Minority Languages

Nancy Dorian is well known in linguistics, linguistic anthropology, and Celtic studies for her research on East Sutherland Gaelic, language obsolescence, and the sociolinguistics of minority languages. Emily McEwan-Fujita reviews her 2014 book, an edited volume of her “greatest hits.”

With this post I’ve decided to poke a bit of fun at those of us who are learning Gaelic as adults. Based on my experiences of learning Gaelic over 25 years in Scotland and North America, I’ve compiled a list of some of the most common types (or stereotypes?) of adult Gaelic learners. What kind of Gaelic learner are you?

“All but a dead language”? “Never native to the North-east of Scotland”? Let’s play anti-Gaelic bingo again! Aberdeen is not in the Highlands or islands of Scotland, which are traditionally thought of as the Gaelic-speaking areas of the country. But as Art Cormack describes, Aberdeen and the surrounding areas have had Gàidhlig gu leòr (plenty of Gaelic) from the distant past right up through the present. And this is a linguistic legacy that north-easterners can be proud of.

Minority languages like Scottish Gaelic got 99 problems and information technology is one. I interview Michael Bauer about the challenges of Gaelic software localization and the problems of English-Gaelic machine translation.

Many things can go wrong if you decide to get a Scottish Gaelic tattoo when you don’t speak the language. I’ll suggest the best ways to ensure that you get a good Gaelic tattoo, if you still have your heart absolutely set on getting one despite all of my warnings in Part 1.

So you want to get a tattoo — in Scottish Gaelic. You want to honor a family member, or your Scottish heritage, or you just think the Gaelic language is cool, but you don’t speak Gaelic yourself. What should you do?

What is Gaelic? My regular blog readers already know, but it doesn’t hurt to keep putting the basic facts out there. Increasing positive awareness of Gaelic is an important part of language revitalization. This post provides four different basic answers to the question, “What is Gaelic?”

A few years ago, someone criticized my work, saying that Gaelic language revitalization wasn’t rocket science. Indeed, language revitalization isn’t rocket science — it’s far more difficult! Rocket science formulates and solves math problems. Something goes wrong? Find the mistake and fix it. Human error is a factor, but the math is reliable. Language revitalization, on the other hand, is not so simple…

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