"New speakers" of Gaelic: Perceptions of linguistic authenticity and appropriateness

Wilson McLeod, Bernadette O'Rourke

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    36 Citations (Scopus)
    206 Downloads (Pure)


    This article considers the experiences and views of "new speakers" of Gaelic, focusing on how they characterise their language production and its relationship to the language of traditional speakers. In contrast to some other European minority languages, a significant population of new Gaelic speakers in Scotland has emerged only recently, particularly with the development of Gaelic-medium education since 1985, provision that increasingly serves children who do not acquire Gaelic in the home. Given the ongoing decline of Gaelic in traditional "heartland" areas, it is apparent that new speakers of Gaelic emerging from urban Scotland will become increasingly important in coming years. This study of 35 new speakers in the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow builds on emerging research on new speakers of minority languages across other European contexts (see O'Rourke et al. 2015) where traditional communities of speakers are being eroded as a consequence of increased urbanisation and economic modernisation. This article considers issues involving legitimacy, authority and authenticity amongst new speakers of Gaelic and the extent to which new speakers are producing their own set of contexts of language use and their own standards of performance or conversely, if they continue to reproduce ideals of localism, tradition and linguistic purity. Participants expressed contrasting views on these topics, some of them endeavouring to accommodate what they perceived as native speakers' perceptions and preferences, others expressing a rather more oppositional viewpoint, rejecting practices or assumptions that they view as impeding the modernisation and normalisation of the language.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)151-172
    Number of pages22
    JournalApplied Linguistics Review
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2015


    • authenticity
    • Gaelic
    • language revitalisation
    • new speakers
    • purity

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Linguistics and Language
    • Language and Linguistics


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