Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's time for Glaswegians to stop alienating themselves from their own linguistic heritage

I've always felt (or have felt for some time anyway) that supporters of independence can't afford to bang on about the Gaelic and Scots languages too much, because there's a danger of getting stuck in a ghetto inhabited only by people who are interested in language/cultural issues, and irritating everyone else.  For the proof of that, we need look no further than the way the Quebec sovereignty movement enjoys almost no support outside the French-speaking population.

But when you see how poorly educated people are about Scots, and how they don't even seem to notice when they're speaking the language themselves, it's difficult not to want to weep, or to do something about it as a matter of some urgency.  I've just had an exchange on Twitter with an STV journalist called Peter A Smith, whose heart is entirely in the right place on this subject - he sees Scots as a language not a dialect, and thinks it's harmful to the credibility of the language if something which is not really Scots is held up as an example of the language.  So far, so good.  Unfortunately, that leads him to look upon the Glaswegian dialect as something completely different from Scots - a language which is spoken "elsewhere". Even more astonishingly, he claims that Scots has never been spoken in Glasgow.  This misconception appears to be based on a garbled recollection of being taught about a language similar to Welsh that was once spoken in these parts, plus a "Lancashire dialect", both of which were superseded by "standard English".  He well and truly gives the game away by using the word "accent" when he mocks an attempt to replicate spoken Glaswegian on a menu.  That implies Glaswegian is simply heavily accented standard English, which it plainly isn't - standard English looks like standard English when it's written down, regardless of accent.  Glaswegian looks rather different from standard English when it's written down, and for a simple reason - it's a dialect, not an accent.

When I suggested to Peter that Glaswegian is actually a debased dialect of Scots, or a transitional dialect on a continuum between Scots and English, he insisted that the Scots elements of speech that exist in the dialect are just "borrowed words and expressions" - similar to the borrowed words and expressions we have from Gaelic and Latin.  I mean, where to begin?  The most basic words used by Glaswegians, the fundamental building-blocks needed to construct a sentence like "doon" and "aff", are Scots.  These are not "loan-words" - they are words which have been passed down through generations since a time when the Scots spoken in Glasgow was as distinct from standard English as modern-day Doric is.  It's the more complex Scots words, phrases and idioms that have been lost, due to the influence of English-medium education and the media.

(Incidentally, speakers of Glaswegian do of course also use the English forms of words like 'doon' and 'aff' at times, but that's simply code-switching, which is a completely normal phenomenon where a language continuum exists.)

To an extent Peter is right that it's counter-productive to parade modern-day Glaswegian as an example of Scots without any qualification, because that unintentionally plays into the hands of those who regard the idea that Scots is a separate language as being laughable.  But it's also counter-productive to set up an artificial Berlin Wall between Scots and Glaswegian, and to pretend that Glaswegian belongs only to English and has nothing to do with Scots apart from a few "borrowed words" here and there.  The much better approach is to clear-sightedly recognise the dialect for what it actually is - namely a transitional dialect between Scots and English, one that is probably closer to English these days, but which is undoubtedly an authentic blend of both languages.  In that way, Glaswegians can proudly take ownership of the Scots speech-forms they still retain, rather than needlessly regarding them as alien borrowings from a Burns theme-park.

77 comments:

  1. http://www.ayecan.com/read_scots/liz_lochhead.html

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  2. Trying to explain to some students how to read Scots yesterday, I was telling them that if they thought of how some people around Glasgow spoke, it would help them with some of the words. An example I used from one of the things I had them looking at was 'nane', which seemed a good, common one as many people say 'ach, there's nane left'. To me, it's very apparent that Glaswegian shares many traits with Scots and that these have been passed down as you suggest, James, but I find people seem to have great difficulty reading it (perhaps implying that people were brought to write in an anglicised manner more effectively than they were made to speak in one). This seems to be true even if they hear it day-to-day and it was very unclear whether the students quite followed my suggestion on the matter!

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    1. Get them to read Matthew Fitt's But N Ben A Go-go. At the start I struggled and it was like reading a foreign language, but by the end it flowed: unknown words were understood from context, and it read effortlessly. Beautiful.

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  3. I just took a YouGov poll. Questions Included: Westminster/Holyrood voting intention, how many seats I think the SNP will win in May, party leader I trust the most, best leader for Labour in Scotland, how I would vote in new referendum and when I think there should be another one, opinion of Smith proposals. Should make interesting reading.

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  4. The core problem (and the SNP is very responsible for this) is the idea that Irish is "our language", which it clearly isn't and probably never was. The vast majority of Scotland was never a Gaelic speaking area, with the historical Brythonic and eventually Fresian/English replacing much of that. The Gaelic fascists (which is what they are) seem very determined to proffer this myth that Gaelic is the Scottish language and as such we should speak Gaelic and to work in the BBC or STV know Gaelic.

    This alienates people, whether they know its true or whether they are just pissed off that without Gaelic they won;t get a job with BBC Scotland. When a country of 5.3 million has a media where only 50,000 people, less than ONE percent can hope for a job with the state broadcaster, the cause of self-determination is fundamentally undermined.

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    1. I'm struggling with quite a bit of what you're saying, Alasdair. Firstly, to the best of my knowledge it's simply not true to say that "the vast majority of Scotland was never a Gaelic speaking area". As far as I can see, the parts of the country where Gaelic was never spoken at all are limited to Orkney, Shetland, and bits of the south-east (and possibly Caithness?).

      Referring to Gaelic as "Irish" is obviously meant to be provocative and I don't think it's justified. In fact Gaelic is in quite a similar position to Scots, in that it's closely related to another language with which it has at least some degree of mutual intelligibility, and therefore there will always be some debate over its status as a language in its own right. The difference in the perceived status of Gaelic and Scots is mostly caused by the fact that Gaelic has a standardised written form, which is what Scots is crying out for.

      Scotland is a trilingual nation (or multilingual if you count BSL and community languages) - I don't see why Gaelic has to suffer for Scots to thrive.

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    2. Alasdair, you don't seem to be able to distinguish your Erse from your Alba. Plus, equating the SNP with fascism makes you look stupid. Also, can you provide any proof for your claim that knowledge of Gaelic is compulsory for anyone wanting to work at the BBC? This is the first I have heard of this policy, any to be honest I do not believe any such policy exists.

      Finally, next time you write a comment, gonnae gie's wan that is relevant tae the bluidy article. James was not discussing Gaelic.

      David

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    3. James, although there is a prevalence of place names of Gaelic origin throughout much of Scotland there is a lack of hard evidence that this is more than the prevalence of Gaelic as a ruling language following the Dalriada invasion. We cannot know with certainty whether Gaelic became a common language much as after the Norman aristrocracy began to dominate they spoke French while the common people continued to speak Middle Scots. The lack of a continuing Gaelic tradition outside of the North West indicates to me that it is more likely that commoners continued speaking Brythonic and transitioned to Fresian/English/Scots without Gaelic ever becoming a widespread language.

      I think my point was more that the promotion and Gaelic is not particularly useful and potentially not even that popular and the political focus on this is detrimental to the cause of Self-determination. It works against inclusivity which I took from your original article was what you were arguing for.

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    4. "I don't see why Gaelic has to suffer for Scots to thrive."

      It doesn't, but on the other hand I don't see why we should be investing political symbolism into a language that the vast majority of the country don't speak. That's what this debate is actually about (symbolism) not the actual practicalities of helping to keep the language alive, which most people support.

      A lot of the people who buy into this also seem to believe in odd nonsense like "Scottish bloodlines" which we all know are completely ludicrous because if you actually looked back at our ancestors you'd see Vikings, Germanic tribes, and a whole raft of other Europeans (and non-Europeans) - not some neat line going back to Gaelic speaking Celts. In fact in many cases you wouldn't see a line going back to Celts at all.

      For that reason anything other than basic civic nationalism doesn't make the slightest bit of sense in Scotland. You wouldn't find a German-speaking Swiss nationalist taking pride in the French language, so why should those of us in say Glasgow, who have no knowledge of Gaelic, embrace it as part of our identity? The main reason people seem to do this is because they've bought into a myth that we're all somehow descended from Gaelic speakers.

      While I have nothing against the language itself, it's clearly being used as a political football by some people. This sort of stuff really doesn't go hand in hand with supporting independence, it's very much the preserve of a minority and it does far more harm than good as far as I'm concerned.

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    5. By that logic of course, surely the imposition of a Norman-speaking ruling class in England would have led to the place names in England being majority French? Place names are excellent linguistic data, precisely because they change so rarely, and only when something linguistically important happens. Also, as regards sources, there are actually lots of sources for early Scottish history, it's just that they're either in Latin or Gaelic (or Welsh for that matter). Gaelic was still spoken along the border in the 1500s.
      James McCann (with an M.A. in Celtic, so I know of what I speak)

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    6. England is filled with place-names of French origin and none of them could have been pre 1066 so obviously changed from something previous (predominantly Saxon) which had to in turn have changed from something else. The idea that place names are fixed is not very accurate as the evidence seems to be that they are fluid until national written records commence.

      As for your point about records existing, this has never been my experience in reading history and primary sources are, as I understand it, near non-existed pre-800 and much rarer than you would expect until 1100 and what little is found is entirely external, secondary sources.

      Do you have a source for this Gaelic being spoken in the borders? Most of the clan names of the region seem to be anglophone and francophone. Or did you mean Galloway which I wouldn't really class as "along the border" ?

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    7. Let me get back to you on the Gaelic being spoken along the border thing, it's in a book somewhere, I'll find it and put up the details.

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    8. Abair treamsgall a tha ann bhuat. Tha mi brònach gur e faclan an aghaidh Gàidhlig a th annta anns an deasbad aige. Im sair black affrontt thit a bodies spaken agin Scottish in the airticle. Chunnaic mi an t-ainm aige a bruidhinn mar seo aitegin eile agus tha e brònach gu firrineach nuair am bidh daoine airson Scots an aghaidh Gàidhlig air loidhne cho trice. Ive seen thon name efter readin siclike an airticle afore and its affie dissapyntin thit fowk sic as thon feel they maun speak agin Gaelic fir tae big up Scots sae aften online.Tha mi den bheachd gur e hate speech a tha ann far a bheil abairtean mar a Mgr Alaisdair Allen air a sgrìobhadh. Im o the opeinion thit its hate speech whin comments like thon frae Mr Alaisdair Allen air sgàths gun do rinn e breug sean fhaiseanta an aghaidh an cànan eile againn cos hes repeated an auld fashiont lie agin oor ither leid. Tha e soilereach taing air leabhar Deer gur be gràmair eader dhealachte aig Gàidhlig na Gaeilge anns an linn 11, Its clear thanks tae the Buik o Deer, thit Gàidhlig hid its ain deifrent graimar frae Irisg Gaelic bi the 11th century, 'S 'e cànan neo eismeileachd a tha ann ged nach toil leat gur e.

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  5. You merely have look at the verb endings. Glaswegians use the Scots language verb ending 'it' in words such as 'wantit', drookit, shilpit, etc..

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  6. BTW, my name is Alasdair Allan, and as such I have always been aware of my namesake who is now an SNP politician having previously been an academic in the Scots language.

    He is now focused on the promotion of Irish throughout Scotland. This is both annoying as a Scot and disappointing to see a member of the SNP use this as a political tool

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    2. Calling Gàidhlig "Irish" is a form of racism that has been used against Gaels since the Reformation.

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  7. I'm hearing rumours of a big by-election win for the SNP in Argyll & Bute. Anyone got any confirmed info yet?

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    1. Yes, the details are on Twitter - a majority for the SNP over the Lib Dems of 700-odd. Unless I'm misreading the 2012 result, the SNP seemed to be starting from a distant second place in that ward, so the swing must be enormous (although it's one of those STV oddities where it's technically an SNP hold)

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  8. SNP - 62.2% (+43.9)
    LDEM - 14.1% (-1.4)
    CON - 13.4% (-36.6)
    LAB - 10.3% (+10.3)

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    1. SNP - 942
      LDEM - 214
      CON - 203
      LAB - 156

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    2. Compared with 2012 vote totals:

      SNP - 942 (+324)
      LDEM - 214 (-147)
      CON - 203 (-930)
      LAB - 156 (+156)

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  9. You are breathtakingly ignorant when it comes to the linguistic history of Scotland, Mr Allan. As for your anti-gaelic bigotry, I thought it worthwhile to inform you that we are no longer living in the 16th century. Go and read some books before you make more of a fool of yourself.

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    1. Actually that's the root of the problem, Scottish history before 800 is practically undocumented and there are virtually no written primary sources from the period, all our knowledge is based on secondary sources. Even between 800 and 1100 primary sources are remarkably rare for a West European country.

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    5. Cha robh eachdradh Albannach ann an romh 800 air sgàths nach robh duthach Albannach ann fhathast. Thàinaig an smuain ris an cànan le chèile ged nach air e a bruidhinn cho trice an diugh. Se treamsgall a tha an argamaid nach eil rannsachadh mun de a bha ann far a bheil Alba an diugh agus tha mi eòlach air torr dhaoine academiceach a tha iad trang ag ionnsachadh cultair na Cruthne.

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  10. Actually quite a staggering result for the SNP. Back in the days of "real" Labour, we had a councillor in Campbeltown&Kintyre South ward. New Labour finishing last behind the ConDems. Hell slap it into them. Well deserved win for beautiful Kintyre, Argyll, Scotland, Progressivism and the SNP.

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  11. Looks like a total collapse of the Tory vote. What's all that about?

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    1. There seems to be some suggestion that the Tory candidate is not exactly a local, although that probably can't explain all of it.

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  12. Meant to ask, any news from the Morayshire council by-election? The SNP certainly fielded a very high calibre candidate.

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    1. They're not counting until the morning, apparently

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  13. Glaswegian is a child of very mixed ancestry but to declare that it is not Scots and merely accented Standard English is to completely ignore the heritage. Yes, the language spoken in Glasgow is very different to the Doric that I was brought up with but that does not invalidate its history. Glaswegian has borrowed heavily from Ulster Scots and Gaelic in a way that other strains of Scots have not and correspondingly has a rather rich lexicon of its own. However when Glaswegian speakers try to pass of modern local dialectic slang words as Scots then this tends to rub linguists the wrong way. Pair that with the linguistic hegemony that Glasgow enjoys through radio and TV and one can understand how some can be rubbed the wrong way.

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  14. For more information about Scots visit www.scotslanguage.com

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  15. Glaswegians speak bastardised cockney and pretend they're Scottish. The most English town in Scotland and a cancer that needs to be removed before we can become a real country.

    End the glasgow levy and save billions.

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    1. This is exactly why I would support James deleting posts. #Bigot

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    2. I see you have no name and try to inflict that upon us frae Glesca,go away using short jerky movements. I also think that when a commenter cannot use their name their comment is of no value.

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    3. Considering Glasgow voted Yes and Edinburgh voted No I think I have a good idea of exactly whom we should jettison so that we can become a real country. Anybody suggesting Glasgow is more English than Edinburgh (my god) or places in the Borders is also deluded.

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    4. "Anybody suggesting Glasgow is more English than Edinburgh (my god) or places in the Borders is also deluded."

      So the capital of Scotland isn't Scottish enough? We're going into pretty odd territory with that one.

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    5. Glasgow is a great place and the people get stereotyped by the Scottish media in such shows as "Taggart".

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  16. Have a look at www.ayecan.com for information about how Glasgow dialect is connected to other regional forms of Scots.

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  17. Excellent piece,enjoyable and educational to me and perhaps to some others.thanks for the article.

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  18. Dearie dearie me, Alasdair. For a man with a Scottish Gaelic first name (beautifully spelled in the correct orthography and everything) you have absolutely no clue what you're talking about.

    Scottish Gaelic was the language of the vast majority of the Scottish population from about 600-700 AD (when Pictish died/fell out of widespread use) to a point I can't quite recall, but I'd put it at around 1300s/1400s.

    The Scots language was introduced originally as a result of English speaking Northumbrians conquering the Britons in Lothian, then Lothian being annexed into Scotland in the year 1018. When Lothian was annexed the rest of Scotland either spoke Gaelic or Norse, with pockets of Cumbric being spoken in the Strathclyde area but not for very long. The Kings of Scotland and the ruling classes and their kinfolk and their peasantry all spoke Gaelic. In some cases they actually introduced Gaelic to Lothian, such as Balerno (Baile Airneach) and so on, but that was just to name their land. The tenants probably still spoke English.

    Later came the Davidian Revolution starting in 1124 when King David I of Scotland, a native Gaelic speaking King educated in Anglo-Norman courts in England, invited his Norman chums up to Scotland to replace some of the troublesome Gaelic Mormaers that were rising up e.g. the MacWilliams in Moray. He gave away lots of titles to them and they helped him organise the country in a way that was similar to England - and with it came the burgh system, where important ports could be designated as urban enterprise zones where a merchant class would subsequently spring up. The merchant class were from the Low Countries e.g. Flanders and spoke either Flemish/Dutch. They later joined with professional workers and other merchants from Lothian, a district that was quite urbanised to begin with. It was easy for the Flemings and such to mix with the English (Early English) speakers due to how close their languages were and eventually their language morphed into Scots.

    Scots radiated out of the burghs in virtually every part of Scotland except the Western Isles and the Highlands. Ayrshire is a good example of this - Robert the Bruce, our finest King, was a native Gaelic speaker from Carrick in modern-day Ayrshire, which now speaks Scots. It was a totally Gaelic speaking region that became nearly 100% Scots-speaking as a result of the burghs. Shires were also invented at this time to correspond with the local burgh e.g. Perthshire being imposed on top of Atholl + Gowrie and other ancient provinces of Scotland that dated back to Pictish times.

    - Continued in next post

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    1. At this time Buchan, on the furthest Eastern reaches of former Pictland (an area you'd be sure would retain some Pictish or Brythonic heritage or whatever Alasdair Allan is suggesting) produced something called the Book of Deer, a native Gaelic vernacular psalm book full of notes on the affairs of a monastery at Deer in Buchan. There the monks spoke Gaelic natively and used it in their worship - all of the people they dealt with regarding land had Gaelic names. The only mention of a Pict at any point is from a half-remembered story of Saint Columba hundreds and hundreds of years before who met the local Mormaer called "Bede", who is described as a Pict. Literally every single person besides Bede in the text has either a Gaelic name (as is the case in the early records), or Scots/English as is the case later on as the Davidian Revolution wore on. There are no Scots names, only Gaelic, in the first records taken. Buchan, a Pictish redoubt, had become so Gaelicised that text could have come straight out of Ireland. I even showed it to an Irish friend of mine who saw that the linguistic features of the Gaelic in the text were far more Irish than that which is spoken today in Scotland.

      Source - I studied Celtic Civilisation at Glasgow University with a focus on the linguistic heritage of Scotland.

      So to sum up - your view of Gaelic in Scotland, i.e. that it was only spoken on the West Coast and only by ruling class people elsewhere, is total, total nonsense. It is actually true for the district of Lothian and the South-East e.g. Berwickshire - but that region only. Now stop calling a language that's been native to Scotland for at least two thousand years (spoken in Argyll + Isla since time immemorial) "Irish" just to be bloody controversial/bigoted.

      But yes, Peter A Smith is a staggering idiot who should keep his trap shut and stuff his cultural cringe about Glasgow. The older, broader dialects of Glaswegian Scots are almost identical to the dialects outwith the city which stretch all the way across the Strathclyde region and into Ayrshire and the like, before beginning to change on the peripheries. Rather than making half-baked platitudes about "Lancastrian dialects" and Cumbric which has been dead for 1000 years he should understand that Scots has been spoken in Glasgow since the middle ages. Before that it was Gaelic, having replaced Cumbric following the Scottish annexation of the Kingdom of Strathclyde. It is recognised by linguists as a dialect of Scots in any case, never mind a platitude spouting STV journalist.

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  19. The clergy ARE the ruling class in medieval societies. By the time of the Book of Deer (which has a few additional passages to the Psalms but is hardly "filled with notes, the Clergy would be mostly made up of the unlanded sons of the gentry although there would likely still have been immigrant clergy from Ireland. Again there is nothing in the extant record to support widespread common usage of Gaelic.

    The claim that Robert de Brus a Norman, French speaker, of Norse heritage, would speak Gaelic is ridiculous, there is a reasonable chance he wouldn't speak Gaelic at all. Perhaps you have too much invested in choosing to take Celtic Studies to accept the complete lack of proper Primary sources in the historical record to support any of your claims.

    We know that while the nobles of England were speaking French, their population continued to speak the earliest forms of English. We know this because there are written records. Scotland's history completely lacks anything similar to this.

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    1. Clarification it should read "That {de Brus} would speak Gaelic as a native language is ridiculous"

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    2. In reply to first point:

      The clergy were not the ruling class, they were a part of the establishment but ultimately ranked below the Monarchy. This can be seen in Ireland under English occupation where the English Lordship of Ireland placed numerous restrictions on the clergy for speaking Irish under the Statutes of Kilkenny.

      It's also hilarious that you're trying to suggest that the clergymen at Deer were immigrants. You're literally bending over backwards here. Tell me honestly, what language do you think the people in Deer spoke in the 12th century? Pictish? Scots? What? They spoke Gaelic, like the vast majority of the Scottish population did at the time. The reason why we know so little about Pictish is that Pictish tragically died in the 600s/700s. It has been dead for so long that there are remarkably few records of it - if it survived in any capacity in the 12th century there would be mentions of it. Rather, based on the Gaelic vernacular written in the book of deer (which shows no Pictish influence apart from a word meaning "plot of land" and is actually more Irish than today's Gaelic) and based on any other record from that time e.g. contemporary chroniclers and Irish annals we can tell that Scotland was almost entirely Gaelic at this point, barring Lothian and the Northern Isles.

      You keep falling back on the statement "there's so few records", but then you use that to justify a completely unsupported claim that Gaelic wasn't the dominant language. In contrast we have far, far more evidence than you do. If the vast majority of placenames from the 12th century in Aberdeenshire were Gaelic, if the vast majority of known people from the 12th century were Gaelic-speakers with Gaelic names, where is your evidence to show that they spoke anything else?

      And have you actually read the Book of Deer to be in a position to refute my statement that it is full of notes? That was so petty. If you like, I think I still have a coursebook or two and I can type them out for you.

      As for Robert the Bruce (or, in Gaelic, Raibeart Bhruis) - he was both a Norman and Gael. This seems to be a concept difficult for you to grasp but Scotto-Normans often spoke Gaelic and formed Highland clans of their own. His grandfather was Anglo-Norman, but his mother Marjorie was countess of Carrick (a longstanding Gaelic-speaking Earldom) and he was raised in both the Anglo-Norman community in Scotland and England and also the Gaelic speaking community in modern-day Ayrshire. Not only was he a Gaelic speaker he also wrote propaganda for the Irish campaign claiming to be king of "Lesser Scotia", while the Irish were "Greater Scotia", and longed to unite the two Kingdoms. He nearly succeeded, but Edward Bruce was killed before he could drive the English out of Ireland.

      Numerous clans, such as Clan Murray, come from such Norman-Gaelic heritage. Clan Murray are directly descended from the Norman lords that David I put in to replace the MacWilliams in Moray. If people understood just how many former Gaelic-speaking clans claim direct descent from Vikings and even Englishmen of the Anglo-Saxon, just as was the case in Ireland (look at the FitzGeralds - Normans who started writing Irish poetry) then I think people would be less hostile to Gaelic. Research Clan Gordon for an example of a clan descended from an Englishman from the borders. Clan Spaulding are descended from a man from Berwick-upon-Tweed. The list goes on. Clan MacLeod are directly descended from Vikings, as are Clan MacDonald who can possibly trace their ancestry back to Ivarr the Boneless.

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    3. Apologies if I make errors - I meant to say Somerled, not Ivarr the Boneless. It was a number of years ago that I studied the subject.

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    4. You miss my point regarding assumptive reasoning due to the lack off written record. I'm not claiming any more factual certainty than you are but you are making the claim to be right without a proper factual basis - this is the problem with your argument.

      Nothing you have mentioned indicates any widespread use of Gaelic outside the nobility. As I stated and you ignored, the Clergy in the 10th Century were predominating the unlanded sons of the gentry, this is how things worked then with plenty of documentary evidence.

      What we do know, or at least can be fairly confident about, is that from Roman sources, the predominant languages of mainland Britain at the time of the Roman conquest of England were P-Celtic (Brythonic languages). These are quite different to the Q-Celtic Irish. We also know that the Western half of Scotland was conquered by the Irish to form the Kingdom of Dalriada and that the nobility of the whole of Scotland claimed ancestry to these Gaelic speakers.

      That is the extent to which we have certainty. You claim beyond that which we can be either certain or reasonably sure about.

      Your argument is basically that there was a narrow transitional period between P-Celtic speaking Britain and Fresian/English speaking Britain. My argument is that the move was directly from P-Celtic to Fresian.

      There is no written evidence for either version amongst common people in Scotland. As such the only logical conclusion is that we factually know that in 500AD common people in Scotland spoke Brythonic and in 1500AD they spoke Scots. You are adding the additional claim and the onus is on those supporting the "Gaelic as a common language" theory to back up. Without evidence, you can't.

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    5. Right, I'll see if I can start from a different angle.

      In 1705 in Moray, an area which is pretty much 100% Doric now, it was recorded that nearly all of Moray apart from the coast was "wholly Irishe & Highland Countreys" - and there were many parishes where both languages (Scots + Gaelic) were spoken. Moray is very close to Aberdeenshire, as you know. Gaelic was also spoken in Deeside until the early 20th century by people who were most certainly not members of a ruling class - indeed, the simple fact that they weren't landowners is why Gaelic died there. We know that Gaelic was also spoken natively in Northern Perthshire in the 1980s, even in the far North East of the county which is very much Scots these days, in the early 1700s. It was also spoken as the language of the common people in the Angus Glens as late as the 19th century. Why, then, is it so hard to accept that Buchan (which wasn't too far away) in the year 1100 could also have been wholly Gaelic speaking, as Moray was in 1705 (including the common people)? Why do you try to claim that, despite the fact that the only literature we have coming out of Buchan and the only mentions of people FROM Buchan are in Gaelic or involve Gaelic names or Gaelic placenames, that a language that was likely dead for about 400-500 years was in fact spoken by the vast majority of the population? Tell me, what is probable here?

      You see, in order to understand why we know so little about Pictish is the lack of literature or any accounts of what the language sounded like or anything along those lines. The reason for that is that it actually died while Pictland was still independent, which was in the Dark Ages (writing still being developed etc) - or at least it went into the same amount of decline that Gaelic is in now. Pictland became Gaelicised as a result of the influence from Dal Riata. It may not have been an out-and-out conquering as some once thought, rather, it is far more likely that the majority of Picts were already speaking Gaelic and that is why when Pictish Kings, who started taking on Gaelic first names (Cinaed, Oengus etc) and started speaking Gaelic, ended up with claims to both thrones they were able to unite them without much trouble.

      Continued in the next reply:

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    6. If indeed Pictish was spoken by the majority of the population on the East Coast as late as 1100AD, about 500 years after Pictish went into decline and Pictland was absorbed, why is there absolutely no historical mention of this? Why is there NO MENTION at all of this? If it was as significant as you say there would be at least some passing comment from a traveler or someone. The East Coast wasn't some kind of barren wasteland where nobody travelled - it was a vibrant hub for trade. What's going on there? You're saying that a language can be spoken by the vast majority of the population in a very important economic/geographic area in Scotland for 500 years in a period where records were actually being taken without ANY mention of it being made at all. You have no evidence for that claim; you can only say that because I haven't got good evidence of exactly what language the peasantry spoke (only every single piece of literature to come out of that period that mentioned language or acts as a piece of linguistic history but hey ho), you're just going to go along with what you, on an emotional level, would like to think was true to fit your anti-Gaelic agenda.

      That approach is very foolish, I must say. If we look at France and the creation of France - the country came about as we know it when the Franks invaded and conquered the formerly Roman province. You're telling me that because there's presumably no evidence of Vulgar Latin being spoken by the peasantry, only by the nobility, (note again that the peasantry are almost never given a voice in any kind of historical context because history was written by the ruling class) then when the Franks invaded the population actually spoke Gaulish. You would ignore the fact that nearly all the placenames, the records, everything recorded is in Vulgar Latin and make a claim that the vast majority of people in the newly conquered France were speaking a language that was by then very much dead. Come off it, Alasdair.

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    7. If you want evidence of what life was like in a bilingual medieval region of Scotland, formerly Gaelic speaking and then becoming Scots speaking, look for the following text:

      Taylor, S. (1994) Babbet and bridin pudding or polyglot Fife in the Middle Ages. Nomina: Journal of the Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland, 17 . pp. 99-118. ISSN 0141-6340

      That should provide you with the best evidence I can find for my claims. Now, let's see something from you regarding your hypothesis for 500 years of unrecorded linguistic differences in what has been considered almost unanimously by all academics on the subject to be homogenous Gaelic speaking territories.

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    8. I should add that not only did the Kings of Scotland historically make claim to lineage from Irish kings, as you rightly note, they also made claims to Pictish Kings as they were in fact patrilinially descended from Gaelic speaking Picts. For reference see Kenneth MacAlpin.

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    9. The problem with your argument is based on the failure to accept the complexities of linguistics and sociology. The speculative answers given where there is a lack of recorded evidence are less compelling than you seem to want to believe and the impact of a dominant elite social class on how this is reflected in later records has a very damaging impact on how secure that speculative reasoning can be.

      Place names are far less compelling than you seem to believe. One problem is the effect of extrapolation. For example there is some evidence that some Kirk- prefix place names are based on Kil- from Gaelic Cille- but to hypothesise this to ALL Kirk- prefixes meaning a Gaelic place name does not appear to be robust when we know that Kirk is plausibly of Norse origin and there was plentiful Norse settlement in parts of Scotland before and during the Gaelic invasion.

      Place names also cause problems when you consider the main root differences between P-Celtic and Q-Celtic where there are similar words with quite different written spelling but similar pronunciation. How many Aber-s were changed to Inver-s when a Gaelic speaking Clergyman or Laird first recorded the name of a place in the written record?

      Given the closeness of populations and the likely bleed of peoples between communities I have little doubt that there will be plenty of instances of an interim Gaelic period but the extrapolation you make into this being near-universal and widespread is dangerous speculation and un-evidenced in too many cases to be accepted.

      My problem with your and similar arguments is not because I have an anti-Gaelic agenda, it is most definitely a part of the cultural mix which makes up modern Scotland albeit mainly indirectly. It is the way that this myth of a glorious Gaelic past comes across as a predominantly Ethnic Nationalism which is far removed from my idea of Cultural and Social Self-Determination which has little care for what happened at specific points in the past but only cares about where we are today and hoe to move forward as a nation.

      Unchecked, in the worst case scenario, we will go down the path to Wales where school performance is falling off a cliff and kids can leave school with barely passable ability in English and where useful foreign languages are neglected for a focus on bilinguality in Welsh and English of dubious benefit to those receiving it.

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    10. With regard to what "Anonymous" says about Moray I can add anecdotal information regarding rural Banffshire. A now deceased father of a childhood friend of mine was a tailor in Buckie and he very clearly told me on one occasion that he would visit elderly crofter clients "up the hill" between Buckie, Cullen and Keith in the areas known broadly as Berryhillock and Deskford who spoke Gaelic as their first language as late as the mid 20th century. He estimated that they had been the last generation of Gaelic speakers.

      This man was highly respected in Buckie and was something of a leading light in local politics so if he said it was the case then I have absolutely no reason to question his word. There may have been other pockets of Gaelic speaker elsewhere nearby but that was the area that he covered.

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    11. I'll respond to your points individually, Alasdair. You seem to be getting yourself in a tizzy about things that have no chance of happening.

      Point 1: To suggest that all Kirk prefixes mean a Gaelic placename is problematic. That's why I didn't do it. Instead when I talk about placenames I mean things like Deer - which is a Gaelic placename without doubt, as are the majority of placenames in Aberdeenshire. There was also no single Gaelic invasion - there were several, but many of them failed. The Picts likely took on the Gaelic language peacefully because it was the language of the Church. The final union of Pictland and Scotland actually took place as a result of inheritance, not invasion. Both states were independent. You see, in order for a language to survive historically it needed to be spoken by the church or by the nobility or by the merchants or by some kind of demographic. If it's spoken by the peasantry alone it invariably dies. Pictish was not spoken by the nobility in 1100, it wasn't spoken by the church, it wasn't spoken by the merchants. Who spoke it then? The peasants? In terms of likelihood, how likely is it that they still spoke it?

      Point 2: Indeed, many were changed. I'm sure many Inver placenames would have been Aber before - that wasn't what we were discussing though, you were trying to make an unsubstantiated claim about 500 years of Pictish language survival in Aberdeenshire.

      Point 3: The evidence that I have seen (i.e. literally any account or piece of literature from that period that shows some information about what society looked like) doesn't show me that Pictish had survived in any capacity, so the idea that it's universal was quite likely. Given that there is so little information about the peasantry and so on we rely on probabilities and likelihood. You can provide nothing to back up your claims, therefore your claims are improbable.

      Point 4: Can you please give one example in the modern era of a "glorious Gaelic past" nationalism coming into serious consideration? Are you actually trapped in the 1980s where Siol nan Gaidheal are still a thing? I know of literally NOONE promoting that viewpoint. You, however, were coming at this from an anti-Gaelic viewpoint by provocatively calling one of Scotland's national languages "Irish" (it's not Irish, Irish is a separate language as different from Scottish Gaelic as Portuguese from Spanish) and because you evidently don't want it on road signs.

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    12. Your last point about the "unchecked ethnic nationalism" tosh leading to a cataclysmic Welsh scenario is very bizarre. Can you provide evidence of Welsh speakers from Wales having "barely passable ability in English" as a result of learning the language in school? Or are you going to make another unsubstantiated claim like Pictish surviving 500 years after Pictland was conquered? I, however, can provide you with evidence showing that the pupils passing through Gaelic medium education in Scotland do very well and the language has improved their ability to learn and even learn other languages. It is also a false dilemma to suggest that by learning one of Scotland's native languages they are excluding the possibility of learning others. I believe that school pupils from a very early age should learn languages like Chinese (funny how the people saying we need to be learning other languages like Chinese never learn them themselves) through the medium of the Gaelic language. Their brains are so flexible that you can literally expose them to several languages at once and they will absorb them.

      But really, don't get in a tizzy about ethnic nationalist Gaels burning an crann tara, coming in to your little Lowland bubble to stop your children learning English. That's not happening, it's never going to happen. You should try to learn a bit of Gaelic yourself - when you actually experience it you'd understand the sort of people promoting it and what their intentions are and just how inclusive they are. I'm sure there's Ulpan classes in your area. The SNP are actually quite apathetic towards Gaelic - there's no danger of us falling to the Jacobites any time soon.

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    13. Whilst I would hate to come in drunk and post, I feel a need to respond to this.

      Point 1,2 and 3 all seem to be based on your own personal bias. You were the one that decided that place names were such an important and basic form of language identity but now accept that this is not reliable. Moreover, you miss the utter irony of talking about the North East which is called ABERdeenshire and talk about a Gaelic origin theory which has no basis outside your own mind and others who are invested in Gaelic as a Scottish root language.

      You missed the point I made earlier. If I had studied Celtic as a University degree I would be very much compelled to insist it was the core of Scottish culture. But even you accept that there was a significant pre-Gaelic period and a significant post-Gaelic period and the potential for an actual Gaelic blossom is weak. We know it was not Scotland's language for most of the last 2000 years. The argument is merely about what regions and what years it was the interim language.

      All written language during this period was recorded by the ruling class, as such it is all French, Latin and Gaelic. It has no mention of the language spoken by the common people - which is quite a different situation than we have in England where not only are there records of Saxon languages but an entire mythology built on this such as Robin Hood,

      As far as point 4 goes, I call English Fresian (which is its probably origin) and Gaelic Irish (which is its probably origin) outside of bigots this does not have any actual relevance. Complaining about my terms indicates a bigotry and not an actual argument.

      Your final point, is not one to dismiss. Welsh education is utterly suffering and failing. You can argue as you do, that Language Schools are the highest performing, I argue that SELECTIVE schools are the highest performing and as the Gaelic School of Glasgow and Welsh Language Only schools in Wales and Faith Schools in England are all selective and not all based on language but all have higher attainment results, it is selective schooling which results in better performance REGARDLESS of how this selection is based.

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    14. You're right Alasdair, you shouldn't post drunk on blogs. You're not making sense. In your inebriated state you can't actually read what I'm saying (at no point did I claim a Gaelic origin theory for the word "Aberdeenshire", nor did I ever talk about any sort of "origin theory". We're not discussing origin theories.

      Next - The regions and years in which Gaelic was the interim language between Pictish/Welsh and Scots were pretty much every single area in Scotland apart from Orkney and Shetland and Lothian/Borders.

      Next - there is indeed no mention of the common people's language, but there is no reason to think they spoke anything else other than Gaelic pre-Davidian revolution.

      Next - Why would you call Scots Fresian and Scottish Gaelic Irish when in fact completely separate languages called Irish and Fresian exist?

      Finally, if you can prove to me that the reason why Welsh is failing is because they teach Welsh rather than the fact that they've been ruled by Labour for the entirety of the Assembly's existence then I'll concede you have a point.

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  20. http://www.rps.ac.uk/

    This is the link to the Records of the Parliaments of Scotland. A project undertaken by St Andrew's Univeristy.

    It makes fascinating reading - Latin, French and if I recall there is some Gaelic and then Scots. Might help in this debate.

    Frances

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  21. "doon" isn't scots, it's just "down" with an accent, unless someone is going to tie themselves in knots by arguing Newcastle's an outpost of Scots too.

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    1. Sigh. No, it's not "down" with an accent. Accents don't change words. Presumably when you say thankyou, you're in fact saying the German word "danke" with an English accent?

      And, yes, the Geordie dialect is on the same continuum - it shares words like "bairn" with Scots which are not part of standard English.

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    2. I think we can say without doubt that the words of my Glaswegian grandfather - "haud", "thegither", "thole", "thocht", "een" etc were Scots, not just words with an accent.

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    3. haud is geordie / northern too... haud on hinny ah'm gan doon toon

      So what's the difference between dialect and language then?

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    4. According to Professor Jeremy Smith, an Englishman and the finest scholar on the Scots language (or dialect or language variety, depending on what you want to call it), it's entirely political. Every "language" is a dialect of something. People who supported the preservation of the Yiddish language 100 years ago made the quip "a language is a dialect with an army and a navy".

      As James Kelly points out Geordie is part of the same dialect continuum as Scots in the same way that eastern dialects of Dutch and German blend together and belong to the same dialect continuum. English and Scots is almost exactly like Dutch and German, Geordies are just people who live on the border.

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    5. When you look at the grammar and some elements of spelling, it is Scots which is the core language and English which is the dialect.

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    6. Scots relies on English grammar for its standard. Gaelic has had its own standard for centuries and there is no need to use Irish as a standard form. You talk a lot of rubbish. The Book of Deer shows (according to experts in medieval Gaelic manuscriots at Glasgow University) clear developments of a new Scottish grammar and "Scots" refered to a Gael whether from Britain or Ireland. Before Gaelic spread from Argyle, there was no Scotland and according to outside sources from the period, medieval Lothian people referred to themselves as "The English within the kingdom of the Scots". If Scots is a separate language from English, it is another English languae, albeit one that today relies on English standar orthography. Gaelic is a Gaelic language as is Irish and both forms were referred to as Scots by speakers in the medieval period before the name was copyright infringed by English rulers in Scotland who started calling Gaelic "Ersche". As for Robert the Bruce not speaking Galic, his mother was a native speaker and he grew up in a Gaelic speaking area of Britain. If anything its less likely that he spoke any English.

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    7. "referred to as Scots by English speakers, ie the minority in the South East of medieval Scotland. They called Gaels "Scottis".

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  22. A couple of points.

    "These are not "loan-words" - they are words which have been passed down through generations since a time when the Scots spoken in Glasgow was as distinct from standard English as modern-day Doric is."

    I don't think that traditional Central Scots, which is what Glaswegian derives from, was ever as different from Standard English as Doric (Northern Scots). Forms such as fit (what) and vrite (write) never occurred in Central Scots. That's not to say, however, that Central Scots could not be standardised as a language separate from English — it clearly could.

    Glaswegian is also characterised by "style-drifting" rather than "code-switching". The latter presupposes a much clearer demarcation between speech varieties, the kind of thing that one finds in Switzerland rather than today's Central Belt.

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    1. Central Scots at one time pronounced "what" as something closer to "khwit" rather than "fit", just as "who" was similar to "khwa", as spelled "quha". The "kh" sound is the same as the "ch" in loch. To me that sounds about as distinct from standard English as modern-day Doric is.

      Fit is alleged to have come about due to the fact that there was either a strong continental influence on the people there (e.g. merchants from the Low Countries and so on who may struggle to pronounce W) or because they were Gaelic speakers who would struggle to pronounce "what". I don't agree with the Gaelic bit considering Gaelic speakers say W all the time, but it likely had something to do with continental folk.

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    2. What you say about the existence of /xw/ instead of /ʍ/ is true, but it is obviously not true that /xw/ is as different from /ʍ/ as /f/ is.

      The traditional explanation for the phenomenon is that the /f/ question words in Northern Scots arose through Gaelic influence. The substitution is also recorded in Ireland, e.g. in in Irish fuisce for 'whiskey', in texts written in the dialect of Forth and Bargy once spoken in two baronies in County Wexford, and in marginal Ulster-Scots realisations such as naefer for 'nowhere' / 'naewhaur'. The Gaelic-Scots bilinguals who created the Northern Scots form were almost certainly trying to pronounce /ʍ/ rather than /w/, since they would have had little or no exposure to the latter pronunciation at the time.

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    3. The /w/ sound is extremely common in Irish and Gaelic, however. Though it's rare to find it as a consonant at the start of a word in Scottish Gaelic, you'll find it a lot in various dialects at the end of words today (apart from on Cape Breton where it's used in the place of "l") the Irish say it all the time e.g. in "se do bheatha abhaile" - the "abhaile" bit uses /w/ for the "bh", right? Why couldn't the Irish and Scottish Gaelic speakers just use /w/ instead of trying to pronounce /ʍ/ and making it an F sound?

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  23. My first post - I'm a new "anon".
    Alasdair Allan - your have far too much of a contemporary political agenda, far too many rhetorical tricks. As someone with a higher degree in linguistics myself, I can see how you are wriggling. What you say might be true but it's a long-shot compared to the Gaelic-majority set of assumptions. Most professional academics are neutral by inclination and scientific or rational by method. Yet dazzling careers are made by challenging established wisdom, despite the tendencies to parrot received wisdom until there is a paradigm shift from non-specialists or from middle-grade careerists keen to protect the current estabishment.
    So long as the quality of argument put forward to reject a Gaelic majority is as weak as yours, I don't see your perspective winning out over the current broadly held view. That doesn't mean you are wrong, but nor it is a call for you to "keep trying". Instead, to dazzle people and upset the establishment, you're going to have to accept that your arguments are completely unconvincing to interested and knowledgeable-enough bystanders like me.
    Un-evidenced speculation - in my view you lost this.
    As for calling this discussion or topic "dangerous"... that leads you straight to your contemporary political agenda. Oops. You certainly sound anti-Gaelic.
    Maybe you need something new to do, like bemoaning current educational policies and blaming lack of achievement in economically deprived areas as being due to a bilingual policy perhaps.

    I'm as opposed to "political correctness gone mad" as the next person, and resent large chunks of what is taught in schools, and how it's taught. But now your mental leaps from lack of evidence in medieval records or vernacular language to a rejection of "dangerous" Gaelic-heavy position... I see the parallels with your final dramatic and vaguely evidence related claims about educational standards falling off cliffs in Wales being due to Welsh-English bilingualism. Just like the usual stuff about needing Gaelic to get a job in BBC Scotland and everything being a stitch up by special interest groups, designed unfairly to exclude. These all tie together to imply that you are the one to hold a dangerous set of views, in fact, in a contemporary context, about contemporary issues.

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  24. Thankyou for this blog, took me a while to read through everything to get to the comment section aha. I couldn't find a share button to show my friends.

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