The future of Gaelic
Whilst there has been a small degree of stabilisation in the number of Gaelic speakers since the 2001 Census, the reality is that Gaelic as a community language is currently in a high-risk situation that can only be ameliorated through a new approach that has its foundation in real engagement with the language community. Such a scientific approach will be grounded in academic rigour with a strategic relevance that addresses the prevailing reality of Gaelic language-shift.
The current fragile state of Gaelic as a communal identity and language is also a regional/national manifestation of a more general global condition of ethnolinguistic endangerment. Establishing the Language Sciences Institute enhances the ability of the university to facilitate an informed intervention in this condition, and to offer strategic leadership in this regard both nationally and in comparative international minoritised linguistic and cultural contexts.
With a combination of critical academic endeavour and an interdisciplinary approach, the aim is to position the Institute’s intellectual agenda in a favourable place for future collaborations with partners, both nationally and internationally. The Institute working with partners, on an agenda of research/teaching/supervision/community engagement, will bring a new intellectual coherence to Gaelic language research, and position it in an international context.
The task now is to address this sociolinguistic challenge in a manner which is authentic to the remaining Gaelic-speaking communities, and which allows for innovation in the emergence of newly-engendered Gaelic-speaking networks. UHI is the only Institute of Higher Education operating in the geographic area containing the remaining traditional Gaelic-speaking communities. This is both a unique challenge to the university and an opportunity to engage in innovative research projects which offer the potential to also provide academic leadership in the international context.