Home > B. The Living Artifact > Scottish Gaelic, A.D. 1100 & the Survival of Languages

Scottish Gaelic, A.D. 1100 & the Survival of Languages

File:Scots lang-en.svg

Here is a map of the linguistic situation in the north of Great Britain at the start of the 12th century.

Let’s see where the political situation stood at the time: King Edgar “The Valiant,” who had won the Scottish throne through battle, was in the middle of his brief reign. In England, Henry I was crowned king in 1100; he chose a Scottish princess, Matilda, as his queen. In Norway, Magnus III, “Barelegs” (because he wore a Celtic kilt) sat on the throne; he is sometimes regarded as the last Viking king.

All these kingdoms were struggling to establish centralized authority and connect their peoples to the emerging culture of western Europe. The linguistic map of Scotland reveals a land claimed by rival peoples. In the next several days, RT will post on the development of Scottish languages in the following centuries. People speak the language of their rulers, don’t they, after all?   RT

Map: Legend–turquoise, Scottish Gaelic; dark pink, Norse-Gaelic; green, Cumbrian; light purple, Old English. WikiCmns. CC 1.2 SA, attribution. Author: (original map) SuperGolden; (this version) Chabacano. SourceImage:Mormaerdoms.svg + info of Image:SCOTLANG1100.PNG.


  1. January 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Look forward to it. Though not sure about the last sentence. By necessity the language of the politically dominant tends to diffuse downwards, but this can take a long time. In England, the king and court were speaking Norman French whilst the mass of the population were speaking Old English. I think it was several hundred years after the Conquest that English became acceptible as a court language, and English developed its particularly rich vocabulary by adding Latinate and Norman French words to the Anglo-Saxon word hoard rather than replacing one with the other ( though the type of language used tended, and still tends, to denote which class a person comes from).

  2. January 7, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    SH: all good points! as I do reading for this thread, i’m discovering how complicated the motivations behind language preference are: ease of use-familiarity, intimacy, business communication, cultural identification, and social class…no wonder dialects emerge… RT

  1. January 7, 2013 at 11:12 pm
  2. January 10, 2013 at 9:47 pm
  3. January 23, 2013 at 1:53 am

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