Rob Dunbar

Chair of Celtic Languages, Literature, History and Antiquities


Prior to assuming the Chair of Celtic at Edinburgh in June 2013, I was Senior Research Professor at the University of the Highlands and Islands, and Research Director of the inter-university Soillse Research Project ( Previously, I had been a lecturer then senior lecturer in Law at the University of Glasgow (1995-2004) and reader then professor in Celtic and Law at the University of Aberdeen (2004-2010). A native of Canada, I have been involved in Gaelic language development for almost twenty years, and have worked with international organisations such as the Council of Europe, of which I am an expert, and the OSCE, national and sub-national governments, including the National Assembly for Wales, and governmental and non-governmental organisations, on issues broadly relating to the maintenance and revitalisation of minority languages and the protection of their speakers.  I was a member of Bòrd na Gàidhlig from 2006 to 2012 and MG Alba from 2004 to 2012, and was involved in the development of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 and the creation of BBC Alba, Scotland's Gaelic digital television service.


  • PhD (Edinburgh, Celtic)
  • LL.M. (LSE, International Law)
  • LL.B/MBA (Osgoode Hall Law School/York University, Canada)
  • MA (Toronto)
  • BA (Toronto)

Responsibilities & affiliations

  • Head of Subject Area, Celtic and Scottish Studies

Undergraduate teaching

  • Scottish Emigrant Traditions (Hons)
  • Scottish Gaelic Verse: the Making of the Tradition (Hons)
  • The Gaelic Autobiography (Hons)
  • Nineteenth Century (Gaelic) Prose (Hons)

Postgraduate teaching

  • Gaelic Language Policy: Contemporary Challenges (PGT)
  • Gaelic Media and Gaelic Arts (PGT)
  • Minority Languages in Europe: Policy and Language Planning (PGT)
  • Scottish Gaelic Prose: The Nineteenth Century (PGT)
  • Scottish Gaelic Verse: The Making of the Tradition (PGT)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Research summary

Much of my research focuses on language policy and planning for Scottish Gaelic, for other Celtic languages (particularly Welsh and Irish), and for minoritised languages more generally, and on legal instruments (international, national and sub-national) in support of such policy and planning initiatives. Gaelic broadcasting, and provision for broadcasting in other minoritised languages, also forms part of this research strand.

My work also focuses Gaelic literature, culture and society from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century, and on Gaelic in Canada.

Currently, In addition to ongoing work in theses areas, I am currently working on Gaelic autobiographical writing and Gaelic humour, as well as a completion of a biography and literary assessment of the Tiree/Nova Scotian Poet John Maclean (1787-1848), and a scholarly edition of his secular song-poems.

View all 29 publications on Research Explorer