The Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community: A comprehensive sociolinguistic survey of Scottish Gaelic

Conchúr Ó Giollagáin, Gòrdan Camshron, Pàdruig Moireach, Brian Ó Curnáin, Iain Caimbeul, Brian MacDonald, Tamás Péterváry

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This book is the result of the most comprehensive sociolinguistic survey of the state of Gaelic in the vernacular communities ever conducted, the Islands Gaelic Research Project (IGRP). The IGRP, undertaken at the University of the Highlands and Islands, provides in-depth analysis of the use and transmission of Scottish Gaelic as a communal language in the Western Isles, in Staffin in the Isle of Skye and in the Isle of Tiree in Argyll and Bute.
The primary aim of this book is to present contemporary data on the societal and spatial extent of Gaelic speakers and Gaelic speaking in the remaining vernacular communities in Scotland.
The survey modules examined: census demolinguistics; preschoolers’ language practice; teenager data; three indicative communities and speaker typologies. The various modules present qualitative and quantitative information on community, family, school and individual language acquisition and practice. Valuable statistical analyses and findings on identity, language abilities and attitudes, gender, migration, time-specific language geographies and significant thresholds in Gaelic vitality are also provided.
It is clear from our findings that the Gaels, as a viable language community, are in crisis, especially since the early 1980s. The loss of dominance in the intergenerational transfer of Gaelic for over a generation has been pivotal. Various sociopolitical realities have driven the historical erasure of Gaelic communities, but Gaelic now attracts more favourable political and academic attention than most minority languages. Nevertheless, the inadequate levels of relevant policy response in governmental and academic circles, which prioritise the institutional position and symbolic status of Gaelic, do not address the urgency of language loss in the islands.
The final chapters of the book address the mismatch in existing Gaelic policies and the level of crisis among the speaker group. The stark conclusions, indicating the risks of language erasure, are balanced by recommendations that offer the basis for language policy interventions through community empowerment. If there is to be any hope of success in vernacular community revitalisation, a dynamic new language planning model is required. If the book’s proposed language-in-society model is successfully implemented it may provide a helpful example to other struggling language minorities.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAbrdeen
PublisherAberdeen University Press
Commissioning bodySoillse
Number of pages480
ISBN (Print)978-1-85752-080-4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2020


  • Gaelic language
  • Gaelic sociolinguistics
  • Scottish islands
  • language policy and planning
  • minority language vitality
  • ethnolinguistic diversity
  • language demography
  • postmodern cultural diversity
  • Language death
  • Language and culture
  • Language attrition
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Sociology of language
  • 26ref2021


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