Isle of Man Languages

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Despite officially long being a bilingual country, most records used in Manx research are in English.

Earlier Manx records are in Latin.

Occasionally records will also contain Gaelic, but Manx is written in an orthography which is similar to that of English. There are also a handful of Norse inscriptions and writings about the island, but these are not generally important to most genealogists.

Manx language[edit | edit source]

Manx (Gaelg or Gailck) is a member of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic languages. It is closely related to Irish and Scottish Gaelic, and more distantly to Welsh, Cornish and Breton.

Manx has always officially had some form of status within the Isle of Man, with laws being promulgated in both English and Manx on Tynwald Day, but during the 20th Century, it came extremely near to death, with Ned Maddrell being the last official native speaker. However, the language was well recorded (the entire Bible is available in Manx), and audio-recorded (Ireland's leader Eamon de Valera sent over a recording van to preserve some of the language). Nowadays the language is spoken by some children, many of whom have gone through Mooinjer Veggey (Little People - the Manx playgroup) and the bun-scoill (the primary/elementary school)

Manx gives rise to many Manx surnames, including many of those beginning with C-, K- or Q-. These are equivalent to the Mac/Mc- names so common in Scotland and Ireland, with the first part elided. As well as these (Ma)c- names, Manx gives rise to the likes of Gawne, Gill, Taggart and Teare.

The old Gaelic naming system is extremely complex, and was in use within the modern period amongst some Manx speakers in more traditional areas of the island. For example, Edward Faragher of Cregneash was known as "Ned Beg Hom Ruy". Broken down literally this means 'Ned (Edward), "Beg" (little), Hom (from Tom), Ruy (red headed)" - the first part refers directly to Edward Faragher, meaning "little Ned", and the second part refers to "Tom Ruy" (red-headed Tom) who was his father ("Tom" becomes "Hom" due to certain factors in Manx grammar).

Many personal names such as Finlo (cognate with Finlay/Fionnlagh), Paaie (Peggy), Orree/Goree (a form of Godfred), Moirrey (Mary) and Fenella (cognate with Fionnuala, white shouldered) all ultimately derive from the language too.

Orthography[edit | edit source]

Unlike Irish and Scottish Gaelic, Manx spelling is fairly close to English. However, some of the sounds are quite different. The influence of Old English and Welsh can be seen in the frequent use of y, and even w.

As an example of Manx spelling, the Lord's Prayer (Padjer y Chiarn) is reproduced here:

Ayr ain t'ayns niau,
Casherick dy row dt'ennym.
Dy jig dty reeriaght.
Dt'aigney dy row jeant er y thalloo,
myr t'ayns niau.
Cur dooin nyn arran jiu as gagh laa,
as leih dooin nyn loghtyn,
myr ta shin leih dauesyn ta jannoo loghtyn nyn 'oi.
As ny leeid shin ayns miolagh,
agh livrey shin veih olk:
Son lhiats y reeriaght, as y phooar, as y ghloyr, son dy bragh as dy bragh.

"Ch" has two pronounciations, one of which is like the English "watch'", and the other of which is like the word "loch" or "ich" in German, i.e. not as "lock" or "ick". Sometimes to distinguish these, a cedilla is used, e.g. Padjer y Çhiarn or Purt Çhiarn (the Manx for Port Erin). "Gh" is a similar guttural sound, not to be found in modern English. The "th" in "thalloo" is also pronounced just as a "t".

Place Names[edit | edit source]

Many Manx placenames are also from Manx too. A common prefix for farm and settlement names is Balla- (Balley-). Sometimes this can be useful for family researchers since they often refer to the people who once lived there - for example, Ballaquayle refers to the Quayle (son of Paul) family, and Ballacottier to the Cottiers. People should be aware though, that due to Manx grammar, some of these names may appear to be slightly altered - Ballavarton refers to a person called Martin.