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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Dabhidh

Different Types of Gaelic

They say different islands have different versions of Gaelic!

When I use my new Duolingo Gaelic skills and start talking to my native Gaelic speaking neighbours, they say, "Is that North Rona Gaelic?"

Can't think what they mean? ;-)

February 12, 2020

31 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

If you can actually talk to your Gaelic-speaking neighbours as a result of your study with Duolingo, I commend you! You must have picked up some extra vocabulary though?

Last night I was watching BBC Alba and it so happened that my one and only Gaelic-speaking neighbour was intervieved. The fact that I could pick out a few words and even phrases from what he was saying was encouraging, but actually having a conversation with him in Gaelic is still a pipe-dream.

My family spoke Arran Gaelic, and I'm told there are/were some differences in that one. I don't think it's still spoken though.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Dabhidh

The conversations are quite basic and they usually end up teaching me new words. But I read once that 'half Gaelic was better than no Gaelic' (or in my case a hundredth Gaelic!!) and I think that's quite right.

Would Arran Gaelic be closer to Irish given its location?

There might still be some books in Arran Gaelic. In a corner of the Inbhir Nis library, there are the Inverness Gaelic Society records going back well over 100 years. I've started to take an interest in them. Maybe that's where to look for Arran Gaelic - the Arran library.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

Some time ago I heard that although Arran Gaelic had died out, there were some people trying to revive it. I don't know how they got on. I don't think it's particularly influenced by Irish, but I'm no expert!

ETA: Comments below show that the dialect was indeed heavily influenced by Irish.


[deactivated user]

    Tha am bhidio glè inntinneach, tapadh leibh.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

    Really interesting, thank you.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AndrewMcSo2

    I was brought up in Ayrshire and I read or heard that the last native speaker of Gaelic in Arran died in the 1920s. I don't know how accurate that is. I never new that it would have been Arran Gaelic (didn't know that it existed). Thanks for the information it's very interesting.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

    I didn't realise myself until about 20 years ago when I was chatting to Winnie Ewing about languages and happened to mention that my father's family had been native speakers until a couple of generations before me. She said "which Gaelic did they speak?" and since I knew they were from Lochranza I said "Arran Gaelic". She then told me it had died out but there were some people trying to revive it.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tj4234

    That is true. And it was also very similar to Irish.

    In fact the theory that Scots Gaelic and Irish are essentially dialects of each other partly revolves around how similar Arran Gaelic was to Irish.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

    I didn't know that. Thanks for the information. Maybe I should be learning Irish!

    Although I doubt that these two languages are dialects of each other any more than English and Scots are dialects of each other, or indeed Danish and Norwegian.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tj4234

    Oh by all measures the two are separate languages as far as I'm concerned. However, there is a theory and a debate that they are dialects of each other.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

    Well you know what they say. A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AndrewMcSo2

    I found this last night. The last Gaelic speaker in Arran died in the 1990s. My information was incorrect, my apologies.

    https://dasg.ac.uk/blog/122/en


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

    Thank you. Since my conversation with Winnie Ewing happened in 1999, then the dialect had only just died out at that point. That's late enough that they should have been able to preserve a lot of it if the will was there.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Dabhidh

    Good site - thanks for the link!


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

    Good grief! That makes St Kilda, and even the Flannan Isles, look like the hub of civilisation. The idea that it was ever inhabited is a bit far-fetched. The odd hermit maybe.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AndrewMcSo2

    I was thinking that it was island North of Raasay. That's probably South Rona????? Oh jings I'll be wrang again! You can get a day trip to North Rona from Kylesku.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

    Yeah, I checked and you're absolutely right. It's just called "Rona". "Seal Island" I suppose. I think that's where I was thinking of too.

    I mean I got the message that it was an uninhabited island, hence the dig about the Gaelic dialect, but at least that Rona has a path and a couple of houses marked, plus signs of earlier habitation! It's also about five miles long.

    North Rona (which is also simply marked as "Rona" on the OS map), is maybe a mile elther way if it's lucky.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AndrewMcSo2

    It didn't dawn on me that Rona is from the Gaelic for seal. Roundstone in Connemara has the same origin. I wonder about the female name Rhona? Thanks for that M. Gaelic is wonderful.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

    I have long suspected that "Rhona", which was the name of one of my friends at primary school, was someone's uninformed attempt at leniting an R for a vocative - which doesn't happen as far as I know. And that Rona is probably the more correct form of the name. Straight from the word for seal, or called after the island? Dunno.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Dabhidh

    So Rona means seal - I didn't know that either! I knew of Rona (or South Rona). North Rona is one of Scotland's wee secrets that few people see when they look at a map because its so small. Long may it be left alone as a safe haven for seals and sea birds.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

    You haven't done the last skill yet? Tha i cho reamhar ri ròn - She is as fat as a seal.

    I will never regard people called Rona in quite the same way ever again.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

    Sule Skerry is insanely small, but even that has "cairns" indicated, as if there were once people there. Maybe seasonal? Maybe a hermit? There doesn't seem to be enough land to support anything though.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Dabhidh

    Sule Skerry looks a bit like Muggle Flugga ( the almost northernmost (word?) point of the Shetland Islands) famous its puffins and infamous for its uisge beatha.

    https://www.northlinkferries.co.uk/shetland-blog/muckle-flugga-lighthouse/


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Fir-chlis

    Rona is not the word for seal. Ròn is!


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

    Yes, we know that. We're talking about the derivation of the name of the island(s).


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/IanMiller127434

    Lewis is certainly different from some of the other islands. Some places are very nit picky about non Gaels learning, which can be off putting. There are 3 recognised versions of Irish Gaelic - Munster, West Connacht/Aran, and West Ulster/Donegal. The East Ulster dialect - now alas defunct - was so much closer to Scots Gaelic that speakers used to listen to the BBC Gaelic instead of RTE.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

    In the 1970s a friend of mine had an Irish roommate who said she found BBC Gaelic broadcasts easy to understand.

    Where precisely do the picky locals draw their line about "non Gaels" learning? Do I get a pass because my great-grandfather's family was Gaelic-speaking, or am I lumped in with the rest of the lowlanders?


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/IanMiller127434

    I guess it depends on how insecure they feel? There was an old joke about a Glasgow Gaelic society visiting a Gaelic medium church one Sunday, only to have their attempts at Gaelic discouraged by the "welcoming" elder exclaiming in English 'O shut up, you 'wegie b*s!'


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Morag_Kerr

    That is hilarious!

    Learn Scottish Gaelic in just 5 minutes a day. For free.