Research by Anne Kandler and James Steele and a colleague from Chemnitz University on the future of Scottish Gaelic has recently been published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series B. The authors report on a mathematical model of competing languages and the dynamics of language endangerment, in which the future of Scottish Gaelic is projected using historical census data from the Scottish Highlands.
They suggest that to reverse the decline in numbers of bilingual English and Gaelic speakers, as recorded in a century of census data taken up to the most recent census in 2001, as many as 860 new Gaelic speakers would need to be recruited from the monolingual English-speaking pool each year; but that this could be almost halved if there was a significant increase in the proportion of Gaelic-speaking parents who transmit a speaking knowledge of Gaelic to their own children.
The work was reported on the BBC News website and in the Scotsman newspaper, and Anne Kandler was interviewed on TV for BBC Newsnight Scotland. John Angus MacKay, chief executive of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the Scottish national Gaelic development agency, is quoted in the Scotsman as saying that the model's results are encouraging as the figures quoted are broadly in line with their own to secure stability for the language.
The article, which appeared earlier this month, should be cited as: Anne Kandler, Roman Unger and James Steele (2010) 'Language shift, bilingualism and the future of Britain's Celtic languages.' Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 365: 3855-3864, doi: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0051
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