Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Goidelic Upstarts

The level of ignorance exhibited with regard to linguistics never ceases to amaze the Blether Region. Some people, for example, remark on the prevalence of "English" words in Scots poetry, not realising that a host of lexemes of impeccable Lowland Scots pedigree share an origin with, and are identical to, everyday Standard English words. Indeed, given the two varieties' common origins and the existence of a latter-day linguistic continuum between them, some have even called for English in Scotland to be renamed "Scots" on that basis — regardless of the actual "Scotsness" of the forms employed. Appealingly Scandinavian though that strategy is, given that so many other countries across the world use English but without resorting to such sleight of hand, it may be doomed to failure.

In the field of Celtic linguistics, there are those who refer to the native language of Wales as "Gaelic", not realising that there are actually two groups of modern Celtic languages, only one of which — that of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man — may actually be described that way.

The latest example comes in the form of identical Sinn Féin press releases published verbatim in the local press. So it is that both Cathal McLaughlin in the Ballymoney Times and Barra Ó Muirí in the Newry Times make the following involuntary blooper.
"Gaelic speakers in Scotland, Wales and in the rest of this island are already afforded the protection of language acts."
So much for their linguistic knowledge (or rather that of the Sinn Féin press office and local journalists). On a political level, of course, they are entirely right. Northern Ireland is clearly the odd one out with regard to promoting indigenous languages, and to argue that racism is too big to fight — as some people do who should know better — is hardly an argument in favour of lending it one's support.

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