The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Manx language

Manx (Gaelg Vanninagh, Gailck Vanninagh)
Spoken in: Isle of Man
Total speakers: 300
Ranking: Not in top 100


Official status
Official language of: -
Regulated by: -
Language codes
ISO 639-1 gv
ISO 639-2 glv

Manx (Gaelg or Gailck), also known as Manx Gaelic, is a Goidelic language spoken on the Isle of Man. It is a descendant of Middle Irish , particularly similar to the old Ulster and Galloway dialects.



Manx dates to around the 5th century and is called Gaelg Vanninagh by Manx speakers. The last native speaker, Ned Maddrell, died in 1974, but by then a scholarly revival had begun to spread to the populace and many had learned Manx as a second language. The first native speakers of Manx (bilingual with English) in many years have now appeared: children brought up by Manx-speaking parents. Primary immersion education in Manx is provided by the Manx government. Manx-language playgroups also exist, and Manx language classes are available in island schools.

Manx is used by the Tynwald, with new laws being read out by Yn Lhaihder ('the Reader') in both Manx and English.

Manx is recognised under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. It is also one of the regional languages recognised in the framework of the British-Irish Council. Some controversy has resulted over the omission of Manx culture from the Columba Initiative.

The revival of Manx has been aided by the recording work done in the 20th century by researchers, notably the Irish Folklore Commission in 1948.

Arguably, no trace of written Manx survives from before the 1600s, but the Book of Common Prayer and Bible were translated into Manx in the 17th and 18th centuries. A tradition of carvals, religious songs or carols, developed. Religious literature was common, but secular writing much rarer.

Following a decline in the use of Manx during the 19th century, Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh (The Manx Language Society) was founded in 1899.


The spelling of Manx, unlike that of Irish and Scottish Gaelic, does not represent the Goidelic etymology, and more closely resembles an English speaker's attempt to write Gaelic, with a degree of Welsh influence evident from the use of 'y' and 'w'. This is because Manx developed without a written literature, and when attempts were made to introduce a standardised orthography for the language, the choice was made to spell the words in an English manner. For example, 'Isle of Man' in Irish would be written as Oileán Mhanainn or in Scottish Gaelic as Eilean Mhanainn, whereas in Manx it is written as Ellan Vannin.

Although it is commonly said that Phillips, a Welsh speaking bishop, introduced the writing system, it does appear to have some similarities with similar English based systems that have been found in Scotland. For example, the Book of the Dean of Lismore is written in Scottish Gaelic using such a system.

Initial consonant mutations

Like all modern Celtic languages, Manx shows initial consonant mutations, which are processes by which the initial consonant of a word is altered according to its morphological and/or syntactic environment. The only productive mutation of literary Manx is lenition, though traces of the eclipsis found in Irish can also be found. In the late spoken language of the 20th century the system was breaking down, with speakers frequently failing to use lenition in environments where it was called for, and occasionally using it in environments where it was not called for.

Lenition in Manx
Unmutated Consonant Lenition
[p] [f]
[t] [h, x]
[h, ç]
[kj] [ç]
[k] [x, h]
[b] [v, w]
[d] [ɣ]
[dʒ] [j]
[gj] [j]
[g] [ɣ]
[f] [h] or zero
[s] [h] or zero
[ʃ] [h, ç]
[m] [v, w]


Key: SCO - Scottish Gaelic, IRL - Irish

Manx English Nearest Irish or
Scottish Gaelic equivalent
Moghrey mie Good morning Maidain mhath (SCO)
Fastyr mie Good evening Feasgar math (SCO)
Slane lhiu Goodbye Slán leat (IRL)
Gura mie ayd Thank you Go raibh maith agat (IRL)
baatey boat bata (SCO)
barroose bus bus (IRL & SCO)
blaa flower blath (IRL)
booa cow (IRL)
cabbyl horse capall (SCO)
cashtal castle caisleán (IRL)
creg rock creag (SCO)
eeast fish iasc (IRL)
ellan island eilean (SCO)
gleashtan car gluaistean (IRL)
kayt cat cat (IRL & SCO)
moddey dog madadh (SCO)
shap shop siopa (IRL)
thie house taigh (SCO)
ushag bird eán (IRL)
jees pair dís (IRL)


Manx English Nearest Irish or
Scottish Gaelic equivalent
nane one aon (IRL & SCO)
daa two dhà (SCO)
tree three trí (IRL)
kiare four ceithir (SCO)
queig five cuig (IRL)
shey six (IRL)
shiaght seven seacht (IRL)
hoght eight ocht (IRL)
nuy nine naoi (IRL & SCO)
jeih ten deich (IRL & SCO)
nane jeig eleven aon déag (IRL)
daa yeig twelve dhà dheug (SCO)

See also

External links

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