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An Elvish Alphabet Is Not A Gaelic Alphabet

From a report on the position of the Scottish Gaelic language in Nova Scotia, published by the Metro News Canada website yesterday:

“Nova Scotia’s Office of Gaelic Affairs says the traditional Scottish language isn’t dead — it’s just sleeping.

…Frances MacEachen, a community development officer with the office, said organizations that promote Gaelic culture are helping to awaken a new generation’s interest in their history, not unlike the province’s Mi’kmaq and Acadian communities.

The office has announced more than $40,000 will go to nine non-profit organizations for projects dedicated to the advancement of everything Gaelic, from playgroups to language immersion classes.

MacEachen, who grew up in Cape Breton among Gaelic-speaking parents, said people of all ages are becoming increasingly interested in reclaiming that heritage and learning to speak the language.

“People do think we’re trying to revive something that belongs in the past,” said MacEachen, who speaks Gaelic with her colleagues in the Cape Breton hamlet of Mabou.

“But people who make those comments don’t understand the interest in the language and culture and how it brings people together and how it attracts people to our province.”

The office said census data indicates the number of Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia rose to 1,275 in 2011 from 890 in 2006.

In 2011, 300 people identified Scottish Gaelic as their maternal language.

Later this month, more than 100 young people will descend on Englishtown, a small community overlooking St. Ann’s Bay, to take part in language, song and drama programs at the Gaelic College.

Shay MacMullin, a language teacher and self-described Gaelic advocate, recently helped organize a two-week tutor-training and immersion program through the Whycocomagh and District Historical Society. The organization is among the nine to receive government funding.

MacMullin said her grandfather was a native Gaelic speaker who had no choice but to assimilate and speak English as a schoolboy in Nova Scotia. As a result, the language wasn’t passed down.”

While it is good to see such enthusiasm for the Scottish language in the formerly Gaelic-speaking communities of eastern Canada it is perhaps unfortunate that the article is accompanied by a picture labelled, “A sample of the Gaelic alphabet.” Unfortunate because the picture is actually a playful sample of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional Tengwar script adapted for Scotland’s indigenous tongue. In other words, not a traditional Gaelic alphabet at all. And as much as I love Tolkien and the use of Tengwar for the Elvish dialects of Quenya and Telerin, I believe that Gàidhlig, the Scottish language, and the historic scripts and types it shares with Irish and Manx have a rather greater importance and beauty to them.

For more on the printed Cló Gaelach or “Irish/Gaelic Type” see here. For the written Lámh Gaelach “Irish/Gaelic Hand” see here.

Not a sample of the Gaelic alphabet! This is the Scottish Gaelic language adapted to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elvish script, Tengwar


8 comments on “An Elvish Alphabet Is Not A Gaelic Alphabet

  1. Only you could write this. Amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. While it’s good that Nova Scotia’s Office of Gaelic Affairs is chipping in any funding, $40,000 among nine organizations wouldn’t seem like it’s going to go very far. Still, it’s better than nothing, I suppose.


    • True. Their funding is extremely limited and most Gaelic activities rely on voluntary work and donations. I think the Scottish government funds some grants as well but they are more symbolic than substantive.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tha fear-eigin air falbh leis na Si:thichean (Someone’s awa’ wi’ the Fairies)

    i: for i-grave (fada) as I’m having to use a tablet and can’t do dire critcs 😦

    Ceist : Is G. any better off associated with the Other World than with the Legendary Past? Both are denials of its relevance to the Real World of Here and Now. Although admittedly given enough Highland Mist it may be hard to know which is which …


    • Has that American Outlander TV series had any positive effect I wonder? One hears that it has sparked some interest in Scottish Gaelic in the US and Canada among its fans but I wonder is that more of the tartan and shortbread variety?


      • Mo chreach! I confess, I watched Outlander online, the scenary was nice. Some not quite kitch bits of Gaeic language and culture got slipped in early on (a warking session, a vicious game of shinty …) but these things were just there to set the scene, and IMO we soon arrived in Fantasy (Walter) Scot-land with the plot getting increasingly unbelievable … Come to think of it the 1940’s opening seemed full of anachronisms etc. too.


  4. john maciain

    the funding is ridiculously low. nova scotia gaelic culture brings in millions of tourist dollars. where else can an american drive to to hear spoken and sung gaelic and gaelic style fiddling? it’s embarrassing that they put up an elvish alphabet but fairly typical. the gaelic college has had political jerks at the head for a while rather than scholars–which they have in the membership. the former conservative premier rodney macdonald applied for royal partonage without asking the members, to become the royal gaelic college of cape breton. half the memebership quit at least for a while . these right wing assholes totally forget that most nova scotia gaels are the descendants of jacobites and the ethniclly cleansed. (and haven’t forgotten) the furror has died down as they don’t publiclly call it the royal college but they don’t want to rescind the name for fear of insulting the queen. i’m quite happy with insulting our beloved monarch from the wrong family!.

    we don’t have lowland anglo scotts in nova scotia. as a child i assumed all scots had gaelic speakers in their families. i was rudely surprised when i visited scotland.

    the failure to duns such amazing musicians and gaelic speakers is outrageous. they do much more for nova scotia culture than the symphonies which get all the music funding. and cape breton cheiligh’s are a major tourist attraction. no one visits nova scotia to hear the symphony.

    they should put scholars in charge and give them a lot more money. they could have a unique expanded summer gaelic teaching centre which would attrack people from all over north america and the world.

    sorry i didn’t ever learn to write in gaelic. it’s hard enough to read it or sing, but i am a nova scotia gael–and a quarter french. not uncommon in the northern counties of nova scotia.

    and that jason kenny article. we are so lucky his hate filled party is gone. he makes speaches about the great cultural spreader, the british empire. and wants to be leader of the tories, but in 50 years hasn’t learned french.!!


    • Ah, I remember the “Royal” title furor. That was quite something and seemed to spring up out of nowhere. From over here it looked like it took quite a few people by surprise. They didn’t think such sentiment still existed in NS. To be honest, neither did I.


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