Gaelic on the edge?

Scotland’s Gaelic communities to ‘die out’ in 10 years given ‘remote’ language policy, report warns

Researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands Language Sciences Institute and the Soillse research collaboration conducted a series of interviews across the Westerns Isles, Staffin in the Isle of Skye and the Isle of Tiree for the study.

A new book The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community paints a very bleak picture of the state of Gaelic in its heartlands. Researchers found, “social use of Gaelic at the ‘point of collapse’ with around 11,000 vernacular speakers found largely among the over 50s with very low levels of the language now spoken in the home”. There is a wider implication, the report itself says. “The on-going rapid contraction of Gaelic-speaking in the islands evidenced in this report provides an opportunity to reappraise how official language policy corresponds to the realities of minority-language endangerment in Scotland and elsewhere”. The report does not jouk the political aspects either, “When we consider that the dominant culture had previously the capacity to bilingualise the dominated culture and to naturalise or depoliticise the process of language shift in the minority, the ethnopolitical and organisational challenges are immense. These challenges are even greater, given the unsuitability of current provision, the weakness of civic engagement and indifferent or only mildly-supportive public attitudes towards the role of Gaelic in Scottish society” Three options are explored; do nothing, enforce the mechanisms of the 2005 Gaelic Language Act and “Address the crisis through a radical new departure of encouraging, supporting and resourcing a community-development approach among those best placed to address the issue — the remaining vernacular group”.

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