Goidelic Languages - History and Range

History and Range

Goidelic was once restricted to Ireland, but sometime between the 3rd and 6th centuries groups of Irish, called by the Romans by the general term Scoti, began migrating from Ireland to what is now Cornwall, Wales and Scotland. Those who settled in Cornwall and Wales made little long-term impact. However, the Dál Riada settlers in Scotland eventually assimilated the Picts (a group of peoples who may have spoken a Brythonic language) who lived throughout Scotland. Manx, the Gaelic language of the Isle of Man, is closely akin to the Irish spoken in northeast and eastern Ireland and the now extinct Gaelic of Galloway (in southwest Scotland), with some influence from Old Norse through the Viking invasions and from the previous British inhabitants.

The oldest written Goidelic language is Primitive Irish, which is attested in Ogham inscriptions up to about the 4th century. The forms of this speech are very close, and often identical, to the forms of Gaulish recorded before and during the Roman Empire. The next stage, Old Irish, is found in the margins of Latin religious manuscripts from the 6th to the 10th century, as well as in archaic texts copied/recorded in Middle Irish texts. Middle Irish, the immediate predecessor of the modern Goidelic languages, is the term for the language as recorded from the 10th to the 12th century: a great deal of literature survives in it, including the early Irish law texts.

Classical Gaelic, otherwise known as Early Modern Irish, covers the period from the 13th to the 18th century, during which time it was used as a literary language in Ireland and Scotland. This is often called Classical Irish, while Ethnologue gives the name "Hiberno-Scottish Gaelic" to this standardised written language. As long as this written language was the norm, Ireland was considered the Gaelic homeland to the Scottish literati.

Later orthographic divergence has resulted in standardised pluricentristic orthographies. Manx orthography, which was introduced in the 16th and 17th centuries, was based on English and Welsh practice and so never formed part of this literary standard.

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