chapter  13
Tadhg Ó hIfearnáin 13 Scottish Gaelic today: social history and contemporary status
ByKen MacKinnon
Pages 63

Scotland’s linguistic history is complex. Its original inhabitants in early historical times spoke a form of early Welsh – although what the northern Picts spoke is conjectural (Jackson 1955). The Gaelic language originally came to Scotland c. AD 500 with the expansion of the Northern Irish kingdom of Dál Riata into the western Highlands and Islands of Scotland (Bannerman 1974). The expansion of this settlement, and the subsequent absorption of the Pictish kingdom in northern Scotland, the British kingdom of Strathclyde in south-western Scotland, and part of Anglian Northumbria in the south-east, established a largely Gaelic-speaking Scottish kingdom roughly conterminous with present-day Scotland by the eleventh century. Place-name evidence attests to this: names of Gaelic origin are found throughout Scotland, and only in the Anglian south-east borders, and Norse north-eastern Caithness and the Northern Isles, are they sparse (Nicolaisen 1976). Here Norse settlement brought about the development of the Norn language, which lingered in Shetland until the eighteenth century.