The Gaelic Influence: Monks, Monasteries, and Green English
What is the influence of Gaelic language and culture on the literacy of the modern world? When asking that question, many people tend to think of Irish drinking songs, exaggerated stories, and witty proverbs rather than ancient scholars and academic thought. While Irish charm and wit is inspired, the effect of the Gaelic language and culture on the literacy of the modern world is much more profound than the often-quoted clever sayings usually associated with the Irish.
In regard to literacy, David Olson’s (1994) hypothesized that “…our understanding of the world, that is our science, and our understanding of ourselves, that is, our psychology, are by-products of our ways of interpreting and creating written texts, of living in a world of paper” (p. 19). If Olson is correct, then without the creation, understanding, and dissemination of language, most especially the written word during pivotal moments of history, the modern world would be a very different place and the high levels of literacy may not have developed in areas to the extent that they have.
Gaelic’s influence on the modern world’s literacy is threefold: the copying and preservation of classic literature by Irish monks; the dissemination of classic literature through monastic teaching; and finally, the vast emigration of the Irish and the spread of “Green English” to other countries till present day. More specifically, in this paper a brief overview will be provided of the influence of the Gaelic language and culture; the implications of St. Patrick, Columcille, and Christianity; and finally, the concept and influence of Green English, a term coined by Loreto Todd (1999).
Olson, D. (1994). The world on paper: The conceptual and cognitive implications of writing and reading. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Todd, L. (1999). Green English. Dublin, Ireland: The O’Brien Press, Ltd.
Keywords: Literacy, Language, Irish, English, Gaelic, Linguistics
Dr. Caroline Fitzpatrick
Assistant Professor, Communications, Alvernia College