Who are the (Scottish) Gaels? Or is it Highlanders?

 Who are the Scottish Gaels? Are they the same as Scottish Highlanders? How are they related to Scots as a whole? Questions of identity may seem simple at first but become increasingly complex as we both zoom into details and zoom out across space and time. Such issues often become more fraught when we consider…

My Tribute to Iain MacAonghuis (Dr. John MacInnes)

No one seriously interested in the culture, heritage and history of the Scottish Highlands can avoid engaging with the scholarship of Iain Aonghuis (“Dr. John MacInnes”, as he was known in English), who passed away into the Otherworld yesterday (10 May 2019). A great deal has been said about Iain as a scholar, public intellectual,…

The Fading, Untranslatable Words of the Gaelic Mindscape

Robert Macfarlane has been exploring two very interesting and inter-related phenomena in recent years: words that are tied to features or perceptions of the landscape that are highly culturally specific, and the extinction of those words from common usage because of the changing relationship between people and the landscape that they inhabit. Such words are…

2018 International Gaelic Award

I have much to be grateful for, and I was given another reason on November 14 when I was recognized with the 2018 International Gaelic Award, an award given at an annual celebration in Glasgow. Given the cost of plane tickets and short notice, I was unable to attend in person, but was delighted that my…

The Role of a Scholar in Gaelic and other Marginalized Cultures

This is a difficult, sensitive, complex, and multilayered topic. It’s hard to write about and it’s not surprising that so few people have tried (“I am a ‘white linguist’” by Dr. Cassie Smith-Christmas being one of the few examples). I am only human, as are the members of the communities I’ve worked with, so we…

18th-Century Praise of Gaelic by Iain MacGriogair of Glenlyon

As I’ve said in a previous blog post, it is exciting to see a resurgence of interest in Gaelic in Perthshire, a region of Highland Scotland that was once home to thriving Gaelic communities and prolific Gaelic scholars and poets. I have a large collection of Gaelic literature from Perthshire that I would like to…

A 1828 Plea on Behalf of Gaelic in Scotland

Anyone who studies sociolinguistics knows that languages live or die not according to their own merits, but according to the circumstances of the communities that speak them. Communities that are marginalized, denigrated, and denied the ability to govern themselves and access resources also see their languages and cultures compromised. This has long been the case…