Scottish Gaelic dictionary gets £2m boost

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

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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."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Those Scots who oppose this and the revival of Scottish Gaelic in general should perhaps ask themselves whether then they'd prefer to abandon the Scottish football and rugby teams, merging them with the respective English football and rugby associations into new Great Britain teams, speaking English, and English only, to their heart's content. And if not, why not. Double standards?

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    And I hope they can add a collection of pronunciation examples with each word.
    If the English tried this I wonder which country they'd outsource it to?

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    Hoots mon!

  • 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 233.

    208.A Realist

    "As with Welsh, Gaelic and hundreds of other languages, these are DEAD languages."

    Not quite, though your obvious vehement hatred for them is interesting. Perhaps in a previous life you were a Highland Scot who had the English language (and ethnic cleansing) imposed upon you after the '45 uprising.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    "I made a comment stating that this is good news, then, in Scots wrote that it should also be extended to speakers of that language."

    Gaelic is a dying language, Scots/Doric/Etc are already dead. Good riddance. Grow up and get over it!

    The post that suggested that this is about the SNP buying the votes of Gaelic speakers hit the nail on the head. SCANDALOUS!

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    57. tellitasitis

    Sorry, Kinema is not a Welsh word, it is a cinema with back projection. One example is in Lincolnshire, The Kinema in the Woods, Woodhall Spa.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    #223 by govt budget standards £2M is nothing at all. Its the sort of money that could get lost in other budgets simply by rounding up errors! The cost of policing the 2014 commonwealth games has increased 200% to £90 million... and with a year to go I'd expect it to double again. They've spent £776M on Edinburghs trams (still not running....)

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    2 million, 30 years, thats just less than £67k per year.

    Must be one or two Scottish MP's children recently left uni and looking for something to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    that would be wonderful and after 30 years deciphering it the scorpions could read it as they would be the only ones left after a nuclear war once we have destroyed one another because of greed.

  • 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 226.

    I wish I could justify this to myself as a Scot for anything other than pure sentiment.

    However in many years of travel I have used French, German and Russian, and learned a few words of Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish, Greek, Indonesian and Croatian. But not once have I felt I am missing out through my lack of Gaelic. In fact, I have only ever heard Gaelic spoken on the TV.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Great stuff. I made a comment stating that this is good news, then, in Scots wrote that it should also be extended to speakers of that language.

    It was removed. Why?

    Because it was not written in English, Welsh or Gaelic (where the latter two langages are permitted when they form part of the story).

    Looks as if the BBC are making my point for me. Scots should be a recognised language too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    142.I am an Ape Man
    "Good luck with the dictionary"


    It's nothing to do with me. I'm English, and live in England.

    However, I think the richness of all Europe's tongues should be preserved and made accessible to all.

    We speak, write and *think* seriously in words, so some which do not translate are a cause for reflection, not least.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    This is a decision made by the SNP administration of Scotland aimed at 'buying' votes in the Gaelic speaking areas of the country to vote in favour of independence at the 2014 referendum. £2M is a lot of money to be spending in this way when budgets elsewhere are being cut. I hope no money from Westminster has been involved. If so, it would be a scandal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Take a long hard look Scotland. Salmond is turning you into a third rate banana country with no influence, no money and a language nobody will bother speaking all because of his own vanity. Still, its your country and you must do as you see fit but be careful what you wish for, you mind end up getting it. RIP

  • Comment number 221.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    "So English, my friend, is a language that has very ancient roots and yet is very modern"


    Who said it hadn't and wasn't?

    Like Gaelic, French, Persian and Polish it's an Indo-European tongue with ancient roots.

    But its modern form would be unintelligible to a dark ages Saxon.

    Celtic languages, bar neologisms, have changed little in this time though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    There are 146 languages that have contributed to the language we know as English.

    It is truly a global language on a par with no other.

    But because them darned sassenachs speak it, it must be bad.

    (although interestingly 'sassenach' means 'Saxon' in Gaelic who would have spoken Ænglisc which has very little in common with modern English)

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    #215 But Salmond does have one massive advantage. He's not Labour or Conservative. I'm certain thats the main reason for UKIPs increase in votes... its simply by default

    Salmonds got until 2014 to boost the yes vote... something that'll run for 30 years isn't much use. Scottish success at the Commonwealth games (without Chris Hoy) next year will probably be the best boost he can hope for.


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