Scottish Gaelic revitalisation : Progress and aspiration

Nance, Claire (2021) Scottish Gaelic revitalisation : Progress and aspiration. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 25 (4). pp. 617-627. ISSN 1360-6441

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This review considers the revitalisation programme for Scottish Gaelic (referred to simply as ‘Gaelic’ [ɡalik] by its speakers) which has gathered pace since the 1980s. Gaelic is a minority Celtic language with approximately 58,000 speakers in Scotland (Scottish Government 2015) and 1,500 speakers in Canada (Statistique Canada 2016). Gaelic in Scotland developed from the Old Irish spoken by people moving back and forwards between Ireland and Scotland in the 4th-5th centuries and eventually became the language spoken across almost all of Scotland in the high medieval era (11th-12th centuries). Since this time, language shift has been taking place in Scotland and locations where the majority of the population speak Gaelic are now confined to north and west Highland areas such as the Western Isles (Outer Hebrides). Frequent waves of migration from Scotland have led to diasporic populations of Gaelic speakers including the substantial settlements in Nova Scotia, Canada, where many Gaelic speakers emigrated in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The texts reviewed here document the process of language shift but especially focus on revitalisation efforts undertaken in order to increase speaker numbers and also increase the contexts and usage of Gaelic. As both works demonstrate, the revitalisation programme has its origins in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but really gained momentum in the 1980s with the advent of increased Gaelic broadcasting, education in Gaelic, and the subsequent Gaelic Language Act in 2005, which gave Gaelic in Scotland equal legal status to English. Each work takes quite a different approach to considering these issues: McLeod (2020) is a historical and legal analysis of language policy from 1872 to 2020 and McEwan-Fujita (2020) collects the outcome of several linguistic anthropological studies conducted with different Gaelic-speaking groups and organisations. Together, these works provided different angles and levels of analysis of the Gaelic revitalisation programme and offer substantial inspiration for future work. As well as giving a detailed picture of the Gaelic context, these works will be useful for those working in other minority language contexts, linguistic anthropology, and language policy.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of Sociolinguistics
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This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Nance, C. (2021), Scottish Gaelic revitalisation: Progress and aspiration. J. Sociolinguistics, 25: 617-627. which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? language and linguisticshistory and philosophy of sciencephilosophylinguistics and languagesociology and political science ??
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Deposited On:
18 May 2021 08:58
Last Modified:
07 May 2024 00:22