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I've always pronounced it as rhyming with "thanks", but Wiktionary makes it sound more like "monks" in German, Dutch, and UK English.

"Manx" is the English exonym for the language whose endonym "is Gaelg/Gailck, which shares the same etymology as the word 'Gaelic', as do the endonyms of its sister languages Irish (Gaeilge; Gaoluinn, Gaedhlag and Gaeilic) and Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig)." (source)

Manx (or Manx Gaelic) was declared extinct as a first language in 1974 with the death of Ned Maddrell, but then achieved the remarkable feat of revival.  Since the topic of language extinction / survival / revival came up recently (see "Selected readings" below), I was especially drawn to this newspaper report:

An Ancient Language, Once on the Brink, Is a British Isle’s Talk of the Town

After being nearly silenced, Manx is experiencing a revival on the Isle of Man, thanks in part to an elementary school and some impassioned parents.

By Megan Specia, NYT (Nov. 24, 2022)

What happened to resuscitate this once extinct language?

It was a little over a decade ago when UNESCO declared the language extinct, and students then studying at the school took strong exception. To make their case that the language was anything but dead, they wrote a letter to the U.N. body — in Manx.

“It sort of was on the brink, but we’ve brought it back to life again,” said Julie Matthews, the head teacher of the school, who noted that her students’ determined effort prompted a new UNESCO categorization of Manx as a “revitalized” language.

On a recent visit to Bunscoill Ghaelgagh (pronounced BUN-scull GILL-gackh), the evidence that Manx was still very much in use was everywhere.

“We’re trying to make it accessible to everybody, and inclusive,” said Ruth Keggin Gell, the Manx language development officer at Culture Vannin, a foundation established by the government of the island, a self-governing British Crown Dependency that is not a part of the United Kingdom, but whose residents are British citizens.

While UNESCO was incorrect in 2009 when it said that Manx was dead, the mistake was understandable.

For centuries, Manx — part of the Celtic language family like Irish and Scottish Gaelic — was how people on the island communicated in their everyday lives. But by the 19th century, the English language had overtaken it, and many on the Isle of Man raised their children to speak only English amid an increasingly derogatory, sometimes even hostile, attitude toward Manx.

The survival of Manx into the 21st century is a testament to the island’s sense of itself as a place apart, with its own identity — and political autonomy.

A reminder of that autonomy is visible just across the street from the Bunscoill: Tynwald Hill, an island gathering spot since at least the 13th century and still used for an annual open-air meeting of the island’s Parliament.

The Manx language reminded me of a peculiar, tailless (though some are "stumpy" or "rumpy") feline that inhabits the same island and, for some, has been seen as a symbol of the Isle of Man.  Like the language, special care has been needed to ensure the continuation of the cat, such that the government has had to operated a breeding center to keep the genetically mutated breed going.

The Manx is a cute cat; it's the corgi of cats. (pictures here)


Selected readings

[Thanks to June Teufel Dreyer]


  1. Taylor, Philip said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 6:00 am

    [Pronunciation] — As a Briton, I pronounce it to rhyme with "thanks" (and "spanks" !) and John Wells concurs — Manx /mæŋks/.

  2. Jamie said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 7:22 am

    It definitely rhymes with "thanks" for me (Wiktionary thinks so too).

    But I have often been bemused by the US pronunciation of "o" — never more so than when the pronunciation guide in one of my Japanese text books had "'a' as in 'pot'"

  3. Maddy said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 8:39 am

    In this YouTube video comparing Manx and Irish, the Manx representative introduces himself as the Manx language officer for the Isle of Man gov't, and he has MANX like THANKS:

    Same on this Isle of Man TV clip:

  4. Peter Taylor said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 8:51 am

    OED says Brit. /maŋks/, U.S. /mæŋks/, which in both cases makes it rhyme with thanks.

  5. Victor Mair said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 9:39 am

    Much depends upon how one pronounces "thanks".

  6. Victor Mair said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 9:51 am

    Listen to the three audio clips in the Wiktionary article that I cited at the very beginning of the o.p. Not like the "thanks" of my idiolect (and regional speech [Stark County, northeast Ohio]).

  7. Robert Coren said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 10:22 am

    "Bunscoill Ghaelgagh (pronounced BUN-scull GILL-gackh)"

    What are we to make of "gackh"? That "phonetic" gloss doesn't really tell me much about how the consonantal ending of the name is pronounced.

  8. Victor Mair said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 11:02 am

    I had the same problem as you, Robert.

    It sounds like somebody gagging on a spoon.

  9. Victor Mair said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 11:03 am

    The Isle of Man is famous for other things than its once extinct language and tailless cats. This note comes from Max Deeg, professor of Buddhology (Chinese, Sanskrit) at Cardiff University:


    The Isle of Man is regularly on my annual timetable, not because of Manx but because of the TT Trophy motorcycles races. I always wanted to bring my bike there and do a lap, even if it would be at the speed of a snail compared to these crazy guys.


  10. Rodger C said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 11:32 am

    More like ['bʉnskɵɫ 'ɣɪʟgaχ], to my (imperfect) knowledge.

  11. ulr said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 3:32 pm

    The German pronunciation given is odd — anyone who actually knows this rare word (not included in the Duden Deutsches Universalwörterbuch, for example), would apply the rules for pronouncing English loanwords and replace British English /æ/ (/a/ in the OED transcription, reflecting the lowering of the vowel in modern RP) with German /ɛ/. It sounds like spelling pronunciation by someone who has no idea what the word means and that it is an English loanword.

  12. David Marjanović said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 4:58 pm



    It sounds like spelling pronunciation by someone who has no idea what the word means and that it is an English loanword.

    I used to believe it's a Manx word. Turns out it's English in the broad sense, with -s instead of -ish like in Scots.

  13. Lynette Mayman said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 5:11 pm

    The guy saying "Manx" on Wiktionary sounds to me like a Scot.

  14. JJM said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 5:50 pm

    It's a good story, and the kids deserve great credit for their endeavours in resuscitating this language.

    However, I do wish journalists would stop with the "ancient language" cliché: Manx is no more "ancient" than English.

  15. Peter Taylor said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 6:38 pm

    It sounds like somebody gagging on a spoon.

    In that context it is perhaps worth mentioning the Gaelic Song of Canadian musical comedians the Arrogant Worms.

    The guy saying "Manx" on Wiktionary sounds to me like a Scot.

    My instinct was Mancunian, but one word's not much to go on and I could easily be wrong. Either way, it certainly sounds to me that it rhymes with thanks.

  16. Steve Morrison said,

    November 26, 2022 @ 9:10 pm

    It sounds like somebody gagging on a spoon.

    Grody to the max!

  17. Levantine said,

    November 27, 2022 @ 11:56 am

    Professor Mair, could you clarify what you mean when you say, “Much depends upon how one pronounces ‘thanks’”? I get that “thanks” sounds different in different accents, but “Manx” should, in all cases, rhyme with it. Another way of thinking about it: just add an X to “Man”.

  18. Victor Mair said,

    November 27, 2022 @ 12:42 pm

    I said what I said and you got what I said.

  19. Philip Anderson said,

    November 27, 2022 @ 12:47 pm

    The “ancient language” description tends to be applied to a minority one that has managed to survive from its heyday, in contrast to thriving national languages (which may indeed be equally old, but only the modern language gets much attention).

  20. Coby said,

    November 28, 2022 @ 11:58 am

    The German verb naschen is usually transcribed as nosh in English.

  21. Taylor, Philip said,

    November 29, 2022 @ 3:46 am

    I do not dispute that English "nosh" ultimately derives from Yiddish nashn / MHG naschen, Coby, but I would suggest that to describe this as "transcribing" is unrealistic. The word "nosh" has been naturalised for at least 50 years, so anyone writing "nosh" today is using an English word, not transcribing a Yiddish or German one.

  22. Philip Anderson said,

    November 29, 2022 @ 7:58 am

    It might be reasonable to claim that Yiddish “nashn” was transcribed as “nosh” when it was borrowed into English.

    However, nosh is found in both American and British English (where it’s a slang term for food in general, rather than a verb), and I suspect it was borrowed independently.

  23. JJM said,

    November 29, 2022 @ 3:36 pm

    "The 'ancient language' description tends to be applied to a minority one that has managed to survive from its heyday, in contrast to thriving national languages (which may indeed be equally old, but only the modern language gets much attention)."

    Yes, I know. But it's just plain silly.

  24. Terry K. said,

    November 30, 2022 @ 2:42 pm

    Regarding the pronunciation of "Manx" and differing pronunciations of "thanks", I looked up "Manx" in Wiktionary, saw /mæŋks/ as the pronunciation given, and translated that to it rhyming with "thanks". And then I thought "It would make more sense to have the vowel of 'man'". It did not occur to me immediately, that as transcribed, /mæŋks/ does have the vowel of man /mæn/. "Thanks" (and other -ang and -ank words) does not have the same vowel as "man" for me. It has the vowel of main/mane/Maine (/meɪn/).

  25. Philip Anderson said,

    November 30, 2022 @ 3:42 pm

    @Terry K
    The UK audio that Wiktionary gives for “Manx” matches mine, and rhymes with my “thanks”. But it gives the same vowel in its IPA transcription of the latter, yet the US audio sounds totally different – closer to my “thinks”.

  26. Michael Watts said,

    December 1, 2022 @ 10:07 pm

    It did not occur to me immediately, that as transcribed, /mæŋks/ does have the vowel of man /mæn/. "Thanks" (and other -ang and -ank words) does not have the same vowel as "man" for me. It has the vowel of main/mane/Maine (/meɪn/).

    I feel vindicated in my earlier claim that vowels followed by ŋ (and some other consonants) get pulled away from the standard vowels and shouldn't be equated with them.

    How do you feel about the pronunciations of beg / bag / vague / bagel?

  27. Philip Anderson said,

    December 2, 2022 @ 8:20 am

    @Michael Watts
    While true in some dialects, it’s by no means universal; I don’t have different vowels before an ŋ.
    Vague and bagel have the same vowel for me.

  28. Taylor, Philip said,

    December 2, 2022 @ 4:03 pm

    Although, like Philip Anderson, "vague" and "bagel" have an identical vowel sound in my idiolect, I nonetheless think that I may have different vowels before an /ŋ/. For me, "mink" and "Minsk" have quite noticeably different vowels, as do "Quink" and "quince", etc. In Chomsky/Halle terms, I would say that articulating "mink" and "Quink" provokes tenseness in my speech, whilst articulating "Minsk" and "quince" does not.

  29. Michael Watts said,

    December 2, 2022 @ 4:13 pm

    My personal feelings on the four words I asked about:

    Beg and bag are subjectively different in a way that is too minor to rise to the level of a phonemic difference. I would not bet on my own ability to distinguish them in other people's pronunciation and I wouldn't be all that surprised to see the words rhymed with each other. I see them as using (minor variations of?) a vowel that is too strongly influenced by the following /g/ to be compared to the standard set of vowels. "Bag" and "thanks" use the same vowel for me.

    Vague also has a following /g/ but I feel fairly comfortable identifying it as using the FACE vowel. It is perhaps not perfectly distinct from bag, but the citation forms are clearly distinct.

    Bagel might use the same "FACE" vowel as vague does, or it might use the vowel of bag. I think the vague vowel is preferred.

  30. Taylor, Philip said,

    December 2, 2022 @ 4:45 pm

    "beg" and "bag" — totally different in my idiolect, impossible to confuse. DRESS v. TRAP. The /g/ seems to make no difference, so I have the same vowel in "beg" and "bet", "bag" and "bat". Like Michael, my "bag" has the same vowel as my "thanks". "Bagel" and "vague" are both unmistakeably FACE.

  31. Terry K. said,

    December 2, 2022 @ 5:40 pm

    @Michael Watts

    Regarding beg, bag, vague, and bagel: For me there's three different vowels, which match bet, bat, and bate. Vague and bagel have the same vowel (first syllable of bagel, of course). And it's the vowel of bate that I would say matches thanks.

    Vowels before L and R seem to me to be different from the standard set of vowels. But before ŋ it's standard vowels, just a smaller set of them. And before g the standard full set of of vowels seems to be available.

  32. Terry K. said,

    December 3, 2022 @ 9:29 am

    Actually, I shouldn't have included L as being vowels being different before it. Vowels before L don't always fit the usual spelling pattern. (For example, call, spelled with an A, having a rounded vowel.) But they still fit in the normal phonemes.

  33. Michael Watts said,

    December 3, 2022 @ 12:17 pm

    Some examples of L, which I think sometimes has unique vowels and sometimes has comparable vowels:

    "keel" – shares its vowel with NEAR. To the extent that NEAR is different from FLEECE, teal belongs to NEAR, not to FLEECE. It would fail to rhyme; the L coda cannot match an R.

    "call" – nothing weird about this one; it belongs to LOT/CLOTH/PALM. From a historical perspective, PALM seems like the obvious "true" choice.

    "coal" – a bit weird, but feels like it belongs to GOAT.

    "cull" – highly distinctive; cannot be said to belong to any of the standard lexical sets.

    "kill" – unexceptional example of KIT

    "tell" – unexceptional example of DRESS

    "pal" – I lean towards classifying this with "thanks"

    "wool" – FOOT

    "rile" – same "how many syllables?" problem as "fire".

    "tool" – I would call this GOOSE. It displays the same "pullback" in the vowel seen in near, fire, and tour. The close correspondences here are undoubtedly a reason I feel comfortable analyzing NEAR as simply FLEECE followed by R.

    "howl" – same thing; MOUTH with a possibility of some pullback. Compare "hour" in the rhotic world.

  34. Terry K. said,

    December 5, 2022 @ 1:35 pm

    Interesting. I match on some, not others, but only a couple comments.

    I would say "call" has the same vowel, as "palm", but, like "palm" (for some speakers, including me) it's not actually part of the PALM vowel set. (It also has the same vowel as "cloth", but not "lot".)

    "Cull" I feel like isn't familiar enough for me to comment on, except to note thinking about it reminds me of words like "buckle" or "bottle" where there seems to be no vowel at all, unless the L-sound is counted as a vowel, and if I'm singing those syllables, it's the L-sound that gets held.

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