Scottish Gaelic

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92,400 people aged three and over in Scotland had some Gaelic language ability in 2001[2] with an additional 2,000 in Nova Scotia.[3] 1,610 speakers in the United States in 2000.[4] 822 in Australia in 2001.[5] 669 in New Zealand in 2006.[6]

Scottish Gaelic (Scottish Gaelic: Gàidhlig) is a Celtic language native to Scotland. A member of the Goidelic branch of the Celtic languages, Scottish Gaelic, like Modern Irish and Manx, developed out of Middle Irish, and thus descends ultimately from Primitive Irish.

The 2001 UK Census showed that a total of 58,652 (1.2% of the Scottish population aged over three years old)[7] in Scotland had some Gaelic ability at that time,[2] with the Outer Hebrides being the main stronghold of the language. The census results indicate a decline of 7,300 Gaelic speakers from 1991. Despite this decline, revival efforts exist and the number of younger speakers of the language has increased.[8]

Scottish Gaelic is not an official language of the European Union, or of the United Kingdom, which does not have any de jure official languages. However, it is classed as an autochthonous language under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which the UK government has ratified.[9] In addition, the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 gave official recognition to the language and established an official language development body ‒ Bòrd na Gàidhlig.[10]

Outside of Scotland, dialects of the language known as Canadian Gaelic exist in Canada on Cape Breton Island and isolated areas of the Nova Scotia mainland. This variety has around 1000 speakers, amounting to 1.3% of the population of Cape Breton Island.[11]


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