Languages of Scotland throughout history

One of the biggest secrets in Scottish history is why the indigenous Picts have forgotten their language and culture and took up the Irish language and culture. There are no pieces of evidence of a great war where the population was exterminated or suppressed, which is what one would usually expect to be responsible for the immediate death of a language. So complete was its death that scientists have no idea about its real history, and we have just speculative theories.

The Scots Gaelic language is a descendant of Old Irish and was brought to Scotland by Irish settlers. It became the dominant language of Northern Britain when the Picts forgot their own. Like the adjective Celtic, Gaelic is not a term that means blood ties. Yet in popular history discussions, words such as these are often confused between linguistic and similar relationship labels.

Learners have used Celtic and Gaelic in past centuries as a name for groups of people using the wrong opinion that a shared language went hand in hand with the racial origin.

The relationship is often confused with ethnicity, which is marked as “characteristic of a people, particularly a group sharing a prevalent and distinctive culture, religion, language, etc.” The Scots and the Irish have a shared ethnicity, which began in the early medieval age and has naturally drifted apart with time. However, the drift was not all-natural as a political and military dictatorship of forces from both inside and outside Scotland forced changes in language and culture with differing levels of success down within the centuries.

All nations are a mix of peoples from various genetic backgrounds. People who share a common language are not expected to be of a specific genetic origin to be labeled Scottish, Irish, American, etc. Americans are not genetically English but do share some English ethnicity thought their primary language. But, the same process which made America mainly English speaking did not happen in early medieval Scotland. There was no regular education system for the people, and as far as we can tell, there was no obligatory order from officials to force Picts to speak Irish. There lay one of history’s great mysteries.

Language map of Scotland in 11th Century (1000CE)
Map of Languages in Scotland (1000)
Language map of Scotland in 12th Century Scotland
Linguistic Division in 12th Century Scotland
Languages map of Scotland around the early 15th century, based on placename evidence
Languages of Scotland around the early 15th century, based on place name evidence
Reddit user: tescovaluechicken

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