University of the Highlands and Islands appoints Gaelic Research Professor

An expert on minority languages has been appointed as Gaelic Research Professor at the University of the Highlands and Islands and director of Soillse, the National Research Network for the Maintenance and Revitalisation of Gaelic Language and Culture. Dr Conchúr Ó Giollagáin has an international reputation in language planning and minority language culture and sociology. He has written extensively on issues concerning the sustainability of minority cultures, especially the Gaeltacht communities in Ireland.

Currently a researcher at the National University of Ireland Galway, Dr Ó Giollagáin will take up his new roles at the start of April. As director of the Soillse project, he will help to co-ordinate and extend research into crucial areas for the growth of Gaelic in its various social and institutional settings, including its intergenerational transmission, practice and policy in Gaelic-medium education and the assessment of Government policies on the revitalisation of the language. He will lead a national research team of four research fellows, one lecturer and ten PhD students, who are based at partner institutions across Scotland, including Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI and Lews Castle College UHI, and at the Universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Dr Ó Giollagáin will be based at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI on Skye, which is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands and is the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture.

Professor Ian Bryden, vice-principal (research) at the university, said: “We are very pleased to welcome such an eminent international scholar into our team. Conchúr is joining the university, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI and Soillse at an exciting time and his experience and drive will benefit Gaelic research, scholarship and culture.”

Professor Boyd Robertson, principal of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig UHI, added: “We are delighted that Professor Ó Giollagáin is returning to the college after spending three months here last summer on a Royal Society of Edinburgh fellowship scheme. He is well-qualified to lead the Soillse research team and he will enhance the research culture that continues to be developed at Sabhal Mòr.”

Dr Ó Giollagáin previously lectured in the school of political science and sociology in the National University of Ireland Galway on the sociology of language. His teaching and research interests include language planning, sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology.

He was also head of the university’s language planning unit in its Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, where he devised and led Ireland’s first MA programme in language planning and contributed to the development of the Acadamh’s MA in language sciences.

Dr Ó Giollagáin received his PhD in Modern Irish from University College Dublin and lectured in the department of Irish at St. Patrick’s College, Dublin City University, and in the department of Celtic studies at the Catholic University of Lublin, Poland. He co-authored the government-commissioned Gaeltacht survey Comprehensive Linguistic Study of the Use of Irish in the Gaeltacht (2007).

Dr Ó Giollagáin is also an external fellow of the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, where he has contributed to a variety of research projects examining different aspects of the language dynamics and linguistic anthropology of minority language culture.