Friday, October 26, 2012

the religious factor in the decline of the Gaidhlig language

Significant resources are expended (sometimes controversially) in the promotion and hoped revival of Gaidhlig in Scotland. The observation has often been made by Highland presbyterians that there has been a studied neglect of and sometimes hostility to the role that the Church has played in sustaining Gaidhlig on the part of those who are seeking to promote the language. Of course some think that increasing use of English in worship is a key reason for the decline of Gaelic. No doubt the issue has its own complexities.

A recent thesis by Nathan Philip Gray ‘A publick benefite to the nation': the charitable and religious origins of the SSPCK, 1690-1715 makes the following significant conclusion to its study of the society and its work in the Highlands:
The absolute numerical decline in Gaelic speakers in Scotland can be associated with the
decline in the importance of religion. As members of the reformation societies insisted that Sunday was to be preserved from the performance of trade and business, so Gaelic was held to be the language of religion and the home, and English the language of commerce and worldly
As Highlanders migrated or emigrated they continued to keep a sense of community by using the Gaidhlig language for home and church.

The ultimate isolation of Gaelic within religion and community life meant that when society became more integrated and secularized, it was the final stage in the language’s overall withdrawal.
It remains true, however, that due to efforts in evangelism and education, 'for a period in the nineteenth century, Gaelic paradoxically experienced a new period of vitality through its religious and domestic orientation'.