Scottish Gaelic sees digital renaissance with £2m online dictionary investment

Scottish Gaelic, one of Europe’s most ancient languages, is experiencing a digital renaissance.

Work has begun on creating a landmark Scottish Gaelic online dictionary, which is expected to contain a staggering 30 million different words. The project, entitled ‘Faclair na Gaidhlig’ (meaning ‘Scottish Gaelic Dictionary’) comes on the back of a £2 million investment from the Scottish Government and is expected to take up to 30 years to complete.

The dictionary will also map the evolution and history of every word in the language, with the goal of delivering a greater understanding of language in speech, literature, song and place names.

About Scottish Gaelic

The Gaelic language is believed to have been introduced to Scotland in the 4th century by settlers from Ireland, becoming its own independent language in the 12th century.

However, since the Act of Union between England and Scotland in 1707, which made English the official language, speaker numbers have plummeted. Despite still receiving a lot of exposure, on road and in the media for example, the 2001 national census in Scotland showed that Gaelic Scottish is only spoken by 1.2 per cent of the population.

Language study and preservation

Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond said of the enourmous online dictionary project: “We’re committed to working with a range of other public bodies to create a secure future for the Gaelic language”

“The Scottish Government is a strong supporter of our indigenous languages, including Gaelic, and recognises the important cultural and economic benefits these bring to a vibrant and modern Scotland.”

The Scottish Funding Council has said that the dictionary has been welcomed by academics in Celtic studies at both Harvard and UCLA, and the Oxford English Dictionary.

And while we may never see Scottish Gaelic becoming the most-widely spoken language in Scotland, the project does offer a highly innovative way of protecting endangered indigenous languages. UNESCO estimates that if nothing is done, half of the 3000 languages spoken today will have disappeared by the end of the century.

Will this be how we both preserve and study languages in the coming years, and beyond?

About Today Translations

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To find out more about our language services, get in touch with us at [email protected].