The Gaelic Influence: Monks, Monasteries, and Green English

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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
Stream: Language, Linguistics
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Gaelic Influence on Literacy, The

Dr. Caroline Fitzpatrick

Assistant Professor, Communications, Alvernia College
Reading, Pennsylvania, USA

Dr. Caroline Fitzpatrick is an Assistant Professor of Communications and English and the Director of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) for Community Leadership at Alvernia College in Reading, Pennsylvania (USA). Her primary areas of interest include multimodal literacy studies, cultural preservation, and qualitative research methods. Dr. Fitzpatrick serves on the Executive Board of the International English Honor Society and the Mass Communications Advisory Board for the Washington Center in Washington, D.C. Currently, she is serving as a consultant in qualitative research methods for portfolio assessment in the medical residency program at the West Reading Hospital in Pennsylvania. She promotes the practical application of writing-intensive projects toward cultural/environmental preservation at both the undergraduate and graduate level that include such activities as advertising and letter writing campaigns for non-profit organizations. She is a vocal advocate of community-based research projects for sustainability.

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