This evening was a delight. It was a great pleasure to welcome Roy Kennaugh of Kirk Michael Heritage Trust as our speaker and to have one of our largest gatherings to enjoy an excellent power point presentation on Manx Dialect.
Roy suggested that dialect comes second to the Manx language, itself but it serves a very useful purpose in keeping some of the language alive and in common usage.
How did the language develop? The first settlers were Celts with Irish Gaelic. Roy pointed out that Manx Gaelic is similar to both Irish and Scottish Gaelic with a level of understanding between speakers of these variations.
There was a steady decline in Manx speakers in the 19th century. English became the dominant tongue but with the Manx variations we know as dialect.
Dialect was defined as ‘a regionally and socially defined variety of a language which differs in vocal tone, pronunciation and grammar. One example was, ‘Ther’s a fine car at him!’ (He’s got a nice car!)
A 1960’s survey in Andreas and Ronague showed that Manx dialect was influenced by N and NW Midland dialect plus Manx Gaelic. This survey expressed a concern that Manx Gaelic would die, closely followed by Manx dialect. Thanks to vigorous action by a few, including the establishment of a Manx –speaking school, neither concern is now true. A nation that loses its language loses its identity. We certainly ran it close – Traa dy Liooar (Time enough) very nearly wasn’t!
A lot of investigation into Manx Gaelic and dialect had been conducted in Cronk y Voddey. This was chosen as a relatively stable farming community. Roy was one of the researchers and was able to speak of his findings. The age range of 40 speakers ranged from 8 to 89 years. The nucleus of the network of speakers was community events such as the famous ploughing match.
Roy then entered into a more detailed examination of the structure of Manx dialect. Examples included the loss of g in ing, (runnin’), loss of t in words, firs(t), devoicing of z to sound like an s, loss of middle consonants – li’l for little and so on.
We were then treated to Win’ Collister reciting, ‘Goin’ to Tynwald’ in dialect. This was treated to terrific applause.
Roy moved on to some of the conclusions of his study. No great surprises in that older people knew more Manx, (probably less true now that so many children are learning and being taught in Manx.) People with a strong sense of national identity used more Manx and males knew more words than women.
Some of the vocabulary such as long tail came from elsewhere, in this case, seafarers. The audience joined in a kind of quiz, trading words and meanings such as cushag, bonnag and lesser known ones. This was a lot of fun and was very animated.
Whilst we had refreshments, we watched a dialect play from Kirk Michael. This was a good exemplar of the use of dialect in conversation.
We built up a large vocabulary between us with Roy jotting down one’s he’d missed. A great evening!