Some liguists will not look over this page with pleasure: they believe
there is no Manx language, only a dialect of Scottish
Gaelic isolated on a small island in the Irish Sea. But this
is considered not to be true to fact by a majority of scientists, and Manx
together with Irish and Scottish is a distinct
part of the Gaelic subgroup of Celtic languages.
The Isle of Man was inhabited by Irish Celts in a process of their slow migration into Scotland, in time making for one Common Gaelic language which was to spread through Ireland, Scotland the the islands nearby. But further along in history circumstances led to significant changes in all three variations of the sole original tongue. By the 8th century this very small island had begun to suffer frequent invasions of Vikings from Norway and Denmark, and then by the 9th century it had fallen under this pressure and became a permanent base of these Northmen seafarers in the British Isles. Here they lived and from here they invaded Ireland, Scotland and England. The Manx language borrowed a lot from Old Norse, the North Germanic tongue Vikings spoke, and though this Scandinavian influx was later to depart the entire area or had been assimilated by Celts, its influence remains in the language structure.
Manx was being spoken on the island when new invaders -- the English -- came to settle here following this exodus. And by the 17th century, by which time Manx literature had developed and was flourishing, the language was written using an Anglicized spelling (which is still used in Manx: oo for Celtic [u:], ee for [i:], etc.). But by the next century the necessity of using English, to read and speak it -- all that led directly to the disappearance of the native language. Manx speakers were never too numerous, and in the 19th century they all spoke English, and many of them as a first language. The last people to speak this Celtic tongue were recorded on tapes in the early 1950s of this century. Since then Manx has become extinct.
Manx uses grammar slightly different from that in Scottish and Irish Gaelic. It is less inflected and in some cases very simplified (e.g., in degrees of comparison, in forming plurals, etc.). There are two tenses; various progressive forms of verbs, prepositional pronouns common in Celtic, verbal nouns and verbal adjectives are in wide use.