Tuesday, April 23, 2013

St. George's Day: The Languages of England

St. George was also the bad-ass who killed dragons.
As today is St. George's Day, we thought we'd honour England's patron saint with a look at the languages of England. It goes without saying that England is home to English, but before the Angles, Saxons and Jutes made their way to the British Isles, other languages were spoken across the land. Let's jump straight in...

Aside from being famed for pirates and their accent, the Cornish in fact have their own language. The Cornish language, also known as Kernowek or Kernewek in Cornish, has somewhere between 500 and 3,500 speakers. The language is related to Welsh and Breton and evolved from the native language of the British Isles, Brythonic.

Though classified as an extinct language, Cornish has seen a good level of revival in the UK, forcing UNESCO to reconsider its classification back in 2010. Cornish belongs to the Celtic language family along with Irish, Scots Gaelic, Scots and the next of our languages, Manx.

The Manx language, found principally and almost exclusively on the Isle of Man, actually lost its last native speaker in 1974, but thanks to the efforts of some great linguaphiles, it has been revived. It's now classified as a revived language, though we prefer the term zombie language. Manx now has between 100 and 1,800 speakers.

The Coonceil ny Gaelgey (Manx Gaelic Council), the regulatory body responsible for the Manx language, was set up no less than eleven years after the extinction of the language. It's clearly doing a good job!

St. George's Day is also the saint day of Catalonia, as well as UNESCO World Book and Copyright day. World Book Day in the UK was celebrated back in March.

As the English get vaguely patriotic today, remember that despite their reputation, they're more than a group of monolingual savages!