Posted in English

Scotland & Portugal – Not as Different as You’d Think

I’ve been really interested in the parallels between Scottish Gaelic and Portuguese. One of the first things that made me want to get familiar with a celtic language was seeing words like Llyfrau and Eglwys on signs in Wales, meaning Book and Church, respectively. Both are very obviously related to French, Portuguese and Spanish equivalents. Of course, it’s less surprising when you realise that churches and perhaps to a lesser extent books were introduced to these islands by Christian missionaries arriving from the mainland in the 6th century speaking languages not that distantly removed from the language of Caesar. So the words came along with the physical objects.

But it turns out that this Latin influence is just the tip of an iceberg and under the surface is a much larger body of connected words, dating back to before the Romans because of common Indo-European origins. All sorts of nouns have echoes of other languages in them, often changed almost out of recognition by the tides of history. Even the phrase “ciamar a tha?” (pronounced “kimmer a ha” and meaning “how are you?”) which I’ve seen a few times in videos online turns out to be basically cognate with “como está?” which seems obvious now but I’d never been struck by it before. It’s a link between Gaelic and Portuguese, not because Gaelic is a romance language but because both come from an even more ancient root.

Scots Gaelic an Introduction to the Basics

These moments of epiphany are coming to me courtesy of an excellent, and very concise introduction to the language, “Scots Gaelic – an Introduction to the Basics” by George McLennan. It’s exactly what I need right now: definitely not a how-to book, but one that maps out how the language works and why. Now that I’ve got to a certain point with Duolingo, I have a lot of questions and this is answering most of them in a very satisfying way.

8AM. Mrs Luso is up now and is telling me about Korean (which she’s learning) and we’re comparing notes. Language-learning is freaking amazing.