“Essentialism and Relativism in Gaelic and Sorbian Language Revival Discourses” (Paper given by Konstanze Glaser on 30 January 2002) is actually pretty interesting, with information on the background and present status of the two languages (that’s Scottish Gaelic, by the way, which I didn’t realize at first; since the paper was presented to the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh, it’s understandable the Scottish part was taken for granted). And of course Languagehat is known to take an interest in Sorbian. The main reason I’m posting it, however, is the unexpected pairing of the two languages. When I saw the title, I blinked and repeated the words of my dear departed mother: “I never thought the subject would come up.” An excerpt:

Gaelic has served as a reminder of an original genetic and cultural link of indigenous Highlanders to the traditional Gaelic-speaking community of Ireland. Gaels have celebrated this link as a confirmation of their share in a rich cultural heritage and as a source of Pan-Celtic sensibilities, but there has never been a serious attempt to (re)establish a political union between them and their Irish counterparts. At the same time, Gaelic has functioned as a boundary marker towards the Lowlands. The Gaelic term Gàidhealtachd still is translated as both ‘Gaeldom’ and ‘Highlands’ even though the continued retreat of Gaelic language ability and language use to the Western periphery and a growing share of ‘Highland’ natives whose biographies were only marginally affected by the region’s traditional language and culture have made the composite meaning of the term Gàidhealtachd problematical.

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