvist 1994), and so is the result of some one thousand five hundred years of native literary tradition in Gaelic Ireland and Scotland. The Gaelic orthographic system is fundamental to many core value beliefs, or the language ideology (Spolsky 2004), of literate speakers in Ireland and Scotland, who see in it a tool uniquely honed to deal with the native language and dialects of Gaeldom and as a symbol of noble heritage. This belief that Gaelic orthography is the only legitimate way to write in the Gaelic languages has not always been universally held even in Gaelic Ireland and Scotland, and some examples will be discussed below, but when challenged, the Gaelic way has always won out. Manx is the exception, yet even in the Isle of Man, the non-Gaelic orthography has never enjoyed total and unambiguous support. Writing in the preface to his EnglishManx dictionary Fargher (1979 :vi) says, "My own view, also shared by many respected and authoritative speakers of the language, is that this system is a historical abomination, separating, as it does, Mann from the rest of Gaeldom, and thus destroying the linguistic unity of the Gaels without replacing it with anything better in the way of a truly phonetic orthography." Such statements are also clearly ideologically based, believing that the Manx orthography is a challenge Manx Gaelic's home in the Gaelic continuum.



Langues Proches-Langues Collatérales/Near Languages-Collateral Languages, Actes du Colloque International Réuni á Limerick, du 16 au 18 Juin, 2005. Eloy, Jean-Michel & Ó hIfearnáin, Tadhg (eds);pp. 159-170






© Editions l’Harmattan , 2007



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