Manx is a Celtic language spoken on the Isle of Man (Ellan Vannin).
It is closely related to the Irish of Ulster and Scottish Gaelic of Galloway and was
brought to the Isle of Man by settlers from those areas during the 5th century AD.
Manx began to emerge as a distinct language in the 13th-14th century after the
collapse of the Norse kingdom of Mann and the Isles and prior to the long
period of English control through the Stanleys.
Decline and revival
Manx was once spoken by almost the entire population of the Isle of Man
until the 1765 Revestment Act by which the Duke of Atholl sold the island
to the British Crown. After this the number of speakers went into decline
as a result of the collapse of the Manx economy and large scale emmigration.
The decline of Manx was further accelerated by immigration from North West
England during the later 18th and early 19th centuries, and the large numbers
of English-speaking tourists who started to visit the island from the 1830s onwards.
By the 1960s only two native speakers of Manx remained: Mrs. Sage Kinvig
of Ronague (died in 1962) and Mr. Edward (Ned) Maddrell of Glenchass (died in 1974,
aged 97). While Ned Maddrell is usually cited as the last native speaker of Manx,
and the language was declared extinct after his death in 1974, a few other Manx
speakers were around until the 1980s. However reports of the demise of Manx were
premature as a revival of interest in the language began in the 1930s, since when
many people have learnt Manx as a second language.
The numbers of Manx speakers recorded on censuses taken during the 20th century
are: (1901) 4,419, (1911) 2,382, (1921) 896, (1931) 531, (1951) 355, (1961) 165,
(1971) 284. The question about Manx was not included on the 1981 census. In
the 2001 census, 1,689 people claimed to be able to speak, read or write the
language, and the current number of fluent speaker is thought to be a few hundred,
including a small number of children who have grown up in Manx-speaking families.
In 1985, the Island's Parliament, the Tynwald, passed a resolution to give
the Manx language limited official recognition for the first time in Manx
history. The government sponsored Manx Heritage Foundation (Undinys Eiraght
Vannin) and the Manx Gaelic Advisory Council (Coonceil ny Gaelgey)
was also set up to regulate and standardise the official use of Manx.
Manx has been taught in Manx schools since 1992 and Manx classes have
proved popular. Since 2001 a number of Manx medium playgroups and a primary
school have been set up, some lessons are taught through Manx at one
secondary school, and Manx language classes for adults are popular.
Manx first acquired a written form in around 1610, when John Phillips,
the Welsh-born Bishop of Sodor and Mann, had the Book of Common Prayer
translated into Manx using an orthography based on Welsh, though this
translation was not published until 1894. In the early 18th century Bishop
Thomas Wilson had his Principles and Duties of Christianity
translated into Manx, using an orthography based on English. That orthography,
with some modifications, has continued to be used to the present day.
Relationship to other languages
Although closely related to Irish and
Scottish Gaelic, Manx looks quite different
because of the different spelling conventions. However there is quite
a high degree of mutual intelligiblity among the spoken Gaelic languages.
Manx is also distantly related to Welsh (Cymraeg),
Cornish (Kernewek) and Breton
(Brezhoneg), which form the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages,
also known as P-Celtic. The Celtic languages all have a similar grammatical structure,
but have relatively little vocabulary in common.
Here is an illustration of some of the differences and similarities between
the Celtic languages using the phrases 'What is your name?' and 'My name is ... / I'm ...':
The only word in these examples that is similar in all the languages: ainm (Irish), ainm (Scottish Gaelic), ennym (Manx), anv (Breton), hanow (Cornish) and enw (Welsh).
The word for what - Cén (Irish), De (Scottish Gaelic), Cre (Manx), Petra (Breton), Pyth (Cornish) and Beth (Welsh) - illustrates one of the sound differences between the branches of the Celtic languages. In the Gaelic languages, apart from Scottish Gaelic, it starts with C, which is why they are called Q-Celtic languages (this sound is sometimes written with a Q in Manx), while in the Brythonic languges it starts with p or b, which is why they are known as P-Celtic. Both sounds developed from the Proto-Celtic [kʷ].
There are more similarities within each branch of these languages than between the branches (Gaelic and Brythonic), and the Gaelic languages are closer to one another than are the Brythonic languages.
Er Laa Tin Vaal ta sleih cheet voish dy chooilley ard jeh Mannin dy
chlashtyn ny slattyssyn focklit magh. Ta ny shenn tosheeyioarree
livrey ny slattyn oc da'n Chiannoort, as ta'n chied vriw loo ny
feallagh noa stiagh. Eisht ta dy chooilley hoshiagh-jioarey gliooney
sheese roish yn Chiannoort, as goaill yn tlat echey veih laueyn yn
Chiannoort. Ta toshiaghjioarey Glenfaba lhaih ny slattyssyn ayns Gaelg.
On Tynwald Day people come from every part of the Isle of Man to hear
the laws pronounced. The six old coroners deliver their rods to the
Governor, and the first Deemster swears the new coroners in. Then
every coroner kneels down before the Governor, and takes his rod (wand)
from the hands of the Governor. The coroner of Glenfaba reads the laws
From:Cooinaghtyn Manninagh (Manx Reminiscences, by Dr. John Clague)
Ta dagh ooilley pheiagh ruggit seyr as corrym ayns ard-cheim as kiartyn. Ren
Jee feoiltaghey resoon as cooinsheanse orroo as by chair daue ymmyrkey ry cheilley
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)