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Can you give me some background knowledge, as I don’t know anything about Gaelic?

Scottish Gaelic is a member of the Celtic family of languages. The Celtic family has two surviving branches: the P-Celtic languages of Welsh, Breton and Cornish; and the Q-Celtic languages of Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx.

Gaelic is spelt Gàidhlig in Gaelic, and is pronounced ‘Gah-lik’ by most speakers. It is not correct to refer to Irish (Gaelic) as ‘Gae-lik’ either, as the term ‘Irish’ is considered to be correct, particularly in Eire.

Settlers from Ireland began to colonise Argyll around 200CE, and their kingdom gradually expanded to take in much of the west coast. After these ‘Scotti’ established their new kingdom, their language began to diverge from the Irish spoken in their original homeland, eventually developing into the language we know today as Scottish Gaelic.

Around 800CE, fear of Viking raiders drove the Scotti into the lands of the Picts, the P-Celtic tribe of northern and eastern Scotland. Eventually the two tribes united under Kenneth MacAlpine, the first ruler of the Gaelic-speaking kingdom of ‘Alba’ – Scotland.

Over the centuries anglicising influences from the south gradually ousted Gaelic as the language of the royal court in southern Scotland. In the C12th, the warlord Somerled wrested control of the west coast from the Vikings and established the Lordship of the Isles. The lands of the Lordship became the stronghold of Gaelic language and culture for the next five hundred years.

The eventual collapse of the Lordship, the various failed Jacobite risings and the mass clearances of the C18th and C19th all took a heavy toll on Gaelic language and culture. Unsupported by either the legal or education systems, Gaelic came to be seen in many quarters in the early C20th as irrelevant to modern life and indeed, as an obstacle to progress.

From the middle years of the C20th, increasing understanding of the importance of cultural diversity and of bi- and multi-lingualism saw the place of Gaelic reassessed. The re-emergence of a vital literary tradition, headed by the internationally-renowned poet Sorley MacLean, and increasing interest in ‘traditional cultures’ contributed to this process.

In 2005 with numbers of Gaelic speakers at just over 50,000, the level experts identify as the minimum required to prevent language death, the Scottish Parliament passed the Gaelic Act, which recognises Bòrd na Gàidhlig as a constitutional body and requires other public bodies to create and implement Gaelic plans, overseen by the Bòrd.   Gaelic-medium education is offered by a growing number of local authorities with now dedicated Gaelic-language schools available in both in the City of Glasgow and in Inverness.

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