October 11, 2018

Can we afford to let a language die?

Christopher Adam


A land without a tongue is not a land.

What has been perhaps the single most universal genocide of human culture in our species’ history has ravaged every corner of the globe. Legions of languages and dialects have been swept into extinction by the rapid expansion of capitalism in the past five-hundred years or so, often aided by bloody war, clearances and pillages. English has achieved what colonialism could not: world domination. Vocabularies, ways of telling the time, counting systems, ways of seeing, thinking, being…all have been irretrievably lost. The incredible diversity the human psyche once boasted, as a result of its abundance of different languages, has been haggard into a desolate wasteland of ‘the same’.

The dispute about how much the Scottish Government spent on diversifying the road signage in northern/central/western Scotland to accommodate what was once the prolific tongue of the West/Central Highlands and the Hebrides, Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig), is symptomatic of how big business simply has no time on things which aren’t 100% efficient. That just isn’t the kind of place I want to live, a place which doesn’t even try to remember its history, its land and her tongue.