Manx (native name Gaelg or Gailck, pronounced [ɡilk] or [ɡilɡ]), also known as Manx Gaelic, and as the Manks language, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, historically spoken by the Manx people. Only a small minority of the Isle of Man's population is fluent in the language, but a larger minority has some knowledge of it. Manx is widely considered to be an important part of the island's culture and heritage. Although the last of the original native speakers, Ned Maddrell, died in 1974, the language has never fallen completely out of use. In recent years, it has been the subject of language revival efforts, so that despite the small number of speakers, Manx has become more visible on the island, with increased signage and radio broadcasts. The revival of Manx has been aided by the fact that the language was well recorded; for example, the Bible was translated into Manx, and audio recordings were made of native speakers.

Names of the language

Manx language

In Manx

In Manx the language is called Gaelg or Gailck, a word which shares the same etymology as the word "Gaelic", borrowed into English from Northern Irish Gaelic. The sister languages of Irish and Scottish Gaelic, use Gaeilge (dialect variants Gaoluinn, Gaedhlag, Gaelge and Gaelic) and Gàidhlig respectively for their languages. As with Irish and Scottish, the form with the definite article is frequently used in Manx, e.g. y Ghaelg or y Ghailck (Irish an Ghaeilge, Scottish a' Ghàidhlig).

To distinguish it from the other two forms of Gaelic, the phrases Gaelg/Gailck Vannin (Gaelic of Mann) and Gaelg/Gailck Vanninnagh (Manx Gaelic) may also be used.

In addition, the nickname "Çhengey ny Mayrey" (the mother tongue/tongue of the mother) is occasionally used.

In English

The language is usually referred to in English as Manx. The term Manx Gaelic is often used, for example when discussing the relationship between the three Goidelic languages (Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx) or to avoid confusion with Anglo-Manx, the form of English spoken on the island. Scottish Gaelic is often referred to in English as simply Gaelic, but this is less common with Manx and Irish.

A calque in Anglo-Manx is use of the definite article, e.g., the Manx, the Gaelic, in ways not generally seen in standard English.

The word Manx is frequently spelled as Manks in historical sources, particularly those written by natives of the island; the word means Mannish, and originates from the Norse Mannisk. The name of the island, Man, is frequently spelled as Mann. It is sometimes accompanied by a footnote explaining that it is a two-syllable word, with the stress on the first syllable, "MAN-en". It comes from the name of the Celtic god Manannán mac Lir.


Manx is a Goidelic language, closely related to Irish and Scottish Gaelic. On the whole it is not mutually intelligible with these, though the speakers of the three languages find it easy to gain passive competency in each other's languages and even spoken competency.

The earliest known language of the Isle of Man was a form of Brythonic; however, like Scottish Gaelic and modern Irish, Manx is descended from Primitive Irish, which is first attested in Ogham inscriptions from the 4th century AD. These writings have been found throughout Ireland and the west coast of Great Britain. Primitive Irish transitioned into Old Irish through the 5th century. Old Irish, dating from the 6th century, used the Latin script and is attested primarily in marginalia to Latin manuscripts, but there are no extant examples from the Isle of Man. By the 10th century Old Irish had evolved into Middle Irish, which was spoken throughout Ireland, in Scotland and the Isle of Man. Like the coastal areas of Scotland and Ireland, the Isle of Man was colonised by the Norse, who left their legacy in certain loanwords, personal names, and placenames such as Laxey (Laksaa) and Ramsey (Rhumsaa).

During the later Middle Ages, the Isle of Man fell increasingly under the influence of England, and from then on the English language has been the chief external factor in the development of Manx. Manx began to diverge from Early Modern Irish in around the 13th century and from Scottish Gaelic in the 15th. The language sharply declined during the 19th century and was supplanted by English.

Manx-language books were not printed until the beginning of the 18th century, and there was no Manxâ€"English dictionary until the 19th century. Except for a few ballads composed in the 16th century and some religious literature, there is no pre-20th century literature in the Manx language. The Manx were to all intents and purposes an oral society, with all folklore, history, interpersonal business and the like passed on by word of mouth.

In 1848, J. G. Cumming wrote that, "there are ... few persons (perhaps none of the young) who speak no English." Henry Jenner estimated in 1874 that about 30% of the population habitually spoke Manx (12,340 out of a population of 41,084). According to official census figures, 9.1% of the population claimed to speak Manx in 1901; in 1921 the percentage was only 1.1%. Since the language had fallen to a status of low prestige, parents tended not to teach the language to their children, thinking that Manx would be useless to them compared with English.

Following the decline in the use of Manx during the 19th century, Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh (The Manx Language Society) was founded in 1899. By the middle of the 20th century only a few elderly native speakers remained (the last of them, Ned Maddrell, died on 27 December 1974), but by then a scholarly revival had begun and a few individuals had started teaching it in schools. In 1992 the Manx Language Unit was formed, consisting of three members and headed by Manx Language Officer Brian Stowell, "which was put in charge of all aspects of Manx language teaching and accreditation in schools." This led to an increased interest in studying the Manx language and encouraged a sense of ethnic identity along with it. The revival of Manx has been aided by the recording work done in the 20th century by researchers. Most notably, the Irish Folklore Commission was sent in with recording equipment in 1948 by Éamon de Valera. There is also the work conducted by language enthusiast and fluent speaker Brian Stowell, who is considered personally responsible for the current revival of the Manx language.

In 2009 Unesco's Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger declared Manx as an extinct language, despite the presence of hundreds of speakers on the Isle of Man. Since then Unesco's classification of the language has changed to "critically endangered".

In the 2011 census, 1,823 out of 80,398, or 2.27% of the population, claimed to have knowledge of Manx. This is an increase of 134 people from the 2001 census. The largest concentration of speakers was in Douglas, with 566 people professing an ability to speak, read or write in Manx. Peel had the second largest number of speakers, with 179 people professing an ability to speak, read or write in Manx. Other large concentrations included Onchan (146), and Ramsey (149).

Manx given names are once again becoming common on the Isle of Man, especially Moirrey and Voirrey (Mary, properly pronounced similar to the Scottish Moira, but often mispronounced as Moiree/Voiree when used as a given name by non-Manx speakers), Illiam (William), Orry (from the Manx King of Norse origin), Breeshey (also Breesha) (Bridget), Aalish (also Ealish) (Alice), Juan (Jack), Ean (John), Joney, Fenella (Fionnuala), Pherick (Patrick) and Freya (from the Norse Goddess) remain popular.


Manx language

Because Manx has never had a large number of speakers, it has never been practical to produce large amounts of written literature. A body of oral literature, on the other hand, did exist. It is known that the "Fianna" tales and the like were known, with the Manx ballad Fin as Oshin commemorating Finn MacCool and Ossian. With the coming of Protestantism, this slowly disappeared, while a tradition of carvals, religious songs or carols, developed with religious sanction.

As far as is known, there was no distinctively Manx written literature before the Reformation. By this time, any presumed literary link with Ireland and Scotland, such as through Irish-trained priests, had been lost. The first published literature in Manx was the Book of Common Prayer, translated by John Phillips, the Welsh-born Bishop of Sodor and Man (1605â€"33). The early Manx script does have some similarities with orthographical systems found occasionally in Scotland and in Ireland for the transliteration of Gaelic, such as the Book of the Dean of Lismore, as well as in some cases extensive texts based on English and Scottish English orthographical practices of the time. Little secular Manx literature has been preserved.

When the Anglican church authorities commenced the production of written literature in the language in the 18th century, the system developed by John Philips was further "anglicized", the one Welsh-retention being the use of ⟨y⟩ to represent schwa (e.g. cabbyl [kaːβəl] "horse" and cooney [kuːnə] "help" as well as /ɪ/ (e.g. fys [fɪz] "knowledge"), though it is also used to represent [j], as in English (e.g. y Yuan [ə juːan] "John" (vocative), yeeast [jiːəst] "fish").

Later pieces included short stories and poetry. Translations were made, notably of Paradise Lost in 1796.

In 2006, the first full-length novel in Manx, Dunveryssyn yn Tooder-Folley (The Vampire Murders) was published by Brian Stowell, after being serialised in the press. There is an increasing amount of literature available in the language and recent publications include Manx versions of the Gruffalo and Gruffalo's Child.

The Railway Series

Although the books of The Railway Series by the Reverend W. Awdry were written in English, Manx had a significant influence on the world in which they were set. Thomas the Tank Engine and his fellow locomotive characters live on the fictional Island of Sodor, which is to the east of the Isle of Man, but loosely based on it. It has its own language, "Sudric", which "is fast dying out and is akin to Manx and Gaelic" â€" but the difference between Manx and Sudric is not enough to prevent the two communities understanding one another.

Many of the names are clearly based on Manx forms, but often the nouns are inverted to match English word order. Some of the locations have quasi-Manx names, e.g., Killdane, which comes from "Keeill-y-Deighan" (Church of the Devil), hills are called Knock and Cronk, while "Nagh Beurla", means "I speak no English", a distortion of the Manx. The names of some of the 'historical' characters â€" used in the background but not appearing in the stories â€" were taken from locations on the Isle of Man, such as Sir Crosby Marown (Crosby being a small village in the parish of Marown) and Harold Regaby.


Foreign loan words are primarily Norse and English with a smaller number coming from French. Examples of Norse loanwords include garey ("garden", from garðr, "enclosure") and sker meaning a sea rock. Examples of French loanwords include danjeyr ("danger", from danger) and vondeish ("advantage", from avantage).

English loanwords were common in late (pre-revival) Manx, e.g. boy ("boy"), badjer ("badger"), rather than the more usual Gaelic guilley and brock. Henry Jenner, on asking someone what he was doing, was told Ta mee smokal pipe ("I am smoking a pipe"), and that "[he] certainly considered that he was talking Manx, and not English, in saying it." In more recent years, there has been a reaction against such borrowing, resulting in coinages for technical vocabulary. Despite this, calques exist in Manx, not necessarily obvious to its speakers.

Some religious terms come ultimately from Latin, Greek and Hebrew, e.g., casherick (holy), from the Latin consecrātus; mooinjer (people) from the Latin monasterium (originally a monastery; agglish (church) from the Greek ἐκκλησία (ekklesia, literally meaning assembly) and abb (abbot) from the Hebrew "א×'א" (abba, meaning "father"). These did not necessarily come directly into Manx, but from Old Irish. In more recent times, ulpan has been borrowed from modern Hebrew. Many Irish and English loanwords also have a classical origin, e.g., çhellveeish (Irish teilefís) and çhellvane meaning television and telephone respectively. Foreign language words (usually known via English) are used occasionally especially for ethnic food, e.g., chorizo and spaghetti.

To make up for deficiencies in recorded Manx vocabulary, revivalists have referred to modern Irish and Scottish Gaelic for words and inspiration.

Going in the other direction, Manx Gaelic has influenced Manx English (Anglo-Manx). Common words and phrases in Anglo-Manx originating in the language include tholtan (the "th" is pronounced as a "t") meaning a ruined farmhouse, qualtagh meaning a first-foot, keeil meaning a church (especially an old one), cammag, traa-dy-liooar meaning "time enough", and tynwald (tinvaal), which is ultimately of Norse origin, but comes via Manx. It is suggested that the House of Keys takes its name from Kiare as Feed (four and twenty), which is the number of its sitting members.

Official recognition

Manx language

Parliament and politics

Although Manx is commonly used for written slogans by local businesses and appears on department letterheads and promotional materials within the Isle of Man government, it is not used as a spoken language within the business community, or spoken within the government.

Manx is used in the annual Tynwald ceremony, with new laws being read out by Yn Lhaihder ('the Reader') in Manx and English.

Manx is recognised under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. It is one of the regional languages recognised in the framework of the British-Irish Council.

Political parties have not generally been prominent in Manx politics. Notably two of them, Mec Vannin and Liberal Vannin, bear Manx names, although the former no longer stands in elections.


Manx is taught as a second language at all of the island's primary and secondary schools. The lessons are optional and instruction is provided by the Department of Education's Manx Language Team who teach up to A Level standard. At present roughly about 1000 children receive some Manx Language Provision each year in island schools.

The Bunscoill Ghaelgagh which is based in St Johns has, of September 2014, 71 children who receive nearly all of their education through the medium of the language. Children who have attended the school have the opportunity to receive some of their secondary education through the language at QE2 which is based in Peel.

The playgroup organisation, Mooinjer Veggey which operates the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh runs a series of preschool groups for children that introduce the language.

The first native speakers of Manx (bilingual with English) in many years have now appeared: children brought up by Manx-speaking parents.

Learning the language

Manx language

There are an increasing number of resources available for those wanting to learn the language. The Manx Language Development Officer for Culture Vannin manages the Learnmanx.com website which has a wide variety of resources. These include mobile apps a new podcast in Manx, the 1000 words-in-Manx challenge and the Video-a-day in Manx series.


Two weekly programmes in Manx are available on MW on Manx Radio: Traa dy liooar on Monday Jamys Jeheiney on Friday. The news in Manx is available on-line from Manx Radio who have three other weekly programmes that use the language. Clare ny Gael; Shiaght Laa and Moghrey Jedoonee.

The Isle of Man Examiner has a monthly bilingual column in Manx.

The first film to be made in Manx â€" the 22-minute long Ny Kiree fo Niaghtey (The Sheep Under the Snow) â€" premiered in 1983 and was entered for the 5th Celtic Film and Television Festival in Cardiff in 1984. It was directed by Shorys Y Creayrie (George Broderick) for Foillan Films of Laxey, and is about the background to an early 18th-century folk song. Recently a new short film, Solace, was produced with financial assistance of Culture Vannin. A series of short cartoons about the life of Cuchulain which were produced by BBC Northern Ireland are available as are a series of cartoons on Manx mythology. Most significant is a 13-part DVD series Manx translation of the award-winning series Friends and Heroes.


Bilingual road, street, village and town boundary signs are common throughout the Isle of Man. All other road signs are in English only.

Business signage in Manx is gradually being introduced but is not mandated by law.

The Manx Bible

In the time of Bishop Wilson it had been a constant source of complaint among the Manx clergy that they were the only church in Christendom that had no version of the Bible in the vulgar tongue. Wilson set to work to remedy the defect, and, with the assistance of some of his clergy, managed to get some of the Bible translated, and the Gospel of St. Matthew printed. Bishop Hildesley, his successor, with the help of the whole body of Manx clergy, completed the work, and in 1775 the whole Bible was printed.

The Bible was first produced in Manx by a group of Anglican clergymen on the island. The Gospel of Matthew was printed in 1748. The four Gospels were produced in 1763 and Conaant Noa nyn Jiarn as Saualtagh Yeesey Creest (the New Testament) in 1767 by SPCK. In 1772 the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew and printed, with the Books of Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) from the Apocrypha. Yn Vible Casherick (The Holy Bible) of the Old and New Testaments was published as one book by the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) in 1775.

The bicentenary was celebrated on the Isle of Man in 1975 and included a set of stamps from the Isle of Man post office. This 1775 edition effectually fixed the modern orthography of Manx Gaelic which is little changed since. Jenner claims that some bowdlerisation had occurred in the translation, e.g., the occupation of Rahab the prostitute is rendered as ben-oast,[1] a hostess or female inn-keeper.

There was a translation of the Psalmyn Ghavid (Psalms of David) in metre in Manx by the Rev John Clague, vicar of Rushden, which was printed with the Book of Common Prayer of 1768. Bishop Hildesley required that these Metrical Psalms were to be sung in churches. These were reprinted by the Manx Language Society in 1905.

The British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) published the Conaant Noa (New Testament) in 1810 and reprinted it in 1824. Yn Vible Casherick (the Holy Bible) of the Old Testament and New Testament (excluding the two books of the Apocrypha) was first printed as a whole in 1819. BFBS last printed anything on paper in Manx in 1936 when it reprinted Noo Ean (the Gospel of St John); this was reprinted by Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh (The Manx Gaelic Society) in 1968. The Manx Bible was republished by Shearwater Press in July 1979 as Bible Chasherick yn Lught Thie (Manx Family Bible), which was a reproduction of the BFBS 1819 Bible.

Since 2014 the BFBS 1936 Manx Gospel of John is now available online on YouVersion and Bibles.org


Manx was used in some churches into the late 19th century. Although church services in Manx were once fairly common, they occur infrequently now. Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh, the Manx Language Society, hold an annual Christmas Service at locations around the island.

Classification and dialects

Manx language

Manx is one of the three descendants of Old Irish (via Middle Irish and early Modern Gaelic), and is closely related to Irish and Scottish Gaelic. It shares a number of developments in phonology, vocabulary and grammar with Irish and Scottish Gaelic (in some cases only with dialects of these) and shows a number of unique changes. There are two dialects of Manx, Northern Manx and Southern Manx.

Manx shares with Scottish Gaelic the partial loss of contrastive palatalisation of labial consonants; thus while in Irish the velarised consonants /pˠ bˠ fˠ w mˠ/ contrast phonemically with palatalised /pʲ bʲ fʲ vʲ mʲ/, in Scottish Gaelic and Manx, the phonemic contrast has been lost to some extent. A consequence of this phonemic merger is that Middle Irish unstressed word-final [əβʲ] (spelled -(a)ibh, -(a)imh in Irish and Gaelic) has merged with [əβ] (-(e)abh, -(e)amh) in Manx; both have become [u], spelled -oo or -u(e). Examples include shassoo ("to stand"; Irish seasamh), credjue ("religion"; Irish creideamh), nealloo ("fainting"; Early Modern Irish (i) néalaibh, lit. in clouds), and erriu ("on you (plural)"; Irish oraibh). However, Manx is further advanced in this than is Scottish, where the verb ending -ibh second person plural is consistently [-iv], as it is in the second plural pronoun sibh (shiu in Manx).

Like western and northern dialects of Irish (cf. Irish phonology) and most dialects of Scottish Gaelic, Manx has changed the historical consonant clusters /kn É¡n mn tn/ to /kr É¡r mr tr/. For example, Middle Irish cnáid ("mockery") and mná ("women") have become craid and mraane respectively in Manx. The affrication of [t̪ʲ d̪ʲ] to [tʃ dÊ'] is also common to Manx, northern Irish, and Scottish Gaelic.

Also like northern and western dialects of Irish, as well as like southern dialects of Scottish Gaelic (e.g. Arran, Kintyre), the unstressed word-final syllable [iʝ] of Middle Irish (spelled -(a)idh and -(a)igh) has developed to [iː] in Manx, where it is spelled -ee, as in kionnee ("buy"; cf. Irish ceannaigh) and cullee ("apparatus"; cf. Gaelic culaidh).

Another property Manx shares with Ulster Irish and some dialects of Scottish Gaelic is that /a/ rather than /É™/ appears in unstressed syllables before /x/ (in Manx spelling, agh), for example jeeragh ("straight") [ˈdÊ'iːrax] (Irish díreach), cooinaghtyn ("to remember") [ˈkuːnʲaxt̪ən] (Gaelic cuimhneachd).

Similarly to Munster Irish, historical bh [βʲ] and mh (nasalised [βʲ]) have been lost in the middle or at the end of a word in Manx either with compensatory lengthening or vocalisation as u resulting in diphthongisation with the preceding vowel. For example, Manx geurey ("winter") [ˈɡʲeurÉ™], [ˈɡʲuːrÉ™] and sleityn ("mountains") [ˈsleːdÊ'É™n] correspond to Irish geimhreadh and sléibhte (Southern Irish dialect spelling and pronunciation gíre ([ˈɟiːɾʲə]) and sléte ([ˈʃlʲeːtʲə])). Another similarity to Munster Irish is the development of the Old Irish diphthongs [oi ai] before velarised consonants (spelled ao in Irish and Scottish Gaelic) to [eː] in many words, as in seyr ("carpenter") [seːr] and keyl ("narrow") [keːl] (spelled saor and caol in Irish and Scottish, and pronounced virtually the same in Munster).

Like southern and western varieties of Irish and northern varieties of Scottish Gaelic, but unlike the geographically closer varieties of Ulster Irish and Arran and Kintyre Gaelic, Manx shows vowel lengthening or diphthongisation before the Old Irish fortis and lenis sonorants. For example, cloan ("children") [klÉ"ːn], dhone ("brown") [d̪É"ːn], eeym ("butter") [iːᵇm] correspond to Irish/Scottish Gaelic clann, donn, and im respectively, which have long vowels or diphthongs in western and southern Irish and in the Scottish Gaelic dialects of the Outer Hebrides and Skye, thus western Irish [klË É'ːn̪ˠ], Southern Irish/Northern Scottish [kl̪ˠaun̪ˠ], [d̪ˠaun̪ˠ]/[d̪ˠoun̪ˠ], [iːm]/[ɤim]), but short vowels and 'long' consonants in northern Irish, Arran, and Kintyre, [kl̪ˠan̪ːˠ], [d̪ˠon̪ːˠ] and [imʲː].

Another similarity with southern Irish is the treatment of Middle Irish word-final unstressed [əð], spelled -(e)adh in Irish and Scottish Gaelic. In nouns (including verbal nouns), this became [É™] in Manx, as it did in southern Irish, e.g. caggey ("war") [ˈkaːɣə], moylley ("to praise") [ˈmÉ"lÉ™]; cf. Irish cogadh and moladh, pronounced [ˈkË É"É¡Ë É™] and [ˈmË É"l̪ˠə] in southern Irish. In finite verb forms before full nouns (as opposed to pronouns) [əð] became [ax] in Manx, as in southern Irish, e.g. voyllagh [ˈvÉ"lax] ("would praise"), cf. Irish mholfadh, pronounced [ˈvË É"l̪ˠhÉ™x] in southern Irish.

Linguistic analysis of the last few dozen native speakers reveals a number of dialectal differences between the northern and the southern parts of the island. Northern Manx is reflected by speakers from towns and villages from Maughold in the northeast of the island to Peel on the west coast. Southern Manx is used by speakers from the Sheading of Rushen.

In Southern Manx, older á and in some cases ó have become [eː]. In Northern Manx the same happens, but á sometimes remains [aː] as well. For example, laa ("day", cf. Irish lá) is [leː] in the south but [leː] or [laː] in the north. Old ó is always [eː] in both dialects, e.g. aeg ("young", cf. Irish óg) is [eːɡ] in both dialects.

In Northern Manx, older (e)a before nn in the same syllable is diphthongised, while in Southern Manx it is lengthened but remains a monophthong. For example, kione ("head", cf. Irish ceann) is [kʲaun] in the north but [kʲoːn] in the south.

In both dialects of Manx, words with ua and in some cases ao in Irish and Scottish are spelled with eay in Manx. In Northern Manx, this sound is [iː], while in Southern Manx it is [ɯː], [uː], or [yː]. For example, geay ("wind", cf. Irish gaoth) is [ɡiː] in the north and [ɡɯː] in the south, while geayl ("coal", cf. Irish gual) is [ɡiːl] in the north and [ɡyːl], [ɡɯːl], or [ɡuːl] in the south.

In both the north and the south, there is a tendency to insert a short [d] sound before a word-final [n] in monosyllabic words, as in [sleᵈn] for slane ("whole") and [beᵈn] for ben ("woman"). This phenomenon is known as pre-occlusion. In Southern Manx, however, there is pre-occlusion of [d] before [l] and of [É¡] before [Å‹], as in [ʃuːᵈl] for shooyl ("walking") and [lÉ"ᶢŋ] for lhong ("ship"). These forms are generally pronounced without pre-occlusion in the north. Preocclusion of [b] before [m], on the other hand, is more common in the north, as in trome ("heavy"), which is [t̪roᵇm] in the north but [t̪roːm] or [t̪roːᵇm] in the south. This feature is also found in Cornish.

Southern Manx tends to lose word-initial [É¡] before [lʲ], while Northern Manx usually preserves it, e.g. glion ("glen") is [É¡lʲÉ"ᵈn] in the north and [lʲÉ"ᵈn] in the south, and glioon ("knee") is [É¡lʲuːn] in the north and [lʲuːᵈn] in the south.


The following are some simple words and phrases in Manx that might be used in conversation between two people :


Manx language

The Manx orthography is unlike that of Irish and Scottish Gaelic, both of which use closely related modernised variants of the orthography of Early Modern Irish, the language of the educated Gaelic elite of both Ireland and Scotland (where it is called Classical Gaelic) until the mid-19th century. These orthographies in general show both word pronunciation and word derivation from the Gaelic past, though not in a one-to-one system, there being only 18 letters to represent around 50 phonemes. While Manx in effect uses the English alphabet, except for ⟨x⟩ and ⟨z⟩, the 24 letters of its alphabet likewise do not cover a similar range of phonemes, and therefore many digraphs and trigraphs are used.

The orthography was developed by people who were unaware of traditional Gaelic orthography, as they had learned literacy in Welsh and English (the initial development in the 16th century), then only English (later developments). Therefore, the orthography shows the pronunciation of words mainly from the point of view of early Modern English "phonetics", and to a small extent Welsh, rather than from the Gaelic point of view. The result is an inconsistent and only partially phonetic spelling system, in the same way that English orthographic practices are inconsistent and only partially phonetic. T. F. O'Rahilly expressed the opinion that Gaelic in the Isle of Man was saddled with a corrupt spelling which is neither traditional nor phonetic; if the traditional Gaelic orthography had been preserved, the close kinship that exists between Manx Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic would be obvious to all at first sight.

There is no evidence of Gaelic script having been used on the island.


Manx uses relatively few diacritics, but a cedilla is often (but not always) used to differentiate between the two pronunciations of "ch".

  • Çhiarn (/ˈt͡ʃaːrn/), meaning "lord", is pronounced with the palato-alveolar affricate /t͡ʃ/, as in the English "church"
  • Chamoo (/xaˈmu), meaning "nor" or "neither", is pronounced with the velar fricative /x/, as in the Scottish pronunciation of the word "loch" (/ˈlÉ'x/), a sound which is commonly represented by "gh" at the ends of words in Manx.


The following examples are taken from Broderick 1984â€"86, 1:178â€"79 and 1:350â€"53. The first example is from a speaker of Northern Manx, the second from Ned Maddrell, a speaker of Southern Manx.

Gaelic versions of the Lord's Prayer

The Lord's Prayer has been translated into all the Goidelic tongues. Although the wording is not completely cognate, they demonstrate the different orthographies.

Spelling to sound correspondences




Manx language


The consonant phonemes of Manx are as follows:

The voiceless plosives are pronounced with aspiration. The dental, postalveolar and palato-velar plosives /t̪ d̪ tʲ dʲ kʲ/ are affricated to [t̪͡θ d̪͡ð t͡ʃ dÍ¡Ê' kʲ͡ç] in many contexts.

Manx has an optional process of lenition of plosives between vowels, whereby voiced plosives and voiceless fricatives become voiced fricatives and voiceless plosives become either voiced plosives or voiced fricatives. This process introduces the allophones [β ð z Ê'] to the series of voiced fricatives in Manx. The voiced fricative [Ê'] may be further lenited to [j], and [É£] may disappear altogether. Examples include:

Voiceless plosive to voiced plosive
  • /t̪/ > [d̪]: brattag [ˈbrad̪aÉ¡] "flag, rag"
  • /k/ > [É¡]: peccah [ˈpɛɡə] "sin"
Voiceless plosive to voiced fricative
  • /p/ > [v]: cappan [ˈkavan] "cup"
  • /t̪/ > [ð]: baatey [ˈbɛːðə] "boat"
  • /k/ > [É£]: feeackle [ˈfiːɣəl] "tooth"
Voiced plosive to voiced fricative
  • /b/ > [v]: cabbyl [ˈkaːvÉ™l] "horse"
  • /d̪/ > [ð]: eddin [ˈɛðənʲ] "face"
  • /dʲ/ > [Ê']: padjer [ˈpaːÊ'É™r] "prayer"
  • /dʲ/ > [Ê'] > [j]: maidjey [ˈmaːÊ'É™], [ˈmaːjÉ™] "stick"
  • /É¡/ > [É£]: ruggit [ˈroɣət] "born"
Voiceless fricative to voiced fricative
  • /s/ > [ð] or [z]: poosit [ˈpuːðitʲ] or [ˈpuːzitʲ] "married"
  • /s/ > [ð]: shassoo [ˈʃaːðu] "stand"
  • /ʃ/ > [Ê']: aashagh [ˈɛːÊ'ax] "easy"
  • /ʃ/ > [Ê'] > [j]: toshiaght [ˈt̪É"Ê'ax], [ˈt̪É"jax] "beginning"
  • /x/ > [É£]: beaghey [ˈbɛːɣə] "live"
  • /x/ > [É£] > ∅: shaghey [ʃaː] "past"

Another optional process of Manx phonology is pre-occlusion, the insertion of a very short plosive consonant before a sonorant consonant. In Manx, this applies to stressed monosyllabic words (i.e. words one syllable long). The inserted consonant is homorganic with the following sonorant, which means it has the same place of articulation. Long vowels are often shortened before pre-occluded sounds. Examples include:

  • /m/ > [ᵇm]: trome /t̪roːm/ > [t̪roᵇm] "heavy"
  • /n/ > [ᵈn]: kione /kʲoːn/ > [kʲoᵈn] "head"
  • /nʲ/ > [ᵈnʲ]: ein /eːnʲ/ > [eːᵈnʲ], [eᵈnʲ] "birds"
  • /Å‹/ > [ᶢŋ]: lhong /loÅ‹/ > [loᶢŋ] "ship"
  • /l/ > [ᵈl]: shooyll /ʃuːl/ > [ʃuːᵈl] "walking"

The trill /r/ is realised as a one- or two-contact flap [ɾ] at the beginning of syllable, and as a stronger trill [r] when preceded by another consonant in the same syllable. At the end of a syllable, /r/ can be pronounced either as a strong trill [r] or, more frequently, as a weak fricative [ɹ̝], which may vocalise to a nonsyllabic [ə̯] or disappear altogether. This vocalisation may be due to the influence of Manx English, which is itself a non-rhotic accent. Examples of the pronunciation of /r/ include:

  • ribbey "snare" [ˈɾibÉ™]
  • arran "bread" [ˈaɾan]
  • mooar "big" [muːr], [muːɹ̝], [muːə̯], [muː]


The vowel phonemes of Manx are as follows:

The status of æ and æː as separate phonemes is debatable, but is suggested by the allophony of certain words such as ta "is", mraane "women", and so on. An alternative analysis is that Manx has the following system, where the vowels /a/ and /aː/ have allophones ranging from [ɛ]/[ɛː] through [æ]/[æː] to [a]/[aː]. As with Irish and Scottish Gaelic, there is a large amount of vowel allophony, such as that of /a/, /aː/. This depends mainly on the 'broad' and 'slender' status of the neighbouring consonants:

When stressed, /ə/ is realised as [ø].

Manx has a relatively large number of diphthongs, all of them falling:


Stress generally falls on the first syllable of a word in Manx, but in many cases, stress is attracted to a long vowel in the second syllable. Examples include:

  • buggane /bəˈɣeːn/ "sprite"
  • tarroogh /t̪aˈruːx/ "busy"
  • reeoil /riːˈoːl/ "royal"
  • vondeish /vonˈd̪eːʃ/ "advantage"


Manx nouns fall into one of two genders, masculine or feminine. Nouns are inflected for number (the plural being formed in a variety of ways, most commonly by addition of the suffix -yn [ən]), but usually there is no inflection for case, except in a minority of nouns that have a distinct genitive singular form, which is formed in various ways (most common is the addition of the suffix -ey [ə] to feminine nouns). Historical genitive singulars are often encountered in compounds even when they are no longer productive forms; for example thie-ollee "cowhouse" uses the old genitive of ollagh "cattle".

Manx verbs generally form their finite forms by means of periphrasis: inflected forms of the auxiliary verbs ve "to be" or jannoo "to do" are combined with the verbal noun of the main verb. Only the future, conditional, preterite, and imperative can be formed directly by inflecting the main verb, but even in these tenses, the periphrastic formation is more common in Late Spoken Manx. Examples:

The future and conditional tenses (and in some irregular verbs, the preterite) make a distinction between "independent" and "dependent" forms. Independent forms are used when the verb is not preceded by any particle; dependent forms are used when a particle (e.g. cha "not") does precede the verb. For example, "you will lose" is caillee oo with the independent form caillee ("will lose"), while "you will not lose" is cha gaill oo with the dependent form caill (which has undergone eclipsis to gaill after cha). Similarly "they went" is hie ad with the independent form hie ("went"), while "they did not go" is cha jagh ad with the dependent form jagh. This contrast is inherited from Old Irish, which shows such pairs as beirid ("(s)he carries") vs. ní beir ("(s)he does not carry"), and is found in Scottish Gaelic as well, e.g. gabhaidh ("will take") vs. cha ghabh ("will not take"). In Modern Irish, the distinction is found only in irregular verbs (e.g. chonaic ("saw") vs. ní fhaca ("did not see").

Like the other Insular Celtic languages, Manx has so-called inflected prepositions, contractions of a preposition with a pronominal direct object. For example, the preposition ec "at" has the following forms:


Initial consonant mutations

Like all modern Celtic languages, Manx shows initial consonant mutations, which are processes by which the initial consonant of a word is altered according to its morphological and/or syntactic environment. Manx has two mutations: lenition and nasalisation, found on nouns and verbs in a variety of environments; adjectives can undergo lenition but not nasalisation. In the late spoken language of the 20th century the system was breaking down, with speakers frequently failing to use mutation in environments where it was called for, and occasionally using it in environments where it was not called for.

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Not attested in the late spoken language (Broderick 1984â€"86, 3:66)
  2. ^ In the corpus of the late spoken language, there is only one example of the nasalisation of /É¡/: the sentence Ta mee er ngeddyn yn eayn ("I have found the lamb"), where ng is pronounced /n/. However, it is possible that the verbal noun in this case is not geddyn, which usually means "get", but rather feddyn, which is the more usual word for "find" (Broderick 1984â€"86 2:190, 3:66).


Like most Insular Celtic languages, Manx uses verbâ€"subjectâ€"object word order: the inflected verb of a sentence precedes the subject, which itself precedes the direct object. However, as noted above, most finite verbs are formed periphrastically, using an auxiliary verb in conjunction with the verbal noun. In this case, only the auxiliary verb precedes the subject, while the verbal noun comes after the subject. The auxiliary verb may be a modal verb rather than a form of bee ("be") or jannoo ("do"). Particles like the negative cha ("not") precede the inflected verb. Examples:

When the auxiliary verb is a form of jannoo ("do"), the direct object precedes the verbal noun and is connected to it with the particle y:

As in Irish (cf. Irish syntax#The forms meaning "to be"), there are two ways of expressing "to be" in Manx: with the substantive verb bee, and with the copula. The substantive verb is used when the predicate is an adjective, adverb, or prepositional phrase. Examples:

Where the predicate is a noun, it must be converted to a prepositional phrase headed by the preposition in ("in") + possessive pronoun (agreeing with the subject) in order for the substantive verb to be grammatical:

Otherwise, the copula is used when the predicate is a noun. The copula itself takes the form is or she in the present tense, but it is often omitted in affirmative statements:

In questions and negative sentences, the present tense of the copula is nee:


Manx vocabulary is predominantly of Goidelic origin, derived from Old Irish and closely related to words in Irish and Scottish Gaelic. However, Manx itself, as well as the languages from which it is derived, borrowed words from other languages as well, especially Latin, Old Norse, French (particularly Anglo-Norman), and English (both Middle English and Modern English).

The following table shows a selection of nouns from the Swadesh list and indicates their pronunciations and etymologies.

See Celtic Swadesh lists for the complete list in all the Celtic languages.

See also

  • Cornish, another revived Celtic language.
  • Irish language revival
  • List of Celtic-language media
  • List of revived languages
  • List of television channels in Celtic languages



  • Broderick, George (1984â€"86). A Handbook of Late Spoken Manx (3 volumes ed.). Tübingen: Niemeyer. ISBN 3-484-42903-8. (vol. 1), ISBN 3-484-42904-6 (vol. 2), ISBN 3-484-42905-4 (vol. 3). 
  • Broderick, George (1993). "Manx". In M. J. Ball and J. Fife (eds.). The Celtic Languages. London: Routledge. pp. 228â€"85. ISBN 0-415-01035-7. 
  • Cumming, Joseph George (1848). "The Isle of Man". London: John Van Voorst. 
  • Dictionary of the Irish Language based mainly on Old and Middle Irish materials. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy. ISBN 0-901714-29-1. 
  • Gunther, Wilf (1990). "Language conservancy or: Can the anciently established British minority languages survive?". In D. Gorter, J. F. Hoekstra, L. G. Jansma, and J. Ytsma (eds.). Fourth International Conference on Minority Languages (Vol. II: Western and Eastern European Papers ed.). Bristol, England: Multilingual Matters. pp. 53â€"67. ISBN 1-85359-111-4. 
  • Holmer, Nils M. (1957). The Gaelic of Arran. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. ISBN 0-901282-44-8. 
  • Holmer, Nils M. (1962). The Gaelic of Kintyre. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. ISBN 0-901282-43-X. 
  • Hughes, Art (1994). "Gaeilge Uladh". In K. McCone, D. McManus, C. Ã" Háinle, N. Williams, and L. Breatnach (eds.). Stair na Gaeilge in ómós do Pádraig Ã" Fiannachta (in Irish). Maynooth: Department of Old Irish, St. Patrick's College. pp. 611â€"60. ISBN 0-901519-90-1. 
  • Jackson, Kenneth Hurlstone (1955). Contributions to the Study of Manx Phonology. Edinburgh: Nelson. 
  • Kelly, John (1870). Gill, William, ed. A Practical Grammar of the Antient Gaelic, or Language of the Isle of Man, Usually Called Manks. Douglas: The Manx Society. 
  • Kewley-Draskau, Jennifer (2008). Practical Manx. Liverpool University Press. ISBN 1-84631-131-4. 
  • Kneen, John J. (1911). A Grammar of the Manx Language. Edinburgh: Ams Pr Inc. ISBN 978-0-404-17564-1. 
  • Macbain, Alexander (1911). An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language (2nd ed.). Stirling: E. Mackay. Reprinted 1998, New York: Hippocrene. ISBN 0-7818-0632-1. 
  • Mhac an Fhailigh, Éamonn (1968). The Irish of Erris, Co. Mayo. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. ISBN 0-901282-02-2. 
  • Ã" Baoill, Colm (1978). Contributions to a Comparative Study of Ulster Irish and Scottish Gaelic. Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University of Belfast. 
  • O'Rahilly, Thomas F. (1932). Irish Dialects Past and Present. Dublin: Browne and Nolan. Reprinted 1976, 1988 by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. ISBN 0-901282-55-3. 
  • Ã" Cuív, Brian (1944). The Irish of West Muskerry, Co. Cork. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. ISBN 0-901282-52-9. 
  • Ã" Sé, Diarmuid (2000). Gaeilge Chorca Dhuibhne (in Irish). Dublin: Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann. ISBN 0-946452-97-0. 
  • Thomson, Robert L. (1992). "The Manx language". In Donald MacAulay (ed.). The Celtic Languages. Cambridge University Press. pp. 100â€"36. ISBN 0-521-23127-2. 
  • Williams, Nicholas (1994). "An Mhanainnis". In K. McCone, D. McManus, C. Ã" Háinle, N. Williams, and L. Breatnach (eds.). Stair na Gaeilge in ómós do Pádraig Ã" Fiannachta (in Irish). Maynooth: Department of Old Irish, St. Patrick's College. pp. 703â€"44. ISBN 0-901519-90-1. 

External links

  • Percentage of resident population with a knowledge of Manx Gaelic
  • A bit of Manx Gaelic history
  • Manx language, alphabet and pronunciation at Omniglot
  • Information about the language
  • isle-of-man.com language section
  • Fockleyreen â€" Downloadable Manxâ€"English & Englishâ€"Manx Dictionary
  • Fockleyreen â€" Manxâ€"English & Englishâ€"Manx Dictionary
  • Manxâ€"English dictionary to download or look up online
  • Gaelic Dictionaries
  • Englishâ€"Manx & Manxâ€"English interactive online dictionary
  • Manxâ€"English dictionary
  • A short Manxâ€"Englishâ€"Japanese phrasebook
  • Online Manx Lessons with MP3 recordings
  • Bilingual Bible in Manx and English by the Manx Language Project
  • Manx: Bringing a language back from the dead

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