Next are paraded the shibboleths of manipulators the cultural landscape, pumps gushing with public money, minority intrests , selfish, middle-class parents seeking a school with smaller class sizes, Highland great-granny providing some form of ethnicity test for eligibility for Cameron/Mairi’s entrance to such hallowed halls of academe, the nation’s future cultural heritage forced along an unnatural path, culminating in the human vanity of our belief in the right to intervene and so prevent nature taking its course, whether it’s a dying breed of rare beetle or a minority language.
Roxanne’s resigned conclusion that its really all too difficult and that perhaps it’s healthier to leave well alone. We are all to be left consoled with the re-assuring fact that no-one ever forgot the dodo. A apt Victorian icon to sum up an article that seems to speak with the language of that age.
Samuel Johnson observed in 1773 “there is no tracing the connection of ancient nations but by language; and therefore I am always sorry when any language is lost, because languages are the pedigree of nations”. Scotland has a fortunate “pedigree” since its three tongues can still be heard daily — Scottish Gaelic among them. It has always been the case that there was a Babel of languages in Scotland; Gaelic as well as Norse and Norman French would have been spoken along with Inglis (Scots) in the Scottish camp before Bannochburn. But by then although Bruce almost certainly used the language to communicate with his Western allies, Gaelic was no longer the language of power and prestige throughout Scottish territory as it had been in the three centuries up until 1130. Such a loss of prestige is one of the factors of language loss that David Crystal, the renowned linguist, cites in his excellent manual for language survival — “Language Death”. Among the others, population loss through starvation and disease, war and immigration, cultural change, natural resource exploitation, assimilation by the dominant culture, official disdain and neglect, most particularly through the education act of 1872 that imposed a blanket monoglot English education system (refining an earlier similar Act against the native language of New Zealand), feelings of shame about using the old language and now globalisation, have all contributed to Gaelic’s retreat to the north and western fringes of Scotland.