Gàidhlig ga bruidhinn an seo - Linguistic practices, code-choice and language management initiatives in Stornoway

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Census data would suggest that Gaelic has all but disappeared as a community language in Scotland, the exception being the Western Isles, the only local authority where a majority of the population, 52.2% (National Record of Scotland, 2013), can speak the language. Previous studies (NicAoidh, 2006; Munro et al, 2011) have shown that language shift is continuing and that intergenerational transmission has all but ceased in the Western Isles. This has shifted the focus to sustain Gaelic to the institutionalised public domains, not been traditionally associated with the language.
This presentation discusses the findings of a multimodal study that explored the interplay of these language support initiatives and the linguistic practices of Gaelic speakers in Stornoway, the largest settlement in the Western Isles.
Data was collected in situ in public spaces, both with and without language plans, to assess how, when, by whom Gaelic was used and how these practices were influenced by management initiatives. This data was supplemented by language use diaries of bilingual Gaelic / English speakers to evaluate individual linguistic practices across the domains.
The findings of this study indicate that the language continues to be part of the linguistic soundscape with bilinguals using Gaelic in circumstances where they do not actively have to (re-)negotiate the language as an unmarked code choice. Gaelic was mostly used in social networks and in closed domains. Gaelic was only used in the public domain where the language was actively included in the linguistic soundscape. This has important implications for the way language support management initiatives are implemented and the use of Gaelic encouraged and supported.
Period21 Mar 2018
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • Gaelic
  • Language policy
  • minority language