PhD Students

MLitt Students

  • Sandra Malley
  • Veronique Heijnsbroek


Beth Cole, PhD Student

My PhD considers language variation and change in a Gaelic community, focusing particularly on changes in case morphophonology. By studying native Gaelic speakers of a variety of ages across North and South Uist, which is around 65% Gaelic speaking and where the language can still be heard in daily life, I aim to investigate the amount and type of changes present in the Gaelic case system, and analyse these changes within the context of underlying language shift.

Linguistic changes of this nature can often be a symptom of language shift, resulting from speakers changing from using a minority language in their daily lives to a dominant language in the area. However, variation is also a normal process in language change, which occurs without the existence of language shift. The difficulty is determining which changes are natural, and which potentially pose a threat to the language’s continued use and ultimately its existence.

By studying both linguistic changes and the community’s patterns of language use and attitudes towards Gaelic, I hope to be able to describe the linguistic situation in Uist more fully than has previously been attempted, and contribute to our understanding of the processes involved in language shift and the present state of the Gaelic language in Scotland. This PhD is funded by Soillse.

Contact me


Office: Room A55, Taylor Building, Gaelic Studies

Supervised by


Ingeborg Birnie, PhD StudentInge Birnie


Successive Census results have shown that the number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland has been in sharp decline throughout the 20th century. In addition to the decline in absolute numbers of speakers, research in the traditional heartlands of the language has shown a decline in the domains and frequency in which the language is used in everyday life.

The Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 established an official framework to efforts to preserve and sustain the Gaelic language and culture, with Bòrd na Gàidhlig established as a public body responsible for the preservation of Gaelic as an official language commanding ‘equal respect’ to the English language in Scotland and with the responsibility to  serve notice on public bodies to prepare and implement a Gaelic language plan.

This Soillse funded PhD research will be looking at this institutionalisation of Gaelic in the public domain and how this affects the de facto or real language policies in Stornoway, one of the biggest towns in the traditional heartland of the language. Using Spolsky’s framework for language policy, the official language policy and plans will be analysed and compared to the language practice, both at official level, through the linguistic and accoustic landscape created by public bodies, as well as the linguistic practices and ideologies of the Gaelic speakers themselves. 

Contact me:


Office: Room 55, Taylor Buildling, Gaelic Studies

Supervised by: