Saturday, 17 February 2007

Mother Language Day

This coming week, on 21st February, the UN will mark Mother Language Day with celebrations all over the world, and especially at the Paris Headquarters of UNESCO, of the benefits and satisfaction of preserving and valuing Mother Languages.

Mother Language Day is a plea to support the world's linguistic diversity. So many languages these days are under threat. But with determined action languages can be fostered and preserved. Here in Wales, for instance, the Welsh language which some might have predicted would by now have succumbed under the weight of English, is thriving with more learners and more speakers at every census.

In Ireland, thanks to government efforts, the ancient Irish language has been brought back from the brink of extinction. Irish is one of several Celtic languages that fall broadly into two families. In the Irish language family is Scots Gaelic, now in everyday use only among a few scattered Hebridean communities. Once it was widely spoken throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

Strangely the language of lowland Scotland was not English but Welsh - at least in the early days. The kingdom of Dalriada that extended as far as the Highland line as Welsh speaking and many place names in south west Scotland can trace a Welsh connection. Even Glasgow itself, most populous city in Scotland, has a Welsh name:
'glas cae' meaning 'blue meadow.'

Welsh belongs to the southern of the two great Celtic language families and shares a heritage with Breton (spoken in France), Cornish, which, as its name implies is (or used to be) spoken in Cornwall.

1 comment:

Curacoa said...

Interesting comments but I am not sure about the language of Scotland being Welsh. I thought that the people of Dalriada were Scotti from northeast Ireland speaking...

Of course Strathclyde in the southwest of Scotland was peopled by British (Welsh)

I am happy to be disabused.