William Lamb

Senior Lecturer in Scottish Ethnology


Dr Lamb is a Senior Lecturer in the section of Celtic and Scottish Studies. From 2015-2017, he was the Senior Tutor for the School of Literature, Language and Culture. Prior to joining the University of Edinburgh in 2010, he was a lecturer in Gaelic Language and Music at Lews Castle College (University of the Highlands and Islands) and an Honorary Research Fellow of Glasgow University. He is currently on the steering committees of the Scottish Gaelic Text Society and Faclair na Gàidhlig (Historical Dictionary of the Gaelic Language), and is an external examiner for Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.



Responsibilities & affiliations

Administrative Duties

  • Celtic & Scottish Studies Library Committee Representative, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
  • Course Organiser for Scottish Studies 1B; Traditional Narrative; Traditional Song: Gaelic; Gaelic Dialectology; Research Skills and Methods (MSc)

External Appointments

  • University of the Highlands and Islands (Sabhal Mòr Ostaig), External Examiner (2013-17)
  • Faclair na Gàidhlig, Steering Committee (2012 – present)
  • Scottish Gaelic Text Society, Sterring Committee (2016 – present)
  • SQA, subject specialist reviewer (2011, 2012)

Research summary

My research interests lie within Gaelic linguistics and Scottish oral tradition.  Within Gaelic linguistics, I focus on dialectology and corpus linguistics.  From 2013-2015, I was the PI for a Carnegie Trust and Bòrd na Gàidhlig funded project to develop a part-of-speech tagger and reference corpus for the language.  I am currently using a dialectometric approach to investigate nominal morphological variation in Scottish Gaelic, as found in the unpublished Linguistic Survey of Scotland (LSS) Gaelic materials. I

I have also published work on the conventualisation and functions of formulaic language in Gaelic oral narrative. Currently, I am editing a book on formulaic language with a colleague from the University of Helskinki.   

Within Scottish oral tradition, I am interested in the song traditions underlying much early Scottish and Irish instrumental dance music.  Like many of the world’s instrumental traditions, the instrumental dance music of Scotland and Ireland may have precursors in song.  Although it is a hybrid form, Scotland’s national tune type - the strathspey - shows influence from vocal traditions. The characteristic rhythm behind it, rather being tied to any particular place, appears to be a vestige of Gaelic dance and work song aesthetics. 

Current research interests

Gaelic dialectology; formulaic language in traditional narrative; early modern Scottish dance-music and song

Knowledge exchange

In 2016, I was awarded a Knowledge Exchange grant from the School of LLC to test the theory that Gaelic puirt-à-beul was used by dancers to accompany their own dancing. Naomi Harvey, a PhD student at Herriot-Watt, and I went to North Uist to run two workshops in April 2017 with local Gaelic speakers and visiting Gaelic-medium teachers. This was organised in conjunction with Ceòlas Uibhist. In 2017, I was awarded another KE grant from LLC to produce a CD of archival recordings of Gaelic dance-song, as part of Greentrax Recordings' Scottish Traditions Series. This recording will aim to expand the repertoire of Gaelic dance song amongst performers and spur public interest in the area. As part of the background research, we will produce a comprehensive catalogue of the over 1000 Gaelic dance songs in the School of Scottish Studes Archives.    

Research activities

View all 51 activities on Research Explorer

Project activity

Funded Research

  • 2017-18 Cataloguing the Linguistic Survey of Scotland (John L Campbell Legacy, via Faclair na Gàidhlig)
  • 2016-18 Gaelic Corpus Development / Leasachadh Corpais na Gàidhlig (Bòrd na Gàidhlig)
  • 2013-15 An on-line part-of-speech tagger and gold-standard corpus of Scottish Gaelic, for research and teaching (Carnegie Trust; Bòrd na Gàidhlig)

View all 27 publications on Research Explorer