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Scottish Gaelic: Heritage Language Development – Revival, Maintenance & Continuance Prepared for presentation at International Heritage Language Conference,

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Presentation on theme: "Scottish Gaelic: Heritage Language Development – Revival, Maintenance & Continuance Prepared for presentation at International Heritage Language Conference,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Scottish Gaelic: Heritage Language Development – Revival, Maintenance & Continuance Prepared for presentation at International Heritage Language Conference, June 21, 2012 By Michael McIntyre

2 Abstract The borders of the Scottish Gaelic world have shrunk before the continually erosive power of the “killer language” English. The Gaelic language now faces the possibility of language death. With a movement that has gathered momentum since the recent opening of the Scottish parliament for the first time in more than 300 years, Scottish Gaels have begun to build an educational system to revive and maintain Scottish Gaelic, as well as loosely coordinate activities outside of formal educational institutions. Several organizations contribute to the governance of Gaelic education, with the Bòrd na Gàidhlig (The Gaelic Board) taking the lead as an advisory, if not a supervisory, body.

3 Background – Celtic language – “c-celtic” – Co-dialectal with Irish / Irish Gaelic – Once dominant language in Scotland – gradually marginalized & stigmatized over centuries (starting officially, perhaps, with Statutes of Iona, 1609)

4 Current Situation 60,000 speakers 1.2% of Scottish population (which totals about 5 million) Devolution – process by which Scottish Parliament enjoys greater powers within United Kingdom in regards to “internal” governance Present Scottish government ‘Gaelic friendly'

5 Gaelic Act Passed 2005 Establishes Bòrd na Gàidhlig Provides for Funding for formal education first time in 400 yrs Mandates regional “plans”

6 Gaelic Medium Schools 60 schools (or units) 2,200 students Full immersion > dual language immersion

7 Gaelic efforts related to world-wide movement of indigenous language revival and maintenance Catalan Maori Native American Native Hawaiian Welch Basque Hebrew

8 Population: heritage language education Native speakers – literate – non-literate – “Courses for Native speakers will promote oral fluency and literacy in Gaelic as one of their two major languages. Learners – “Courses for learners will provide opportunities to acquire oral fluency and literacy in Gaelic as a second language” (Scottish Qualifications Authority, 1988)

9 Learners Possessors of heritage but not native speakers – within Scotland (primarily - In the environment of the heritage) 1.Children & grandchildren of speakers; 2.descendents further removed Location – outwith Scotland 1.descendents further removed 2.Children & grandchildren of speakers

10 Formal Educational programs bun sgoil – elementary school (dual immersion) àrd sgoil – high school level (dual immersion) Sabhal Mòr Ostaig – Gaelic college on the Isle of Skye (pictured above) – Degrees in Gaelic language, culture, education, media & environmental studies Other Gaelic programs - various colleges & universities (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen) – sometimes more 'about' the language than learning/acquiring the language

11 Non-formal educational venues TIP (Total Immersion Plus) – intensive, 6 week long immersion course oriented towards oral competency Gaelic in the Family – program aimed at teaching domain of domestic Gaelic (language of the home, childcare, language of affection, etc) Ulpan – immersion program adopted from Hebrew language program in Israel Sabhal Mòr Ostaig short courses – summer and other holidays (Gaelic college on the Isle of Skye) Atlantic Gaelic Academy (Nova Scotia online and on-ground adult education courses) Immersion weekends / weeks (either through above venues or organized separately) Private tutors

12 Artistic expression – An Leabhar Mòr - pan- Gaelic collaboration – Taigh ùr (poem) – Reframing: what it means to be “Gaelic” – once geographically based; increasingly language based (Caimbeul, 2004) – A.P. Caimbeul - primacy to language rather than geography

13 media media – – Film – Bbc alba – Radio nan gaidheal literary arts – Poetry – novels music TV: Luch is Famh (Mouse and Mole)

14 Purposes of heritage language program – Continuation - intergenerational transmission the 'problem' with which they are wrestling – Building a Gaelic friendly environment adult education road signs propagandizing re: increasing visibility of gaelic

15 Orthographic conventions Regularize written form of language (old variants to single contemporary) Establish forms for borrowed words – Zoo > sutha (no z in Gaelic) – Taxi > tacsaidh (no x in Gaelic) – Ham > hama (no h except for phono-syntactical signal & borrowed words) Establish & regularize rules for accented vowels (à, è, ì, ò, ù), which indicates the “length” of the vowel -- which affects meaning, e.g. – bata (stick) > bàta (boat) Old spellingContemporary Air a son (because)airson maduinn (morning)madainn aobhar (reason)adhbhar

16 Modernizing the language Stor-data – online database of contemporary Gaelic Cothrom (“Opportunity”) Magazine Contemporary dictionaries Examples of new constructions: – Keyboard > meur-chlàr (finger board) – Computer > compiutar – Downloading -- luchdachadh-a-nuas; (sometimes, donnloadachadh)

17 Obstacles Swamped in English language environment, including media - decline of Gaelic became precipitous w/ modern media Entrenched views that Gaelic is not to be taught in schools (high regard for education - just not Gaelic ed.) View that Gaelic is spoken language/not written (English is for writing; writing is done in English) “Courtesy” of Gaelic culture – disinclination to speak Gaelic in presence of non-Gaelic speakers What is the 'use' of Gaelic?

18 Challenges Tug and pull of identities – British? Scottish? Gaelic? Fully participating in English-language culture, European & world social and economic communities but wanting to maintain self of cultural self. Non-Gaelic residents in Islands & Highlands / newcomers ("white settlers“ / “incomers”) Original 'natives' - some Gaelic speaking -- some not, even of Gaelic speaking parents Gaelic speakers in non-Gaelic regions > cities / overseas Gaelic learners w/ various levels of proficiency

19 Gaelic - the language and the culture Revitalizing the language involves more than instruction in the language, qua language. Instruction in the language encompasses a broad array of measures aimed at decolonizing

20 Decolonizing Reconnecting to "our language as an uninterrupted link to our histories, to the ownership of our lands, to our abilities to create and control our own life and death to our sense of balance, among ourselves and with the environment, to our authentic selves as a people" (Smith, 1999, p. 73). Becoming part of the conversation re: Gaelic language & culture

21 Methods of Decolonizing Claiming Testimonies / remembering: – Gaelic writing story telling History Reading Reframing – positioning within North Atlantic & European communities Envisioning the future Democratizing, networking, negotiating (Smith, 1999)

22 Decolonizing within Gaelic context: Claiming - in the current context, 'claiming' government funding for Gaelic programs Environmental: – Think Gaelic – cultural aspects of relationship with nature – Sabhal Mòr North Atlantic Environmental Program

23 Gaelic - building a “new house” Gàidhlig (Gaelic language) - maintaining and reviving the language itself, fostered through education, media, community outreach, and public exposure. foghlam (education) – formal, non-formal, informal togail an taigh' ùr – (building a "new house“) - the reconstruction of social arrangements, values, and orientations and relationships between humanity and the natural world coimhearsnachd -(community) the Gaelic communities 'went out' together when they emigrated; set up their villages in the new world in the same order they had been in the old; re-orienting cultural valuations towards the community and away from the individual cèilidh – traditional “get together” or “visit” but also involving participatory sharing stories, reciting poems, singing songs (old and new), and dancing. A bonding and a remembering. craic - rousing, heartfelt conversation in groups of various sizes; a bonding performance; often engaged in at a ceilidh. an ceòl (music) - music is integral to the culture in accordance with the Gaelic proverb, Thig crìoch an t-saoghal, mairidh ceòl 's a' ghaol (come the end of the world, love and music will endure). bàrdachd – poetry. Central to Gaelic culture. The traditional reverence for am bàrd (the poet) as “truth teller,” keeper of the “story” of the community, cannot be underestimated tilleadh dhachaigh - returning home; which involves – the figurative -- remembering and reconstructing an dùthchas, (the culture) in the form of stories, histories, songs, music; and – the literal -- actually physically visiting an dùthaich (the "homeland"). (Note that the two words dùthchas and dùthaich are mutual cognates.)


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