Twilight of the Celts

The Belfast Telegraph has a thought provoking article by Marcus Tanner, author of Ireland’s Holy Wars, on linguistic changes in Europe.

“Throughout Europe, the centuries-old Celtic languages are dying out, buried beneath a linguistic form of globalisation. Marcus Tanner reports on a cultural tragedy”

  • davidbrew

    Twilight of the Celts

    yeah, well done Alex McLeish :0)

  • carlosblancos

    Very funny davidbrew.

    As for the artilce, I think we need to get it in perspective. Languages come and go, and considering ‘Celtic’ culture was on the fringes even in Roman times, I think its done OK to survive this long.

    I also think the author sticks to a rather turgid definition of what a ‘speaker’ actually is. Who cares if children speak English in the playground and Irish in the classroom? They’ll realise its value when they’re older.

    He fails to mention anything about ‘national’ cultures as opposed to Celtic culture. Dance and sport seem to be doing very well. Or are they Irish? Very confusing.

    I think the book is written for an audience who might think that people run around speaking Celtic languages just to ‘stay pure’. Utter nonsenese, go to those areas and I find that Irish survives when it works hand in hand with English, but dies when it tries to work against it.

  • maca

    The languages will eventually die out, but we’re talking hundreds of years yet, unless something drastic happens like the Northern Hemisphere freezing over or a nuclear war.

    What does he mean by “throughout Europe”. Continental Celtic died out long ago leaving only Insular. Unless he means Ireland, GB and a bit of France is “throughout Europe”

  • slackjaw


    ‘I find that Irish survives when it works hand in hand with English, but dies when it tries to work against it.’

    That’s an attractive idea. Care to expand?

  • Keith M

    Modern communication and cheap and easy access to foreign travel will mean that most minority languages fade away. This is nothing to lose sleep over as the primary purpose of language is for people to be able to communicate with one another.

    If people want to preserve languages for “cultural” reasons then fine but some of the countries with the strongest cultural identities to not have their own unique languages.

  • idunnomeself

    He does ignore that the model for language revival in now bilingualism, not enforced monolingualism. This could well reverse the decline.

    And he also leaves out that numbers of Welsh and Irish speakers (in NI anyway) have gone up in the last census. I know that these figures are a measure of support for the lanaguges as much as anything else.. but to leave them out entirely??