Gaelic on the Isle of Skye: older speakers’ identity in a language-shift situation

Cassie Smith Christmas, Dick Smakman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
79 Downloads (Pure)


This article examines age and identity in the context of language shift occurring in a community on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Via a language ability test and a language usage survey, 19 speakers were assessed; it was determined that the older (40þ) and the younger speakers (<40) in this community are distinguishable on the basis of language ability, particularly in terms of synthetic forms, conditional forms, and post-nominal possession. The usage survey revealed a decline in older speakers’ longitudinal use of Gaelic, and although younger speakers are making an effort to speak Gaelic and are not accommodated by older speakers switching to English, we can still conclude that, to some degree, older speakers are somewhat linguistically isolated in this community. Finally, we propose identity negotiation and the possibility of the age and identity correlation as perpetuating factors in the language shift.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-47
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language
Issue number200
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2009


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