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Mountain Thyme Blog

  • Irish and Scottish Gaelic

    The Gaelic language has been continuously spoken in Ireland and Scotland for thousands of years. During that time, its use has waxed and waned, and diverged significantly between the two countries to become Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic. Even more confusingly, the language is referred to as Irish or Gaeilge (Gwal-gah) in Ireland, with “Gaelic” being used to describe the people and culture. As different as the modern languages may be between the two countries, they have roots in the same Old Gaelic (or Old Irish).

    The history of this language is a bit murky. We know it comes from an even earlier Celtic language, which came from the Celts that conquered Ireland and Britain some 3,000 years ago (conquering the pre-Celtic peoples that already inhabited those lands). Other Celtic languages include Welsh, Breton, Cornish and Manx. The Celts that settled in Ireland become known as the Gaels, and their Gaelic language traveled with them as they spread throughout Scotland and the Isle of Man.

    The Vikings invaded these areas between the 8th and 10th centuries, bringing an increase in the use of the Norse language. While some Norse words found their way into the Gaelic language, the structure of the language was not affected, and ultimately Gaelic dominated in usage.

    The Catholic Church played a major role in spreading the Gaelic language. One example of this influence is the numerous place names starting with “Kil” (from cill meaning church or cell), which is usually combined with a saint’s name....