Chair: Simon Brooks
This paper will discuss two recent efforts to expand the audience for Gaelic scholarship beyond the walls of the academy. The Rob Donn Trail is a community heritage project centred on eighteenth-century poet Rob Donn Mackay, using bilingual signage and background materials to position his words in their original landscape, give voice and physical presence to the past, and educate visitors and residents alike about Gaelic poetry, history and music. The songbook, 100 Òran le Rob Donn MacAoidh, is a new edition of all his songs for which tunes could be located, with music in staff notation, complete Gaelic texts in updated orthography, and complete English translations. This publication is also intended for multiple audiences, including Gaelic singers, learners, and scholars, as well as English-only readers such as Scottish historians and members of the Scottish diaspora.
Based on ongoing doctoral research into a sustainable socioeconomic market for Gaelic, focusing primarily on its numerically healthiest speaker-group in Scotland’s Western Isles, this paper will examine the idealistic fissure between what is necessary to support Gaelic where, geographically, it remains strongest (at least, that is the picture we have until the outcome of the 2021 Census is known) and what is being done to promote Gaelic as a national asset.
Gaelic development, a child of dealing with the so-called ‘Highland Problem’, underwent notable changes in the 1980s as the result of political support and increased funding, and during the 1990s when Gaelic came to be seen as an economic asset with the potential to benefit individuals and communities in both its rural heartland as well as in urban settings where sizeable numbers of Gaelic speakers resided.
This paper will examine the naïve assumption that cultural regeneration and language revitalisation would create a mutually supportive cycle against past and present projected outcomes for Gaelic, and how or if priorities for Gaelic development have changed – from speaker numbers and financial targets, to an opaque, pan-Scottish civic asset.
Attitudes to Gaelic in Scotland often depict little more than a passive awareness of its fragility, or interest in its fate, and this paper will consider notions such as landscape and social justice in examining which pathways could provide a sustainable future for Gaelic in the social geographies where it currently battles to remain a language of daily communication.
I present the findings of an ethnographic study into language repertoirs and the language practices of Polish migrants in Aberystwyth. Aberystwyth is an academic town of 13,000 inhabitants in Ceredigion, one of the heartlands of the Welsh language. Since 2004 the town has attracted Polish migrants seeking employment. In addition, the town’s university has attracted Polish students on a large scale with the help of Polish recruiting agencies. Having only rudimentary knowledge of Wales, its languages and culture, it is upon arrival in Aberystwyth that most Poles learn of the Welsh language. This paper discusses the participants’ first impressions of Welsh and their beliefs about the usefulness of learning it for future careers. Data was obtained in May and June 2018 by means of a questionnaire completed by 54 people, and ethnographic case study interviews with 28 Polish migrants.