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Culture, the arts and creative industries in Scotland
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Language and Largs

Language and Largs | Culture Scotland | Scoop.it
When a languages dies, it is gone forever, only the whistle of the wind through grass, the gurgle of the moor burn at night, left to answer its ghost. While the tongues of the Pirahã and Cherokee a...
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A Lesson in Self-Hatred

A Lesson in Self-Hatred | Culture Scotland | Scoop.it

Hot on the heels of Lord Robertson’s claim that we are a cultural void-space comes Allan Massie claiming that we are bereft of language too. Massie, who campaigned unsuccessfully against devolution, seems to be joining the growing meme for denying your own culture as part of some sort of spasm of unionist backlash.


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Allan Massie: Gaelic will only be a hobby language

Allan Massie: Gaelic will only be a hobby language | Culture Scotland | Scoop.it
The indulgent pretence surrounding Gaelic does nothing to halt the language’s decline and amounts to intellectual dishonesty, writes Allan Massie
Peter A Bell's insight:

What a magnificently pointless rant! I can only assume that Mr Massie felt a pressing need to lance the boil of his curmudgeonly indignation. Quite why he should think others might benefit from witnessing this operation remains a mystery. But then, I've never understood the urge that drives people to flaunt their gross physical abnormalities in front of the TV cameras for an audience whose motives I find no less incomprehensible.

Don't get me wrong! I can do the grumpy old man thing along with the best of them. Get me started on the subject of dogs and dog-owners and you'll soon discover the truth of that. But I prefer to put my energies into railing against the injustices of the things people are denied or deprived of rather than the the things that enrich the lives of individuals and add something to our society.

I don't see anybody trying to pretend that Scotland is a bi-lingual nation. All I see is an important part of our culture being given the kind of prominence it needs in order to survive. If there is a cost to this then I, for one, am happy to pay what cannot be more than my infinitesimal share. I do not speak Gaelic, and have no particular personal interest in the language. By the same token, I do not play a musical instrument or enjoy the ballet, but I am content that public money should be spent supporting the teaching of music and the performance of ballet because I recognise that our culture is enhanced thereby and that it would necessarily be diminished were support for these things to be withdrawn.

It all comes down to ones concept of society. Whether one sees it as something external to you as an individual. Something which can only be added to by subtracting from the individual. Or whether one sees society as something that we are all part of. Something which connects us all such that, if one part gains, we all do.

I suspect Mr Massie tends to the former perspective. But I don't think that explains his issue with the way Gaelic is treated in Scotland. The clue to what really troubles him is to be found in his remarks about "national identity". While the semantics suggest an acknowledgement of "our distinct national identity", the tone clearly indicates resentment of the fact that this distinctiveness is more than merely acknowledged.

The tone is redolent of that narrow, jealous, supercilious British nationalism which perceives in the tokens and symbols of other national identities only a threat to its own integrity. A chauvinistic and exceptionalistic nationalism that is offended by the sight of the Saltire.

Gaelic is fine, so long as it knows its place. Just as Scotland is OK so long as it does not exhibit any pretension to be other than totally subsumed in a British identity.

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Peter A Bell's curator insight, October 16, 2013 7:08 AM

What a magnificently pointless rant! I can only assume that Mr Massie felt a pressing need to lance the boil of his curmudgeonly indignation. Quite why he should think others might benefit from witnessing this operation remains a mystery. But then, I've never understood the urge that drives people to flaunt their gross physical abnormalities in front of the TV cameras for an audience whose motives I find no less incomprehensible.

Don't get me wrong! I can do the grumpy old man thing along with the best of them. Get me started on the subject of dogs and dog-owners and you'll soon discover the truth of that. But I prefer to put my energies into railing against the injustices of the things people are denied or deprived of rather than the the things that enrich the lives of individuals and add something to our society.

I don't see anybody trying to pretend that Scotland is a bi-lingual nation. All I see is an important part of our culture being given the kind of prominence it needs in order to survive. If there is a cost to this then I, for one, am happy to pay what cannot be more than my infinitesimal share. I do not speak Gaelic, and have no particular personal interest in the language. By the same token, I do not play a musical instrument or enjoy the ballet, but I am content that public money should be spent supporting the teaching of music and the performance of ballet because I recognise that our culture is enhanced thereby and that it would necessarily be diminished were support for these things to be withdrawn.

It all comes down to ones concept of society. Whether one sees it as something external to you as an individual. Something which can only be added to by subtracting from the individual. Or whether one sees society as something that we are all part of. Something which connects us all such that, if one part gains, we all do.

I suspect Mr Massie tends to the former perspective. But I don't think that explains his issue with the way Gaelic is treated in Scotland. The clue to what really troubles him is to be found in his remarks about "national identity". While the semantics suggest an acknowledgement of "our distinct national identity", the tone clearly indicates resentment of the fact that this distinctiveness is more than merely acknowledged.

The tone is redolent of that narrow, jealous, supercilious British nationalism which perceives in the tokens and symbols of other national identities only a threat to its own integrity. A chauvinistic and exceptionalistic nationalism that is offended by the sight of the Saltire.

Gaelic is fine, so long as it knows its place. Just as Scotland is OK so long as it does not exhibit any pretension to be other than totally subsumed in a British identity.

Alexander Metcalfe's curator insight, October 18, 2013 11:59 PM

Language and politics

Debi Ray Kidd's curator insight, July 21, 2014 4:48 PM

Languages such as Gaelic are being revived but at what cost?

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Government looks to double Gaelic learners

Government looks to double Gaelic learners | Culture Scotland | Scoop.it
A NEW Gaelic resource to encourage greater uptake of the language was launched at the Royal National Mod yesterday.
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Gaelic Scots and Other Languages

Gaelic Scots and Other Languages | Culture Scotland | Scoop.it

Last week the National Records of Scotland released long-awaited data from the 2011 census concerning Gaelic, Scots and other languages used in Scotland.


Although the Scottish census data is a rather crude instrument for measuring language skills and language use – it is not possible to differentiate between fluent and non-fluent speakers, to measure the relative frequency of language use, or to validate respondents’ claims – this information is nevertheless extremely valuable. Politicians and the media set great store by the census results, so their policy significance can be considerable.


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Government spends £120,000 to recruit more Gaelic teachers

A NEW Gaelic immersion course is to be set up to boost the number of teachers who want to want to teach in the language.
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Know Your Place – Gaelic and Elements of the Left

Know Your Place – Gaelic and Elements of the Left | Culture Scotland | Scoop.it
By Angus MacLeod There is a pernicious view abroad amongst elements of the Scottish Left that Gaelic, its promotion and the promotion of equality for Gaels, are linked to essentialism, to blood-and...
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More cash for BBC Alba as SNP spreads Gaelic word

More cash for BBC Alba as SNP spreads Gaelic word | Culture Scotland | Scoop.it
DETAILS of a funding boost for BBC Alba and a campaign to attract Gaelic-speaking teachers have been unveiled at the Royal National Mod in Paisley.
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Mind your (minority) language: Welsh, Gaelic, Irish and Cornish are staging a comeback

Mind your (minority) language: Welsh, Gaelic, Irish and Cornish are staging a comeback | Culture Scotland | Scoop.it
As a teenager in Wales in the late Nineties, I was not a fan of Welsh; it was easy to mock and moan about. There was the translation of my village's road sign, so it was both in 'English' and Welsh: Llandegley and Llandgelau.
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Scottish Gaelic Awards: Singer-turned-academic in running for five gongs for inspirational language programme

Scottish Gaelic Awards: Singer-turned-academic in running for five gongs for inspirational language programme | Culture Scotland | Scoop.it
FIONA DUNN, 31, who has worked tirelessly to raise the Gaelic language's profile, has been nominated for five awards at the ceremony. (Scottish Gaelic Awards: Singer-turned-academic in running for five gongs for inspirational...
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Julie Fowlis honoured for role as ‘Gaelic ambassador’ at music awards

Julie Fowlis honoured for role as ‘Gaelic ambassador’ at music awards | Culture Scotland | Scoop.it
IT WAS heard during the US Superbowl, the Oscars and on millions of movie screens around the world.
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£60k boost to help Gaelic tongue survive

THE Scottish Government announced a £60,000 investment in the Gaelic language as the 109th Royal National Mod got under way in Dunoon yesterday.
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