Dictionary to discover origin of every Gaelic word

Professor Boyd Robertson, principal of Sabhal M�r Ostaig. Picture: Contributed
Professor Boyd Robertson, principal of Sabhal M�r Ostaig. Picture: Contributed
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THE status of Gaelic is to receive a boost with the launch of a new £2 million dictionary that will document the history and development of every word in the language.

Money from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) will be used to recruit more staff to compile the dictionary as well as buy the software necessary to support their work.

The dictionary, Faclair na Gàidhlig, which will be freely available online, is being compiled by the national Gaelic centre, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) in partnership with the universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde.

The SFC said 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.

The dictionary will provide a new understanding of the structure, variations and development of Gaelic through its use in speech, literature, song and place names, the SFC said.

Speaking ahead of a visit to the national Gaelic centre today, First Minister Alex Salmond said: “The Scottish Government is a strong supporter of our indigenous languages, including Gaelic, and recognises the important cultural and economic benefits that these bring to a vibrant and modern Scotland.

“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.”

Those compiling the dictionary expect the final work will feature more than a million words.

It is hoped it will be used by teachers, pupils and parents to help improve the quality of Gaelic language education across the country.

Professor Boyd Robertson, principal of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and convener of the Faclair na Gàidhlig steering committee, said: “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.”

The SFC said the dictionary had already been welcomed by academics in Celtic studies at Harvard and UCLA, as well as by the Oxford English Dictionary.

In addition to SFC’s £2 million for the project, the Arts and Humanities Research Council is providing £100,000 and £50,000 is coming from the Economic and Social Research Council. Bòrd na Gàidhlig – the language’s national body – has supported the project since 2004 and currently contributes £75,000 per year.