Scottish Gaelic dictionary gets £2m boost

Book The new dictionary aims to increase understanding of the Gaelic language

Related Stories

The Scottish government has given £2m funding for an online Gaelic dictionary that could take 30 years to complete.

Work has already begun collecting source material for a digital archive containing 30 million words.

The project is a partnership of Skye's Gaelic language centre Sabhal Mor Ostaig UHI and Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde universities.

It is thought there are about 60,000 speakers of Gaelic - one of Europe's ancient languages.

Gaelic has fewer letters than the English alphabet - 18 against 26.

The aim of the project is to produce a historical dictionary of Gaelic that will be comparable in value and status to dictionaries already available for Scots and English.

Compilers expect it to have more than 100,000 entries.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) said the dictionary would provide a new understanding of the structure, variations and development of Gaelic through its use in speech, literature, song and place names.

The SFC's funding package will help to accelerate the project with the recruitment of more staff and to buy software to support their work.

Preparatory research has been going on for a decade while work on the actual dictionary will begin five years from now.

Other organisations are also providing financial support to the project.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council is providing £100,000 and £50,000 is coming from the Economic and Social Research Council.

Gaelic national body Bord na Gaidhlig has supported the work since 2004 and contributes £75,000 a year.

Sabhal Mor Ostaig UHI is managing the project called Faclair na Gaidhlig.

'Secure future'

First Minister Alex Salmond has welcomed the new funding package.

He said: "We're committed to working with a range of other public bodies to create a secure future for the Gaelic language.

"The dictionary initiative will play an important part in that work and I'm delighted that this extra funding has been identified to drive forward the project."

SFC chairman John McClelland said the Faclair na Gaidhlig project was vital to securing the future of the Gaelic language.

Prof Boyd Robertson, principal of Sabhal Mor Ostaig, added: "The award will expedite preparatory work for the dictionary which will, in time, give Gaelic a resource comparable to the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and the Oxford English Dictionary."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    I speak Gaelic & there are online and printed dictionaries so not sure what the fuss is and the need for the £2m. To me Gaelic is very much a living language. My ancestors were punished for speaking Gaelic and I don't want to feel uncomfortable about speaking it outside. I get a lot of 'abusive' about Gaelic which in any other situation would be labelled racism. I've to just take it though :-(.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Lots of comments about Gaelic being a dead language, therefore not worth learning - I disagree. Learning to speak ANY second language (even Klingon!) would benefit EVERYONE, whether it is in regular use or not. By learning a second language, you are forced to focus on HOW a language works. I learned more about English Language from my Norwegian teacher in 6 months than I did at school for 5 years

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    I have Scottish heritage, and I love languages, but sometimes you just to have to except a language has died/ lost any purpose beyond the aesthetic. The world is moving forward all the time, some things just can't keep up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    £2 million is not such a lot in the great scheme of things. It's important to preserve and support minority languages such as this, and prevent Gaelic from going the same way as its sibling languages Manx and Cornish. Irish too is under threat of extinction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    I grew up in south-west Scotland and it seems utterly ridiculous of the Scottish government to fund a project that affects c.5% of the population. I'm not saying it's unnecessary to produce the dictionary but surely some passionate Gaelic language enthusiast could do this and make a quick £40 on publishing/retailing it. I think English does just fine, is progressive and is globally recognised.


Comments 5 of 8


BBC Highlands & Islands



Min. Night -1 °C


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.