Agency and Participation Factors: the Gaelic Vernacular Community


This research study builds on the legacy of the Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community research (GCVC)[1] through exploring community agency and participation factors relevant to how Gaelic development interventions engage with the Gaelic vernacular community. The study is a first step in developing an understanding of the extent to which community agency and participation are observable at the community level in relation to policies aimed at local Gaelic development priorities. Research outputs are based on consultations and surveys in two rural Gaelic vernacular districts, one in west Lewis and one in the north area of Skye. This research was conducted during the period of COVID-19 restrictions, and thus sought to ascertain local perspectives on adapting to such challenges and to explore mechanisms by which the communities can emerge from these circumstances.

Preliminary research outputs signal that the critical factors of community agency and participation are fragmented as these relate to Gaelic policy and socio-linguistic planning matters amongst individual communities.  Linkages between language policy and the vernacular Gaelic group are weak according to the members of the two communities who participated in the research. It is critical that Gaelic as a community language is set on a sustainable footing. This will require cooperation and communication linkages to be strengthened between official development bodies and relevant communities in order to address current socioeconomic and sociolinguistic problems which act as barriers to normalising Gaelic as the language of the community.    

It is recommended that a new and a radical approach based on a LEADER-type programme be adopted to put Gaelic development on a pathway for change. The suggested new approach would put resources and local sociolinguistic planning under the direct control of local community trusts and/or cooperatives. The research also suggests that a community forum be established under the auspices of local community trusts/cooperatives. The establishment of a representative forum for the Gaelic vernacular community, analogous to a citizens’ assembly, will be an important element in addressing the democratic imbalance which community members attach to the current approach to language policy and planning as this relates to Gaelic development actions within the vernacular community.

Agency and Participation Factors: the Gaelic Vernacular Community

[1] Ó Giollagáin, C., Camshron, G., Moireach, P., Ó Curnáin, B., Caimbeul, I., MacDonald, B. and Péterváry, T. (2020) Gaelic Crisis in the Vernacular Community: A comprehensive sociolinguistic survey of Scottish Gaelic (GCVC). Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press.