Manx: Ancient Dead Gaelic Language That Refused To Die And Has Been Revived Again

When fisherman Ned Maddrell from the Isle of Man died on December 27, 1974 many thought the ancient Celtic language vanished with him. Ned Maddrell was the last surviving native speaker of the Manx language.

Condemned as a dead language, Manx was erased from history, or so it would seem. This ancient Goidelic Celtic language has been revived again and today there is even a Manx language primary school in which all subjects are taught in the language.

The language Manx is closely related to Irish and Scottish Gaelic. It also bears traces of Old Norse, due to the number of times Vikings set foot on the island.

The language of Manx 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.

Manx was once spoken by almost the entire population of the Isle of Man until the 1765.

The Isle of Man Purchase Act 1765 also known as the Act of Revestment, by which the Duke of Atholl sold the island to the British Crown led to a decline in the number of Manx speakers.

This was a result of f the collapse of the Manx economy and large scale emigration. 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. One of them was Mrs. Sage Kinvig of Ronague who died in 1962 and the other person was Mr. Edward (Ned) Maddrell of Glenchass who died in 1974, at an age of 97.

Following the decline in the use of Manx during the 19th century, Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh (The Manx Language Society) was founded in 1899. By the middle of the 20th century only a few elderly native speakers remained (the last of them, Ned Maddrell, died on 27 December 1974).

At this point Manx seemed to be on the point of extinction and UNESCO pronounced the language extinct in the 1990s.

However, Manx is a language that refused to die. A scholarly revival begun and a few individuals started teaching the ancient language in schools.

Today, it is estimated that more than 1,800 people can to speak, read and write Manx, although this may not necessarily illustrate actual fluency.

Will people in Sweden also be able to preserve Elfdalian: Sweden’s secret forest language from the Viking-era?

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