Linguistics and English Language

Language in context seminar

Speaker: Wilson McLeod (University of Edinburgh)

Title: Gaelic as a minority/national/regional/ethnic language in Scotland

Abstract: The Gaelic language in Scotland presents a useful case study for the conceptualisation of minority languages. A key issue has been the extent to which Gaelic is understood as belonging to a discrete minority within Scotland and/or a bounded territory in the northwest of the country, or as a national language of significance to all of Scotland. Using the most obvious, demographic criterion, Gaelic is an extremely minoritised language, now spoken by barely 1.1% of Scotland’s population, and not spoken by a majority for at least five hundred years. Yet Gaelic was formerly the principal language of the Scottish kingdom, until processes of minoritisation began in the twelfth century. The concept of Gaelic as Scotland’s ‘true’ national language has been retained and refined, but co-exists with other interpretations that see Gaelic as belonging only to the territory that retained Gaelic after language shift occurred elsewhere. In recent decades, revitalisation initiatives (loosely connected with growing awareness of Scottish cultural distinctiveness and moves towards self-government) have promoted Gaelic as a language of national significance, an important resource for all Scots. Contemporary government policies advance this understanding even as speaker numbers continue to decline and many Scots view Gaelic as distant or irrelevant.


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Stephen McNulty

Sarah Van Eyndhoven

Co-ordinators of LinC


We hope to see you very soon!

Apr 24 2019 -

Language in context seminar

2019-04-24: Gaelic as a minority/national/regional/ethnic language in Scotland

01M.469 Room 12 (Doorway 3), Medical School (Old Medical School), Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG