|The Isle of Man is undergoing a Manx Gaelic revival. The number of Manx speakers has gone up tenfold in the last twenty years. The government-sponsored Manx Heritage Foundation (Undinys Eiraght Vannin) and the Manx Gaelic Advisory Council (Coonceil ny Gaelgey) regulate and standardise the official use of Manx and have combined to commission this definitive guide to the language: Practical Manx. The book covers the grammar, spelling and pronunciation of Manx Gaelic, rendered accessible to readers of all levels of competence. An accompanying website with voice recordings provides a unique opportunity to observe intonation patterns and other features.|
I have to confess that I love grammar. I know a lot of people don’t, but I love the way languages are put together and work!
murmurs Jennifer as reported by the Liverpool Daily Post.
This life-long dedication to language and a Manx family history dating back 1,000 years has merged to flower in her new book, called Practical Manx.
This is the first modern, comprehensive handbook in more than a century on Manx Gaelic, a language which almost died out in the mid-19th century as islanders switched to English for trading.
Jennifer, a senior research fellow at the University of Liverpool’s Centre for Manx Studies, Douglas, was faced with the paucity of records about Manx grammar and morphology.
Backed by the Manx Heritage Bureau, she created Practical Manx from aural sources and old translations of standard English works.
Her book’s cover features the island’s ancient standing stones’ depiction of a blackbird, as in Celtic mythology this bird represents the moment of discovery of a different language.
This, she believes, is very apposite as Manx, which was an off-shoot of old Irish Gaelic, has never been adequately described in book-form. She says
It was because the first people who recorded it 100 years ago were enthusiastic amateur lexicographers, with no linguistic training. Not being grammarians, they attempted descriptions of the language and went to extraordinary lengths. One chap called Kelly was shipwrecked off Whitehaven and he held the Manx Bible translation proofs, from Deuteronomy to Job, above his head to save them from the waves.
She was inspired to start her book five years ago after studying German with her youngest daughter Jessica, a leading tri-athlete, who is studying law in London.
I realised that the best grammatical description of any language is Hammer’s German Grammar book. It’s very difficult to do something similar for a Celtic language, but I took the format and adapted it for Manx.
This gives a proper description of the basics of what Manx does, which I thought would be invaluable for people learning and wanting to speak it. Although Manx is a goidelic language, Irish and Scots speakers get very upset because it’s written in an English-based way.
The book covers the grammar, spelling and pronunciation of Manx Gaelic in such a way as to render the language accessible to readers of all levels of competence. An accompanying website with voice recordings provides a unique opportunity to observe intonation patterns and other features (www.practicalmanx.com).
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