Is the Manx language dead or alive?


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In 2009 Manx was declared officially extinct by UNESCO. This prompted pupils in a primary school to write to UNESCO telling them that Manx was still alive in their classroom. Even though the language was officially declared extinct, efforts by some linguists have led to a revival of Manx. Right now if you take a drive through the Isle of Man where the language is spoken you will find road signs, novels, phone applications and radio shows broadcast in Manx. There is a Manx primary school where all the languages are taught in Manx, with more than 60 pupils who are bilingual attending. Even though Manx has seen a renaissance, it may never be fully revived to the point that it will become a fully fledged language that is spoken not just in the island but outside the island as well. The revival of the language was largely aided by the fact that the language had been properly documented. For instance, there is a bible translation in Manx and audio recordings of speakers.

Manx is also known as Manx Gaelic or Manks. The language falls under the Indo European language under Goidelic languages and is closely related to Irish and Scottish Gaelic. These languages are not mutually intelligible though speakers may find it easy to become competent in another language if they put in some effort to learn the language. Currently, only a small population in the Isle of Man speak the language fluently. There are two Manx dialects; northern Manx and southern Manx. Manx uses the English alphabet.

Manx was initially spoken by the entire population in the Isle of Man. This was until 1765 when the Island was sold to the British Crown by the Duke of Atholl. This led to large scale emigration and the collapse of the economy, which subsequently led to the decline of Manx. The reducing popularity of Manx was also accelerated by the large number of English speaking tourists who started visiting the island from the 1830s. By the 1960s only 2 native speakers remained. Mrs. Sage Kinvig of Ronague, who died in 1962 and Mr. Edward (Ned) Maddrell who died in 1974.

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