6th Annual Conference of the North American

Association for Celtic Language Teachers

The Information Age, Celtic Languages and the New Millenium


Richard F. E. Sutcliffe

Gearóid Ó Néill

Published by

North American Association

for Celtic Language Teachers

www.naaclt.org URL

Department of Computer Science

and Information Systems

University of Limerick

Limerick, Ireland

Gemma.Ryan@ul.ie Email

+353 61 202783 Tel

+353 61 202734 Fax

www.csis.ul.ie URL

Conference Committees vii
Gaelic and Computing: What is Happening and What Needs Doing - A Personal View

Caoimhín Ó Donnaile

Bilingual Spoken Dictionary Based on Speech Synthesis in Breton

Nicolas Auclerc, Alexandre Bramoullé, Francis Favereau, Hervé Gourmelon, Pierre Lavanant, François Louis, Guy Mercier & Jacques Siroux, Skol Vreizh, ENSSAT Lannion & TES

Journal Writing Revisited: A Follow-up Study in an Irish Language Class

Roslyn Blyn-LaDrew, University of Pennsylvania

The Breton Language : From Taboo to Recognition

Ronan Le Coadic, IUFM, Bretagne

To Secure an Anchor for Our Celtic Souls: An Integrated Development

Programme for Manx Gaelic

Philip Gawne, Manx National Heritage, Isle of Man

On Simplifying the Lexical Tagging of Cornish Texts

Ken George, Seaton, Cornwall

Welsh Intensive Language Learning Centres

Geraint Wyn Jones, University of Wales, Bangor

Developing a Welsh Terminology Dictionary

J. P. M. Jones, University of Wales, Bangor

Manx Gaelic: Chengey-ny-Mayrey Ellan Vannin - A Language on

the Edge

Phil Kelly, Rheynn Cullyn, Isle of Man

Imagination in the Teaching of Cornish

Neil Kennedy, Falmouth College of Arts, Cornwall

The ISOS Project - A Digital Library of Irish Scripts on Screen

Criostaí Mac Íomhaire, Aoibheann Nic Dhonnchadha, Pádraig Ó Macháin & Alan F. Smeaton, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies & Dublin City University

Teaching Scottish Gaelic to Irish Speakers

Michelle Macleod, National University of Ireland, Galway

Waiting for TV-Breizh?

Stefan Moal, Douarnenez, Brittany

Living Celtic Speech: Celtic Sound Archives in North America

Ken Nilsen, St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia


Search and Retrieval Options within the Database of the Corpus of Electronic Texts - CELT Project

Donnchadh Ó Corráin & Beatrix Färber, University College Cork

Teaching the Initial Mutations in Modern Irish

Séamas Ó Direáin, University College, Cork

The Effect of Bilingualism on Learners' Self-Awareness - A Case Study

Muiris Ó Laoire, Institute of Technology, Tralee

The Role of Language Models in Culture Maintenance: The Challenge of Teaching Gaelic in Nova Scotia

Catriona NicIomhair Parsons, St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia

E-Celtic Language Tools: The Latest Developments from Wales

Delyth Prys & Menna Morgan, University of Wales, Bangor

Welsh Number Talk

Gareth Roberts, University of Wales, Bangor

If We Drill Them, Will They Learn Them?

Sheila Scott & Harold Kenny, University of Ottawa & Royal Military

College of Canada

Manx Gaelic in the Year 2000

Brian Stowell, Scrudeyr ny Sheshaght Ghailckagh, Isle of Man

Language Ideologies in Brittany, with Implications for Breton Language Maintenance and Pedagogy

Lenora A. Timm, University of California

Welsh Medium and Bilingual Teaching in the Further Education Sector

Cen Williams, University of Wales, Bangor



Celtic languages form a branch of the Indo-European family and include Breton, Cornish, Irish, Manx, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh.

The North American Association for Celtic Language Teachers exists to permit instructors to exchange ideas and research through meetings and an annual publication, to increase links of Celtic language teachers with those of other languages and other umbrella organizations, and to increase opportunities for Celtic language teachers.

NAACLT has held a highly successful annual conference in North America since 1995. Previous events took place in Glendale Community College, California, University of Pennsylvania, St. Francis Xavier University, University of Minnesota and University of Ottawa. This year the conference comes to Europe for the first time, presenting an ideal opportunity for Celtic language speakers, teachers and related researchers in the US to renew their links with colleagues in European areas such as Brittany, Cornwall, Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales.

This volume contains the papers presented at NAACLT2000. They include reports regarding new techniques for teaching, descriptions of recently developed electronic resources and discussions of strategic and planning issues. All the Celtic languages are represented as are many current trends in language teaching and related research. We hope you find these papers interesting and a source of ideas for your own work.

Finally, we would like to express our thanks to Bord na Gaeilge and University of Limerick for sponsoring the conference and to Pat Cox MEP who has kindly agreed to perform the official opening.

Richard F. E. Sutcliffe

Gearóid Ó Néill

Conference Committees

Conference Chair

Gearóid Ó Néill, University of Limerick

Keynote Speaker

Caoimhín Ó Donnaile, University of the Highlands and Islands

Programme Committee

Paul Birt, University of Ottawa

Emyr Davies, Coleg y Drindod Caerfyrddin

Ken George, Cornish Language Board

Phil Kelly, Rheynn Ynsee, Ellan Vannin

Teresa O'Doherty, University of Limerick

Francis Favereau, Université de Bretagne

Marion MacDonald, Córais Teileamaitic Scairbhe, Gaillimh

Annie Macsween, Lews Castle College, Stornoway

Annette McElligott, University of Limerick

Úna Nic Éinrí, Coláiste Mhuire Gan Smál, Luimneach

Josette Gwegenn, Kelenn, Kemper

Ken Nilsen, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish

Tadhg Ó hIfearnáin, Ollscoil Luimnigh

Muiris Ó Laoire, Institute of Technology at Tralee

Helen Ó Murchú, Comhar na Múinteoirí Gaeilge

Gearóid Ó Néill, University of Limerick

Catriona Parsons, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish

A G Boyd Robertson, University of Strathclyde

Nancy Stenson, University of Minnesota

Marta Weingartner Diaz, Indiana University

Cen Williams, Prifysgol Cymru Bangor

Organising Committee

Rita Gallagher

Annette McElligott

Teresa O'Doherty

Tadhg Ó hIfearnáin

Gearóid Ó Néill

Gemma Ryan

Dermot Shinners-Kennedy

Richard Sutcliffe

Gaelic and Computing: What is Happening and What Needs Doing - A Personal View

Caoimhín Ó Donnaíle

Sabhal Mór Ostaig

An t-Eilean Sgitheanach


IV44 8RQ, UK

caoimhin@smo.uhi.ac.uk Email

http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/~caoimhin/ URL

+44 1471 888000 Tel

+44 1471 888001 Fax


This paper discusses the current health of Scottish Gaelic; the growth of Sabhal Mór Ostaig over the past ten years, the mix of students, new opportunities via the University of the Highlands and Islands project, the computing facilities and projects currently underway there. It describes the need for a Gaelic lexical database as a foundation for spell checking, the possibility of a Celtic cognates database, and the aim of Tobar an Dualchais to preserve for posterity 18,000 hours of spoken Gaelic archives.


I am going to attempt in this paper to take a wide-ranging view. However, I am very conscious of the fact that no one person can know any more than part of it in any depth - hence the word "personal" in the title. What I'll do is to take a quick tour of topics which I am familiar with and which I think will be of interest to attendees of the conference: a quick look at the "health" of Scottish Gaelic; developments at Sabhal Mór Ostaig; the University of the Highlands and Islands project; and then turning to computing and the Internet.

Although I am of Irish extraction and started learning Irish Gaelic before Scottish Gaelic, I have for the past nine years been working at Sabhal Mór Ostaig, the Gaelic-medium further education college, or "community college" as you would say in America, on the island of Skye. I teach computing full-time, and have quite a few other hats besides - webmaster of an extensive web-site, and head of information technology.

Scottish Gaelic - Decline or Revival?

Is Scottish Gaelic in decline as some say, or is there a revival as others say? The answer is that there is a great decline and also a great revival, both happening rather quickly at the same time, and the next five to ten years will be critical as to whether Gaelic ultimately survives as a community language and how much of its riches are preserved.

I'll use Sleat, where I live and work in the south of Skye, as an illustration. The decline started earlier here than in the western isles. There is also very strong pressure from incomers and population increase. But on the other hand, Sleat has benefited in recent years first from the support of Sir Iain Noble, the pro-Gaelic landowner, and latterly from the development and growth of his brainchild, Sabhal Mór Ostaig.

Anyone native to Sleat and over the age of about 50 speaks excellent Gaelic. My guess is that that is a reflection of the date when Gaelic stopped being the language of the school playground. Often the age cutoff can be seen within children of a single family. People in the generation after that can understand Gaelic but generally aren't comfortable speaking it. People in their twenties are generally interested in Gaelic but can't understand it.

After that the benefits of the revival and the setting up of a Gaelic medium unit in the local primary school [1] start to be seen. A few of the teenagers are fluent and comfortable speaking Gaelic, although without the richness of expression of the older generation. After that the numbers increase. Families raising children with Gaelic are finding that instead of the children turning to English when they reach school-age, as used to happen, the neighbours' children are turning to speaking Gaelic. The children are proud to be able to speak Gaelic as well as English. I know of several examples of young children who came to the area knowing no Gaelic and within a year are chatting to their friends outside school in Gaelic. Gaelic-medium education has been very successful in Sleat, as elsewhere in Scotland. Studies show that the children do well in all subjects. The Gaelic unit in Sleat now has a higher intake than the English unit, and I am told that the children in the Gaelic unit are ahead even in their English reading.

The numbers are small, though [2] - much smaller than the numbers in Gaelic-medium education in Ireland, and are not nearly enough to match the number of older Gaelic speakers who are dying off. Only recently did the first all-Gaelic primary school open in Glasgow. There is still no such thing as a Gaelic-medium unit in a secondary school (or "high school") - only a few subjects taught in a few schools [3]. A report by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools seven years ago stated that secondary schooling through Gaelic was "neither feasible nor desirable" - due to lack of resources.

Some steps have been taken in recent years to begin to remedy this lack of resources. The Scottish Education Department has set up the "Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig", based in Lewis, to commission materials for use in Gaelic medium teaching. For example, it has just produced "Dòigh eile air a Ràdh", a small Gaelic thesaurus for use in primary schools.

The "Stòrdàta Fiosrachaidh Gàidhlig" (Gaelic Resources Database) [4] produced and maintained by the Education Department of Comhairle nan Eilean [5] has for several years now been available on WWW. It is a database listing the title, location and other information on anything which might be of use to teachers - books, articles in journals, songs in books, cassettes and CDs. It is something which could usefully be imitated for other Celtic languages.

Sabhal Mór Ostaig

Sabhal Mór Ostaig is one of the highlights of the Gaelic revival [6]. When I joined the college in 1991 there were only 18 students. The only building was a renovated farm building built in 1810 [7]. A van took the students home after classes each day and the college was dead after 5pm. Other than the full-time courses - business studies through the medium of Gaelic - the "Stòrdàta Briathrachais" (Gaelic terminology database), and the summer short courses, there was nothing much else happening.

A new building was added in 1993, tripling the size of the college and providing residential accommodation for the first time, so that the students were not scattered far and wide and had access to computing and library facilities in the evenings [8]. The commercial offshoot of the college, Cànan, was started, producing Gaelic educational materials and subtitles for TV programmes [9]. The Lèirsinn research unit was started. A Gaelic Television course started.

The Arainn Chaluim Chille campus was added in 1998-99, again tripling the size of the college [10]. The college is now home to a whole host of activities and offshoot units - The Tosg Gaelic Theatre company; Iomairt Chaluim Chille which unites Gaels in Scotland and Ireland both North and South [11]; Tobar an Dualchais [12]; European projects such as Digital Democracy [13] and Titan [14]. The number of full time staff stands at about 50, and the college is the major employer in the south of Skye.

The number of full-time students has remained at about 70 for the last two years - something which we hope to remedy. The quality is excellent. There is a very healthy mix of ages, origins and backgrounds. Starting first with students from abroad, we have at the moment three students from the US, three from Cape Breton, one from Russia, and one from Denmark. All of them have very fluent Gaelic. We have a student from Wales who is fluent in Welsh and a student from Gaoth Dobhair who is fluent in Irish Gaelic. We have students from England and from all over Scotland. However, a large proportion of the students, as you would expect, come from the Gaelic speaking western isles. In the last few years, for the first time, we have quite a number of students from local Gaelic-speaking families in Sleat, as well as from farther afield in Skye - a sign of the confidence the local Gaelic-speaking community has in the college.

Students who already have degrees and who want to improve their Gaelic, mature students with a wide range of skills and experience, even a few retirees, mix with 17-year old school leavers from the islands who want to get some qualifications. This produces a mixture which is good for all concerned.

Since all the teaching at SMO is through Gaelic, a basic level of conversational ability in Gaelic is necessary before a student can begin study at the college. One way of obtaining this is by attending summer short courses at SMO [15]. Another is by attending the NC level courses offered elsewhere in the University of the Highlands and Islands partnership, for example at Inverness College. Another method will open up shortly since the college is currently developing an intensive 16-hour per week "Access Course", for delivery by distance learning, designed to bring complete beginners up to SMO entrance level within a year [16]. This will start as a pilot project this September. The intention was focus this on local centres round Scotland, with a few hours per week contact with local tutors being used to supplement distance-learning materials. However, it is becoming clear that there is a demand from students outside Scotland too for a course like this. This may be possible in the future, since the intention is to place some of the course materials on WWW, and to provide Email support facilities and so on.

The computing facilities at Sabhal Mór Ostaig are now excellent. The college has always been advanced for its size in the use of ICT facilities. We had Internet Email - "smo.ac.uk" in use by dialup in 1991 - possibly the first Further Education college in Britain. We had an intranet running in 1992. We had a WWW server running internally in August 1993. In December 1993 got a permanent 64 kbit/s connection to the Internet, thanks to the University of the Highlands and Islands project, and we became "smo.uhi.ac.uk". Last November we got a 700-fold boost in speed to 45 Mbit/s. There is a switched network delivering 100 Mbit/s to the desktop on structured wiring throughout the college. The college is well equipped with fast new workstations, Novell servers from the UHI project and Unix servers of our own. The television course is now doing a lot of multimedia work on computer workstations.

We have an extensive website with many thousands of pages [6]. Despite this being nearly all in Gaelic, it is currently getting about 22,000 requests per day in raw terms, although the number of actual clicks per day by users outside the college would be more like 10,000. We have in the past hosted websites and domains for other organisations and are happy to continue doing this on a voluntary basis for Gaelic organisations. The college recently won a bid to provide WWW engineering services to the entire UHI network, and we are involved in a collaborative project to translate the Opera WWW browser into various languages including Gaelic.

The University of the Highlands and Islands Project

Up to about five or six years ago, the UHI project [17] was mostly talk. However, it is now a reality, uniting about 14 colleges and institutes over a huge area into a partnership with is gathering strength each year. Sabhal Mór Ostaig played a significant part in winning people over to the UHI idea, since the college has always been very advanced for its size. In turn, we have benefited greatly in equipment, new buildings, and new course opportunities.

UHI is not yet a university - this will require several more years of development. However, it is already able to offer degree courses if these are validated and approved by other bodies, such as the UK's Open University. Within the next few months, all being well, about eight students will graduate at SMO with a BA degree, some with "BA Gaelic Language and Culture" [18], others with "BA Gaelic with North Atlantic Studies" [19]. They will have completed all three years of study entirely at SMO, so it will be a historic event. The college also has several research students attached to it, undertaking PhD's under the University of the Highlands and Islands project and supervised by SMO staff.

UHI degrees have a modular structure, which allows a great deal of flexibility in developing courses. Students can leave after a year with a certificate, and return later for a second or third year to obtain a higher level diploma or a full degree, or they can, for example begin their study with a year at Inverness College and continue it at SMO. Increasingly, individual modules will be delivered by different colleges, using networked delivery.

The University of the Highlands and Islands project, although we call it in Gaelic "Oilthigh na Gaidhealtachd", is not itself a particularly Gaelic institution. Within the UHI framework, however, there is an increasing amount of cooperation between Gaelic teaching staff at centres such as Lews Castle College in Stornoway, SMO, and Inverness College. There is an increasing emphasis on "outreach centres", generally with ISDN links. Lews Castle College has established outreach centres in Barra, South Uist, Benbecula and Ness. Sabhal Mór Ostaig is developing a new centre, "Ionad Chaluim Chille" on the island of Islay. A new NC course in Gaelic Language and Music is about to begin in Benbecula College in September.

The UHI project, as well as having a fast communications network between the colleges, has a network of video-conferencing centres which now utilise this wide-area network. These are very heavily used, with the video-conferencing bridge in Inverness being the most heavily used bridge in the UK academic world. Seminars in Gaelic are delivered very effectively with the active participation of an audience in several centres. So far, video-conferencing has been used less extensively for general teaching, due mainly to difficulties in scheduling with any regularity classes and video-conferencing facilities in different centres. However, its use is increasing, and the imminent introduction of computer-based video-conferencing over IP will offer new possibilities, as will improved scheduling and booking facilities.

Computing and the Internet

The Internet is a truly marvelous resource. It is a godsend to minority languages because it cuts out the cost of cost of printing and distribution. One of the best ways which language agencies can promote the language is to get more materials such as dictionaries made freely available on the Internet, buying up the copyright if necessary.

Copyright is a problem. In my opinion, the duration of copyright - 70 years after the death of the author - is totally ridiculous. But we have to live with it. The recent extension from 50 years to 70 years poses interesting problems. To take Dwelly's dictionary, for example, Edward Dwelly died in 1939, about 60 years ago. However, according to my reading of the copyright law pages, his famous dictionary is certainly out of copyright in the US, if not also in Europe, because once a work is out of copyright it cannot in any circumstances go back into copyright. Of course, apart from the law of copyright there are also rules of etiquette, and other people's work should not simply be plagiarised without acknowledgment.

There is a need to simply get on with typing in out-of-copyright materials - and typing is still often the best method despite the advent of optical character recognition. I would like to see Gaelic funding bodies provide funds for such work, perhaps as part-time work for students. We need something akin to Ciarán Ó Duibhín's million word "Gaeldict" for all the Celtic languages, not just Donegal Gaelic!

There is a great need for online dictionaries. The "Stòrdàta Briathrachais" [20], the Gaelic terminology database developed at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig since the late 1980s, and with now over 100,000 entries, has been tremendously popular and it is certainly our intention to continue expanding and developing it. The WWW interface [21] has been very popular, and I know that many people outside SMO have it permanently open on their computers as they write. I believe that the WWW interface to the Foclóir Beag [22] developed by University of Limerick is similarly popular. There is a need for a "Stòrdàta Briathrachais" for Irish Gaelic and a "Fócloir Beag" for Scottish Gaelic.

It would be tremendously useful to have a dictionary-lookup facility available on WWW browsers - so that you could click on any Gaelic word, without any need for special markup on the page, the browser would be programmed to detect the word under the cursor, lemmatise it and set another window to point to the appropriate place in a Gaelic-English dictionary. This would make Gaelic-language pages, available to a wider audience without the need to provide English versions of every single page. I feel that a facility like this ought to be do-able by now using Javascript or some such, but I don't know enough to know how.

It is ridiculous that there is no spell-checker yet for Scottish or Irish Gaelic. This is one of the most useful facilities to learners which computers could provide, and it is not difficult to produce. I had very-useful Gaelic spell-checking going on Edinburgh University computers in 1988, and we had primitive but popular Gaelic spell-checking in WordPerfect at Sabhal Mór Ostaig in 1992. You can feed a list of Gaelic words - wordforms rather than just dictionary headwords - into just about any spellchecker in place of the English words, and you get an acceptable Gaelic spellchecker. The reason we have never got round to doing it at SMO is that we moved to MS-Word, and MS-Word, unlike WordPerfect, did not allow the user to replace the English lexicon by one of their own. Perhaps there are ways round this by now.

We need not just one spell-checker but lots of them! We need spell-checking in word-processors, Web authoring tools, Email, and optical character recognition. We need spell-checking according to strict "GOC" rules for schools and we need spell-checking according to different rules for optical character recognition of out-of-copyright materials. We need spell checking for both advanced users and primary school-children.

To support all this - the generation of different wordform lists for different purposes and the addition of new terms over time - we need a lexical database. I am thinking of the kind of relational database which Ken George describes for Cornish in his paper, or the Celex database developed in the Netherlands for Dutch, German and English in the 1980s. There would be two main tables - a table of dictionary "headwords" and a table of wordforms, with the wordforms being linked back to their headwords. Frequency data from a corpus of texts would be an important field - a lesson from the Celex database. A corpus of Gaelic texts would provide a crosscheck that the wordforms in the lexical database were correct, that they were being properly generated by rule from the headwords. In turn the lexical database would help to spellcheck and standardise the texts in the corpus - the kind of iterative process which Ken George describes. A lot of the work can be done these days with tools such as Excel, without the need for much special programming.

In these days of multimedia programming, the pronunciation information would be available for each word as a soundbite. We currently have all the headwords from Macfarlane's dictionary recorded into soundfiles at SMO and hope to edit these soon and make them available on WWW as a "speaking dictionary". The intention is to do the same for various dialects.

Cutting across the Celtic languages now, we have recently started work at SMO on an experimental basis on a "Celtic Cognates" relational database [23]. So this going beyond the idea expressed by Phil Kelly in his paper of a "Triglot Gaelic database". We currently have about 1000 records, although most of these only have field entries for a few languages. It links with Macfarlane's and MacBain's dictionaries, in database format. Linking these with an Irish Gaelic dictionary and applying some simple rules such as "change all Scottish Gaelic graves to acutes", and "change 'sg' in Scottish Gaelic to 'sc' in Irish Gaelic", would immediately give several thousand new "Celtic cognates".

The Celtic cognates database has several possible uses. It might, as Phil Kelly suggests, serve as the basis of a "translation" facility among the Q-Celtic languages. It should be useful to speakers of one Celtic language who are learning another. It provides a means of translating into other Celtic languages lists of Gaelic-English cognates which are so useful to the learner, like those which are used to such good effect in the George McLennan's little book, "Scots Gaelic: a brief introduction". When linked to speaking dictionaries in different languages, it frees etymological study from the bounds of differing spelling conventions. There are many questions, though, which need answering. One question is whether it would be better to have separate triglot Q-Celtic database and P-Celtic databases, which could be quite strict in their matching of words and parts of speech, and which could then be linked together using a looser matching.

Projects such as this are ideally suited to cooperation between different institutes. Not only can files be easily passed from site to site over the Internet, and web pages linked together, but databases in different sites, if they act as SQL servers, can be combined into a single distributed database. We aim to develop work like this at Sabhal Mór Ostaig, particularly since it fits in well with our remit to provide WWW engineering services for UHI. As Delyth Prys and Menna Morgan point out in their paper, the aim should be pool resources and use and reuse information to create new products. Computing is all about sharing and reuse.

A feature of computing over the next few years is going to be the integration of the Unicode character encoding into all computer systems. Unicode is a character encoding which encompasses all of the world's languages and scripts - Polish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese - even Welsh. The other five Celtic languages have been very lucky in that they have been in with the "wealthy" languages; they and all other western European languages except Welsh and are covered by the "Latin-1" character set. Welsh, with its accents on 'w' and 'y', was by mistake, and maybe negligence on the part of the British Standards Institute, omitted completely from the ISO 8859 series of standards when they were first developed. Another benefit of Unicode is that it will make it easy to encode Irish Gaelic texts with the "punc séibhithe". Overall it will lead to a great simplification once it is fully established.

I'll turn now from databases and "linguistic computing" to other materials. There is a demonstrated demand for simple language lessons on the Internet. Our WWW server statistics and messages from users show that our online Gaelic lessons, poor and all as they are, are some of the most popular pages on our website. We hope to improve on them when we put some of the new Access Course materials onto the Internet. Javascript gives scope for interactive pages with exercises for learners and automatic correction - There are some good materials like this available for Irish Gaelic. A bonus would be a login system which would keep track of which lesson a user had reached in their previous session, and which compared their score in tests with what they had achieved previously. Although I have not explored to the full, perhaps the nicest online lessons I have found are those for Breton on the Kervarker site. It would be good if lessons of this quality could be made available for all the Celtic languages.

I said at the beginning of this paper that while there is a great revival taking place in Scottish Gaelic, the older native speakers with the richest Gaelic are dying off. So in the future there will have to be more reliance on archive materials if the riches are not going to be lost. SMO is involved in the Tobar an Dualchais project [12] which aims to preserve 18,000 hours of spoken Gaelic from the archives of the BBC [24] , School of Scottish Studies [25] and elsewhere, converting it to digital format so that it does not decay; cataloging it and transcribing portions of it while there are still informants who can identify the speakers and the dialects; and making it as widely available as possible so that it can be used for education, in particular in the areas where it was first collected. A foretaste of this can be seen in Proiseact Thiriodh [26].


There is much exciting work to be done in the coming years in bringing the benefits of the computer age to the Celtic languages: developing linguistic tools such as lexical databases; creating interactive online lessons with text and sound; and ultimately the most important of all, making the riches of old archive materials easily accessible to a new generation.


1. http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/~bunsgoil/

2. http://www.cnag.org.uk/beurla/stats/

3. http://www.cnag.org.uk/beurla/stats/gmes9900.htm

4. http://db.svtc.org.uk/grdb/grdmain.htm

5. http://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/

6. http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/

7. http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/dealbhan/arainn/ostaig/sean/tog.2.jpg

8. http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/dealbhan/arainn/ostaig/ur/tog.2.jpg

9. http://www.canan.co.uk/

10. http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/~martainn/Togalach.htm

11. http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/tosg/

12. http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/dualchas/

13. http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/d3/

14. http://www.fjordinfo.no/titan_sf/

15. http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/smo/c_goirid/

16. http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/smo/roi-shealladh/english/

17. http://www.uhi.ac.uk/

18. http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/smo/roi-shealladh/english/culture.shtml

19. http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/smo/roi-shealladh/english/atlantic.shtml

20. http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/gaidhlig/sbg/

21. http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/cgi-bin/sbg

22. http://www.csis.ul.ie/focloir/

23. http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/gaidhlig/cognates/

24. http:///www.bbc.co.uk/alba/

25. http://www.pearl.arts.ed.ac.uk/SoSS/

26. http://www.tiriodh.ed.ac.uk/

Bilingual Spoken Dictionary Based on Speech

Synthesis in Breton

Nicolas Auclerc*, Alexandre Bramoullé**, Francis Favereau*, Hervé Gourmelon*, Pierre Lavanant*, François Louis***, Guy Mercier**, Jacques Siroux**

* Skol Vreizh, 20 rue de Kerscoff, 29600 Morlaix / Montroulez, France

** ENSSAT, laboratoire IRISA / LLI, 6 rue de Kerampont BP 447 22305 Lannion

*** TES 30, hent Brizeug 22015 Sant-Brieg Cedex, France

nicolas.auclerc@wanadoo.fr, abramoul@enssat.fr, francis.favereau@wanadoo.fr, herve.gourmelon@Thomcast.Thomson-csf.com, lavanant@adsl-nt.tamaris.tm.fr,

flouis@tes.c-si.fr, Guy.mercier@enssat.fr, Jacques.Siroux@enssat.fr


In this paper, research activities on Speech Synthesis in Breton and teaching tools based upon speech and software technology are described. The Text-To-Speech synthesis (T.T.S.) system is composed of two main modules: a linguistic processor and an acoustic processor using diphone concatenation; The bilingual (Breton / French) spoken dictionary is composed of indexes allowing the use of various word searching techniques. Pronunciation of words and sentences is obtained through Speech Synthesis. It is possible to type a text within another application, to access the word meaning and to run a spell-check.


In 1994, T.E.S. (Ti Embann ar Skolioù brezhonek, editor for Breton schools), I.R.I.S.A. (Institute of Research on Software Engineering and Random Systems), the universities of Rennes I and II and Skol Vreizh decided to work together to develop educational tools based on computer and speech technology. Since there was a lack of technical and linguistic resources, it was decided to go ahead step by step with limited but realistic objectives having the objective of producing simple educational tools within a reasonable period of time, in mind. The project presented here consists of:

Diphone synthesis for the Breton language

The T.T.S. system is made up of two main components: a linguistic processor and an acoustic one.

Linguistic processing

The aim of this module is to convert the input text into a sequence of phones and to specify the prosodic information automatically.

Pre-requisite linguistic studies

In order to perform such a task, a number of linguistic studies had to be carried out. The first step, concerning the text-to-phoneme translation, was done by Paskal An Intañv [1]. However, we had major difficulty trying to establish a realistic prosody model for the Breton language. No accurate linguistic study has been carried on that field to our knowledge. Therefore, we had to build a generic model based on statistic measurements on a small corpus of isolated words first, then phrases and sentences. This study also enabled the development team to determine typical durations for each of the phonemes of the vocal database, along with the typical fundamental frequency F0 suitable for the synthesis.

Letter - to - sound rules

About 400 letter - to - sound rules have been written for converting any Breton text into a sequence of phones [1]; these rules take each left and right orthographic context into account. Examples of rules are given here:

a ã / + gn, n, ñ, m;

this rule means that the letter "a " has to be pronounced as ã (a nasal vowel) when it is followed by one of the following letters: gn, n, ñ or m.

anv ã n o / + ioù, _; (the graphemic sequence "anv" is uttered like /ãno/ at the end of a word or when followed by the orthographic chain "ioù")

ai a i / + g, goù;

ai a j;

These rules are used in the spoken dictionary to obtain the phonetic transcription of any sentence related to the meanings of a given word. They are not applied to the dictionary entries.

Prosodic processing

This important part of a speech synthesis system involves the prediction of the duration of each phone of the phonetic sequence and, if relevant, the pitch specifications: locations and F0 values. The breton prosodic module is composed of three main components:

Acoustic processing

The objective of this acoustic processing is to create a speech signal from the prosodic - phonetic sequence as defined in the preceding section.

The Speech signal is generated by means of the diphone concatenation technique with the MBROLA (Multi Band Re-synthesis OverLap Add) synthesis system from the University of Mons [2]. Like with the TD - PSOLA technique (Time Domain Pitch Synchronous Overlap and Add [4]) the speech signal is built up by adding overlapping speech frames directly in the time domain. MBROLA is able to smooth spectral discontinuities arising at diphone junction points.

The diphone data base was built up after creating a text corpus, recording it and segmenting the corresponding speech signals. The first step was to establish a list of phones derived from the standard Breton phonemes inventory: it is composed of 11 oral vowels, 8 nasal vowels, 3 semi-vowels and 22 consonants; it is necessary to add 15 diphtongs to this set; that is a total of 60 phonemes; short vowels were distinguished from long vowels and the final set is composed of 80 phones; the corresponding list of Breton diphones was then obtained and a corpus of 3200 logatomes (meaningless artificial words) covering the 3200 Breton diphones was created. A set composed of the most frequent words and of short sentences was added to this corpus for further linguistic and prosodic studies. A female native speaker of central Brittany was recorded, uttering the items of this corpus.

The SNORRI software package [5] was used to segment and to label this speech data base and to extract the diphones; each diphone is characterised by its name, its duration (beginning, middle and end points) and by the related waveforms. This database was then sent to the University of Mons where it was re-synthesised and transformed in order to be used by the MBROLA synthesiser.

Vocal dictionary

The first application is a spoken Breton / French dictionary available on CDROM freely distributed to class-rooms and sold to other users. This dictionary contains about 35000 definitions on both sections and gives ability to navigate on both Breton and French lexical entries; it allows us to listen to diverse pronunciation variants of Breton words.

Word data

The original data was taken from a dictionary paper book [5], available on electronic form (MS Word  files); they were translated into the R.T.F. (Rich Text Format) format and then to HTML (Hyper Text Mark up Language) and parsed to obtain a lexical data base with logical distinction of both word definitions and elements within definitions. For each part (French or Breton) of the dictionary, an index of words was built up automatically by using scripts. Orthographic as well as phonetic variants found within the word definitions are included in this index; for instance two different lexical words EMGANNER and EMGANNOUR are extracted from the following concise entry:

EMGANNER, -OUR […] […] g. -ion b.1 batailleur, -se

Some abbreviations are related to phonetic variants like in the following example:

FUMañ,-iñ ['fymã, [-], [fymi] vb., s'irriter.

In this case, the phoneme [ã] of the first phonetic transcription must be replaced by the dialectal variant [ã]; but it is not easy to know to what part of the original pronunciation the phonetic variant must be linked. The typographic conventions commonly used in dictionary printing give us the ability to split definitions between several fields: Key field (the word itself), Grammatical Category, Phonetic of common pronunciations, French translation and unstructured text of definition.

Look up system

The searching of a word in the dictionary was formerly based on grep-style research involving regular expressions; finally that procedure was abandoned, due to the lack of efficiency of the algorithm. The look-up system is now based on a much more efficient tree research applied to a tree-like index built from the entries of the dictionary and their orthographic variations (mutations, plurals, and so on); it is characterised by the following properties:

This component has been implemented as an OCX component, which means that it may be used by other applications.

Word pronunciations

When a word is found in the index, its definition is displayed and its usual phonetic variants and stress marks are shown; they are displayed using the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbols. Each dialectal pronunciation can be heard by clicking on its phonetic transcription. For instance three dialectal phonetic variants are given for the word "kenavo" which means "good bye":

KENAVO+ var. KENAVEZO [kna'vo] , [cnvo], [ cn'vu] ... K-L estl. au revoir, parfois. Adieu

The speech signal is generated by synthesising this phonetic sequence. The prosody generator used in the dictionary works differently from the general sentence synthesiser, however: it does not use the letter-to-sound rules, but it directly uses the IPA phonetic description instead. Besides, it is not made up of three separate modules, but of only one module which splits the words into syllables and computes the durations and frequencies on the fly.

The major advantage with this approach is that the synthesiser does not rely on letter-to-phoneme rules, nor on other rules to determine the stress and intonation on the word: it directly uses the exact phonetic description given by the dictionary, including the stress marks. The major drawback is the impossibility of enhancing the prosody model in a simple way: the source code has to be modified, which may be a difficult task given the lack of modularity of the prosody generator.

Sentence pronunciations

This word pronunciation has been completed by the sentence pronunciation module. Sentences showing words in use are displayed on the interface within a specific frame and can be selected. In this case, the Text-to-Speech Synthesiser is set in motion to generate the speech signal of the selected text.


Since this vocal dictionary has been designed to be used mainly by children, the interface is as friendly as possible. Very simple graphic illustrations and animated video have been incorporated into the system; help facilities and several buttons allow the user to be familiarised with this tool very quickly, to deal with the abbreviations, to listen to specific sounds, to modify the duration of the synthesised speech, etc.


A first evaluation of the beta test product took place in 1998; a dozen teachers tested this version; the interface was modified and new functions were added like the possibility of typing in a French word and directly accessing its Breton translation, phonetic transcription and pronunciation. This is very helpful to people not familiar with the Breton language. The possibility of displaying the dialectal origin of each variant of pronunciation is another functionality to be integrated. The speech synthesis must also be improved at both level (segmental and supra-segmental).

The new organisation of the vocal dictionary

This dictionary has been reorganised like a Data Base in order to use specific tools related to Access:

Building up the new data base

An automatic procedure allows the new structure to be created and the HTML definitions to be exported towards the data base. For each section of the dictionary the word management is composed of two parts: spellings and definitions, each of them with a specific indexing approach.

The indexing of definitions is made up of 5 items: word name, list of relevant spelling forms, preceding definition number based on the alphabetical order, following definition number, personalization flag.

The index of the spelling variants is a tree-structured one with each node corresponding to a letter of the alphabet. With this kind of structure, the word search is very fast. In order to deal with the lack of accents, non relevant orthographic forms have been added. The searching of a word is characterised by the following possibilities: exact search, search with wildcards and approximate search.

Customising the dictionary

The user can customise the dictionary by adding new words, deleting added words, modifying existing words. Each new word can be edited and given a definition and spelling or phonetic variants can be added. For existing words, it is possible to modify their definition, to add new examples of use and to modify spelling and phonetic forms. This is done in a customised file and the original one is not altered by these modifications.

Word Processor and Spell - Checker

The newly created lookup system of the dictionary was implemented in an OCX component, easily re-useable in lots of Windows-based applications, and particularly in word processors. The idea is to use this research facility in the dictionary in order to read a text, and look up every word of the text in the dictionary, suggesting replacement words based on the list of the relevant spelling forms, when the searched entry is not found. It only takes a few hours to create a macro which performs this kind of process on a selected text in Microsoft Word97, for example, using Visual Basic for Applications.

Possible enhancements and future developments

The speech synthesis system

There are two phonetic/prosody synthesis systems working in parallel in the current dictionary application; one is purely based on text-to-speech rules, the other is based on the IPA phonetic descriptions listed in the dictionary. Our final goal is to merge both systems into one, using rules for the synthesis of sentences, but also using the phonetic descriptions of individual words, contained in the dictionary, as much as possible since rules always have exceptions. Considering the fact that these rules are not clearly defined in any detailed linguistic study, we also think that it might be interesting for a final user to add his/her own rules, depending on the targeted dialect; this would enable the research team to get the feedback from their users and to integrate new sets of rules.

The interface of the dictionary

With the re-organisation of the dictionary database, it should be easier to choose which fields of a record should be displayed in the interface. Some users may wish to have only one phonetic description corresponding to their dialect; other may not need all the examples mentioned in the record, and so on. It should be possible in the future to configure the interface so that only the desired fields be displayed.

Another interesting point would be the possibility of customising the dictionary, not only for the contents of the definitions, but also for the multimedia objects (pictures, sound, movies) to be associated with a given definition. Since it is difficult for our work-team to associate such an object with all the entries, we thought it interesting to leave it up to teachers, for instance, and to the imagination of the end-users. A special feature will be inserted into the editor to provide for this possibility.


[1] An Intanv P. (1994) War hent fonetikadur ar Brezhoneg / Sur les chemins de la phonétisation du Breton, mémoire de maîtrise, université de Rennes II.

[2] Dutoit T. (1997) An introduction to Text-To-Speech Synthesis, Kluwer Academic Publishers.

[3] Favereau F. (1993) Geriadur ar Brezhoneg a-vremañ, Brezhoneg / Galleg, Galleg / Brezhoneg, Skol Vreizh, Morlaix, 1993.

[4] Hamon C., Moulines E. & Charpentier F. (1989) A diphone synthesis system based on time domain prosodic modifications of speech, ICASSP, 1989: 248-251.

[5] Laprie Y. (1999) Snorri, a software for speech sciences, Method and Tool Innovation for Speech Science Education, UCL, London, 1999.

Journal Writing Revisited: A Follow-up Study in an Irish Language Class

Roslyn Blyn-LaDrew

Linguistics Department

619 Williams Hall

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305


jladrew@chesco.com Email

rblyn@sas.upenn.edu Email

610-942-8688 Tel

610-942-8688 Fax


This article analyses the results of journal-writing in Irish language classes in a university setting. Advantages and disadvantages of the project are weighed, concluding that it is an effective and stimulating supplement to other teaching methods but that it involves much extra commitment on the part of the teacher and extra participation on the part of the student. The article also discusses recent changes made from the original project as first assigned in 1994-95 to streamline its administration and assessment.


From puppet shows to harp demonstrations to robot dogs, from translations of haiku to translations of the sayings of the Delphic oracle, I would never have imagined the creative outpouring which has resulted from the journal writing segment of my first- and second-year Irish language classes at the University of Pennsylvania. While I expected brief prose passages about Thanksgiving dinners and summer vacations, with perhaps an occasional poem or dialogue, the multidimensional, artistic and thought-provoking projects inspired me to start videotaping them and these videotapes provide the material for this analysis.

A preliminary report on this was presented at NAACLT in 1995 and published in the first volume of the Journal of Celtic Language Learning as "Journal Writing as a Method of Student Motivation in Irish Language Class." Today's paper will discuss changes I have made in the project since its earliest versions, other class activities derived from it, and further thoughts on how to make this activity an even more efficient and fun way of learning and teaching.

Description of the Original and Current Projects

The original assignment was to write about 50 words weekly, describing scenes or activities or writing conversations, being sure to use some of the most recently covered grammar and vocabulary. Students could also use up to five new words per entry, to be listed below the passage with categories such as gender or declension. Specific suggestions were made on certain structures to avoid, those that would lead the student down complex avenues of sentence structure and word order. The last day of the semester would be devoted to oral presentations of an entry the student selected. The weekly written entries would be corrected, but not graded, and the oral presentation would be graded more on preparation and delivery than on unfamiliar grammar. Students were encouraged to experiment in small ways, knowing that unpredictable grammar errors would not count against them but that grammar already covered would be graded.

In most aspects, the project is the same as when first assigned, except for the following:

  1. Now students do two oral presentations per semester, not just one.

  1. First-year students start out with a non-journal presentation, "The Internet Presentation," to help them adjust to using the Irish language in public speaking. They must find a website pertaining to Ireland that uses at least one word in the Irish language, which they will then teach the class. The class knows these words will be included on quizzes and tests, and so there is incentive to pay attention and take notes. Typical vocabulary words chosen for this have been ceol, coláiste, and cláirseach. Students are not restricted to Internet research, but have consistently chosen this as a quick and favoured research method.

  1. Requirements have been made a little stricter, to limit the number of new vocabulary words used per entry and to ensure enough questions are asked by presenter and audience. Some enthusiastic students were using a dozen or more new words, leading to counterproductivity since that much new material in a short passage is bound to lead to mixed idioms, convoluted word order and poor application of the new vocabulary to the known rules.

  1. Students are encouraged to resubmit a previous journal with many corrections to ensure that the corrections will be applied (and understood). In the future, this will be a requirement.

  1. Initially the project started with five vocabulary words to be learned with each oral presentation, but as classes have gotten larger and as more different oral projects have been assigned, fewer vocabulary words from each seem appropriate.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Journal Writing

Advantages: The project presents both advantages and disadvantages to students and to the instructor, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Students seem to enjoy these projects very much, relaxing, using the language in a meaningful way, and learning both about Irish culture and about each other. After the first session of oral presentations, the class becomes closer as a small group, in the sociological sense as pioneered by Olmsted, and works together, providing mutual assistance in the mastery of difficult material and a very challenging language.

The journal presentations have also led to further similar projects which likewise combine L2 writing and speaking practice, cultural information, and an opportunity for students to somewhat personalise the class material. Specifically these projects have included a St. Bridget's Day presentation, a St. Patrick's Day presentation, and the latest addition, the surprisingly popular "parts of speech" presentation.

Students who may struggle with grammar, vocabulary retention, and listening comprehension, blossom when given the opportunity to say what they did on St. Patrick's Day or to describe the St. Bridget's Bread their grandmother used to make. Many foreign language teachers have observed that students often learn very well from each other, and along these lines, having different students responsible for defining and providing examples of prepositional phrases, vocative case usage, plural endings, or verbs in the past tense seems to make basic grammar, now considered almost taboo in language pedagogy, appealing and conquerable. For this project, the students prepare a handout with a definition of their topic, examples culled from the textbook, and questions which they will ask the class using the relevant features.

Disadvantages: The more freedom you give the students, the less control you have, both of the overall cultural content and message and in specifics (are grammar and vocabulary correctly presented? genders? declensions? consistency in verb tense? confusion with Scottish Gaelic or Hiberno-English?).

There are some logistical concerns. The one thing which I told them not to bring in to the sessions at the audio-visual center was any type of food or drink, since these were prohibited in all parts of the lab. Prior to that, some of my classes had included a soda bread competition, with a student vote and handmade award certificate in Irish for best soda bread, and other miniature feasts for which I had provided placards with the Irish names of the foods. Food is certainly a sure-fire way to stimulate interest in learning, but that was not an option here. One presentation which I would never have predicted caused momentary panic, at least for me as the instructor: the student brought in a brick of dried peat and calmly proceeded to pull out a barbecue lighter and lit the brick. The room quickly filled with the pungent peat smell and the student started to describe his trip to Ireland where he saw peat bogs and bought the souvenir. I immediately realised this might set alarms off and asked him to extinguish the brick, which he did. No alarms rang and we continued class in a vaguely aromatic setting that in fact might put one nicely in mind of sitting by a turf fire, hearing stories, conversation, or "craic." I was glad ours was the last class of the evening in that building.

I have been considering the idea of not having the students present a written text to the class, just the vocabulary words on a handout, but I am concerned that students would feel more limited in expression or in how much their classmates comprehend. Instead, I am encouraging students to write up their oral presentation earlier in the semester, so it can be corrected before distribution. Another incentive that I may introduce is to split apart the credit for this assignment so part of the credit is for a revised follow-up written handout that the student will distribute. For many students this is a much higher motivation than the abstract concept that their handout may contain errors.

Another way in which I think the projects could be made even more effective is to require more interactivity following each the presentation. Currently the students are required to ask each class member a question about their project. They can write the questions down but the questions are not supposed to be on the handouts. One of the most difficult barriers to break is the reluctance of the students in the audience to ask their own questions to the speaker. So far, I haven't made this an official requirement, but am considering it as a way to create more conversation and have more practice.

Ultimately, the more minutia in grading, the more likely you are to have all parts of a project completed and to have consistent participation. Of course, the more such minutia, the more work for the teacher, but it is certainly stimulating and rewarding for all involved!


Blyn, R. 1995. "Journal Writing as a Method of Student Motivation in Irish Language Class," Journal of Celtic Language Learning 1.

Connor, U., and R.B. Kaplan, eds. Writing Across Languages: Analysis of L2 Text. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.

Elbow, P. 1973. Writing Without Teachers. NY: Oxford Univ. Press

Gedeon, É. 1993. "Using Dialogue Journals to Develop Interactive Communicative Ability and Student-Teacher Rapport." Paper presented at the Hungarian Language Seminar, Penn Language Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa. March.

Harlig, J. 1993. "Using Dialogue Journals as a Lexical and Grammatical Diagnostic Tool." Paper presented at the Hungarian Language Seminar, Penn Language Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa. March.

Kramsch, C. 1993. "Proficiency Plus: The Next Step." Penn Language News 7 (Spring): 1, 3, 13-18.

Krashen, S. 1985. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Kroll, B., ed. 1990. Second Language Writing: Research Insights for the Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (The Cambridge Applied Linguistics Series).

Olmsted, M. S. 1959. The Small Group. NY: Random House.

Sullivan, N. and D. van Becker. 1982. Journal to Essay: A Sequential Program in Composition. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt.

Zamel, V. 1983. "The Composing Processes of Advanced ESL Students: Six Case Studies." TESOL Quarterly 17: 165-87.

The Breton Language : From Taboo to Recognition

Ronan Le Coadic

IUFM, Institut Universitaire de Formation des Maîtres, de Bretagne

1, rue Théodule Ribot

22022 Saint-Brieuc cedex 1

ronan.le-coadic@bretagne.iufm.fr Email

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/2209/ URL

+33 2 96 435706 Tel/Fax


Chom a ra ur seurt tabou war ar brezhoneg c'hoazh. 'Benn lemel 'nezhañ penn-da-benn 'vefe ret kas ur "politikerezh anavout" da benn : dav 'vefe d'ar Stad c'hall anaout ar brezhoneg, evel just ; met dav 'vefe ivez d'ar vrezhonegerien desket anavout ar vrezhonegerien a-vihanik. Etre an daou rummad tud-se zo pontoù da sevel.


In 1993, while doing a study among students from the public high-school of Landerneau (Finistère) on individual and family practice of the Breton language, I observed the following reactions. When I presented the theme of my study, many students could not help laughing, others blushed and only a few of the "best" students sitting in the front row remained calm, raising their hand to ask for further technical details. This was exactly the behavior that my junior high-school classmates and I had adopted twenty years ago while attending a class on sexual education… This awakened my curiosity. Might there be a link between the repression of the Breton language and the repression of sexuality ? Later in the 1990's, as I was carrying out semi-directive interviews on Breton identity, this premonition seemed to be confirmed by the lapsus or the embarrassment expressed by several of the adults being questioned. Some of them seemed to harbor a secret and deep-seeded discomfort regarding issues of language and identity. These questions evoked something dirty and immoral, perhaps even dangerous, which should be hidden at all cost. Was this not a taboo, or the remains of a taboo ? This is the hypothesis I shall be presenting here. As far as the Breton language is concerned, there remains a taboo. A policy of recognition is needed for such a taboo to be lifted once and for all.

The Taboo

"Taboo" is a Polynesian word meaning a prohibition system of a sacred nature applied to something impure. If one admits that we are indeed dealing with a taboo, then the "sacred" might well be the French Republic "one and undivided", which supposedly liberates individuals from community oppression and gives them access to modernity and to universality. That which is Breton would then be considered "impure", such as "tradition", which inhibits individuals and binds them to their social condition and to their ancestral territory. Finally the prohibition system would be mainly, but not only, enforced by the school system. During the entire first half of the century schools did indeed punish children who spoke Breton, and went so far as to set up a system encouraging them to tell on each other, thus giving them a humiliating image of themselves. Yet in the broader sense, the prohibition system is not limited only to schools. From the 19th century until the second World War, images of backward Bretons and of an insignificant and ridiculous Brittany were spread across France by way of literature1, popular writings, travel guides, comic books, songs, figurines, etc. The comic-book character, Becassine, a good-for-all maid "so stupid but so devoted"2, is a perfect illustration of the widespread image of Brittany as folkloric and ridiculous. As a result of all this, many generations of Bretons have harbored feelings of shame, even perhaps of self-loathing, leading them to repress their singularity - most notably the pleasure of practicing their mother tongue - as if these were inadmissible practices. Today this shame and self-hatred are far from having disappeared. They are latent among many Bretons, and especially present among those who felt particularly stigmatized for their language or their accents. Such is the case of Aline (a farmer born in 1960) who compares the Breton language to an infirmity.

Aline : When I was little in school it was almost shameful to live in an environment like we had at home. I mean, to have parents who always spoke to us in Breton (…) We felt this to be a defect. And we had to hide it. So we considered it a bit like an abscess that we shouldn't show. (…) In my opinion, that's what it's like. Like someone who has a lump on his back. It's a handicap3.

Helen, born in 1953 and married to a fisherman, describes how her accent represents the trauma of her life.

Helen : I'm a bit embarrassed because of my Breton accent. And ever since I was very small in school I was teased because of it. And that stayed with me until today. (…) I was embarrassed, really embarrassed, yes. (…) Even though at home I was forbidden to speak Breton. My parents always spoke Breton and forbade us to answer in Breton. Forbidden ! (…) My teachers often told me… Teasing me a little. They said : "But it's going to prevent you from finding work !" (…) Sometimes I'd say to myself : "Oh, if I could have lived somewhere else, if I could go away… " (…) I even cried about it for a while. Really. I was really affected ! (…) So when someone came to the house, like now, the way you just arrived, I would leave. I would go out of the house. I would go down to the river, over there4.

Despite these terrible examples, it seems that today the taboo is progressively being lifted.


The first sign that the taboo is being lifted is that for some time now one has been hearing much talk about the Breton language, especially in the press and in regional media. In fact so much so that a reporter at Ouest-France5 wrote : "As far as the Breton language is concerned, the less it is spoken, the more it is talked about"… Indeed, the rates of practice of the Breton language continue to decrease : from 75 % at the beginning of the century, they have gone down to 17 % in the 1990's (approximately 240 000 speakers). The taboo is being lifted because the Breton language presently poses much less of a threat to French unity. Nowadays there are no more monolingual native speakers of Breton, and the rate of practice is so low that the few remaining people who still consider the language to be a threat to the Republic appear to be waging an out of date battle. Presently, 88 % of those living in lower-Brittany think it "necessary to preserve the Breton language"6. The ambiguity lies in this notion of "preservation". Do we want to preserve traces of our linguistic heritage in the same way that we preserve totems in museums ? Or do we want to lift the implicit prohibition which still weighs upon many minds and encourage both popular practice of the Breton language and its transmission through the generations ?

Lifting the taboo would mean bringing Bretons to sincerely believe that expressing oneself in Breton is not shameful, and consequently, that they can pass on their language to their children. Today we are still far from having reached such a point. While young militants have struggled for recognition of the Breton language, for visibility within French society, and for the language to be taught in schools and used in the media, in practice they have not been followed by native speakers of the language. Members of the latter group (retired people, farmers, factory workers and artisans), are mostly over fifty years old, relatively uneducated and settled in rural areas. Their practice of the Breton language is endogamous. In other words, they only speak Breton with people who belong to the same milieu as themselves (family members, friends, neighbors), or sometimes with individuals whose age, accent, demeanor and behavior indicate that they belong to a similar social group. When a young person speaks Breton it disturbs their image of the world. Except perhaps in recent years, ever since media coverage of the Diwan7 schools has made them so popular. Nowadays, meeting a child who speaks Breton has entered the realm of possibilities for native speakers, but they still regard it as unreal and artificial. When this happens, the first thing they do is ask the parents whether the child attends a Diwan school. Then they attempt to exchange a few words in Breton with the child. But very rapidly they prefer to switch to French, considering that "they do not speak the same Breton" or that the child speaks "real Breton". As long as native speakers remain passive witnesses to the cultural revival, the rate of transmission of the language will remain close to zero8. For indeed, new speakers of Breton are too few to have any real impact on overall statistics. What can be done to reverse the tendency ? Here are a few suggestions.

First of all, it would be useful to admit that there is a taboo, or rather that it existed in the past and has left wounds which remain unhealed. In order to free native speakers from their embarrassment, one must act positively. Diwan has done this by creating a parallel school system. Any form of demand expressed through negative actions (violence, vandalism, etc.) is likely to "recharge" the taboo like a battery and to confront the native speakers once again with their negative identity.

Secondly, a policy of recognition should be developed. As Charles Taylor explains : "recognition is not simply a way of being polite to people, it is a vital human need"9. If such a policy is developed by the Republican State, which is still considered in some ways as sacred, it will have immediate effects. However, it is obvious that the State will enforce such a policy only if it is firmly encouraged to do so. The Breton militants have been expressing such encouragement for years now. I wish however to point out that a policy of recognition should not come only from the State, but it should begin with the promoters of the Breton language themselves.

Recognition begins with humility. All those who have worked at collecting idioms will agree to the following : each conversation with a native speaker offers treasures of unknown expressions and words, colorful images and wonderful proverbs to those who know how to listen. The wealth of those born with the Breton language is immeasurable. Yet it is not always easy for the young, urban, well-educated militants, often working in the academic and intellectual professions, to see that in the backwoods of the countryside, the most humble speakers remain the true kings of the Breton language. This, however, is the most important fact. Yet as long as native speakers do not value it and do not pass it on to their children, their wealth remains unproductive. This is why its value must be recognized.

In order to do this, one must first of all heighten the neo-Breton speakers' awareness of the fact that learning any language necessarily entails immersing oneself among native speakers. Too often do we forget this obvious fact. Yet the truth is that colloquial Breton is made up of a variety of dialects found mainly in rural areas. Moreover, as we mentioned earlier, it is not considered "natural" in such an environment to be speaking in Breton to a young person, especially if the youngster is from the city. In order to communicate with native speakers, young neo-Breton speakers will therefore have to overcome their elders' resistance. With this objective in mind, they will have to become familiar with those living in rural areas. This requires them to they learn three lessons : first, some notions of dialectology ; second, practical knowledge of a few of the social codes most in use among those living in a rural environment ; third, a capacity to reflect upon the meaning of their own practice and upon the kind of language they wish to use and to transmit. Once these basic lessons have been learned, different types of training may be proposed.

The fact that throughout Brittany one finds approximately 240 000 native speakers should make it possible to set up an organized network of internships among rural families, for the benefit of those adults who wish to learn the language. The impact of such a network would be great. It would improve the quality of the language learned by adults, while at the same time having a psychological impact upon the native speakers whose language would thus be given more recognition. This might eventually bring them to develop a desire to read and write in their language.

Indeed, almost all native speakers of Breton are illiterate in their native language. Teaching them how to read and write should be a priority. Yet, strangely enough, there are practically no such training for those whose mother tongue is Breton, even though when it is offered reactions are quite favorable.

In addition to this, a simple policy aimed at helping children learn good quality Breton could be set up in schools. Each child would be required to meet regularly with an "elderly friend" living in his or her neighborhood. Elderly people would no doubt be very happy to make such a contribution and to receive the visit of a child to whom they could pass on part of their linguistic heritage.

In order to carry out the above mentioned steps it would be very useful to develop teaching materials which combine the vernacular language and the more classical written language. Such efforts have already been made, and should be encouraged. Finally, one might create opportunities for Breton-speakers from the city and Breton-speakers from the countryside to meet with each other, by, for example, inviting native speakers to visit schools or language classes, or by sending schoolchildren and students to visit the homes of native-speakers. The ideal solution would be to set up several permanent meeting centers, offering various types of cultural activities, likely to attract both types of speakers and whose function would be to encourage regular exchanges.


Is the Breton language's present popularity merely a mean for cultural distraction or is it a sign of reproduction ? If the first hypothesis is true, rates of transmission among locals are likely to remain very low and the practice of Breton limited to a happy few. In this case, the language would likely become the cultural capital of a small community, similar to other present day minority groups who are sometimes at risk of living in a closed environment. The attempts at revival we are witnessing today might, as always in cases of endogamy, produce a strange fruit : a half-baked language made up of Breton or neo-Breton words and of French syntax and pronunciation.

In order for the natural reproduction of a living species to take place, two different partners must come together. As far as the Breton language is concerned, these two partners are the native speakers and the neo-Breton speakers.


1. For instance : Balzac, Les Chouans, Victor Hugo, Quatrevingt-treize and Flaubert, Par les champs et par les grèves.

2. Ory, Pascal, " La Bretagne dans la littérature enfantine et la bande dessinée ", in Balcou et Le Gallo (ed.), Histoire littéraire et culturelle de la Bretagne, Paris-Genève, Champion-Slatkine, 1987, t. 3, p. 373.

3. Le Coadic, Ronan, L'Identité bretonne, Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes and Terre de Brume, 1998, p. 197.

4. Idem, p. 187.

5. Ouest-France is a regional daily newspaper. It has the highest circulation of any French daily newspaper.

6. Results of a poll on the practice of Breton done on a sample of 2 500 people by the TMO Ouest Institute in March-April of 1997, for Le Télégramme and France 3 Ouest. Cf. Le Télégramme, April 12-13, 1997, last page.

7. The Diwan schools are cooperative schools in the Breton language, created in 1977. Their popularity has led to the creation of public and private catholic schools offering bilingual classes. 6 000 children are presently enrolled in the bilingual sections.

8. Laurent, Loeiz, " La connaissance du breton ", Octant, n° 56-57, 1993, pp. 7-12.

9. Taylor, Charles, Multiculturalisme. Différence et démocratie, Paris, Flammarion, 1994, p. 42.

To Secure an Anchor for Our Celtic Souls:

An Integrated Development Programme

for Manx Gaelic

Philip Gawne

Yn Greinneyder

Thie Vaddrell


Isle of Man

greinney@enterprise.net Email

+44 1624 834844 Tel


Over the past ten years there have been many significant developments in support of the Manx language. This paper attempts to identify the most important issues which will need to be addressed over the next 10 years.


In April 1998, I began work as 'Yn Greinneyder' (Manx Language Development Officer) for Manx National Heritage (MNH) and the Manx Heritage Foundation (MHF) the two main cultural/heritage organisations in the Isle of Man. The primary task I was given was to produce an Integrated Development Programme for Manx Gaelic incorporating the work of public, private and voluntary organisations. In writing this programme, I have built on two previous Manx Government reports - "Report of the Select Committee on the Greater Use of Manx Gaelic - 1984" and "The Future Development of the Manx Language - A report to Tynwald by the Department of Education (DoE) - 1995".

In considering the long term viability of our language two immediate areas for action are readily identifiable. We must improve and expand the facilities for teaching Manx, and we must do more to show the majority of people living in the Isle of Man that Manx is worthy of support. Education has perhaps the most important role to play in this regard, though Manx Gaelic can be used in Economic, Social and Political Development and in the Media, Arts and Cultural Development to help achieve these goals.

Why do we need Manx?

Perhaps the most important element I have had to address in the programme is the reason for bothering to support or develop a language which for much of the twentieth century was being declared dead by prominent linguists. I have endeavoured to do this by expanding on the cultural significance of Manx Gaelic and its related traditional culture.

Through cultural reconstruction the wide range of interests which make up contemporary Manx culture in Mann can be brought together to build and strengthen our sense of place, community and national identity, which have been considerably weakened over recent decades. If this reconstruction is not to be wholly artificial, it must draw heavily on our traditional, Manx Gaelic derived culture. I have used the themes of cultural reconstruction/development and sense of community and identity throughout the programme to reinforce my reasoning for development in the areas outlined below.

Government Support Structures for Manx

Manx Gaelic currently receives support from the Department of Education (DoE), MNH, MHF and the IOM Arts Council, however, the level of support remains modest when compared with support given to Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Irish. It is also true to say that Government support for Manx Gaelic is to some extent haphazard in its application and the few existing Departmental budgets for Manx Gaelic are far from secure.

If there is to be a successful expansion of provision of Manx Gaelic services, even to meet current demand, then there must be greater security in the support infrastructure for the language. To this end it is important that either a current Government agency or department, or a new Government body be established to take specific responsibility for the development and coordination of Government policy on Manx Gaelic together with the implementation of this policy.

I would envisage that this proposed body might include political representation through Tynwald members, representation from appropriate Government Departments, and, most importantly, representation from the voluntary organisations such as Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh (Manx Gaelic Society), Mooinjer Veggey (Manx Preschool Organisation) and Caarjyn ny Gaelgey (Friends of the Manx Gaelic). The body would have a similar function to the MHF in terms of providing grant aid to Manx Gaelic projects, as well as employing at least two full time development officers.

Of these officers, one would be responsible for administration, policy development and coordination of Manx Gaelic policy throughout Government. This officer would work with the DoE, MNH, MHF and other Manx Gaelic Governmental organisations providing support and advice as appropriate. The second officer would provide support for adult and preschool education (including resource development, promotion and administrative support) and would introduce and manage a suitable support structure for Manx Gaelic related cultural activities such as music, song, dance, folklore and literature (including Manx English).

To keep up with current grant aid to Manx Gaelic, the new body would need to have a grants budget of around £40-60,000. The officers would work closely with organisations which received aid to ensure effective use of the money was made and that different organisations were not working needlessly on the same subjects.


Department of Education - The DoE is currently providing a very effective programme for raising the profile of Manx and ensuring that a large proportion of children in Manx schools attend Manx lessons during their school years. The introduction of the Teisht Chadjin Ghaelgagh TCG and endeavours to introduce an 'A' level in Manx are crucially important in ensuring that Manx is taken seriously as an academic discipline. However, despite overwhelming pressure for more teachers for the Manx language team to ensure adequate provision throughout primary and secondary schools, only modest staffing increases have been forthcoming. Bearing in mind the high level of parental support for Manx in schools, it is essential that the IOM Government, through DoE, makes a commitment to ensuring that the teaching of Manx in Manx schools is given a higher priority.

While the current DoE programme is providing an invaluable service in terms of promotion and understanding of Manx Gaelic, it is unlikely that it will produce many, if any, fluent Manx speakers. Through the significant work of Mooinjer Veggey, a growing number of parents wish to send their children to a Manx medium primary unit, where their children would be taught through the medium of Manx Gaelic. A new organisation 'Parents for Gaelic Medium Education' has been lobbying the DoE for the establishment of such a unit with the parents of over 20 children committed to, or very interested in sending their children to a Manx Gaelic Medium Unit (MGMU).

In similar units in Scotland, children become fluent understanders of Gaelic in their first year in the unit and rapidly become competent speakers thereafter. The effect of just 10 years operation of a fairly small MGMU would be to yield up to 80 fluent Manx speaking children - at least 12 times the number of children who became fluent in the last 10 years.

Such children would be the teachers, writers, playgroup leaders, etc.. of the future and would ensure the long term survival of Manx. If we are to achieve this reproductively significant number of fluent Manx speaking children, then the DoE must support the establishment of this unit.

Mooinjer Veggey - Mooinjer Veggey currently operates at four different locations throughout the island, has over 60 children registered and employs 15 members of staff. Mooinjer Veggey shows clearly how Manx medium education is successful and has parental support, as well as demonstrating the potential economic and social development which can be achieved through Manx Gaelic based initiatives.

Mooinjer Veggey currently relies on very high levels of voluntary work from its committee and staff to ensure its success. Recent expansion of the group could lead to an undermining of Mooinjer Veggey's achievements so far, unless paid administrative and development workers are employed by the group. Mooinjer Veggey has been lucky to receive funding from MHF and DoE, however, this support is very small when compared with the funding available to similar groups in Scotland and Wales. Guaranteed funding for general preschool work as well as higher levels of specific Gaelic grants for preschool education is essential if Mooinjer Veggey is to achieve its full potential.

General - There remains considerable scope for development and expansion in the voluntary sector in terms of adult education. We desperately need more courses for teaching Manx, particularly intensive and immersion courses, and a centrally based comprehensive resource centre housing all currently available material would reduce the amount of time wasted in producing resources which already exist. Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh and/or Caarjyn ny Gaelgey must work in conjunction with Government agencies to ensure that these important issues are addressed.

Economic Development

In trying to win the argument for greater support and development of Manx Gaelic, the ways in which the language can be used to bring medium to long term economic benefits to Mann are of fundamental importance. Use of Manx in cultural tourism, the work of MNH, in business as a 'branding' tool, and the increasing need for adequate support services for education and fluent speakers (including publishing, broadcasting and IT) will generate new employment and small business opportunities.

Media, arts and culture

To understand the significance of Manx it must be clearly identified at the heart of our native culture. If people are to be drawn to Manx Gaelic it must be demonstrably an essential element of contemporary culture and artistic life in Mann. Language planners use the promotion and development of cultures associated with minority languages as an invaluable way of reestablishing links between communities and their disregarded languages. We will use similar methods to promote better access to, and understanding of Manx Gaelic through folklore, music, literature (including Manx-English) and the arts.

The use of Manx in broadcasting, publishing, festivals and other promotional events has been increasing in recent years. The second development officer, suggested earlier in this paper, would have responsibility for ensuring that the growth in these areas would continue, providing an improving service for fluent speakers and learners.

Social and Political Development

It is important that a greater understanding of the roles which Manx can play, socially and politically be promoted in the Isle of Man. Manx certainly can be, and indeed is already being, used as a branding tool both inside and outside the Isle of Man. For example it is harder for a monoglot English speaking offshore island with no culture to speak of to defend its semi-independent political status, than it is for an island with its own strong language, culture and heritage. While this is a fairly clear cut matter to the 'Gaelophile' it is perhaps the most difficult area to convince the cynic as the arguments are less clear cut and often more subjective than objective.

An example of this difficulty is shown by the following : a Manxman who argues strongly that he can be truly Manx without Manx Gaelic has as valid a case as another Manxman, or a new resident for that mater, who argues the opposite. There is no clear answer here as both are right in their own context, however, to many Manx residents (99.9% of respondents to my survey of Manx speakers and learners) the belief that Manx Gaelic is an essential part of Manx identity, is fundamental to their support of the language.

That said the potential roles for Manx in this area include continuing to strengthen community and political identity, building links with Celtic neighbours and other minority language regions in Europe and helping to build greater political, social and cultural awareness in Mann. This area builds on the work already being done by MNH to bring cohesion to our collective understanding of what the Isle of Man and its people are and where we have come from, as well as indicating how this can be used beneficially in the future.

Concluding remarks

The writing of this Integrated Development Programme has provided an opportunity to secure the future of Manx Gaelic whose declining fortunes are only just beginning to be reversed. An important theme throughout the programme is that the development of Manx Gaelic is not purely a linguistic matter, but a highly relevant, contemporary, cultural issue. I have not attempted to draw up a programme to restore the language to its ancient form, but rather tried to create the conditions which will nurture a vibrant, 'relevant' language which can be used for the social, political, cultural and economic benefit of the Isle of Man.

On Simplifying the Lexical Tagging of Cornish Texts

Ken George

Bosprenn, Keveral Lane,

Seaton, Torpoint,

Cornwall, G.B.

kjgeorge@plymouth.ac.uk Email

+44 1 752 232461 Tel

+44 1 752 232406 Fax


Work has begun on a new computer-aided analysis of the Cornish texts, using Kernewek Kemmyn as a standard comparison instead of Unified Cornish. Suffixed and mutated words need to be related to a head-word, but instead of tagging every such word, they are identified using the principles of relational data-bases; only homographs in the standard text need be tagged. Details of this labour-saving procedure are given.


In the discussion about the CELT project at XI-ICCS in Cork in 1999, the remark was made that metatextual grammatical tags had been added to scarcely any Celtic texts, because of the volume of work involved. The work may be prohibitively onerous for syntactic tagging, but for lexical tagging it is not. The labour may be much reduced, because there is no need to tag every mutated or suffixed word in a text. Instead, only the homographs need to be tagged, to differentiate them, and recourse may be had to the principles of relational databases to deal with the rest of the exercise.

Cornish was spoken traditionally as a vernacular until the end of the eighteenth century, and was revived in the twentieth century. The first computer-aided analysis of traditional Cornish texts was carried out by the present author (George, 1988), resulting in a large data-base, used primarily in order to study the phonological history of Cornish (George, 1984). Because the spelling of traditional Cornish was not fixed, it was helpful to have a standardized orthography to which the textual spellings could be related. Nance's Unified Cornish (1929) was used for this purpose; the analysis showed, however, that Unified Cornish could be improved (George, 1986), and a new orthography, known as Kernewek Kemmyn, was introduced to replace it.

The data-base was later used in the compilation of a new dictionary using Kernewek Kemmyn (George, 1993). In this dictionary, a tripartite authentication code was devised and given for each head-word. This included an indication of where and how often a given head-word was attested. It was the first time that such detailed information had been provided in a Cornish dictionary, and the idea received widespread acclaim. Nevertheless, the authentication codes were not always complete or correct, as pointed out by Edwards (1999). The relevant files have been edited in order to improve the authentication codes, in anticipation of a new edition of the dictionary. Rather than continue with this piecemeal approach, however, the time has come to carry out another detailed analysis of the texts.

Nessa Tremen - a new analysis of the Cornish texts

The new computer-aided analysis is known as Nessa Tremen 'Second Pass', the first pass being the analysis carried out in the early 1980s. George (1988) noted that "If the work were to be done again, it would be better to use a phonemic orthography as a comparison standard". Kernewek Kemmyn is not completely phonemic, but is much more so than Unified Cornish. Dunbar and George (1997, p. 11) described the idea of Nessa Tremen as "using an iterative technique to produce an ever more accurate solution".

Since the first analysis, computers have become much more powerful, large and common. Whereas it was previously necessary to process texts line by line, reading and writing data sequentially to work-files, it is now possible to read the entire extant corpus of traditional Cornish (< 2 MByte) into memory. A new suite of more efficient programs (in FORTRAN) is being developed to process the data. Another improvement is the more judicious arrangement of the texts into blocks; e.g. the Ordinalia are separated into their three separate plays, because they were written by different scribes.

In the texts, words are spelled in variable orthographies; they may show initial mutation; nouns may show plural or singular suffixes, and verbs may be conjugated. In a dictionary, words are in a fixed orthography, and words with suffixes, if shown at all, are attached to a head-word. A key aspect of Nessa Tremen is the reduction of the words in traditional Cornish texts to a form suitable for publication in a dictionary. The process may be divided into three steps, from level 5 to level 2 in the following table:



determine the morphology

2 HEAD-WORDS kemmeres 'to take'

split into head-word and suffixes

3 UNMUTATED TEXT kemmeras 'he/she/it took'

remove initial mutations

4 STANDARD TEXT gemmeras

put the word into Kernewek Kemmyn

  1. ORIGINAL TEXT gemeras, gemerays,

gomeras, etc.

Although there are no plans at present to go above level 2 in Nessa Tremen, it would be possible to go one stage further, and split words into their constituent morphemes (level 1).

Original text

Andrew Hawke kindly provided the author with computer-readable forms of most of the Cornish texts in their original spelling. After completing the corpus, reference numbers were added to all the lines (about 18000 of them). As an example, the following is the opening stanza of Beunans Meriasek, written by Radulphus Ton in 1504, with a literal translation into English appended.

BM.0001 me yw gylwys duk bryten / I am called the Duke of Brittany,

BM.0002 ha seuys a goys ryel / and risen from royal blood,

BM.0003 ha war an gwlascur cheften / and a ruler in the kingdom,

BM.0004 nessa 3en myterne vhell / second to the high king,

BM.0005 kyng conany / King Conan;

BM.0006 aye lynneth purwyr y thof / I am very truly of his lineage,

BM.0007 gwarthevyas war gvyls ha dof / master over wild and tame,

BM.0008 doutis yn mysk arly3y / feared among lords.

Standard text in Kernewek Kemmyn

The first problem is that the orthography is not fixed. This is not obvious from the eight lines shown here, but becomes so on reading a larger sample; e.g. for 'to the', Ton sometimes wrote 3en (as here), and at other times then. Each word therefore needs to be referred in the first instance to the equivalent word in a standardized orthography. A double file was therefore made of each block of text, with the original text (level 5) on the left and the standard text in Kernewek Kemmyn (level 4) on the right. At the time of writing, not all blocks have yet been finished. The author is indebted to Keith Syed for making available versions of texts in Kernewek Kemmyn.

BM.0001 me yw gylwys duk bryten / My yw gelwys Dug Breten,

BM.0002 ha seuys a goys ryel / ha sevys a woes ryal,

BM.0003 ha war an gwlascur cheften / ha war an wlaskor chyften;

BM.0004 nessa 3en myterne vhell / nessa dhe'n myghtern ughel

BM.0005 kyng conany / King Konani:

BM.0006 aye lynneth pur~wyr y+th~of / a'y linyeth pur wir yth ov,

BM.0007 gwarthevyas war gvyls ha dof / gwarthevyas war wyls ha dov,

BM.0008 doutis yn mysk arly3y / doutys yn mysk arlydhi.

Since the division of words is not always the same in both versions, the original text has been marked so as to correspond to the text in Kernewek Kemmyn. The marker ~ is used to split a word, and the marker + is used to join two words. Thus the three words purwyr y thof is re-written as pur~wyr y+th~of, so that the division and number of words corresponds to the four words pur wir yth ov in the standard text. The other modification made at this stage is to remove all punctuation and most capitalization from the standard text, giving the following:

BM.0001 me yw gylwys duk bryten / my yw gelwys dug Breten

BM.0002 ha seuys a goys ryel / ha sevys a woes ryal

BM.0003 ha war an gwlascur cheften / ha war an wlaskor chyften

BM.0004 nessa 3en myterne vhell / nessa dhe'n myghtern ughel

BM.0005 kyng conany / king Konani

BM.0006 aye lynneth pur~wyr y+th~of / a'y linyeth pur wir yth ov

BM.0007 gwarthevyas war gvyls ha dof / gwarthevyas war wyls ha dov

BM.0008 doutis yn mysk arly3y / doutys yn mysk arlydhi

Direct lexical tagging

Direct lexical tagging would involve adding markers or tags to all words in the standard text which are not in the form of a head-word, to reduce them from level 4 to level 2. This process might produce a text like the following:

BM.0001 my bos>S13 gelwel>PP dug Breten

BM.0002 ha sevel>PP a{of} 2<goes ryal

BM.0003 ha war an 2<gwlaskor chyften

BM.0004 nes>CP dhe'n myghtern ughel

BM.0005 %king Konani

BM.0006 a'y{of his} linyeth pur wyr yth bos>S11

BM.0007 gwarthevyas war 2gwyls ha dov

BM.0008 doutya>PP yn mysk arloedh>PL

Here words with suffixes have been replaced by the appropriate head-word, followed by the symbol > and a code to denote the form of the suffix; words with initial mutation have been replaced by the root form, preceded by a number indication the type of mutation and the symbol <; and homographs have been distinguished by putting the English meaning after the word in curly brackets. In addition, the word king has been marked by the symbol %, denoting an unassimilated English word.

The more efficient alternative to direct lexical tagging

It is clear that to add lexical tags like these to the whole corpus would be a time-consuming task. Fortunately, there is no need to go down this road. The alternative, which involves much less labour, is to tag just the homographs. When these tags are included, the stanza becomes:

BM.0001  me yw gylwys duk bryten /              my yw gelwys dug breten                      BM.0002  ha seuys a goys ryel /                 ha sevys a7 woes ryal                        
BM.0003  ha war an gwlascur cheften /           ha war an wlaskor chyften                    
BM.0004  nessa 3en myterne vhell /              nessa dhe'n myghtern ughel                   
BM.0005  kyng conany /                          %king konani                                 
BM.0006  aye lynneth pur~wyr y+th~of /          a'y2 linyeth pur wir yth ov                  
BM.0007  gwarthevyas war gvyls ha dof /         gwarthevyas war wyls ha dov                  
BM.0008  doutis yn mysk arly3y /                doutys yn mysk arlydhi                       

The only two words which have been tagged are a and a'y. Cornish has several words spelled a, here distinguished by numerical tags: a0 'O' (vocative, causing lenition); a1 'ah' (no mutation); a2 (verbal particle); a4 'if' (causing provection); a6 'goes'; a7 'of'. The phrase a'y can mean 'of his' or 'of her', these being distinguished respectively by the numerical tags 2 and 3 (because these are the numbers referring to the mutations which they provoke).

In order to relate level 4 to level 2, it is necessary to set up a file which lists every different word at level 4. For this file unmutated and mutated forms (e.g. penn 'head', its lenited form benn and its spirantized form fenn) are listed separately. The file is known, rather prescriptively, as LAW.TXT (i.e. List of Allowable Words). The following small extract includes the word gelwys 'called', which appears in the stanza from Beunans Meriasek.

   2   gelmi           hm               2kelmi
   7   gelwel          H    VN           gelwel          ***
   1   gelwes          d    73  OM.2774  gelwel             
   2   gelwir          d    18           gelwel             
   1   gelwis1         d    31  RD.0271  gelwel             
   1   gelwis3         d    33  BM.4428  gelwel
  27   gelwys          H    AJ           gelwys          ***
   7   gemmer          dm   13          2kemmeres           
   1   gemmera'        dmv  11  OM.1208 2kemmeres           
   6   gemmeras        dm   33          2kemmeres           
   1   gemmerav        dm   11  OM.1234 2kemmeres           
   9   gemmeres        hm               2kemmeres           

The present state of the file is by no means definitive, since not all of the corpus has been processed. The extract does, however, give an indication of the methodology used. The columns represent, from left to right:

e.g. H = head-word, hm = mutated head-word, d = derivative, v = variant;

e.g. VN = verbal noun, AJ = adjective, 11 = 1st person singular present indicative

2 = lenition, 3 = spirantization, 4 = provection, 5 = mixed (as in text-books); here

<g-> represents lenited /k-/ as well as /g-/.

In this small extract, the following are noteworthy:

There is no need to tag every occurrence of each suffixed word; instead, the referencing of such words to the relevant head-word is done in the file LAW.TXT. For instance, instead of separately tagging the six instances of gemmeras, the referencing of this word to its head-form kemmeres is done once and once only. This idea, which is used in relational data-bases, saves work. Should it be nevertheless be desired to append lexical tags to each suffixed word, then software could be written to do this by machine.


A new computer-aided analysis of the Cornish texts, known as Nessa Tremen, will use Kernewek Kemmyn as a standard orthography for comparison. In relating individual words in the texts to the appropriate head-forms in a dictionary, it will not be necessary to add lexical tags to every mutated or suffixed word. Instead, the principle of relational data-bases is used, with purpose-written programs. This reduces the work-load considerably.


Dunbar, P. and George, K.J. (1997) Kernewek Kemmyn - Cornish for the twenty-first century. Cornish Language Board, Saltash.

Edwards, R. (1999) Notennow Kernewek. Notes on the Cornish texts published by Kernewek dre Lyther, Sutton Coldfield.

George, K.J. (1984) The phonological history of Cornish. Unpublished thesis for Doctorat du Troisième Cycle, University of Western Brittany, Brest.

George, K.J. (1986) The pronunciation and spelling of Revived Cornish. Cornish Language Board, Saltash.

George, K.J. (1988) 'The use of a mainframe computer to analyse the orthography of traditional Cornish'. Proc. 1st North American Congress of Celtic Studies, pp. 89­115.

George, K.J. (1993) Gerlyver Kernewek Kemmyn ­ An Gerlyver Meur. (a major Cornish ­ English dictionary) Cornish Language Board, Saltash.

Nance, R.M. (1929) Cornish for all. James Lanham, St Ives.

Welsh Intensive Language Learning Centres

Geraint Wyn Jones

Powys, Ffordd Hwfa,

Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2BN

Canolfan Bedwyr, Aethwy, Ffordd y Coleg,

Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2DG.

eds01e@bangor.ac.uk Email

+44 1248 382495 Tel

+44 1248 383292 Fax


There has been much controversy about Intensive Language Learning Centres over the past twenty years. Whilst they have fallen out of favour in England, they have continued to receive support in many areas of Wales. This short article explores the reasons for this apparent success.

During the nineteen sixties and seventies Intensive Language Learning Centres were set up in English conurbations (Coventry, Bradford, etc.) to meet the challenges posed by an influx of new in-migrants. The Language Centre was therefore the most common provision encountered by the Bullock Commission (1975). Bullock, himself believed that no ordinary school was equipped to meet the challenge - specialist language teaching being crucial to ensure success. Language acquisition was too important to be left to chance.

The report however conceded that there were weaknesses. For example, pupils could lose both academic and social contact with their ordinary day school and a retreat could be unsettling for in-migrant children. The same concerns were voiced in a Welsh Language context. For example, in a hitherto unpublished survey of parental opinion, the fact ëthat all primary schools donít have their own Welsh Language' was often regretted. And whilst conceding that attending a Centre could be a holiday for some, for others 'it was rather unsettling to have so many changes of school in quick succession...í. But to the more pragmatic, although 'ideally... the centre should be local', ... 'that would be impossibleí. Bullock was also concerned about methodology fearing a disparity between the Centres and mainstream teaching. The work of the centre could appear to occur ëin complete isolation from the childís school, and ... his other teachers, including his head, may be unaware of what he is learning and of the methods used to teach himí. Other facets to the same problem were continuation and progression which are especially crucial in the field of language learning. The alternative view is that 'special language teaching is unnecessaryí, and 'that the children will pick up English' without much assistance.

Bullock's (1975) final conclusion was a compromise - an 'arrangement ... where the immigrant children [we]re not cut off from the social and educational life of a normal schoolí (t. 289) but given linguistic assistance and support by specialist teachers. It was an arrangement that quickly found favour in the light of experience. Over time, specialist teachers drifted from the Centres to ordinary schools - to sit in on classes, analyse pupil needs, and strengthen the provision. This undoubtedly was their role in the Swann Report: Education for All (1985). The CRE Report: Teaching English as a Second Language (1986), also argued strongly for integration and against any concentration in Language Centres. Not only did it believe the arrangement to be uneducational but surmised that it might even be transgressing the Race Relations Act (1976).

But having such ideals and realising them are two different things. For example, in the Survey of the Teaching of English as a Second Language, (DES,1988) it was observed that the Swann ideal ëwas rarely observed in practice and demanded careful planning and organisation, genuine co-operation and frequent review and evaluation to be effectiveí. Even where first and second language learners were taught together, with a language specialist available to provide guidance and support, ëadvice on ways of providing this support in the classroom remain[ed] vague at national and local levelsí (Bilingual Pupils Project : NFER 1985/88). But despite such failings Intensive Language Centres were replaced in England by mainstream provision.

Several factors underpin and explain the English position. Firstly, the second language being taught in the Centres was the majority language. It was also being learnt within an additive context. Secondly, the target language pupils were rarely acquainted with the learners mother tongue and could not therefore offer assistance when conversations lapsed. Thirdly, the schools under review were mostly urban with a staffing capacity that could assimilate specialist language staff. In a converse situation, such as Wales, it is easy to understand the attraction of the Language Centres. The context is subtractive, the target language pupils can speak the learner's mother tongue, and the schools are mostly rural with a staffing shortage. In such a context in-migrants would have a much more significant impact on the teaching situation. The following teacher comment captures the mood:

Already many of our country schools, as a result of the in-migration, have been turned into English-medium schools. By now the threat has come to the most Welsh areas of the county ... and there is great danger that these areas will also deteriorate ... The headmasters foresee that things can only get worse during the next few years with more and more non-Welsh speakers moving into their districts.

It was in such circumstances that the Welsh Intensive Language Centres of Wales (Canolfan[nau] Iaith) were established. The first of these was established in 1984 at Caernarfon 'on the pattern of similar Centres ... on mainland Europe' (Gwynedd Report, 1989). But nowhere is the exact model adequately identified. Other centres followed, scattered throughout Wales, for similar reasons. The system briefly works in the following way. When in-migrants first visit a school, both pupil and parents are interviewed by the school's headmaster. Their attention is immediately drawn to the language of the school, the working language being Welsh in many areas. The pupil is then offered a free intensive language course in order to be able to participate. Each centre (in the main an adjunct to an ordinary school) is normally staffed by two language specialists, and has a teacher/pupil ratio of 10/12:1. Their task is to teach the pupils enough language, in ten weeks, to enable them to join the Welsh-medium mainstream of ordinary schools. Attendance at each centre is entirely voluntary. During his/her stay at the Centre, to maintain contact, the pupil will periodically visit the future mainstream school. Contrary to the English experience, the Language Centres of Wales have retained their widespread support. The remainder of the article explores why this is so.

In a study, conducted during the nineties, the Centres were found on the whole to be highly efficient and the attitudes of both teachers, pupils and parents towards them favourable. Teachers maintained that

'The Centres have been a blessing that cannot be over-emphasised especially in the small schools. Since they were established I don't get any English speaking kids in my school. What I get are new children from London and Birmingham who can speak quite good Welsh. Without the Centres I doubt whether I would have the time to give them enough attention ...'

The same attitude was often echoed in the parental and pupil responses:

'It has already been of advantage in our small Welsh-speaking community'. 'My child now employs Welsh as a medium of communication with local children'. 'I can see only a positive result from the experience. It appears easier for them to communicate and understand what is said at local events, e.g. plays, pantos , etc.' 'I feel that my children will benefit from knowing Welsh as we are living in a very Welsh community' (parents). 'Mr X kept on making us laugh and things like that ...í; ëit was good ... the teachers ... playing games and things ...; ëThe way they taught Welsh it was easy to understand and it was enjoyable ...í; 'It was brilliant' (pupils).

Another contributor to the success was the learning atmosphere. Charles A. Curran (Blair:1982) found that all learners considered language learning to be intimidating, describing their ëcomplex personal involvementsí in ëcounselling interviewí terms. The most common problems were: a feeling of ëpersonal threatí; anxiety, ëpersonal confusioní and ëemotional conflictsí; a feeling of insecurity and inadequacy; a feeling of frustration; a feeling of not belonging; and boredom. Constant efforts were made in the Centres to minimise such 'problems'. The chief instrument of any success was the language teacher. It was he/she who ensured that the teaching conditions were right. All manner of strategies were used to allay pupil fears, the aim, at all times, being to create a relaxing classroom atmosphere:

The first thing I do during the first week is to ensure that they like it here ... that they donít come here because they are learning Welsh. They come here because they like it here.

Parental comments again provide corroborative evidence. According to one, the centres thrived, because the pupils felt so much ëat homeí, whilst the fact that the learning regularly occurred ëin a non-threatening way' was cited by another. Yet another thanked the teachers ëfor their sympathetic... approachí. The pupils again endorsed the parental view, stressing the fact that they got much ëmore attention in learning Welshí. The centre was also ëfriendlier than an ordinary schoolí. One pupil thought that her centre was:

More peaceful than where Iíve come from, itís lovely ... From the word go I thought, this is going to be a lovely school ... Iíd love to stay here. Itís a lovely school, and we have nice teachers, and I like it.

The main ingredient seemed to be the warm teacher/pupil relationship, the essence of which is summarised in the following statements:

We have to be big kids donít we, because when these children go back to their own schools we hope that they will be able to play in Welsh in the school yard and be able to live their life fully in Welsh. And if that is the case they want someone to practise on don't they?

The relationship is a close one. They are allowed to say ëYouíre old', 'you're silly', 'youíre ugly' to us and after about four weeks some sometimes tend to go over the top. But, we are willing to suffer because they receive so much benefit from it.

In other responses, the teacher is sometimes compared to a ësisterí, or a ëmotherí and, at other times, to a research 'companion' or ëfriendí. This inevitably affects the nature of the experience, leading to much less conscious learning than occurred in the past. In the words of one teacher; ëA mother never tells a child - ìnow weíre going to learnî, she merely lets the learning happen naturallyí.

The pupils were also individually linguistically engaged, teachers knowing when to be tolerant and when to be demanding:

When a child is dying to tell me something - being ill or hurt - he will use his first language naturally. Iím not the kind of person who insists, when someone has broken his arm that he informs me in Welsh!

Pupils were often urged into expression with the words ëtry to say it againí. But the basis of the relationship was the praise that each endeavour elicited -ëvery goodí; ëexcellentí; ëcleverí; ëthank you very muchí - and the smiles that greeted all manner of communicative attempts.

The relationship was also manifest in gentle teasing that was a daily leavening occurrence in the Canolfannau Iaith. It was referred to by one teacher as:

... teasing and joking all day every day, from the minute they come here for the first time to the time they go to the taxis on the last day of term, and the kids love it because they are the centre of attention in such activities, they are the important ones.

Teasing was even used when monitoring language. Teacher attitudes to the mother tongue are obviously crucial and can profoundly affect the pupil/teacher relationship. The perennial dilemma is condensed in the following statements:

I donít want to speak too much English with them ... or they will expect me to speak English with them all the time.

Some teachers think that they are kind to the children when they speak English to them ... but theyíre not.

The extremes are over and underuse of the mother tongue and the consequence of both (according to the centres) is usually failure. In the former the second language is seldom used ; in the latter the pupils are often linguistically overwhelmed. Neither is it easy to strike a balance between the extremes, the aim being to be quite firm but not overbearing. This, in essence, was the policy in the language centres. Early on, English was often used as an explanatory tool but, even then, the activities were conducted in the second tongue. The first tongue was only used when all else failed. The extent to which it was used depended entirely on such factors as - the nature of the children, their background, linguistic abilities, nature of the work, etc. As time went on, proceedings would increasingly occur in the second language, being eventually jointly monitored by pupils and teachers , the former sometimes even mimicking teacher admonitions. In a different atmosphere such conduct could very easily produce negative results.

Joviality is not a feature that is easily time tabled its spontaneous nature being conveyed by the following event. One wet day, the children of a centre stayed in to play. But during the break they were seen to be eavesdropping on adult conversation. This was used by the language teachers for their own ends. They started talking willy nilly about imaginary friends whilst at the same time asking the pupils to cease eavesdropping! In the ëstoryí one of the teachers was having a relationship with a superstore girl whose antics on a daily basis became more colourful. One day she had soundly punched a bully at work, and bitten an astonished co-worker on another occasion - the linguistic boundaries being extended in the wake of the tales. In the words of one teacher ëWhen you come to think about it, we learn a great deal of our language whilst listening to talk. The attraction of listening to the forbidden was an added incentive'.

Such banter also performed another role. Cummins (1981) divides language learning into (i) the Basic Interpersonal Communicative Stage (BICS) and (ii) that of acquiring Cognitive/Academic Language Proficiency (CALP). Both stages are equally important and essentially sequential. Rushing through BICS can serve to weaken our grasp on CALP; over-concentrating on CALP can weaken our interpersonal communicative skills. The results are learners who are often uncomfortable in both. The Welsh Centres believed they could be developed simultaneously the competencies being 'evolving, dynamic, interacting and intricate' (Baker: 1996). The result was a much fuller and more balanced linguistic product.

Another facet of the learning atmosphere was the language support - which was to be seen within the classrooms in many guises. Faced with doubt, the learner inevitably turns to his mother tongue. He will only avoid such a course if given a lifeline. This was why the Centres taught - the incidental language of the class, the language of enquiry, the language of problem solving, - What is the Welsh word for ...? How do you say ... in Welsh? May I have a rubber, Miss? May I go the the toilet, etc. The aim was to ensure that the first language did not unduly impinge on the learning atmosphere.

Classroom walls were also decked with supportive material: charts; strips containing the main constructions in daily use (May I ...?; Excuse me ...; I donít know how to ...; Will you help me? How do you say ...?; How do you spell ...?; Iíve finished, etc.); the basic vocabulary of various fields (clothes; colours; the body; time - dayís of the week, the months of the year, the weather; the key words of a theme, etc.) and a variety of songs. Early in the ëcourseí, eyes would frequently scan the room for visual assistance, but as time progressed, the walls began to be merely a means of display.

Support could also be offered by curricular choice. For example, the first unit of many programmes was a visit to the Zoo, primarily because the context was rich in cognates. The situation was chosen ë because much of the vocabulary is already familiar to the children, i.e. similar to English. It will therefore be possible to focus on learning the structuresí. Many centres also extensively made use of sport, because it ëlends itself, like science, to repetition and the patterning of languageí. At times too a taught structure would be underpinned with actions or 'experienceí.

The main strength of the Centres was the balance that was kept between freedom and licence. There was also a balance to be seen between stimulation and support. The sensitive nature of the interaction is exemplified below. The words in bold are the meanings being taught by the Welsh language teacher (T). ëPí is used to denote pupil contributions:

T: Look at these counters. I call these ëglasí (blue), not glass as in the

windows, but ëglaaaasí.

P: Glaaas.

T: Letís see, these are ëmelyní (yellow) ones (taking them out one by

one) melyn, melyn, melyn, etc. Are you helping me?

P: melyn, melyn, melyn, etc.

T: (Pointing to other counters) What do I call them?

P: Orange.

T: Ie (yes), oren (orange). Oren, oren, helpwch fi (help me).

P: Oren, oren, oren, etc.

T: Which ones am I going to start with?

P: Melyn.

T: (Counting the yellow ones, and placing them on the table.

Drawing attention to the numbers on the wall) Un ...(one)

P: Un.

T: Dau (two).

P: Dau.

T: You can say it better then me. Bendigedig! (wonderful).

(puts another one on the table): tri, (three) the same sound as


P: Tri

T: Faint, is - how many? Faint? (taking one away).

P: Dau

T: Faint? (taking two off).

P: Un.

T: Faint (putting two counters back)

P: Tri.

Using the yellow counters, the teacher then introduced the numbers up to nine:

T: ëNawí (nine) is a special figure. If you add another ëmelyní to it,

it becomes a ëglasí one. So ëglasí is ëdegí ten.

Two columns were then created on the table, a blue counter being placed in one, yellow counters in the other. In this way the pupils were taught the numbers eleven, twelve, etc. The teacher then briskly continued until he reached a hundred. The word for hundred was then taught and two hundred, three hundred, etc. By now there were three columns. Three dices were now being thrown to get combinations one of which was the number 632.

T: What are you going to call that now?

P: Chwech cant tri deg a dau...

(One dice was accidentally dropped on the floor).

P: O, bechod! (O,what a shame).

The next step was to lessen dependence on the mother tongue, by providing them with an activity with which they could cope. It developed into a lively pupil/teacher competition. There followed a competition between the pupils themselves. The aim of the game was to obtain the highest number which they could correctly name. What is of interest is that the teacher, although introducing mathematical concepts, seized upon every second language opportunity, stepping back into the first language only when there was no other choice.

The use of the second language was quite deliberate based on an acceptable but clearly defined pupil/teacher relationship. It was never an arbitrary sop to the language learner. Its basis was the notion that the teacher is the embodiment of the second language (ëWhen they deal with us and when we are engaged in an activity with them, the language is Welshí), and the knowledge that help would be forthcoming should a problem occur. It should also be stressed that as the 'lesson' progressed the learning increasingly occurred in the second language. The same could also be said in relation to the term.

The main ingredients of success may be summarised as follows - a non-threatening learning atmosphere; the setting of clear, attainable targets; clarity of presentation; sensitive teacher support; engaging and interesting activities. But as always they are better captured in a pupil response: ëThe way they taught Welsh it was easy to understand and it was enjoyable ... and each day you knew a little bit more Welsh and you could sort of measure your progress ...í

Developing a Welsh Terminology Dictionary

J. P. M. Jones

Centre for Welsh Terminology,

University of Wales, Bangor

j.p.m.jones@bangor.ac.uk Email

www.bangor.ac.uk URL

+44 1248 382955 Tel

+44 1248 383990 Fax


This paper describes the background and principles used in the development of the Welsh language Y Termiadur Ysgol (School Terminology Dictionary). Linguistic and computational issues are discussed and the way in which objective criteria were used to resolve some problems are analyzed.


In 1998 Y Termiadur Ysgol (Prys and Jones) was published by the Qualifications, Curriculum, and Assessment Authority for Wales (the statutory curriculum authority in Wales and usually referred to by its Welsh acronym: ACCAC). Y Termiadur Ysgol is a Welsh>English and English>Welsh terminological dictionary covering all school subjects and it includes about 35000 entries in both languages. These are the terms that are recommended by ACCAC for use in the classroom and for classroom resources and assessment materials.

Technical dictionaries to support Welsh medium teaching have been produced for many years (Prys, Jones, and ap Emlyn 1995); these have been published principally by the University of Wales Press and by the Welsh Joint Education Committee. In 1964 there was a significant publication Geiriadur Termau (Williams Jac L (ed)) and until recently that has been the only comprehensive technical dictionary. More recently The Welsh Academy English-Welsh Dictionary (Griffiths B, Jones D G, 1995) was published and this is an invaluable resource, providing wide-ranging translations of words and phrases. Nevertheless the need to standardize technical terminology, in particular to serve Welsh medium education, was identified. This article describes how that was done at the Centre for Welsh Terminology at the University of Wales, Bangor.

The need for standardization

Continuing developments

The Geiriadur Termau was published in 1964 and many other technical dictionaries were published more than 15 years ago, since that time there have been extensive developments in science and technology (in particular in Information and Communications Technology) and this has led to an increasing need for new terms. Also Welsh medium education has developed, not only in the extent and breadth of the subjects taught, but also subjects are taught to a higher level in schools and colleges. This too has meant an increasing demand for standardized terminology.

Inconsistencies in terminology

Developments in Welsh technical terminology and in the vocabulary of Languages for Special Purposes (LSP) in the past have taken place in a somewhat haphazard manner. Different bodies developed terminology for their own subjects without due regard to developments in cognate disciplines. For example two words were in common use for pressure: these were gwasgedd and pwysedd. Both terms are acceptable conceptually and linguistically but many teachers felt that requiring pupils to use two separate labels for the same concept in different contexts (namely physics and meteorology) was unacceptable.

There were also inconsistencies in orthography. Dr Bruce Griffiths, the principal editor of The Welsh Academy English-Welsh Dictionary in a lecture to the National Eisteddfod (Griffiths, B 195) stated the many terminology lists were 'alive with mistakes of orthography and gender'. The rules of Welsh orthography are well established (Lewis 1987, Thomas P W 1996, Thorne 1993) but problems arose with neologisms and, in particular, with borrowings from other languages. This led to copper sulphate having many versions in Welsh depending on whether copr or copor, sylffad, sylffat, swlffad ... were used.

The lack of objective criteria

Most of the terminology lists had been developed on an ad hoc basis. Sometimes they were produced by individuals and sometimes by groups of people. The individuals and the groups had specific subject expertise and linguistic expertise but they tended to operate without objective criteria. By now there are international criteria (see below) that can be used as a basis for terminology.

Languages for special purposes

Although Welsh is well provided with general dictionaries, in particular Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru and The Welsh Academy English-Welsh Dictionary neither gives detailed and accurate technical definitions which can be used by subject specialists.

Lack of Welsh>English terminological dictionaries

With the exception of Geiriadur Termau (Williams J L, 1973) most of the terminology dictionaries were English>Welsh only. This happened because most of the users, such as teachers in schools, had received their subject specific education in English and wanted to know what the Welsh versions were of terms, which were already familiar to them in English. However with the development of Welsh medium education the demand for Welsh>English dictionaries was also growing.

Modern terminology in Wales

Two policy decisions were made in the Centre for Welsh Terminology at the University of Wales, Bangor about the way in which the work would proceed. These were:

Using Objective Criteria

The terminology criteria published by the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) have been used as a basis for the work. Two documents in particular have proved invaluable: Principles and methods of terminology (ISO 704: 1987 (E)) and Terminology work - harmonization of concepts and terms (ISO 860: 1996(E)). The main criteria are that a term should:

Aspects of some of these criteria are discussed below.

Linguistic correctness

There were two principal areas of work: orthography, and morphology. It was decided that Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (University of Wales Dictionary) would be used as the standard for orthography. This in turn uses the rules set out in Orgraff yr Iaith Gymraeg (1987). However the first parts of Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru were published in 1950 and the work is as yet unfinished; consequently many of the technical words and neologisms, which have entered the language during the last 50 years, do not appear in the dictionary. The editor and staff of Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru were always ready to advise us when there were problems. Some illustrations of the type of problems we encountered are described below.

Welsh spelling is generally phonetic and reflects the sound of the word more than its derivation. This can lead to problems with words borrowed from other languages, particularly Latin based and Greek based words borrowed through English. For example the English word cytology has been rendered in Welsh as cytoleg and seitoleg. The pronunciation of the second spelling is more readily recognisable aurally because c in Welsh is pronounced [k], whereas the first spelling is more readily recognised visually. This has been discussed by Hughes (1985) and Williams (1985). In general it was decided to use a spelling (and pronunciation), which reflects the commonly recognised English (and other widely used languages) spelling. However when a word is commonly used in everyday speech its pronunciation, and consequently its spelling is usually influenced by the English spelling rather than by the derivation and no attempt was made to change this usage; examples include meicroffon (=microphone), bronceitus (=bronchitis).

The Welsh alphabet does not include the letters k, q, v, x, and z. Nevertheless some published terminology lists contained Welsh words, which included these letters. These were usually scientific terms such as kilogram which translated into Welsh as kilogram. The rationale for this was that the international representation kg should reflect the spelling. This was based on the misconception that the representations were abbreviations whereas the guidance given by the Conference internationale du poids et mesures indicates clearly that representations such as kg ar symbols and not abbreviations (McGlashan 1971, Metrication Board 1977). For this reason the Welsh spelling cilogram was used; similar considerations were used to determine the spelling of chemical elements such as crypton and fanadiwm. (Prys and Jones, 1994).

Other grammatical issues, such as those relating to gender and plurals, needed to be resolved. There is always conflict about what is correct or acceptable, some authorities will decree according to conservative and traditional criteria while others take a more tolerant and liberal view. The recent grammar Gramadeg y Gymraeg (Thomas P W, 1996) describes a 'liberal standardized' form of written Welsh and this was used as a guide to our work.

Welsh and English use plurals in different ways. A tent exhibition and an exhibition of tents in English both convey the same meaning. However in Welsh arddangosfa pabell and arddangosfa pebyll convey different meanings, pabell is singular and pebyll is plural so arddangosfa pabell (= exhibition [of] tent ) implies that there is only one tent to be seen. So the translation magnetomedr proton (for proton magnetometer) has been rejected in favour of magnetomedr protonau using the plural form protonau rather than the singular proton.

Welsh nouns have two gender classes called masculine and feminine. In some instances the gender will vary with dialect, in which case both forms are accepted. This can on occasions lead to problems with compound noun phrases. For example the noun diweddeb ( = cadence) can be either masculine or feminine. The gender of a noun affects the initial consonant mutation of a modifying adjective. So when diweddeb is combined with perffaith (= perfect) and diweddeb is treated as a masculine noun one gets diweddeb perffaith, but if it is treated as feminine one gets diweddeb berffaith. Listing all these varieties of noun phrases was impractical so an arbitrary decision was made to choose one of the forms while making it clear that both are acceptable. In some instances the noun's gender indicates its meaning so de (masculine) = south, and de (feminine) = right (side).

Plurals of nouns are formed from the singular in a variety of ways (Thorne, 1993, Thomas P W, 1996); these include the addition or elimination of endings, internal vowel changes and combinations of these. For this reason it was decided that plurals would be shown fully in the dictionary. Some polysemous singular nouns have different plural forms, for example llwyth (= load) forms the plural llwythi (= loads), whereas llwyth (= tribe) gives llwythau (= tribes).

Productive forms

The well-established Welsh word for television is teledu. But if native speakers are asked for the Welsh equivalent of televisions or to televise they will have a problem and offer suggestions such as setiau teledu ( = television sets) and darlledu (= broadcast). The word teledu is not productive of other forms. The reason is probably associated with its ending in -u; this is normally a verb-noun ending and such words do not normally form plurals. The criterion that a word should be productive was used to choose between some synonymous forms. Both egni and ynni can be used to translate energy, but it is easier to form an adjective (egnïol) and a verb-noun (egnïo) from egni rather than from ynni. Thus in a technical context egni is preferred, though ynni is perfectly acceptable in a non-technical context.

Monosemous terms and disambiguation

The fundamental principle used to standardize terminology was that the term should reflect the concept rather than reflecting the English words used to describe the concept. There are two terms used in Welsh for database, these are bas data and cronfa ddata. Bas data is a word by word rendering of the English and does little to convey the meaning whereas cronfa ddata ( = reservoir of data) is more expressive and was adopted.

Termau bioleg, cemeg a gwyddor gwlad (Hughes, 1982) distinguishes between two meanings of the word salt. For the everyday meaning of common salt (chemically: sodium chloride) the word halen is used; but the word halwyn was designated to mean salt (= a substance formed when a metal displaces hydrogen from an acid). Similar considerations apply to the translations of the word pole. Pegwn is a well-established word used in geographical and metaphorical contexts, but the word pôl was also used at times and in some contexts. It was decided to retain pôl in a scientific context to refer to electrical and magnetic phenomena; this was done to allow concepts to be distinguished and because pôl is more productive of forms corresponding to dipole, quadrupole, polarized etc.

The terms for speed and velocity required some attention. In everyday language speed and acceleration are synonymous, but in the context of physics they are carefully distinguished. Speed is a scalar quantity (i.e. it is a measure of magnitude only) whereas velocity is a vector quantity (it is a measure of both magnitude and direction). Acceleration is also a vector quantity and is related mathematically to velocity. In order to reflect this mathematical relationship the related words cyflymder and cyflymiad were used for velocity and acceleration and the somewhat uncommon word buanedd was designated to mean speed. However in everyday speech cyflymder is used to mean speed and teachers and pupils were confused as to whether it was 'correct' to use cyflymder to mean speed. This problem was resolved by stating that the accepted translation of speed in general context is cyflymder, but if it is necessary to distinguish scalars and vectors then buanedd should be used. Similar issues relating the words used to translate melt and dissolve had to be resolved.

Computer based terminology

A database structure was developed which includes separate fields for the English term, the Welsh term, grammatical information, short disambiguators in both languages, and other information such as source and notes. The structure conforms to the evolving international standards for terminological databases. From the database it has been possible to produce Welsh > English and English > Welsh lists.

A major issue with the Welsh > English list was the alphabetical sorting. The Welsh alphabet uses the digraphs ch dd ff ng ll ph rh th as single letters. The digraph ch comes in between c and d and ng comes between g an h; consequently the correct alphabetical order for the following words is cath, ci, chwaer, deg. Similar considerations apply when the digraphs occur in the middle of words so the correct order for the following words is: agos, angel, ail, anaf. The situation with ng and rh is made more complex because in some words they are digraphs and in other words they represent n+g or r+h. A computer program was written to allow the output from the database to be sorted according to the usual conventions of the Welsh alphabet. As there are no simple algorithms that can be used to distinguish between ng and n+g or rh and r+h, words including these combinations had to be listed in the sorting program.

The use of a database has also made it possible to make the resources available electronically; this has been described in more detail in another paper to this conference. (Prys and Morgan , 2000).


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Griffiths, Bruce; a Jones, Dafydd Glyn Geiriadur yr Academi University of Wales Press, Cardiff 1995 0-7083-1186-5

Hughes, R Elwyn (ed) Termau bioleg, cemeg, gwyddor gwlad, Cyd-bwyllgor Addysg Cymru, Cardiff 1982

ISO 704 Principles and methods of terminology, International Organization for Standardization, Geneva 1987

ISO 860 Terminology work - harmonization of concepts and terms, International Organization for Standardization, Geneva 1996

Lewis, Ceri W (ed) Orgraff yr iaith Gymraeg - rhan 2: geirfa, University of Wales Press, Cardiff 1987 0-7083-0917-8

McGlashan SI Units, The Chemical Society 1971

Metrication Board How to write metric: a style guide for teaching and using SI units, HMSO, London 1977 0-11-700867-2

Prys, D Planet Gender and sex in Welsh nouns, 1997 112

Prys, D; Morgan, M E-celtic language tools to be published 2000

Prys, Delyth a Jones, Prys Morgan Matholwg 7 Sawl 'c' sydd yn kilo?, 1994

Prys, Delyth; Jones, J P M; ap Emlyn, Hedd Llyfryddiaeth geiriaduron termau, Canolfan Safoni Termau, Bangor 1995 0-904567-42-7

Thomas, Peter Wynn Gramadeg y Gymraeg, University of Wales Press, Cardiff 1996 0-7083-1357-4

Thorne, David A A comprehensive Welsh grammar, Blackwell, Oxford 1993 0-631-16407-3

Williams, B Y Gymraeg mewn addysg uwchradd Termau ar gyfer dysgu gwyddoniaeth trwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg, Canolfan Addysg Ddwyieithog ac Addysg Iaith, Aberystwyth 1983

Williams, Jac L (ed) Geiriadur termau, University of Wales Press, Cardiff 1973 0-7083-0518-0

Manx Gaelic: Chengey-ny-Mayrey Ellan Vannin -

A Language on the Edge

Phil Kelly

Rheynn Cullyn,

Skylley Maayl,


kelly@enterprise.net Email

http://homepages.enterprise.net/kelly/ URL

+44 1624 878640 Tel


Manx Gaelic is most often described as "the extinct or former language of the Isle of Man." Whilst it is true that the language has been pushed to the edge, Manx speakers are now determined to show the world that it has not jumped or fallen, but on the contrary, it is fighting back as a modern, living and vigorous tongue that remains the language of choice for many. However, the help and expertise of other Celtic countries is required to speed up the process.

Beyond the Edge

"Manx Gaelic passed into oblivion as a native spoken language on the 24th December 1974 with the death of Edward Maddrell, the last reputed native speaker of the language. With him an Indo-European language disappeared, the first this century, one branch less on the tree." (1)

Such chilling words are commonplace reading for speakers of Manx Gaelic. They have heard the death knell for the language being continually sounded, not only in recent times, but also for many generations past. Today, the tolling of the bell persists in a variety of forms but mainly through a general misrepresentation of the state of the language in dictionaries, encyclopaedia, journals, reference works and even, as in the above example, on the Internet. All portray the same dark and dismal picture of Manx Gaelic - the stench of decline, decay and corruption is all-pervasive.

However, Manx speakers are not unduly surprised by this interpretation of the state of their language, indeed, they are inured to it, for the Manx language has had high profile detractors from early times. In a letter to John Wesley, the preacher George Holder expressed the desire to publish a Manx Hymn Book. In reply, Wesley wrote to him in November 1789:

"I exceedingly disapprove of your publishing anything in the Manx language. On the contrary, we should do everything in our power to abolish it from the earth, and to persuade every member of our Society to learn and talk English." (2)

Again in 1853 an observer was apparently content to report in a guidebook describing the Island's language in the following manner:

"The Manks is now only spoken in the north-western parishes and at a few localities along the western coast, though, with few exceptions, the natives are able to converse in the English language. The services in the parish churches are given alternately in the Manks and English languages, though the Manks is not taught in any of the parochial schools; and it is very probable that in the course of the next generation it will become utterly extinct, like many other of the early languages, before the masterly refinement and progress of the Anglo-Saxon race." (3)

It cannot, unfortunately, be asserted that all such assaults on the language were from careless or uninformed outsiders, as the homegrown sentiments of Edward Callow in 1899 clearly demonstrate, the attacks came also from within:

"Unlike the Welsh people, they (the Manx) have had the good sense to see the advantages of bringing up their children to use the English tongue, and only English is taught in the schools." (4)

Such then was, and to a lesser extent still is, the poor perception of the Manx language, that even less than a decade ago, one member of the Manx Government thought it proper, when appearing on a United Kingdom television channel, to expound his personal views regarding the proposal for teaching of the Manx language in schools in the following terms:

"There are more important priorities such as pre-school training, such as the serious development of modern languages, for example Spanish. I find this (the teaching of Manx) to be a somewhat costly indulgence." (5)

Typically, for him, as for many in the Isle of Man, the understanding of the language's worth was to be evaluated in purely monetary terms. His comments demonstrated not only a total lack of comprehension of the national and international significance of the Manx language culturally, but also served as an indictment of the paucity of his own values and perceptions whereby any language other than Manx appeared to have some intrinsic usefulness. These sentiments, although totally misdirected, are still a cause both for great sadness and annoyance to Manx speakers, in that they know such assertions to be entirely inaccurate and misleading. If the language can be portrayed so negatively at home, in what light do we expect the rest of the world to perceive it?

In many ways that same spirit of self-deprecation is not yet dead. Every ensuing generation unfailingly brings forth its harbingers of doom. They are prepared to disparage, denigrate and belittle, not only the efforts of those determined to promote a positive attitude towards learning the language, but the very language itself. Such a detrimental self perception should come as no surprise to Manx speakers, and although largely confined to a certain age group and mind set, such an attitude has been an undeniable hindrance to the favourable development of the language in general.

On the Edge

That the Manx language has been to the edge and looked over, is amply demonstrated by the census returns showing the numbers of speakers during the twentieth century.
1901 4,4191911 2,3821921 8961931 5311941 --- no census1951 3551961 1651971 2841981 --- no language question on census1991 634

By the 1960s the outlook for the language was certainly dire, but by the 1970s a sea change in attitudes had occurred which has resulted in a steady increase in interest over the following thirty years. Such has been the rate of change that a leading article in a local newspaper was able to report the following:

"A gradual but significant change in the political climate has resulted in a new initiative designed to ensure the survival, and hopefully revival, of the Manx language. For too long the political will necessary for the proper promotion of the language simply did not exist. Manx was regarded as a cultural hobby, as quaint and pointless as folk dancing, with little relevance to the modern world. Gaelic may not be much of a tourist attraction, but without it Manx heritage has no heart. It is the most complex, distinctive and unique feature of that heritage." (6)

It seems likely that the next census will show an increase to approximately one thousand speakers, even if the number of schoolchildren who have been learning Manx since 1992 is disregarded.

Retreat from the Edge

The main initiative taken in response to the change of public and political attitude was the creation of the Manx Language Unit as part of the Isle of Man Department of Education. This was established in 1992 with the aim of introducing the teaching of Manx within the Island's schools, and is supported by central government funds.

Bearing in mind that these objectives were to be met initially with a team consisting only of a Manx Language Officer and two peripatetic schoolteachers, the scale of the task can be envisaged. However, vigorous efforts have been made to raise the profile of the language, particularly outside Mann. In the last year alone, members of the Manx Language Unit have had introductions to the U.K. Ministers of Education for both Scotland and Northern Ireland, and recently the Minister of Education for the Republic of Ireland. In addition members have visited, and formed useful contacts and ongoing links with Gaelic speakers in Skye, Belfast and Dublin. A liaison has also been formed with the island of Jersey, which is currently undertaking a similar language programme to Mann within its schools. In September 1999 the establishment of the Manx Language Unit was increased to a Manx Language Officer and three peripatetic teachers.

Recent Information and Communications Technology initiatives within the Island's schools have focused the need for the provision of readily accessible Manx material in electronic form. It is the Isle of Man Department of Education's stated aim "to prepare pupils for life in an information age and to enhance the process of teaching and learning." In order to achieve this the department will: -

It is self evident that if Manx is to increase, let alone maintain, its position and status within the school curriculum, it must be able to create and deliver modern attractive computer programs providing material of relevance and quality. It is important that Manx material should be equal to, if not better than, that which is now readily available for foreign language teaching. Technology has brought the hope that some of the expectations can be substantially fulfilled, but of course the use of technology is not without its own problems when only a small number of people are involved in its production and operation. To date the application of computer technology to Manx language teaching has been utilised in the following areas;

All the above are now a reality but remain very much in their infancy, as the production of suitable teaching material falls upon the same limited number of activists working for the maintenance of the language. Although geographically central in the Celtic speaking world, Manx unquestionably remains a language on the edge in a number of other ways.

Regrettably, Manx still remains on the periphery of many projects and initiatives from which it could undoubtedly benefit. It is often, understandably, overlooked because of the comparatively insignificant number of speakers and, hitherto, small voice. I would, therefore, appeal to all those presently working assiduously for the advancement of their own languages to consider if, in some way, their ideas and efforts could be shared and made available to their smaller relations. Much has already been achieved for Manx through the generosity of contacts in the other Gaelic speaking countries and also America, who have provided computer expertise including the processing and the hosting of data. Particular mention should be given to Caoimhín Ó Donnaíle at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and John T. McCranie at the University of California for their help and encouragement for Manx on the Internet.

The recently launched "Eurolang", a project of the European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages, is a welcome new development in such partnerships; "The objectives of Eurolang are to supply national and regional media with news of general interest about Europe's linguistic diversity. It concentrates on minority and regional language matters and news from European Institutions which affect the minority communities of Europe." Unfortunately, Mann's political position, being outside of the EU, has for the present time left Manx once more on the edge and unable to participate - yet another example of a missed opportunity for us in Mann to share and cooperate.

Projects that may be considered worthy of joint production through cooperation between Gaelic speaking countries might include: -

Describing Manx as a Language on the Edge may seem to be reinforcing the very arguments of the pessimists previously quoted. However, I believe that the language is now "on the edge" in another and more constructive sense. Manx in the twenty-first century is undoubtedly on the edge of a significant breakthrough in numbers, status and utilisation and there is every reason to have great optimism for the future of the language. We may still take comfort from the words and observations of an old Manx fisherman, conversing with George Borrow on the 23rd of August 1855, but which nonetheless, still ring true down the years:

"I said that I believed there were a great many Manx people ashamed to speak Manx, and that in a little time it would be discontinued; he said, No Manxman need be ashamed of speaking the language of his country, and that Manx would be spoken as long as Man floated."

Fortunately, it is not only the Island itself that has remained buoyant over the years but also the hopes and aspirations of an ever increasing number of Manx speakers. Their enthusiasm and drive has ensured not only a retreat from the edge, but a positive move for Manx back towards the centre of the Celtic speaking world.


(1) http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/~stephen/manxgaelicwww.html .

(2) Proceedings 6.1.26, Mannin 9.516.

(3) Kerruish's Guide to the Isle of Man.

(4) From King Orry to Queen Victoria, Edward Callow 1899.

(5) David Corlett M.H.K. B.B.C. Television.

(6) Stadtler Waldorf, I.O.M. Examiner, June 1991.

Imagination in the Teaching of Cornish

Neil Kennedy

Falmouth College of Arts,

Tremough, Penryn,

Cornwall TR10 9EZ

Tregenza Vean, Antron Hill,

Mabe, Penryn,

Cornwall TR10 9HH

neil@falmouth.ac.uk Email

+44 1326 375362 Tel

+44 1326 370437 Fax


The teaching of Cornish to adults is becoming more professional as student numbers grow, but much depends on amateur activity. This article warns against over-reliance on the established technical-rationality of language teaching and calls for imaginative responses which acknowledge tacit understanding, indeterminacy and the importance of professional artistry. It also calls for an appeal to the aesthetic qualities of Cornish, rather than a vain quest for functional motives or calls to nationalistic duty.


Everyone's teaching practice is unique. Individual personalities, approaches and styles create differences even when factors, such as the curriculum and environment are the same. As a teacher of Cornish, uniqueness applies to most of what I do. In promoting a language with few speakers, I am removed from vocational and functional concerns, indulging in an activity which many regard as pointless or eccentric, the irrational antithesis of the modernist notion of progress. Cornish is now taught in varied contexts but most of us work in relative isolation, often outside educational institutions with few colleagues or off-the-shelf resources and no imposed curriculum. We operate without a ready-made framework and there is little by way of an established body of experience to draw upon. There are few opportunities to swap ideas and no ready-made corpus of teaching strategies or accepted wisdom. There is often no prescribed set of competencies that learners work towards. These circumstances are both a blessing and a curse. They give freedom from imposed constraints and preconceptions and allow negotiation of the learning process. We can set our own agenda, aims and objectives. The down-side is that teachers are reliant on their imagination, and that of learners, to devise resources and strategies. Imagination and creativity determine success. That's fine when it is 'coming up with the goods' and there is time to apply ideas, but on occasions sessions stagnate for want of a fresh input.

New opportunities

These are exciting times. There is renewed interest in the local and a growing acceptance of difference as something enriching - or at least a fact of life. Liberal assimilationism is being questioned and plurality championed.

'[T]he conditions of postmodernity offer new opportunities… In the rediscovered emphasis on the 'local', the 'particular' and the 'unique', a space may be being created for the Cornish language that did not exist in conditions of modernity.' [Deacon B., 1996: 103]

If postmodernity permits a multiplicity of views, values and perspectives, and if postmodernism rejects notions of uniformity, then this is certainly the case.

'Metessen, en norveaz crownick'ma, nye ra cavas preze noweth en amyttians an cowethians plurel; Metessen, en leasder e gowethians moye comprehendes, na veath comeres gon gonesegath ha gon deffrangow en disdayne, ha en luddras'na nye alga trouvia vor tha voaz clowes gon leav.'

(Perhaps, in this global world, we will find a new opportunity in the acceptance of the plural society. Perhaps, in the breadth of its more inclusive society, our culture and our differences will not be derided and in that framework we could find a way for our voice to be heard.)

[Kennedy N., 1997]

Doors are opening. Small spaces for Cornish are being created within institutions which once excluded it. Heightened interest in identity, coupled with globalization and improved technologies, has strengthened links with our diaspora, making it possible for migrants and their descendents to keep in contact with an imagined home and participate in its life without being present. Technologies which might be viewed as the instruments of a homogenizing cultural imperialism are, paradoxically, helping to maintain distinctiveness, facilitating the growth of a Cornish 'affective alliance' globally. People in Australia's Little Cornwall or Michigan's U.P. can actively take part, contributing as well as benefiting.

Imagination is at play in the construction of identity, the reinvigoration of diasporic links and the visualization of the language itself. It seems appropriate to consider the rôle of imagination, and the linked factor of artistry, in teaching. Imagination is a vast and polysemous category, but for my purposes, common understandings of the productive, creative imagination are adequate. They cover the areas of dream, fancy, fantasy, creative thought and conjecture.

Representing Cornish

The decision to learn Cornish requires an imaginative element of fancy. Learners visualize a world where it is possible to use Cornish in all situations, extending it from the closeted domain of the organized event, to the shop, pub and work-place. Whilst Gerald Priestland, from a position of ignorance, has described the revival as 'rather like putting a corpse on a heart-lung machine and claiming it is alive' [1980], some enthusiasts speak as though their fully Cornish-speaking community is already a reality, claiming that new vocabulary is 'naturally generated amongst Cornish speakers, just as in English' [Lyon 1996]. Here imagination merges with self-delusion but Ken George, whilst asserting that Cornish is alive, sensibly points out that:

'[R]evivalists must not get so carried away that they forget that Cornish is not in all 'respects like other tongues.....this argument [the 'natural' generation of vocabulary] is less valid for Cornish than for a major language like English or French' [George K.J., 1986]

Against this background, the way in which we present language has great impact, as recognized by Bev Newman of WEA South Wales:

'The imagery associated with many of the minority languages ...can cause young adults to reject them entirely as being an historical extension of what they are already experiencing in the present...Languages must be presented socially and in educational settings in such a way that they are shown to be relevant to modern life.' [Newman B., 1996]

Creativity must be employed in countering negative, received images of the language as variously:- quaint, twee and druidic (the preserve of robed bards of the Gorsedd), insular and exclusive (a refuge for the inward-looking), extreme and dangerous (likely to lead to conflict), dead and academic (for historians and linguists), eccentric and comic (for the loonies). Whilst the language, as a powerful symbol of distinctiveness, lies at the heart of various overlapping constructions of identity, the inheritance of imagery from the early 'Celtic Revival' (c.1890-1945) is at odds with a popular Cornishness based on past industrialization and occupational cultures. Such 'Celtic' images, many of them imported from the Gaelic Ireland Movement, still distance people from the language. The early revival is now understood as a romantic reaction to the 'great paralysis' [Payton P., 1992] of Cornish industry which sought escape from the perceived horrors of modernity by looking to a rhetoricized, pre-industrial, 'Celtic' past. Its leaders were typically middle class, often anglicized and Anglo-catholic with establishment credentials and Tory sympathies. They were informed by prevalent English imaginings of the 'Celts' as mysterious, romantic providers of otherness and had no real notion of Cornish becoming a community language. By contrast, present-day learners are invariably motivated by feelings of economic, political and cultural marginalization and their sense of Cornishness is likely to be based on the constructions of the industrial age: accent, mining, rugby, diet, choirs, bands, emigration, Methodism and egalitarianism. Learners are increasingly drawn from the poorer sections of the community, have anti-establishment views and are sceptical about authority. Their engagement may be seen as reclaiming a language which has been misappropriated by 18th century antiquarians, romantic Celtophiles and academics. Thus, the current growth of a popular, grass-roots movement represents a significant discontinuity with the early revival and can best be fostered by linking it to lived Cornish experience and employing positive imagery to create a 'cool' aura of cultural value.


Although the revival began c.1890, its expansion dates from the 1970s and the move towards professionalism from the 1990s. We are operating in a new area with no technical rationality other than that of language teaching in general. Whilst theories of learning, language acquisition and group dynamics are useful, we are forced to deal with situations as they arise, encountering problems with no ready-made answers. I am, for example, faced with a group which has reached a plateau of achievement beyond which it seems unable to proceed. The precise situation is new and I am finding it difficult to think my way out of the impasse. Discussion with my students and other teachers has failed to show a way forward and there is no Penguin Guide to Teaching Cornish that I can refer to. In such situations I often fall back on intuition rather than theory and much of the progress made stems from a mixture of 'feel', imagination and inspiration, led by an identification of learning needs.

Donald Schön contrasts the safe 'high ground' of technical rationality and research-fed, professional knowledge with the less certain areas of problem-solving which he calls the 'swamp' [1987] Within the swamp he maintains that 'indeterminate features of practice' are at work: - artistry, intuition, improvisation, invention and 'testing in practice'. This would seem to characterize the confused area into which I have ventured, an unexplored zone which has no hard rock other than the language. I am forced to improvise and invent strategies which I immediately test. Schön refers to 'an art of problem framing, an art of implementation, and an art of improvisation -all necessary to mediate the use in practice of applied science and technique.' [ibid.] These arts assume a rôle which greatly overshadows the application of theoretical or technical knowledge, and imagination, frequently of a disciplined variety, informs them.

Schön has described how the academic status of individuals and areas of activity are related to their proximity to basic science and technical knowledge, showing how this leads practitioners to seek research-based, technical knowledge and apply it. We need not worry; Cornish has such low status that there is little to lose by wading into Schöen's swamp. Even so, Revived Cornish (what is taught, rather than how) is the subject of intense debate, conducted within the limits of scientific/empirical linguistics and modernist assumptions. The wisdom of this has been questioned by Deacon:

'..the language debate must move beyond the scientific discourse and open up the debate to such things as speculation, reflection, intuition and feelings. Such knowledge should be admitted as equal and no longer, as assumed by modernism, inferior to the knowledge produced by scientific method.' [Deacon B, 1996:102]

Much the same could be said of how the language is taught.

Perhaps we should ask why sessions work before looking for shortcomings. That might identify an alternative or complimentary approach to applying theories of learning, in Schön's words, 'turning the problem upside down', asking what can be learnt from how we deal with his 'indeterminate zones of practice' before applying research from elsewhere. I am often at a loss to define the factors that have made successful sessions gel. Often I feel that I am responding to events instinctively rather than consciously. This is hard to reflect upon. It is easy to consider the effectiveness of an activity or resource but hard to do so for something intangible that falls outside technical rationality. Schön suggests that we should ask what we can learn from examining artistry (rather than seeking to apply technical knowledge) but I am reluctant to analyze the process closely for fear of becoming self-conscious in an area which relies on a lack of inhibition and spontaneity. This is what Michael Polanyi called the 'tacit dimension' [1967] , where we instinctively use knowledge and skills that we are not aware of consciously and cannot break down into a convenient set of actions for future use. The paradoxical danger of trying to examine the process or attempting a break-down of Schön's 'knowing-in-action' (forms of know-how demonstrated in active practice but defying verbal description) is that it can place newly constructed knowledge in an expanded technical rationality as accepted truth.

Aesthetic Responses

But it does no harm to consider how sessions succeed in firing the imagination. I have started encouraging students to enjoy language before concentrating too heavily on grammar or the deliberate memorizing of vocabulary. Some years ago a campaign in Brittany encouraged people with the inviting slogan 'taste your language', the idea being that language is something sensuous to be savoured and rolled around on the tongue as an enriching part of life. When a language has little commercial application, this motivation would seem to be an obvious one to stress, yet teachers have been slow to identify and exploit its potential, instead repeating the tired, unimaginative mantra of the early revival: 'Why should Cornishmen learn Cornish? ...the answer is simple. Because they are Cornishmen.' [Jenner, 1904:xi] Learning is reduced to a chore which we have a duty to perform in order to assert group identity. Imagination is called for in creating a sense of fun and cultural enrichment if the public is to be enthused. Richard Kearney, in discussing the postmodern imagination, writes of the need to be poetical '...in the broad sense of 'inventive' carried by the word poiesis.' [1994]. The postmodern imagination 'needs to be able to laugh' [ibid.]. Such remarks fit comfortably with trying to create an aesthetic which is removed from functional concerns. Learners need to be encouraged to develop an empathy and intuitive feel for Cornish. This may help them use it to its full capability, making an imaginative leap beyond the limits of English. To this end we might consider how they can enjoy the sounds, rhythms and textures of language. In this we have the advantage many learners drawn to Cornish by a love of place-names. I have started exposing people to songs, readings and fluent conversation in the early stages, being aware that care must be taken. Stella Hurd warns that 'For many adult learners and teachers the introduction of a song or poem into the lesson has little appeal.' [1992] but she recognizes 'the cultural significance of this kind of material and the wealth of possibilities it can open up.' This meets needs which for other languages can be met by visiting communities where they are spoken.

Creative language production

I am conscious of the need to move students towards a creative use of language at an early stage i.e. putting words together in sentences of their own devising, rather than repeating ready-made phrases. Drama and improvisation often allow them to communicate effectively, using gesture, mime, facial expression and body language to fill gaps in their vocabulary. It brings out the extrovert in many and generates a sense of achievement, but as Hurd points out:

'[S]hy or slow learners may be unwilling or unable to participate. Some profess quite openly to have 'no imagination' and find the whole process....bewildering and painful.' [1992]

The reasons for using such techniques are well stated by Hurd:

'[They] release inhibitions that can act as a barrier to learning....help establish a co-operative, collaborative atmosphere' enabling learners to '...engage at their own level in their chosen manner, to surprise and be surprised, and to discover their own personal language "gaps"'[ibid.]

They encourage learners to take possession of events and elicit an imaginative, active input.

Final thoughts

Initially, I simply abandoned the idea of a linear and graded, grammar-based approach in favour of a communicative style (again applying research-based knowledge), but, as time has gone on, I have often plunged classes into chaos. Whilst the best sessions involve immediacy and rapidity, their essential volatility and departure from convention can be their downfall. In trying to enthuse I may destroy all structure. From being spontaneous, classes degenerate as learners find that they have so much to say to each other in English. I am having to manage enthusiasm whereas previously I simply sought to generate it. It has also been necessary to appreciate that linear progressions suit certain learners and should not be dismissed as never being appropriate. Different people approach language in different ways and we should not exclude received practices from simple scepticism. I have mainly been reacting against an experience of audio-visual and behaviourist methods (e.g. those of B.F.Skinner) and, in questioning wisdoms drawn from empirical rationality, I am not arguing for the abandonment of all such theory. I simply wish to see other forms of knowledge admitted within an imaginative, aesthetic framework. In the case of a language revival which defies functional or rationalist explanations, this seems particularly appropriate. We do not need practical reasons, excuses or ideological justifications for Cornish anymore than we need them to grow flowers or play music.


Deacon B., "Language Revival and Language Debate: Modernity and Postmodernity" in P. Payton ed., Cornish Studies Four, Institute of Cornish Studies, University of Exeter Press 1996

George K.J. (1986), The Pronunciation and Spelling of Revived Cornish, Torpoint: Cornish Language Board

Hurd S., in L. Arthur & S. Hurd, (1992), The Adult Language Learner - A guide to good teaching practice, CILT: London

Jenner H., (1904), A Handbook of The Cornish Language, London

Kearney R., (1994)The Wake of Imagination, London: Routledge

Kennedy N., in Keskerdh Kernow, 1997

Lyon R., 1996 Interview, BBC Radio Cornwall

Newman B., in Visionet Minority Languages Network - Living Languages Conference Report, Cardiff 1996

Payton P., (1992), The Making of Modern Cornwall, Redruth:Dyllansow Truran, ch.6

Polanyi M., (1967), The Tacit Dimension, New York: Doubleday

Priestland G., in G. & S. Priestland (1980), West of Hayle River, London:Wildwood House

Schön D.A., (1987),Educating the Reflective Practitioner, San Francisco (CA):Jossey-Bass

Skinner, B.F., (1957) Verbal Behaviour, Appleton Century-Crofts, cited in L. Arthur & S.Hurd op.cit.

The ISOS Project - A Digital Library of Irish Scripts on Screen

Criostaí Mac Íomhaire*

Aoibheann Nic Dhonnchadha§

Pádraig Ó Macháin§

Alan F. Smeaton*

§School of Celtic Studies

Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies

10 Burlington Road

Dublin 4, Ireland

*School of Computer Applications,

Dublin City University,

Dublin 9, Ireland.

pmachain@celt.dias.ie Email

http://www.ISOS.dcu.ie URL

+353 1 6140177 Tel

+353 1 6680561 Fax


This paper describes a collaborative project between the School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Insititue for Advanced Studies and the School of Computer Applications, Dublin City University, the purpose of which is to produce high resolution digital images of Irish manuscripts together with ancilliary text and commentary for display on the WWW.


Manuscripts in the Irish language are to be found throughout the world, in libraries and in private collections. Roughly five thousand survive and, not surprisingly, the biggest collections are located in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. These manuscripts, as is well known, range in date from the 12th to the 19th centuries, and are made from vellum down to about the middle of the 16th century when paper starts to take over, paper finally predominating from the early seventeenth century onward. The ongoing need for primary access to these books by scholars becomes an increasing concern to librarians depending on the physical state of the documents. In the past, the use of surrogates such as facsimiles and photostats was advocated from time to time. In more recent times microfilm copies of a significant number of manuscripts have been made and, while this has facilitated access, it is very rarely that such copies can be considered even half-adequate as surrogates.

In the area of Celtic languages, the teaching/learning value of the project rests, at present, in its potential for use as a primary source for textual and palaeographical studies in the Irish language. (Scholarship holders at the School of Celtic Studies are already making use of the resource for this purpose.) As the amount of available material increases so too should that potential be increasingly realised. It must be stressed, of course, that the main concern of ISOS is the making available of that primary source: the use that is made of it will ultimately be a matter for the teachers and researchers themselves.

The present paper outlines a project which demonstrates how, using modern information technology, it is possible to make images of these manuscripts available to a wide audience without endangering the originals, while coming as close as is possible to realising the concept of the true surrogate, and thus resolving the previously conflicting concerns of access and conservation. The ISOS project is on-going and some material is already accessible.

Overview of the ISOS Project

Irish Script on Screen (ISOS) is a joint project between the School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, and the School of Computer Applications, Dublin City University to digitise images of Old Irish manuscripts and make them available for scholarly and for casual use on the WWW. Much advice and guidence has been provided by the Bodleian Library at Oxford University who are running a similar project to ISOS. The present phase of the project is being run in partnership with Trinity College Library, Dublin.

This project, then, combines the ostensible polarised interests of the humanities and the sciences in a unique and, we hope, fruitful colaboration. For the School of Celtic Studies, ISOS represents a natural extension of its statutory responsibilities with regard to research and publication of research in the area of Irish manuscripts. The potential for combining texts, either diplomatic or normalised, with images of the sources themselves; or for linking those images to manuscript catalogues - something which has been achieved already - that potential is an exciting one, deserving of investment of time, money and research.

For the School of Computer Applications, having already worked with organisations such as the Irish Times and RTÉ on information retrieval projects, the attraction of the ISOS project is that it connects to a core research interest of the School, namely the development of digital libraries.

The work of the project is divided between the partners as follows: the School of Celtic Studies selects the material to be digitised (in consultation with the holding library), prepares the catalogues, and is responsible for image capture and quality control. Processing and storage of the images, creation and maintenance of the website, are the responsibility of the School of Computer Applications.

The ISOS project, therefore, is setting out to digitise Irish manuscripts of various dates between the late eleventh century and the nineteenth, and to make them available for educational and research purposes on the WWW. The contents of the manuscripts have been recorded, in fine detail, into digital form by scanning them with a high resolution colour camera. Global access to the material is ensured by placing them on the WWW. There are several reasons for, and benefits from, the ISOS project:

Technical Overview of the ISOS Project

A Dicomed Studio Pro XL digital camera is used to capture images. This is a non-intrusive capture mechanism which does no damage to the manuscripts as the light levels required to scan a picture of a manuscript page are much less than that required for copying. Images are digitised at 600 dpi with each pixel being 24 bit colour. The file size of any given image varies according to the physical size of the manuscript page but in general an uncompressed digital image (TIFF) of a manuscript page may vary from 60Mb to 120Mb.

After scanning, the image is loaded onto a PC and the brightness of the images is adjusted slightly using Adobe Photoshop so that the images match the physical pages, in as far as possible. The images are transferred to 1GB Jazz disks and sent to DCU for further processing. Equilibrium's Debabelizer is then used to process the images in batch mode. Each image has a ruler added to it to give a scale for the image, and each image is also stamped with an identifier on the top and a copyright notice on the bottom. The resultant TIFF images are then archived onto DLT tapes each of which generally stores about 25 GB of images and these are then stored at different locations for security purposes.

After images are processed by adding a ruler and identifier, JPG compressed versions of the images are also created using DeBabelizer. These are done in two levels of compression with large high-quality JPG images, varying from 1.5 MB to 5 MB, as well as lower resolution JPG images of a few hundred Kbytes, and finally, thumbnails.

The JPG images are also digitally watermarked using the Digimarc Batch Embedding Tool [1]. This tool inserts an invisible digital watermark into each image which can be read using Digimarc's ReadMarc, a software tool downloadable for free over the Internet. When ReadMarc is used to read a watermark from an image a URL is given to the user, who can then go to the URL and get information about the copyright holder. Digimarc's watermarking has become very popular in allowing the tracking of image abuse on the internet.

Archival and Conservation Concerns

Crucial to the success of ISOS is the attention to best practices with regard to the management of the material being digitised. Great care was taken from the outset to ensure that the camera technician was fully qualified, to degree level, in archival and conservation studies. Temperature and humidity are monitored daily in the digitisation environment, and the modalities of conservation practice - such as the use of acid-free securing implements, and so forth - are observed at all times. This means that not alone are the partners satisfied that every possible care is taken of the manuscript originals, but confidence in our ability to operate effectively in a library environment, or with library materials, is generated, resulting in the excellent relations the ISOS team have enjoyed with the libraries with which they have worked.

Current Status and Plans

The ISOS project began with a pilot stage lasting from July 1998 to May 1999. This period allowed the project to explore the various technical challenges which the digitisation of Irish manuscripts presents, to experiment with the photography, and to gain valuable experience from handling a range of different bibliographic formats.

The Abbot and community of Mount Melleray Abbey, Co. Waterford, readily agreed to the temporary transfer of their collection of thirteen Irish manuscripts to the School of Celtic Studies for use in the pilot stage of the digitisation project. These manuscripts had all previously been catalogued by the School, and their availability to the project was therefore of great value. Images from this collection are now publicly available on the ISOS website. Coláiste na Rinne, Rinn Ó gCuanach, Co. Waterford, also placed some of their collection at the disposal of the project, and images from these manuscripts are available on the website.

On completion of the pilot stage of the project in May 1999, ISOS entered into an agreement with Trinity College Library to undertake a programme of digitisation of some of its important collection of Irish manuscripts. For environmental and security reasons the work, which will take a further two years to complete, is being carried out in the Library in co-operation with Trinity's Conservation Laboratory and Manuscripts Department.

The project's primary target in TCD is MS 1339 (H 2 18), otherwise known as the Book of Leinster, a diplomatic edition of which was published by the School of Celtic Studies [3]. The Book of Leinster, properly Leabhar na Nuachongbhála, is an anthology of Irish tradition - prose, verse, and genealogy - the compilation of which spanned the second half of the twelfth century. It takes its name from an ecclesiastical foundation in Co. Laois, that of Oughaval, near Stradbally. Of the number of scribes who worked on it only one is known by name: Aed mac meic Crimthaind, coarb of Terryglass, Co. Tipperary.

ISOS also aims to digitise the complete collection of Irish medical manuscripts in TCD, the catalogue of which is nearing completion at the School of Celtic Studies. TCD's holding of twenty-eight such manuscripts accounts for over a quarter of all extant medical manuscripts in Irish.

As manuscript images are captured, post-processed, archived onto tape and placed online, there are three levels of resolution available. Thumbnails and lower-quality JPEGs are available to casual WWW users. The quality of these images is sufficient for browsing but not for detailed study so registered users, who complete and sign a registration form, are provided with access to the higher-quality JPEG images.


The roles that the different partners play in the ISOS project are complementary. DIAS are the subject experts, who are familiar with the material and who carry out the role of scholarly domain experts. DCU are the technical partners who have the know-knowledge and experience in building large digital collections for the web. The benefits of ISOS to both communities are clear. DIAS, and Celtic scholars worldwide, are provided with access to high-quality images; DCU has a very real collection of digital artefacts, with catalog information, with which to pursue its research interests in digital libraries. And, as a side-effect, casual web users have access to a previously unavailable resource.


[1] http://www.digimarc.com

[2] http://www.ISOS.dcu.ie

[3] O. Bergin, R.I. Best, M.A. O'Brien, and A. O'Sullivan (eds) The Book of Leinster, formerly Lebar na Núachongbála I-VI (Dublin: DIAS 1954-83)

Teaching Scottish Gaelic to Irish Speakers

Michelle Macleod

Scoil na Gaeilge,

National University of Ireland,

Galway, Ireland

michelle.macleod@nuigalway.ie Email

+353 91 524411 Ext 2558 Tel

+ 353 91 750522 Fax


Teaching Gaelic within a department of Irish to Irish speakers presents a new set of challenges to the language teacher. To what extent does knowledge of a cognate language affect progress in the target language? Prior knowledge of the cognate language is seen initially to allow speedy development, but later language interference can hinder attainment of fluency.


This paper is largely a series of observations on my own experiences of teaching Gaelic to Irish-speaking students in an Irish department. I compare the progress of the Irish speaking student of Gaelic with a model used by Brian Page of English L1 speakers learning French. I make specific references to the 'four stages' Brian Page uses in his discussion of the development of the English learner of French (Page, 1998: 124). By comparing each of Page's stages in turn with my own students' experiences, as I have perceived them, it is evident that these stages do not apply to the Irish learners of Gaelic. I relate each of the stages to one of the four semesters in my two-year Gaelic course.

Stage 1

Assuming stage 1 is absolute beginners to post beginners, the Irish learner of Gaelic quickly and easily passes this stage. The grammar, and sometimes vocabulary, at beginner level may not be totally unfamiliar to the Irish speaker. A typical first lesson in any Gaelic classroom, or indeed any language classroom, could involve concepts such as 'greetings'. The teacher might introduce a sentence such as this:

G. Hallo a Mhairead, ciamar a tha thu? Hello, Margaret, how are you?

For the non-Irish speaker, the first concept the Gaelic teacher would need to explain would be the use of the 'vocative case' here. Mairead radical form, becomes a Mhairead when the person is being addressed by the speaker. For the Irish speaker, this would pose no problems, the vocative working in the same way in Irish:

I. Dia dhuit, a Mhairéad, conas tá tú?

Most modern structured language courses aim to teach the students to quickly be able to produce simple informative phrases about themselves, and to recognise questions relating to the same. An example of this type of language would be 'what's your name?', which in Gaelic is articulated as follows:

G. Dè an t-ainm a tha ort? (lit. what the name which is on you?)

To the English L1 learner of Gaelic, the structure of this question often causes problems. Firstly the word order is different to English, in that the verb follows the noun. Secondly the student is being introduced to the linguistic phenomenon of the 'compound prepositional pronoun'. The compound prepositional pronouns are a very common feature in Gaelic: the learner cannot function without them and it is therefore essential that they are introduced at as early a stage as possible. It often takes a long time for the English L1 speaker to get to grips with them, but for the Irish speaker they pose no difficulties. In this particular example the compound prepositional pronoun would be basically the same:

I. Cén t-ainm atá ort?

In comparison with Page's stage one students with 'single or two-word utterances' and 'considerable hesitation', the Irish learner of Gaelic is considerably more accomplished, syntactically at least. Page also considers pronunciation, which in his learners has 'strong interference from native pronunciation'. At stage 1 Gaelic pronunciation may not seem as 'alien' to the Irish speaker. The Irish speaker would probably be familiar with various consonant clusters which might otherwise 'throw' another learner, for example: ghlan, and dorcha - pronunciation in the two languages can be similar. They would also be able to associate what they see on the page with the oral format relatively easily: orthographic conventions such as 'th' in Gaelic to represent /h/ and 'bh' to represent /v/ would certainly not be unfamiliar, as they would be to the learner of Gaelic with no Irish.

Stage 2

Page notes that 'his' learners at this stage will have a 'very limited vocabulary', and again this does not apply to the Irish learner of Gaelic. Whereas the non-Irish learner of Gaelic and the Irish-speaking learner of Gaelic may have been introduced to the same amount of words by the teacher, the Irish-speaker will have a much larger passive vocabulary, due to the shared linguistic ancestry of the two languages.

Page also notes that at this stage the learner will be 'stringing words together ungrammatically'. At this stage my students will have been introduced to, for example, a large number of compound prepositional pronouns, and would be expected to recognise and use them in idiomatic constructions - for example to express possession: tha cat agam (I have a cat), and also tha mi a' bruidhinn ris (I am talking to him). Whereas the concept and construction of phrases using the compound prepositions poses less problems to the speakers of Irish than to non-Irish speakers, there is the possibility that the Irish learner might use inappropriate prepositions. In the example tha mi a' bruidhinn ris, the Irish learner often wants to substitute the preposition le / leis , coming from the Irish tá mé ag caint leis. The preposition le also exists in Gaelic, but to use it in this situation would be wrong.

By now students will also have been introduced to the past, present and future tenses of regular verbs and the verb 'to be', which they will be able to use with varying degrees of success. There is a problem with Irish 'language interference' at this stage, that the non-Irish speakers do not have.

As we know Gaelic and Irish have a different tense structure, Gaelic having fewer tenses than Irish. In order to make up for this apparent lack of tenses, Gaelic favours a system of periphrastic constructions to express different tenses and aspects. The Irish speaker will be familiar with these periphrastic constructions, as they also exist in Irish, though are not as widely used as in Gaelic, nor are they used in the same way. The students will firstly be taught how to express continuous action in the past, present and future using the relevant forms of the verb 'to be' and verbal noun.

e.g. a' cur


G. Tha mi a' cur Bha mi a' cur Bidh mi a' cur

I. Tá mé ag cur Bhí mé ag cur Beidh mé ag cur

Although there is an apparent correspondence between the languages, there are differences. The English 'I put' can be expressed in two ways in Gaelic tha mi a' cur and bidh mi a' cur, which superficially correspond with Irish tá mé ag cur and beidh mé ag cur. Only the former of these Irish examples would be associated with the present (along with cuirim, which Gaelic does not have), whereas the latter would be associated only with a future meaning.

By extension, this cross-over of aspect and tense applies to all verbs in Gaelic. Gaelic cuiridh mi, which superficially relates to Irish cuirfidh mé ('I will put'), may mean 'I put' or 'I will put'. This frequently causes difficulty for the Irish-speaking student who finds it hard to disassociate what s/he knows about the tense system in Irish, when the languages look as if their tense systems behave in a somewhat similar fashion.

Stage 3

Stage 3 of my course for Irish speakers would involve a review of all the irregular verbs in Gaelic, some of which would have been encountered by this stage. I would also teach modal and auxiliary constructions - again some of which would have been encountered. In addition to the formal written aspects of the course, the students would also be required to do more aural and oral work.

Compared to Page's 'stage 3' learners the Irish learners can also 'form longer sentences, many well formed but most containing formal errors of some sort'. In this instance the errors are nearly always due to language interference. Page says his learners 'have a limited vocabulary'. This need not be the case with the Irish learner who may still have an advantage over the non-Irish learner, there still being a discrepancy in the receptive and productive vocabulary of the Irish-speaking learner. Although the Gaelic and Irish lexicon are similar, giving an apparent advantage to the Irish student of Gaelic, there is a problem with 'false friends'. I have noted a tendency in the students that when they are unsure of a Gaelic word, they will use an Irish word. Although this sometimes might work, it is often unacceptable and can lead to complete misunderstanding. Only familiarity with the target language assures correct lexical usage. Some examples of common 'false friends' are:

I . ag cur as do (annoying) G . a' cur as do (killing)

ní mór dom (I have to) cha mhòr (barely/almost)

b'fhéidir (perhaps) b' fheudar dhomh (I had to)

An Bhreatain Bheag (Wales) A' Bhreatainn Bheag (Britanny)

Stage 4

Teaching to the 'stage four' learners is largely an exercise in promoting linguistic independence incorporating idiomatic constructions, revision of grammar points, new vocabulary, authentic texts for discussion and as models for free writing. At this level language interference often prevents the Irish-speaking student achieving the 'near native production' that Page identifies in his 'stage four' learners. Written assignments by my advanced learners often contain a disproportionally high amount of grammatical mistakes, compared to the non-Irish speaker at this stage. These mistakes would not normally be made by them when completing tasks centred around particular grammar points, but when they are required to write creatively, interference is present.

At this stage, students often still make the mistake of trying to use a non-existent present tense, based on their knowledge of the Irish tense system. The dative case in Gaelic is particularly problematic for the students, whereas nominative, genitive and vocative are not. The Irish-speaking students may initially appear to have a distinct advantage over their non-Irish speaking counterparts being familiar with the concept of initial mutation following certain prepositions. However, there is a tendency to treat nouns following simple prepositions in Gaelic in the same way as they behave in Irish; this would not be acceptable as correct Gaelic. Comparision of how the (shared) nouns bòrd / bord (masculine) and gealach (feminine) behave after simple prepositions, when definite and indefinite, illustrates where the students' difficulties arise. The Irish examples follow the standard Irish practices; northern dialects would of course behave differently.

G. bòrd beag, air bòrd beag, am bòrd beag, air a' bhòrd bheag

I. bord beag, ar bhord beag, an bord beag, ar an mbord beag

G. gealach bheag, air gealach bheag, a' ghealach bheag, air a' ghealaich bhig

I. gealach bheag, ar ghealach bheag, an ghealach bheag, ar an ngealach bheag

Students have an erroneous tendency to lenite indefinite nouns following most simple prepositions, when only 'bho', 'fo', 'do', 'de', 'mu', 'ro', and 'tro' cause contact mutation in Gaelic. When the noun is definite the students often want to use eclipsis and they struggle with the internal changes to the nouns and following adjectives.

As regards oral competency at this advanced stage in their Gaelic course, there are often some major flaws which can prevent 'the near native production' Page noted in stage four. My students are obviously learning in a very artificial environment with little or no chance to practice their language skills outside the classroom, except with each other if they choose to do so. If they do choose to do this it can pose a number of problems, as does getting the students to talk to each other in pair or group work in class. When talking to one another, they very quickly lapse into Irish pronunciation of certain phonemic items. There are several Gaelic sounds in particular which I have noted the students struggling with - these sounds often share an orthographic representation with a different sound in Irish.

For example, 'ao' in Gaelic is pronounced /µ:/ and, approximately, /i:/ or /e:/ in Irish - so shared words such as craobh, aon and daoine are pronounced differently. 'mh' is often pronounced /w/ in Irish whereas it is usually /v/ in Gaelic, and sometimes silent. The '-adh' suffix is nearly always voiced in Gaelic, but rarely in Irish and is normally rendered as /«/.

Other pronunciation problems which are still prevalent at this stage are stress patterns, the consistent production of authentic Gaelic 'l's, 'n's and 'r's and the production of preaspiration so that cat will be pronounced /khaht/, Gaelic, and not /kat/, Irish, and mac will be pronounced, for example, /maxc/ or /mahc/ and not /mac/.


The Irish-speaking learners of Gaelic are often able to make themselves understood more quickly than non-Irish speakers. In terms of achieving 'near-native' competencies, however, interference from the cognate language makes this goal at least as hard for them as it is for the non-Irish speaking student.


Ball, Martin J., The Celtic Languages, Routledge, London, 1993.

Jackson, Kenneth, 'Common Gaelic' in Proceedings of the British Academy 37, London, 1953.

Ó Maolalaigh, Roibeard, Scottish Gaelic in Three Months, Hugo, Suffolk, 1996.

Page, Brian, 'Why do I have to get it right anyway?' in Teaching Modern Languages (ed. Ann Swarbick), Routledge, London, 1998.

Robertson, Boyd & Taylor, Iain, Teach Yourself Gaelic, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1993.

Graiméar Gaeilge na mBráithre Críostaí, An Gúm, Baile Átha Cliath, 1999.

Waiting for TV-Breizh?

Stefan Moal

15 straed Kerne,

29100 Douarnenez

stefan.moal@wanadoo.fr Email

+33 02 98 74 37 50 Tel/Fax


Until two years ago such a phrase would have been equivalent to Beckett's "Waiting for Godot", so hopeless (or at least far ahead) did it seem for Breton speakers to finally get the adequate TV service in their language that most of their Celtic counterparts had secured for themselves in the 1980s or 90s (S4C in Wales, the CTG financed programmes in Scotland, and TnaG - now TG4 - in Ireland). But things are changing...

Reversing language shift in Brittany ?

After the dramatic drop in the number of speakers throughout the XXth century (from 1,5 million after World War I to 1 million after World War II to an estimated 240 000 in 1997), the main challenge facing the Breton language for its survival into the XXIst century and beyond is most certainly the near extinction of family transmission within the homes.

In a survey published in 1998 by the INED (National Institute of Demographic Studies) about various language communities in France, native or migrant alike, Breton shows the lowest rate of transmission, close to 0%. In the Euromosaic report (production and reproduction of minority language communities in the European Union) published in 1996 by the European Commission, Breton ranked 32nd out of 48 communities, with a rating of 8 for "reproduction" on a scale graded from 1 à 28.

The authors of the Euromosaic report, Belgian P.Nelde, Catalan M.Strubell and Welshman G.Williams considered that situation to be "[...] a consequence of the extreme position of the French state by reference to the modernist goal of cultural and linguistic homogenisation, and the associated denigration and neglect of minority language groups within its territory. This has certainly been responsible for generating a profound negative identity among members of the respective language groups . Furthermore, while the current situation begins to approximate a situation of benign neglect, there is little indication of any policy development that seeks to redress the situation."

A merely mechanistic analysis of the demographic situation of the language could lead to the conclusion that Breton is doomed. But the socio-linguistic trends of the past 20 years should allow us to think quite differently. Seemingly, the very socio-economic factors that contributed to the decline of the language during the transition from a traditional society to the industrial era are now the basis of its present revival.

Far from being a nostalgic attitude, the promotion of the social and educational use of Breton is widespread in the general public. The age of "negative identity" is over and done with for a growing number of Bretons : a poll carried out in 1991 in the Finistère/Penn ar Bed (the westernmost part of Brittany) showed that 94,5% of the people surveyed thought that the language should be retained, among which non Breton speakers were the most determined. Even the French population as a whole think that "regional" languages should be recognized and protected (77% in favour of a law and 19% against in 1994).

Counting on schools

For decades, nobody but a few really cared about the decline of the language : Bretons were busy studying - through the medium of French - to become civil servants (and therefore often emigrate) ; or else, when they stayed on the farm, they were fighting off degrading stereotypes by becoming more and more competitive all the time.

Its presence in the environment was felt to be so "natural" that no one could imagine it possible for Breton to disappear. The new generations, deprived from the language and therefore unable to pass it down to their own children by themselves, have developed a deep sense of loss. Feeling that they had been dispossessed of part of what they were, they are the ones who have strongly demanded Breton medium schools, and even created them (Diwan) when they weren't granted.

Since the first Diwan school was set up 22 years ago, and despite the fact that the overall numbers of school age children in Brittany have been going down steadily since then, Breton medium education hasn't ceased to increase in numbers (between +15 and +20 % every year), also in state and catholic schools, to reach the global figure of 5600 students in september 1999. Although family transmission is unbeatable when it comes to language maintenance, the growing social demand for Breton medium education, as a substitute, can be considered a vital criteria that marks off a language of the future from a purely residual phenomenon.

The demand would originally come from educated lower middle class families, but the recruitment is increasingly diverse now, becoming closer all the time to the local community's socio-cultural structure : even though social careers (and teachers in particular) are still overrepresented, more and more workers, employees and farmers are sending their children to Breton-medium schools. All the more so since bilingual children's school results have been found very good : educational authorities have avoided conducting a general assessment of their standards in Breton as yet, but national evaluations in French and maths at primary and secondary level have confirmed their excellent level, and the first three generations of Diwan teenagers have passed their baccalaureat (leaving certificate).

Breton is now generally seen as a dynamic element in a society that has to find new solutions within itself to transcend such crisis as agricultural overproduction and its environmental consequences, or the end of state assisted industries like the navy arsenals. Cultural activities and production, often language linked, provide more and more qualified jobs - without having to emigrate. They also generate profits in other sectors of the economy, increasingly eager for "authenticity" (tourism, food industry,etc), through the positive image conveyed internationally by Breton musicians and singers.

Not surprisingly, the newest developments in this permanent search for non-standardized products have taken place in the communication and media sector : the Breton Language Office, set up in june 1999, region and state funded ; new Breton language radio stations and internet sites ; and a television private venture due to go on the air on August 4th, 2000, during the Lorient Interceltic Festival : TV-Breizh.

What can the media do ?

Joshua Fishman writes in Reversing Language Shift : "Even the much touted mass media are insufficiently interpersonal, child-orientated, affect-suffused, societally binding to attain cumulative intergenerational mother-tongue transmission, particularly so since the proportion of Yish [i.e.French] utilized by the media will long (and perhaps always) be greater than the proportion of Xish [i.e.Breton]. [...] The favorable outcomes of the Hebrew, Catalan and Quebec French cases did not begin with work, media or government Xization ; they began with the acquisition of a firm family-neighborhood-community base." Having said that, he also adds further in his book that "the importance of Xishization of these services and influences is beyond question". As head of TV-Breizh Rozenn Milin when interviewed by a French TV magazine : "I don't know if we'll manage to reverse the decline of the Breton language, but it's important to try".

For the past two decades, those few families (a few thousand people across Brittany at most) who did transmit the language in their homes and/or send their children to Breton medium schools expressed their frustration over the lack of adequate Breton TV programmes for the youth, but they weren't strong enough a lobby to have any influence on the issue. Hence the ridiculously small amount of hours (85 h a year...) broadcast in Breton on France3Ouest, the state run public television service.

All programmes are broadcast during the most inconvenient time slots (lunchtime, saturday afternoon, sunday morning) ; after a short-lived attempt at providing programmes for all ages and tastes in th 80s, nearly all programmes now belong to the "news-current affairs" category, to suit the mainly ageing target audience (a 1994 survey by the INSEE - National Institute of Statistics - found that 300 000 people listened to TV or radio programmes, at least sometimes, out of 689 000 who said they understood Breton. But listeners and viewers were rather old : 159 000 above 60 and only 21 500 under 30. Most of them didn't get an extensive education: 171 000 had been to school until the age of 14/15. 31 000 out of 39 000 regular listeners/viewers were retired) ; all programmes are now subtitled in French (without any opt out) except for the daily 4'30" news - which are discontinued during the summer ; finally, you won't have access to the same amount of Breton programmes if you live in the West (all programmes, the news being the most successful with circa 20 000 viewers daily), the East (no daily news... unless you go on the internet !) or the South (only sundays).

Television programmes in Breton (and radio programmes to a lesser extent) are at the same time the popular media, so to speak, with a population which is generally a lot more familiar with the oral message than with the written word (contrary to the Welsh public for example). Quite naturally for a language that has presently no widespread accepted standard form, people often complain - though sometimes with an obvious lack of goodwill - that the dialectal variety of people interviewed, or indeed the attempted "central" expression of the announcers is an obstacle to comprehension.

Over the past two years the whole picture has been changing rapidly : following a project carried out by the Cultural Council of Brittany, an umbrella organization for all language and culture groups, and the commentating of the soccer World Cup in Breton on Eurosport, the Breton born president of TF1 (the biggest private channel in Europe) announced in october 1998 that he would launch a bilingual satellite/cable digital television channel broadcasting across Europe, an information that was confirmed in April 1999 in the Isle of Skye during the Interceltic Film and Television Festival.

The challenges facing TV-Breizh


Market research allegedly showed that Brittany was the only region in the state with both a strong identity and enough population (4million), plus an important diaspora in France and Europe with strong attachment to the old country. Even if broadcasting costs are getting cheaper all the time, due to digital technology, those were conditions that made the project viable. The potential audience will initially be the 75 000 households with access to cable television in Brittany (2 million in France), and the 100 000 equipped with satellite dishes. Considering that both figures are on the increase, and also that Brittany will be the first region to get digital terrestrial television in 2002, the aim is to have 200 000 viewers after 4 years of broadcasting.


TV-Breizh will be a private channel with private funding. Anybody in France and Europe will be able to receive TV-Breizh provided they have subscribed to the multiplex by satellite or cable. Advertisement and sponsoring will be part of the funding to. The initial budget was to be over 100 million francs a year, it will be closer to 80 million - 1/10th of Welsh S4C's annual budget - causing the channel to give up on news (unfortunately, because Breton would have had access to international, not just local news). Industrialists of Breton origins will be the main investors, but also international TV tycoons such as Berlusconi and Murdoch. This brought about controversy over the cultural quality and the general ideology of the channel : in a country where the public/private and left/right divides are historically vivid, reconciling these opposite views will therefore be yet another challenge.


TV-Breizh will broadcast daily from 7 a.m to 1 a.m. The 5 to 6 hour grid of "fresh" programmes, between 5.30 p.m and 22.30 p.m (repeated 3 times a day) will be as follows :

What place for Breton ?

Viewers subscribing primarily for the language will obviously be a minority, but the channel's commitment to broadcast in Breton will be made easier by digital technology, through the use of two sound channels on option, one for each language. That choice will be made possible for all children's programmes and for documentaries from the start. As for feature films, only one a month will be available in the Breton version (dubbed from English) during the first year, then one a week. Talk-shows invitees will be welcome to use Breton whenever they happen to be speakers of the language... and willing to do so. Altogether there should be an average of 2 hours of Breton daily (broadcast three times) .

Educational implications

"Television is for watching, television is for fun, not for teaching" would still be quite a common view among the public, and probably even more so among teachers, who often see it as nothing short of a (badly) influential rival. And so it is, in a way. But it has become such a big part of children's and teenagers' lives, conversations and concerns that schools simply can't ignore it anymore. Parents of Breton speaking children had until now a narrow range of moving pictures to choose from : just a few cartoons released on videos, but these were also usually showed... at school.

The very fact that a daily peak-time children's programme will exist - be it on a paying channel that not everyone will get, be it dubbed mostly from British, American or Australian programmes - is going to change a lot of things in the schoolyard. It will also modify the image that non-speakers have of the Breton language. Especially so since TV-Breizh have also announced that they want to be an interactive channel with a strong multimedia presence.

It could change things within the classroom too, way beyond the sitcom for learners itself. "Celtic" cultural background programmes will be preferred whenever possible : a cartoon version of Tristan and Izold is currently being dubbed, and some "historical" feature films - Holywood and others - will follow. Some of that material will be usable in schools without fear for embarrassment : a big change, since fiction production in Breton has been rare and, one must admit, often not very good (due to shortage of trained scriptwriters, filmmakers, actors, and of course time and money, but there's hope that, through dubbing, a new generation will be able to make their own films in due course, that could eventually amount to 30% of the total).

For the past decade anyway, only documentaries - some very good ones - and news/current affairs programmes have been produced, but they don't have the same effect as fiction on a child's imagination and expression. TES (Ti Embann ar Skolioù - the multimedia resource centre for Breton medium schools) for example have released, in cooperation with France3Ouest, a compilation of agricultural news items: hardly something you'd use everyday.

What is the main objective of using TV news programmes (or radio or audio-tapes, for that matter, although they're not as successful with the pupils) ? In the Breton context of a declining social use, it is, most certainly, to enrich the sometimes overstandardized language used in schools by bringing right into the classroom the richness of all varieties of Breton (accents, dialects, registers, men and women, young and old, etc) while keeping in mind that the Breton population has of course become very mobile and isn't living.

That richness should be kept in TV-Breizh programmes, despite the technical constraints of synchronized dubbing, because Rozenn Milin has made sure to recruit translators and studio actors across all those varieties, and the commitment to use a rich, but authentic language has been stressed throughout their month-long training during the summer of 1999, especially when it comes to accentuation and intonation.

TV-Breizh translators will have to deal with the same old dilemmas (dialectal/"standard" ; loanwords/neologisms ; code-switching and mixing, etc) as other sectors, except with a much greater responsibility. Some challenges actually sound very exciting : which of our dialects will we use to dub the Scots, their Irish allies... and their English enemies in Braveheart ?

Another predictable outcome : with the boost to all sectors of the Breton audio-visual industry (including France3Ouest, hopefully), Breton teaching will at last lead to more careers than just those of... Breton teaching.

Living Celtic Speech: Celtic Sound Archives

in North America

Ken Nilsen

The Celtic Department

St. Francis Xavier University

Antigonish, Nova Scotia


knilsen@juliet.stfx.ca Email

+1 902 867 2116 Tel

+1 902 867 2300 Fax


This paper will provide a preliminary survey of various archives throughout North America that have Celtic language recordings. In general, it will treat only collections that are held at institutions as opposed to ones that are in the possession of private individuals. Also it will not, for the most part, consider holdings that are outside North America, although they may contain much interesting North American material. Therefore Archives such as those of the BBC, the School of Scottish Studies and the Department of Irish Folklore in Dublin or Radio na Gaeltachta will not be considered. These are the general guidelines but there may in fact be one or two deviations from them in the course of the paper.

To begin it might be well to consider briefly the history of sound recording. As we were leaving the 1990s and entering the year 2000 one heard more and more reference to the invention of sound recording. Some months back National Public Radio in the United States started a series of programs which play excerpts from recordings made over the course of the twentieth century. In November of 1999, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, acknowledging the lead of NPR, also started a radio series entitled "Lost and Found Sound" which plays home recordings made by Canadians in past decades.

Sound recording was invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison, just one hundred years too late to record Dolly Pentreath of Cornwall. Edison's first device used tin foil. Tin foil was soon replaced by wax cylinders. Edison was followed by a number of others, such as the German-born Emile Berliner, who invented the gramophone in the 1880s and also was the first to use disks to record sound. Berliner produced a series of disks between 1888 and 1901 which included vocal selections sung in English, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish and at least one piece in Scottish Gaelic. The Gaelic selection was recorded in Glasgow on September 5, 1899 and features the soprano Jessie Niven MacLachlan singing "Oro Mo Nighean Donn Bhòidheach" to piano accompaniment. These recordings of Berliner's were re-issued in CD format in 1988 to commemorate the centenary of the invention of the gramophone. The Loeb Music Archive at Harvard has a copy of the CD and they have given me permission to play the Gaelic track here.

As early as 1901 the music of Irish piper Patrick Tuohey had been recorded and phonograph selections of his were being advertised for sale in the New York Irish World. In the early years of this century a number of Irish Gaelic language courses on record, some produced in Ireland, some in the United States, were advertised in Irish American publications. These advertisements are interesting in that they stress the importance of learning to speak the language and one even points out that a person who cannot read can learn with this method.

By the late 1920s various recording techniques were being used to record Celtic folklore and linguistic data. In 1929 James Delargy became the first investigator to use the Ediphone to record Irish folklore (Dorson 1966). In 1931 Professor Dögen who was director of the Lautabteilung of the Preussische Staatsbibliothek in Berlin, made a number of 78 r.p.m. disk recordings of most Irish dialects that were still extent, including eighty disks of Ulster dialects. For further information on this project see the Appendix to the Minutes of the Royal Irish Academy, Session 1928/29 and Colm Ó Baoill's texts in Appendix II of volume 4 of Heinrich Wagner's Linguistic Atlas and Survey of Irish Dialects, p. 283-303.

Let us turn now to North America and we will begin in Nova Scotia with Helen Creighton, one of the early collectors of folklore. Creighton was a remarkable woman who became an icon in Nova Scotia and indeed all of Canada. She was born to an affluent family in 1899 in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia just across the harbor from Halifax. In 1928 she was a journalist looking for a story line. Someone suggested that she do a story on pirates and pirate songs and mentioned that she might be able to get some material by talking to people in a small coastal village outside of Halifax. She went there, met just the right tradition bearers and thus stumbled into her lifelong vocation as a collector of folklore. Just outside the Halifax area she was to continue to find a treasure trove of English-language folklore, including a good many Child ballads. In 1933, she traveled to remote Cape Breton, accompanied by a music teacher, to collect folksongs but she did not yet have a recording device. Miss Creighton tells us in the introduction to her Gaelic Songs in Nova Scotia that she and her companion were perplexed to discover that most of the people they met in Cape Breton had either French songs or Gaelic songs (Creighton and MacLeod 1964). They decided to go for what they considered the more exotic Gaelic songs and succeeded in taking down the notation of forty Gaelic songs that weekend. In 1943 the Library of Congress supplied Creighton with a recorder which enabled her to take down Gaelic and French songs as easily as English. Over the course of her collecting career which lasted into the 1970s, Creighton recorded hundreds of Gaelic songs in Cape Breton, the eastern mainland of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The interesting thing is that she says that she never sought out Gaelic songs and she never attempted to learn Gaelic but if Gaelic songs were what people offered to sing for her, she accepted them readily. She published 150 of these songs in 1964 in the book referred to above, Gaelic Songs in Nova Scotia. Calum MacLeod of St. Francis Xavier University supplied the Gaelic texts which he transcribed from Creighton's tapes and he also made the translations. There are still many more of Creighton's Gaelic tapes that have never been published. These are housed in the Public Archives of Nova Scotia in Halifax along with the thousands of tapes she collected of English and French material. Copies of some of her material are also found at the Library of Congress in Washington and at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. In November of last year a biography of Creighton was published, authored by Clary Croft who worked with Helen Creighton in her last years cataloguing her collection.

Just at the time Helen Creighton was taking an interest in Nova Scotia folklore, John Lorne Campbell of Scotland was absorbed by the question of Gaelic in Canada. Campbell had studied Gaelic at Oxford with Professor John Fraser. Campbell moved to Barra and became the first to use the Ediphone to collect Scottish Gaelic folklore. In 1932 he visited Nova Scotia and returned in 1937 with an Ediphone to record the Gaelic songs of the province. In that year he also made some recordings of the Micmac language which are said to be the first ones made of that language. He returned to Nova Scotia a number times in later years and was given an honorary doctorate by St. Francis Xavier University in recognition of the work he was doing in the field of Gaelic both in Scotland and Nova Scotia. In 1990 Campbell published Songs Remembered in Exile which contains sixty of the songs he recorded in Nova Scotia. In addition to a wealth of songs from such excellent Cape Breton singers as Mrs. David Patterson, the book also contains songs from two remarkable mainland Nova Scotia singers. These were Angus MacIsaac of Giant's Lake, Guysborough County, just south of Antigonish and Angus "the Ridge" MacDonald of Antigonish County. MacIsaac sang a number of interesting songs for Campbell, but the most extraordinary was his version of "Teanntachd Mhór na Féinne," an Ossianic ballad, that has never been recorded in Scotland. The other remarkable singer, Angus "the Ridge" MacDonald, was from a family of tradition bearers who could trace their ancestry back to the MacDonalds of Keppoch, known as Sliochd an Taighe. They would be distant relations of Sìleas na Ceapaich. This family came to Nova Scotia and settled first on the "Ridge" in Mabou, Cape Breton, hence the nickname "the Ridges." After a few decades in Cape Breton the family moved to Antigonish County on the mainland of Nova Scotia, but the name "the Ridge" stayed with them for generations. This family maintained Gaelic learning and traditions for many generations. St. Francis Xavier University has in its Special Collections an extensive manuscript of Gaelic songs written down by Alexander "the Ridge," Angus' father. John Lorne Campbell recorded fifteen songs from Angus, twelve of which are published in Songs Remembered in Exile. Another of the songs Campbell collected from Angus was published by Sister Margaret MacDonell in The Emigrant Experience. John Lorne Campbell passed away just a few years ago. His entire collection is in his residence on the Isle of Canna. The collection catalogue is being entered into database and plans are underway to have the material digitized. We have a small amount of copies of John Lorne's material at StFX. In recent years when he would come to visit StFX he would bring several reel to reel tapes which we would duplicate to cassette tapes.

Also in the 1930s, Sidney Robertson Cowell, an ethnographer and folk music collector was working for the Library of Congress and managed to persuade the Work Projects Administration to support her recording of various ethnic groups in Northern California. This was one of the earliest undertakings of its kind in one region of the United States. The Irish and the Scots were among the groups recorded but as far as I can tell all the Irish material is in English. Much of the Scots material, however, is in Gaelic. The Gaelic material was supplied by several Hebrideans resident in California. More interesting for our purposes, however, are the items Cowell recorded from a Mary A. MacDonald on April 11, 1939. MacDonald was a ninety-year old native of Cape Breton who had come out to California in her youth in a covered wagon. The three local Cape Breton compositions MacDonald sang for Cowell and, indeed, much of the other material Cowell collected, are available on the Internet as sound files at the California Gold site of the Library of Congress (Library of Congress 1 & 2). In 1953 Cowell went to Cape Breton and recorded a number of the fine singers. In 1955 she brought several of Cape Breton's North Shore singers to Boston, where she recorded them performing milling songs and precenting the psalms. A house session in Boston was also recorded. These tapes are in the Folklife Archives of the Smithsonian Institute.

Another American woman who was extremely active as a folk music collector at that time was Laura Boulton. She traveled the world in search of folk music. As early as 1931 she was recording native American music. In the early 1940s she traveled throughout Canada. She collected widely in Nova Scotia from various ethnic groups. She also took moving pictures and one especially valuable film for folklife studies is her movie of an Acadian milling frolic. She recorded a fair amount of Gaelic material both in Cape Breton and in mainland Nova Scotia. She too recorded Angus the Ridge MacDonald. Copies of Laura Boulton Collection audio recordings exist at Columbia University, the Library of Congress, and the Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music. I would like to play a Gaelic example recorded by Laura Boulton in October 1941 from Angus the Ridge MacDonald. This copy was supplied by the Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music. The text I give you is taken from J. L. Campbell's book Songs Remembered in Exile. Note that the singer did not sing as full a text for Miss Boulton as he did for J. L. Campbell. Furthermore, note what he says at the end of the song. I would point out two things. First of all, in the Laura Boulton recording, Angus knew he was singing for a collector who did not understand him and who could not appreciate the song. Secondly, and possibly more important, it is clear from the tape that there was a fair number of English monoglots present, (remember this is mainland Nova Scotia in 1941), not Cape Breton, and Angus may have felt uncomfortable singing an old lengthy Gaelic song in the presence of this predominantly English-speaking company.

In 1941 another person was in Nova Scotia collecting Gaelic songs. This was Charles Dunn, chairman emeritus of the Department of Celtic languages and literatures at Harvard, who is responsible for much of the blossoming of Celtic Studies throughout North America. Dunn had studied Celtic at Harvard and was aware of the rich oral Gaelic traditions existing in Nova Scotia. He brought an Ediphone with him to Nova Scotia and proceeded to record a wide variety of Gaelic material. His book The Highland Settler is a classic in the field of Gaelic culture in Nova Scotia. In the 1960s Charles Dunn traveled to Québec and Ontario and recorded some of the last Gaelic speakers in those regions. His tape collection has long been housed at Harvard and over the years it has served as a research resource for a number of investigators including Nancy Rose Dunkly, William Mahon and Sr. Margaret MacDonell. Six years ago when I was teaching a course of Scottish Gaelic poetry, the class was looking at some of the poems in Sr. Margaret MacDonell's The Emigrant Experience. Mary Jane Lamond, who was in the class, was particularly interested in a certain song in the book that had been collected by Charles Dunn in 1960 in Ontario from ninety-four year old Donald Fletcher. Mary Jane went to talk to Sister MacDonell about the song, Sr. MacDonell sang it for Mary Jane and when Mary Jane produced her first album it was the first song on the album.

There are a few other Celtic collections at Harvard, such as the David Riply collection of English and Gaelic material recorded in Cape Breton in 1975 and a series of readings in Manx by John Comish, who considered himself a semi-speaker of Manx. These were recorded by Pádraig Ó Broin, the Toronto bookseller and publisher of the small Celtic journals: Teangadóir and Irisleabhar Ceilteach. John Comish, who was born in the Isle of Man, had traveled as a merchant sailor all over the world before he settled down in Kirkland Lake, Ontario where these recordings were made. The readings are from stories Comish had published in Ó Broin's Teangadóir.

One item I personally had a hand in was the Joe Heaney appearance at Harvard in February, 1975, which served as the Vernam Hull Lecture for that year. I am very happy that I requested at the time that the performance be recorded. We have as a result a recording of about an hour and a half in length. This material has been digitized and is being made available for use in courses at Harvard. I would like to play a selection from that performance of Joe Heaney singing "Curachaí na Tráighe Báine," which, as he tells us in his introduction, was composed by Bridget O'Malley in South Boston.

We turn at this point back to Canada. I mentioned earlier the Canadian Museum of Civilization formerly known as the Museum of Man. The Museum is actually located in Hull, Québec, but the archives are in Ottawa. One of its most important Celtic holdings is the collection done by the late Gordon MacLennan, Professor of Celtic Studies at the University of Ottawa. In the 1960s, MacLennan was hired by the Museum of Man to record Gaelic speakers throughout Canada: in Cape Breton, mainland Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Québec, Ontario and Saskatchewan. We at StFX have a tape that was made at one of MacLennan's recording sessions in mainland Nova Scotia. It is clear from this tape that two machines were present at the time because at several points MacLennan can be heard rewinding his own tape and playing it back. I would like to play a piece from this tape of a man named Angus MacIsaac from Giant's Lake, Guysborough County, not the same Angus MacIsaac who was recorded by J.L. Campbell. He tells the tale of one of the pioneers from Scotland who was so sick of all the trees in his new home that he decided the best way to clear the land was to set fire to the forest. This nearly resulted in disaster for this man himself and his neighbors did not approve of his method either.

There are some other collections of Celtic recordings at the Museum of Civilization, most notably one of Gaelic recordings from the Province of Québec and another interesting group of Welsh recordings from various Canadian provinces, but principally relating to Saskatchewan and its Welsh settlement.

We started this tour in Nova Scotia and I will draw to a conclusion in Nova Scotia. Two major archives remain to be discussed namely the Beaton Institute in Sydney, Cape Breton and the archive of the Celtic Studies Department of St. Francis Xavier University. The origins of the Beaton Institute which is at the University College of Cape Breton date to 1957 when Sister Margaret Beaton, the former College librarian began collecting material pertaining to the Gaelic language and culture. Throughout the course of the 1960s and until her death in 1975 Sr. Margaret Beaton, who was herself a native Gaelic speaker, recorded Gaelic speakers and hired collectors to record Gaelic speakers. The resulting collection consists of several hundred reel-to-reel tapes. Recently approximately half of this material has been duplicated to 100 cassettes and copies are now at the Beaton Institute and also at the Gaelic College in St. Ann's, Cape Breton.

At my University, we also have a major archive of recorded Gaelic material. The main part of the archive compromises the StFX Cape Breton Gaelic Folklore Project. Back in the mid-1970s Sr. Margaret MacDonell and John Shaw, applied for a grant to the Canadian Multiculturalism Directorate. Their proposal was successful and for five years, from 1977-1982, John Shaw was hired as a full-time collector. The project was limited to Cape Breton where the richest stores of Gaelic folklore remained. Forty Gaelic speakers were recorded, two of whom, Joe Neil MacNeil and Lauchie MacLellan, had so much material to contribute that it was decided to make them full-time paid contributors. The results of this project are truly impressive. John Shaw collected a total of 2000 folklore items, 1000 of which are songs. The material includes hero tales and interesting pieces of Fenian material. An idea of the kind of material obtained can found in Luirgean Eachainn Nìll which was co-produced by MacDonell and Shaw and also in the Joe Neil MacNeil collection Tales Until Dawn which John Shaw edited. This material was originally recorded on 350 reel-to-reel tapes but over the last number of years we have had it duplicated onto approximately 100 cassettes. A copy of it has been placed in the University library where it can be listened to by the public. Also, over the last few years I have had a number of students, such as Mary Jane Lamond, working on entering the catalogue of the material into database. This has been completed for some time and we hope soon to have the catalogue available on the Web. At StFX we also have a number of ancillary collections, including the recent StFX Gaelic Video Project, which is a series of video recordings of thirty Cape Breton Gaelic speakers done from 1994-1996 and which represents approximately thirty hours of Gaelic on good quality video.

In conclusion, as the number of speakers of the various Celtic languages diminishes these archives increase in importance. As more and more people around the world start to take up the study of the Celtic languages it is important that they have the opportunity to hear authentic Celtic speech. Teachers of the Celtic languages, especially those of us who are not native speakers of the languages we teach, should be familiar with this archival material and should make use of it to whatever degree possible in their classes so that the legacy of "an Teanga Bheo," the Celtic languages as a living means of communication, may continue for generations to come.


Campbell, J. L. (1990) Songs Remembered in Exile. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press.

Creighton, H. and MacLeod C. (1964) Gaelic Songs in Nova Scotia. Ottawa: National Museum of Canada.

Croft, C. (1999) Helen Creighton : Canada's first lady of folklore. Halifax: Nimbus.

Dorson, R. (1966). "Foreword" to Sean O'Sullivan's Folktales of Ireland. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Dunn, C. (1953) Highland Settler. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Library of Congress 1. http://rs6.loc.gov/ammem/afccchtml/cowhome.html .

Library of Congress 2. http://rs6.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/ammem/cowellbib:scottish .

MacDonell, M. (1982) The Emigrant Experience. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

MacDonell, M. and Shaw, J. (1981) Luirgean Eachainn Nìll. Stornoway: Acair.

MacNeil, J. and Shaw, J. (1987) Tales until Dawn. Kingston, Ont. : McGill-Queen's University Press.

Search and Retrieval Options within the Database of the Corpus of Electronic Texts - CELT Project

Donnchadh Ó Corráin

Beatrix Färber

Department of History

University College Cork

Cork, Ireland

ocorrain@ucc.ie Email

b.faerber@ucc.ie Email

http://www.ucc.ie/celt/ URL

+353 21 490 2558 (Ó Corráin) Tel

+353 21 490 2736 (Färber) Tel

+353 21 427 3369 Fax


The CELT project aims to produce an online database of contemporary and historical topics from many areas, including literature and the other arts. It provides material for the greatest possible range of readers, researchers, academic scholars, teachers, students, and the general public. The texts can be searched, read on-screen, downloaded for later use, or printed out. The article outlines the aims and achievements of CELT and its predecessor CURIA before discussing the provision of a facility for searching the collection for instances of names in a fashion which can take into account differences of orthography and even source language.



CELT, an initiative of University College Cork, initiated by Donnchadh Ó Corráin, was launched in June 1997 to create an online corpus of text material of Irish interest. The project has been able to make use of the texts made available in Cork by the earlier CURIA project [1] (a joint project of University College Cork and the Royal Irish Academy, also initiated by Donnchadh Ó Corráin) which terminated in 1997. This is a very large text base freely available on the Internet: by June 2000, the CELT project will have over two million words available online. A complete list of the materials available can be found at [2].

Its aim is to bring the wealth of Irish literary and historical culture (in Irish of all periods, Old Norse, Anglo-Norman French and English) to the Internet in a rigorously scholarly project, that is, at the same time, user-friendly for the widest possible range of readers and researchers - academic scholars, teachers, students (at all levels), and the general public, in Ireland and internationally. Recently we have got feedback about CELT materials having been used for research by various scholars in Russia.

Figure 1. Example of a printed source edition (taken from [6]).

The Annals of Ulster
431  Kl. Ienair                    . Anno ab Incarnatione Domini  H16ra
     .cccc.xxx.i. Palladius ad Scotos a Celestino urbis Romae 
     episcopo ordinatus episcopus, Etio & Ualerio consulibus, 
     primus mittitur in Hiberniam ut Christum credere potuissent, 
     anno Teodosi uiii.

Figure 2. The same document scanned into a plaintext file (taken from [6]).

<DIV0 TYPE="Annals">
<HEAD>The Annals of Ulster</HEAD>
  <PB N="38">
  <MLS N="16ra" UNIT="folio/column">
  <DIV1 N="U431" TYPE="Annal">
    <DIV2 N="U431.0" TYPE="Entry">
      <P><DATE VALUE="0431-01-01">Kl. Ien<EX>air</EX>.<GAP><FRN LANG="la">Anno 
         ab Incarnatione Domini .cccc.xxx.i.</FRN></DATE></P>
    <DIV2 N="U431.1">
      <P><FRN LANG="LA"><PS><FN>Palladius</FN></PS> ad <ON
         TYPE="people:Irish">Scotos</ON> a <PS><FN>Celestino</FN></PS> 
         urbis <PN TYPE="city">Romae</PN> <TERM TYPE="bishop">episcopo</TERM> 
         ordinatus <TERM TYPE="bishop">episcopus</TERM>, 
         <PS><FN>&Eogon;tio</FN></PS> &ampersir; <PS><FN>Ualerio</FN></PS>
         consulibus, primus mittitur in 
         <PN TYPE="country:Ireland">Hiberniam</PN> ut Christum credere 
         potuissent, anno <PS><FN>Teodosi</FN></PS> 
         <NUM VALUE="8">uiii</NUM></FRN>.</P>

Figure 3. The file marked up in SGML in TEI format (taken from [6]).

The Texts

The texts are taken from the best printed editions (with due regard to copyright), scanned, proofread and encoded in SGML [3] according to the Document Type Definition (DTD) [4] of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) [5]. These stages are illustrated in Figures 1 to 3 which are taken from Text Searching in the CELT Database by Peter Flynn [6]. SGML was chosen because it is a non-proprietary, platform- and software-independent format that guarantees the future of the text base, regardless of hardware and software developments and can easily be converted into other languages, such as XML. The only problem there concerns the DTD, because without this, there would be no possibility of robust navigation (a lot of attribute information would be lost because only CDATA attributes would be allowed). As yet it is not possible to convert the DTD within a document, because there is no DTD for full TEI in XML available yet (there might be next year). But a lot will depend on the speed of development of the browsers/readers - there are a lot of possibilities. We are keeping an eye on these developments, and on the development of the DTD for full TEI in XML, so we can address this issue as soon as it becomes relevant.

It also serves to generate browsable HTML [7] files for those who do not require the scholarly detail possible in SGML/TEI files. The TEI specifications were chosen because TEI is the established standard for almost all text-based projects of similar scope (see [8] for a list of projects which have adopted TEI). The texts are available online in several formats:

The Text Markup

The SGML text encoding is applied to the texts at two levels:

  1. the structural level ('natural' or man-made divisions such as chapters of books, years of annals, poems within anthologies, paragraphs, verses, lines, pages, folia, lists, items etc.);
  2. the descriptive level (names of persons, organisations, places; technical terms, dates, events, numbers, etc).

The TEI framework offers a wide range of SGML markup possibilities, catering for virtually all the text-editorial requirements of the most diverse projects. Further details can be found in [9] and [10]. CELT has, in its early stages, seen a good deal of experimenting to find out the level of encoding best suited to the needs of historians and other scholars.

At this stage, what are regarded as the project's most important texts (annals, sagas, early Irish verse) have both types of markup applied. Many have only structural markup at present. Translations of texts available on the site are marked up less heavily than the originals. The descriptive markup on some texts is also undergoing constant revision.

The Search Engine

The web site's search engine offers refined search options which have been formulated in accordance with the input from the user communities. Words and phrases can be identified and used to find names, dates, places and events. For example, the search can be restricted to text type (verse, prose and drama) and to markup only, or text only. Search can be restricted to personal names or occupations.

Possibilities for the Study of Irish

The possibilities which the text corpus holds are vast, and depend in the first place on the creativity of the researcher. And this is what makes them so interesting. They are useful for diverse disciplines which make use of Irish texts as a source for intra- and extra-textual information. With the kind of corpus we have in CELT, what first comes to mind are areas such as lexicography, syntax, grammar, but also language style and register, and in the case of the Annals, genealogical and geographical information. The information contained in the markup could for example be used to draw up statistics about the extent to which different languages are used in one text and in different parts of the same text. For instance, in some of the Annals, the early entries are mainly written in Latin, a good part of the entries is written in a mixture of Latin and Irish, and the latest entries are written predominantly in Irish. If there are manuscripts where different hands and maybe different chronological strata can be identified, the relationship between these can be identified, and the extent of additions made by different hands to the text can be established swiftly and conveniently.

CELT aims to be interdisciplinary, that is to contributing to research in other fields - but we also hope to make use of data furnished by other disciplines, such as geography: by linking each placename in the database to its geographical coordinates, in the long term we are aiming at providing the online user with popup maps showing the actual location of a given place, even if the name recorded in the Annal entry might have been long obsolete.

The possibilities SGML holds for textual enhancement and exploitation may only come to be properly savoured by one after some experiences have been gathered in a given individual project when research results have indicated the possible avenues further research could take - for one can always add more markup of one's own to any given text.

What Distinguishes CELT from other Internet Projects of Similar Scope and Purpose?

The texts of Irish provenance made available on the web have been heavily edited - corrections of errors, normalisation of orthography and segmentation are provided to help the reader in many of the most culturally significant texts (for example, the annals). This enables and greatly enhances exploitation and search of the text for scholarly purposes. Each text is enhanced, and that enhancement can be cumulative over time, since additional markup can be added within the conventions of SGML/TEI markup protocols. SGML-encoded Texts from the CELT Corpus formed the basis of two articles by Mavis Cournane [11, 12]. The text encoding practice of CELT was addressed in her Ph.D. Thesis [13].

A Name Index

For use with its search engine, CELT aims at enabling a comprehensive name index, among other things for purposes of prosopography - an independent science of social history embracing genealogy, onomastics and demography, something that has scarcely begun in Celtic Studies. This index will be based on markup and machine retrieval of names in a logical order - given names, additional names, nicknames, role names and surnames. A personal name index will consist of all the personal names found in the CELT database. It will allow personal names, kindred and dynasty names to be identified, to be placed in their social and historical context, and every mention of them to be traced so as to give comprehensive data of a given individual's life.

A particularly valuable source for information retrieval regarding personal names are the Irish Annals which are extant in Irish, Latin and English. There are major problems, however. Most of the body of the Annals written in Irish covers a wide timespan, and major language changes have occurred within that period, as is inevitably the case with any large, heterogeneous database. Besides, many texts are written in a mixture of Irish and Latin. This affects many things, including the orthography of personal names which may differ greatly from century to century and from text to text. For research in Irish history and related fields this has given rise to problems for those less familiar with Irish orthography. And sometimes, for those less familiar with Latin, it may not be easy to equate a latinised personal name with the corresponding Irish or English form.

However, this problem can be overcome so that a search can be enabled for somebody outside the specialist field of early medieval studies. We wish to talk a little about this. The variants in spelling and morphology of a given name are given a single target value. The variants are then used to create a name pool. Search options could include selecting between a thesaurus match - which will yield all variants in the name pool, and an exact match - which will exclude unwanted orthographic variants. A user who wants to submit a query will also be able to select only certain name forms to be included in the search, thus getting individually dove-tailed search results. This would allow for a great amount of flexibility to the individual's research preferences.

Consider the following example. You are searching for the Old-Irish personal name Aed, with thesaurus match enabled. Now you will get all the orthographical and morphological variants, such as Áed. Áid, Áeda, Aeda, Aoda, Áedh, Aedh, Aodh, Aodha, Aedha. You will also get unusual spelling. In addition, you will get English forms (for example Hugh), and Latin forms (for example Aedus, Hugo). The value of such a tool will be evident immediately to the historian. Consider a second example. You are searching for Middle-Irish Aed (nominative without a length-mark) with exact match enabled. Now, you are shown only hits for this exact form, and that is all you get and is presumably what you want.

How to Regularise the Variants?

In discipline like philology, textual studies, and history, where scholars work with manuscripts many of the polymorphic variants are not occasioned simply by the evolution of language over time, but also by scribal idiosyncracy, local scribal practice, varying levels of education and linguistic competence, or by the absence of any established orthographic standards, and such absence is normal in the middle ages, even for Latin. But the scholar-editor is left to decide whether or not to regularize these inconsistencies. Best practice reports all significant textual variants in an apparatus criticus, and this is possible in SGML/TEI. In fact, CELT has been done this in the case of a very short text: G301000. sgml (Compert Conchobuir I). The question remains: How does one retain all variants in an effective way and yet make searches efficient? Since CELT reports the text as is, one cannot interfere with the text itself by regularising. As we note, SGML/TEI allows one to enter regularisation in addition to reporting the actual reading, but this kind of markup is very slow (as we have learned by experiment), especially if used over a wide range of texts, and thus inordinately expensive. Another route is possible in the case of a large corpus. Individual instances of names can point to variant stacks for these names, compiled from the corpus itself, reporting all variants known. These stacks can also list standardised forms. What is then required is a search routine that offers: (i) exact match; and (ii) all forms. If one selects all forms, the search routine goes to the relevant stack and uses all forms there recorded as search forms, and returns all forms found. Thus the user has access to all forms of a name such as Aed, and the forms remained unchanged and unregularised in the corpus, thus retaining the integrity of the texts.

Further Possibilities of SGML/TEI Markup for Historical and Linguistic Research

The TEI markup can be applied to virtually all textual elements: morphological, lexical, syntactical, metrical etc. By using the same technique of variant-stacks, other remarkable results can be achieved. For example, the Old-Irish verb is, morphologically speaking, inordinately difficult, synchronically as well as diachronically. If however one creates full paradigms of the verbs from the grammars and dictionaries and sets them up as variant stacks, unrecognised verbal forms occurring in texts can be identified. This is a more tricky task than names, but it is not only possible to do it but it is very desirable, and would provide a vital tool for students of medieval and early-modern Irish literature. To do this all we need is the money and the workers.


[1] Flynn, P. (1992). Tagging Irish Manuscripts. Proceedings of the SGML Conference, November 1992, Danvers, Mass. http://imbolc.ucc.ie/~pflynn/articles/danvers.html .

[2] CELT (1997). Celt Corpus of Electronic Texts: List of Published Texts.

http://www.ucc.ie/celt/list.html .

[3] Cover, R. (1999). The XML Cover Pages. SGML: General Introductions and Overviews.

http://www.oasis-open.org/cover/general.html#overview .

[4] W3Schools (2000). W3Schools Online Web Tutorials: DTD School.

http://www.w3schools.com/dtd/default.asp .

[5] Plotkin, W., & Sperberg-McQueen, C. M. (1999). Text Encoding Initiative.

http://www.uic.edu/orgs/tei/ .

[6] Flynn, P. (1997). Text searching in the CELT database.

http://www.ucc.ie/celt/doc/searching.html .

[7] Raggett, D., Jacobs, I., Ishikawa, M., & Asada, T. (2000). HyperText Markup Language Home Page. http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/ .

[8] Plotkin, W., & Sperberg-McQueen, C. M. (1996). TEI Application Page Project Descriptions. Document TEI A 14, 14 August 1996. http://www-tei.uic.edu/orgs/tei/app/index.html .

[9] Robinson, P. (1994). The Transcription of Primary Textual Sources using SGML. vol 6. Oxford: Office for Humanities Publications.

[10] Olsen, M. (1996). Text Theory and Coding Practice: Assessing the TEI. Proceedings of the ALLC-ACH conference in Bergen, Norway, June 1996.

http://duras.uchicago.edu/ARTFL/philologic/papers/bergen96/ .

[11] Cournane, M. (1997). Names Proper and Improper: Applying the TEI to the Classification of Proper Nouns. Computers and the Humanities, 31(4), 1997.

[12] Cournane, M. (1999). Intellectual encoding issues: The case of early Irish Metrics. Proceedngs of the Joint ACH/ALLC international conference, University of Virginia, June 1999.

[13] Cournane, M. (1997). The Application of SGML/TEI to the Processing of Complex Multilingual Historical Texts. Ph.D. Thesis, University College Cork, 1997.

Teaching the Initial Mutations in Modern Irish

Séamas Ó Direáin

Dept. of Modern Irish

University College, Cork

Cork, Ireland


+353 21 902519 Tel


This paper will adopt a modular approach to the teaching of the rules for the initial consontal mutations of verbs, nouns, and adjectives in Modern Irish, proposing that the rules be presented grammatical module by grammatical module, starting from the relatively straightforward operation of the rules in the case of the regular verbs and ending with the relatively complex and idiosyncratic operation of the rules in the case of nouns in dative constructions or "prepositional phrases".


Mastering the initial consonantal mutations of verbs, nouns, and adjectives in Modern Irish remains a constant problem for the learner of Modern Irish in the normal classroom environment, even in Ireland itself. It is not unusual for third-level students of Irish in their third year of university Irish classes to have persistent and pervasive problems in internalizing the system of rules underlying the operation of lenition ("aspiration") and voicing/nasalization ("eclipsis") in both their spoken and their written Irish. The problem is compounded by the frequent absence or near-absence of contexts on lower academic levels in which the Irish language could be used as a normal medium of spoken or written communication on a broad variety of topics relevant to the students' personal and academic experience, so that even the most frequent applications of the rules of initial mutations in normal conversation are often not part of the students' experience. The problem is further compounded by the lack - real or imagined - of systematic presentation of the grammatical rules underlying the initial mutations in the pre-university educational experience of the students. Adding to the students' frustration, perhaps, is the fact that reference materials on the grammar of Modern Irish - in English or in Irish -, though often quite comprehensive in their treatment of initial mutations, often present the student with ad hoc lists of rules for initial mutations and of the lexical and grammatical items which trigger the operation of the rules.

As a result, in handling even the simplest written grammatical tasks, with all the time in the world allowed for completing the task at hand - as opposed to the "real-time" pressures of normal conversation - students are often completely at a loss in deciding whether to lenite, to voice, to nasalize or simply to leave alone the initial consonant of a given word. Students often try random solutions. To use real examples found in papers written by my own third-level students, faced with the translation into Irish of a question in English beginning with the words "Do you see...?", one student wrote, for example, "An bhfeiceann tú...?", a second wrote "An fheiceann tú...?, a third wrote "An feiceann tú...?, and a fourth wrote "An chíonn tú...". Faced with a similar problem, the translation of a question in English beginning with the words "Did you leave..." into Irish, students wrote "An bhfág tu...?", "An d'fhág tú...?", "Ar d'fhág tú...?" and "Ar fágadh tú...?". On the other hand, besides finding students in complete confusion over which mutation rule to apply, one often finds students applying mutation rules confidently, consistently and systematically - but in the wrong grammatical contexts. These are common, deep-rooted student errors such as "Ní cheart..." (= "Ní ceart..."), where a mutation rule appropriate for verbs is being applied to nouns or adjectives, or "Ar ghortaíodh é?, where a mutation rule appropriate for a regular verb in the simple past or habitual past tense is being used here for the simple past tense of an impersonal verb form. In most cases, it seems that the operations themselves - the mutations - have been internalized by the students, but there exists considerable confusion in the students' minds over the proper grammatical contexts for the realization of a given rule of mutation. In my own teaching, I have proceeded on the assumption that clarifying the contexts for the application of mutation rules will aid students in using mutations with greater confidence. It seems as though students do benefit from such clarifications in their understanding of the whole system of mutations; whether such understanding will automatically result in reduction of mutation-related errors among students, however, is another question. Nevertheless, I feel that an approach which clarifies the grammatical contexts for mutations can at least do no harm from the standpoint of sound pedagogy.

For maximum clarification of grammatical contexts, I advocate a modular approach to the teaching of the rules for initial mutations, proposing that the rules be presented grammatical module by grammatical module, starting from the relatively straightforward operation of the rules in the case of the regular verbs and ending with the relatively complex and idiosyncratic operation of the rules in the case of nouns in dative constructions or "prepositional phrases". I believe that through such an approach complex information can be presented to adult learners of Irish in a relatively comprehensible and comprehensive way which might aid them not only in internalizing the rules of initial mutation but also in applying those rules in the appropriate grammatical contexts. Such an approach, furthermore, would be consonant with a more general gradatory approach to the teaching of Irish to adult learners that I have advocated earlier.

Teaching the Verbal Mutations

Perhaps the simplest place to start in teaching consonantal mutations in Modern Standard Irish is with the simple past tense of the regular verbs. (I exclude here for the moment the impersonal forms of the verbs, the so-called "passive" verb forms.) With such verb forms, only one mutation takes place: lenition. It matters not whether one is negating, querying, performing both operations or performing neither of them. It matters not whether the verb is in a relative clause or in a subordinate clause; the operation is always the same: lenition. As in the case of the other tenses, examples of verbs taken from both the first and second regular verbal conjugations and of verb beginning a vowel or with [f] or [f'] would be given, so that the student would be given a well-rounded appreciation of the shapes of verbs which accompany mutations in particular grammatical contexts. The examples of verbs beginning with a vowel or with [f] or [f'] would be of particular interest here in that the morpheme {d-} or {d'-} occurs only with simple (non-negated, non-interrogative, non-subordinated) forms of such verbs, and is the single exception to the lenition rule.

The next module to present, perhaps, is the future tense of the verb, which requires no inflectional endings for person, but which reveals clearly the existence of two separate verbal conjugations. Here also the full range of possibilities for mutations is employed: lenition ("aspiration"), voicing/nasalization ("eclipsis"), and absence of mutation. Since the student is familiar with the mutations themselves, this provides the optimal opportunity for clarifying the grammatical contexts in which the separate mutations occur without the distractions of the inflectional endings for person: lenition for negation of the verb, voicing/nasalization for the interrogative form of the verb (whether positive or negative), and absence of mutation for simple positive declarations. In addition to clarifying the mutation rules for simple clauses, the instructor has the opportunity here to point out - for more advanced students, perhaps - that the positive verb form in a direct relative clause, with its lenition, stands out not only from its counterpart in a negative relative clause (direct or indirect) but also from its counterparts in other subordinate clauses as well, whether positive or negative. To put it another way, exactly the same form of the verb is used for negative interrogative forms, for negative relative forms, and for other subordinate clause forms, whether positive or negative, which simplifies the operations required to produce appropriate mutated forms of verbs while neutralizing the distinctions between grammatical contexts.

The hypothetical conditional tense of the verb is perhaps the next module to present, because while introducing a number of inflectional endings for person it employs the tense suffixes used in future forms of the verb, which have just been presented to the student. Furthermore, in the case of the irregular forms of the verb (to be discussed later), the same suppletive or otherwise irregular forms of the verb root used for the future tense will be used for the hypothetical conditional as well. The mutations employed in the hypothetical conditional will be the same as those of the future tense, with the exception of the simple positive verb form, which is lenited. This is in fact is a simplification of the mutational system, since only two options exist: lenition or voicing/nasalization. In any event, with the exception just mentioned, both the operations to be performed and the contexts in which they occur are the same as in the case of the future tense. Another small but important exception, also involving lenition, is the case of verbs beginning with a vowel or with the consonants [f] or [f']; as in the case of the simple past tense, the morpheme {d-} or {d'-} must be used before the verb stem in contexts requiring lenition.

Having dealt with the forms of the verb in the future and hypothetical conditional tenses as paired sets of forms, we can do the same for the forms of the verb in the present habitual and past habitual tenses. Both sets of forms share a common meaning: repeated or habitual action (with the exception of a few verbs of cognition or perception, which, in the present tense, can also have a meaning of momentary or continuous activity which is not necessarily repeated). Both also, like the verb forms of the future and hypothetical conditional tenses, share the same forms of the verb root and, despite the differences in inflection in the verbal endings, seem to pair together naturally. In the case of the present habitual tense, the student need only employ the initial mutations learned already for the future tense. In the case of the past habitual tense, the student need only employ the initial mutations learned for the hypothetical conditional tense. Once again, in the case of the past habitual verb forms, the student must use the morpheme {d-} or {d'-} in the case of verbs beginning with a vowel or with the consonants [f] or [f'].

Having dealt with "active" forms of the verb, we can now deal with "passive" forms of the verb: the impersonal verb forms. I find it convenient to deal with the impersonal verb forms separately and as a group, since both conceptually and formally they seem to stand apart from "active" forms of the verb. Certainly their verbal endings may have little or nothing in common with the endings of their "active" verbal counterparts, and in the case of the simple past tense, their behavior in regard to initial mutations is in sharp contrast to their "active" verbal counterparts. While "active" verb forms in the simple past tense employ a "lenite under all circumstances" rule, the impersonal verb forms employ a "lenite (or voice/nasalize) under no circumstances" rule. Here the student must restrain himself/herself from leniting verb forms which from the standpoint of habit and logic demand lenition. As for all the other tenses, impersonal verb forms follow the rules of initial mutation already presented for the "active" verb forms.

The irregular verbs have been left aside until now for two reasons. First, their idiosyncratic behavior in regard to mutations does not aid the student in internalizing the mutational system for the vast number of verbs in Irish which are not irregular. Second, the high frequency of most of these eleven irregular verb forms in Irish helps to ensure their acquisition as verbal units, particles and all. Third, for the student already familiar with the rules of mutation for regular verbs, the exceptions to rules in regard to irregular verbs are relatively straightforward. The verb Faigh! ("Get!") presents the most conspicuous exceptions to the rules of mutation and the verb Abair! ("Say!") to a lesser extant, while three other verbs - Déan! ("Do!"), Feic! ("See!"), Téigh! ("Go!") - present aberrant forms for both particles and verb roots in the simple past tense but still follow the regular rules of lenition for the simple past tense. In regard to initial mutations in the irregular verbs, then, simple memorization of verb forms and particles as units, with ample practice through use, seems to be the best prescription for the learner.

The rules of mutation for nouns and adjectives following the copula demand separate treatment, since the combination of copula (or negative/interrogative/negative-interrogative particle) + noun/adjective do not constitute the normal particle + verb form unit that we have been dealing with so far. Not surprisingly, the "tense system" of the copula has little to do with the tense system of the verbs we have been dealing with so far; it is a simple two-term system, with one "tense", which might be called "realis", comprising the not only the present tense but the future as well, and another, which might be called "irrealis", serving for both the past and hypothetical conditional tenses. Not surprisingly again, the rules for mutation are very different as well, though the same pre-verbal particles are used. In the "present/future" tense, the negative particle "ní" does not lenite, and the interrogative particle "an" does not voice or nasalize. (In fact, no voicing/nasalization rule is used with the copula). The "past/hypothetical conditional" tense does in fact behave like that of regular "active" verbs in that lenition is employed with all forms: positive, negative, interrogative, and negative-interrogative. As may be noted from the examples in the introduction, the shapes of negative, interrogative, and subordinating particles used in copula constructions for given "tenses" are not necessarily the ones used with their "active" verbal counterparts in normal verbal constructions. Such misidentifications can cause considerable confusion in the mind of the learner, both in regard to the shape of the particle and in regard to the mutation employed following the particle, but since the shapes of particles are not our focus here, these problems will not be discussed in this paper.

Teaching the Nominal and Adjectival Mutations

Turning now to an entirely different question, the question of mutations within the noun phrase, there are two completely separate issues here: mutations involving gender and mutations involving the case function of the entire noun phrase. The separation of gender and case is perhaps most clearly seen in the case of a feminine noun modified by an adjective in a noun phrase in the dative case, e.g., "...ar an mbean mhaith", where the mutation of the head noun is governed by the case of the entire noun phrase while the mutation of the adjective in this instance is governed strictly by the gender of the noun it modifies. This independence of gender and case is important to point out when teaching the mutations, because students are often surprised at instances where the noun in a noun phrase undergoes one mutation (or none at all), but the adjective undergoes another mutation. For example, in addition to the example cited above, we have "bean mhaith" ("a good woman") and "an tine mhór", where the behavior of the head noun regarding mutations does not prepare the student for the behavior of the adjective modifying that noun. For the student used to textbook examples such as "an bhean mhaith" and "(teas) na tine móire", where the head noun and modifying adjective are behaving congruently, this conflict of mutational behavior can be confusing.

Because the mutational behavior of both nouns and adjectives in the different cases depends so often on the gender of the head noun, I deal first with the issue of gender when discussing the nominal and adjectival mutations with students, and I deal with that issue in the context of examples in the comparatively unmarked nominative/accusative case. The gender difference is clear in the case of definite singular nouns preceded by the definite article, with feminine nouns (and modifying adjectives) lenited and masculine nouns remaining unlenited. The principle problem for the student is identifying which nouns are masculine and which are feminine. The lack of lenition in feminine nouns beginning with a dental stop after the singular definite article breaks the pattern of lenition for feminine nouns, but this exception to the rule is understandable to the students from the standpoint of ease of articulation. A good bit harder for students to internalize are the rules governing the intrusive [t] or [t'] which occurs before masculine nouns beginning with a vowel and before feminine nouns beginning with [s] or [] + vowel or with [s] or [] + sonorant + vowel. Students will often generalize the rule for masculine nouns beginning with a vowel to feminine nouns beginning with a vowel, or they will generalize the rule for feminine nouns beginning with a sibilant to masculine nouns beginning with a sibilant - or, in the case of lexical items such as "ubh," they will simply fail to identify the gender correctly. Also, as mentioned above, when modifying singular feminine nouns without the definite article, students may not remember to lenite the modifying adjective after the unlenited noun. The only remedy for problems in the areas mentioned above, beyond clarifying the grammatical contexts, is extensive practice using such forms.

In regard to the plural forms of nouns in the nominative/accusative case, it need only be stressed to students that there are no mutations to consider, and that masculine and feminine nouns behave exactly alike, even in regard to their effect on modifying adjectives. An intrusive [h] occurs between the plural definite article and the following noun beginning with a vowel, but students understand readily that this is only a device to keep the vowels apart. The subset of plural masculine nouns ending in a slender consonant present a problem, since they lenite a modifying plural adjective, but it can be emphasized to students that the lenition here has nothing to do with gender or case; it has only to do with the phonological shape of the nominal ending.

In regard to lenition, the genitive case largely reverses the rules learned for singular masculine and feminine nouns in the nominative/accusative case. In the genitive case, it is the masculine nouns (and accompanying adjectives) which undergo lenition, while feminine nouns (and accompanying adjectives) undergo no mutation at all (beyond the intrusive [h] which occurs between article and noun to keep the vowels separate). Genitive plural forms also differ from nominative/accusative plural forms in that definite nouns of both genders preceded by the definite article undergo voicing/nasalization, while their modifying adjectives behave as they would in a nominative/accusative construction.

The dative case presents the most complex problems in regard to mutations, but here the particular preposition governing the dative construction is a key factor in determining lenition. The behavior of definite nouns preceded by an article is relatively straightforward. Singular nouns of both genders undergo voicing/nasalization after nearly all prepositions, except for the prepositional forms "den", "don" and "sa(n)". Plural nouns of both genders undergo no mutations, behaving exactly as plural nouns do in the nominative/accusative case constructions. Modifying adjectives also behave as their counterparts do in nominative/accusative constructions. The difficulty here for students is to avoid applying the voicing/nasalization rule to nouns, since analogical pressure from dative singular forms and genitive plural forms is strong.

The rules for mutation of both singular and plural, definite and indefinate nouns not preceded by an article are quite different. More than half of the prepositions in Irish require lenition in both singular and plural for the noun they govern, while a minority require no mutation. A single preposition, "i", requires voicing/nasalization. Unfortunately, while a case can be made for a division of the sets of prepositions on a cognitive basis, students must accept that in this instance a good deal of memorization is required in order to apply the mutation rules successfully.


The problems of teaching the initial mutations in Modern Irish are considerable, and only the most fundamental problems have been considered here. Problems such as the lenition of nouns in the genitive case which modify feminine nouns, for instance, or of the lenition of nouns in embedded genitive constructions have not been considered at all. Nevertheless, I hope that this attempt to clarify the contexts - phonological and grammatical - in which the rules of mutation operate will help instructors of Irish as they themselves clarify the rules for their students, so that the weight of memorization may be lessened for students, while the productivity - and automaticity - of the rules of mutation may be correspondingly increased for them.


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Duran, J. (1997) Preparing a Structural Syllabus for Adult Learners of Irish, Journal of Celtic Language Learning, 3, 6-40.

Nic Mhaoláin, M. (1985) A Thuilleadh faoin gCaighdeán. Teangeolas, Journal of the Linguistics Institute of Ireland, No. 20, Summer, 5-7.

Ó Baoill, D.P. & Ó Tuathail, É. (1992) Úrchúrsa Gaeilge (rev. ed.). Dublin: The Linguistics Institute of Ireland.

Pinker, S. (1996) Language Learnability and Language Development (with New Commentary by the Author). Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Pinker, S. (1999) Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Stationery Office. (1979) Gramadach na Gaeilge agus Litriú na Gaeilge: an Caighdeán Oifigiúil. Dublin: Stationery Office.

The Effect of Bilingualism on Learners'

Self-Awareness - A Case Study

Muiris Ó Laoire

Department of Languages

Institute of Technology,

Tralee, Co. Kerry.

muiris.olaoire@ittralee.ie Email

+353 66 24666 3415 Tel


This case study investigates two different groups of learners as they approach the study of L3 (typically French or German) at tertiary level; one group, co-ordinate bilinguals, coming from the balanced- bilingualism situation of the Gaeltacht speech community, the other group being monolingual English speakers, who have had 13 years exposure to Irish as L2. Taking account of crosslinguistic interactions and the impact of bilingualism on cognitive development, this study, using questionnaires and reflective-type interviews, will examine, for the first time in the case of Irish/English as L1/L2, the degree to which balanced bilingualism (Irish-English) impacts on learner self-awareness and capacity for reflection

Introduction: Objective of the study

This study is based on research conducted among students of French, German and Spanish as L3/L4 at tertiary level. 15 students were co-ordinate bilinguals from the Gaeltacht and fifteen others were monolingual English speakers who had experienced thirteen years of school-based learning of Irish as L2. It has always been assumed by teachers of both Irish and foreign languages (FL) in Ireland that learning Irish with all the particular conditions that surround it, has had some relation to or some bearing on the way that students approach the L3, typically French, German or Spanish. In the case of additive trilingualism, there has been a belief that bilinguals are relatively better at learning a new language than monolinguals (Bild & Swain 1989, Thomas 1988). Studies in this area to date in Ireland have been regrettably few. Bearing in mind that there is evidence, as supported by Bialystok (1987, 1994), Karmiloff-Smith (1986) and Gombert (1990), regarding the acquisition of metalinguistic awareness, which indicates that learners consciously or subconsciously draw on various sources of previous language learning in all subsequent language learning, [learning L3/L4, for example],the present study sought to investigate the two different groups of learners as they approach the study of L3 (typically French or German) at tertiary level; one group, co-ordinate bilinguals, coming from the balanced- bilingualism situation of the Gaeltacht speech community, the other group being monolingual English speakers, who have had 13 years exposure to Irish as L2.

Taking account of crosslinguistic interactions and the impact of bilingualism on cognitive development, this paper intends to report on preliminary results of a comparative study of learners' self-awareness in both groups, i.e., the set of beliefs that they have about themselves as language learners, including their capacity for reflective thinking (about the learning process itself) and learning strategies deployed when faced with communicative and cognitive tasks in L3.

The Participants

The participants in this short study are 30 students from the schools of Business, Engineering and Science 15 from the linguistically-defined Gaeltacht region who are co-ordinate bilinguals, with Irish being the home language of all 15 (100%) students. 10 students reported English-Irish as the language of the home domain and 5 students specified Irish only. 10 students were studying French as L3 and 5 students studying German as L3. The other 15 students were monolingual English speakers from Business, Engineering, Humanities and Science, studying French and German as an L3 and had 13 years of exposure to Irish in the educational system as an L2 (on average: 2500 hours).They were predominantly in the 17-23 years age group which is typical of the vast majority of our undergraduate students at tertiary level, with most coming from a rural or small village background.

The Scope of the Present Questionnaire

The questionnaire comprised four parts. The first part targeted background information, course, language being studied, age, background, language learning history, periods spent in the target language speech community etc.

The second part of the questionnaire sought to explore learners' reactions to the Irish language, including an investigation of the extent to which learners had come into contact with it and used it after leaving school. It sought information on background knowledge, and on examination performance. In exploring general attitudes to Irish it intended to gain some valuable insight into the learning strategies used by informants, by providing them with a list of learning strategies, adapted SILL (Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (Oxford 1990) from Abraham's and Vann's case study (Wenden & Rubin 1987) comprising cognitive, metacognitive, social -affective strategies as outlined by O'Malley and Chamot, (1990). The fourth part of the survey sought to get some data on learners' awareness of learning the L3.

Both sets of learners were asked if studying L3 was 'easier' because they had previously spoke or had studied Irish and significantly, they were also asked to comment on any similarities or differences they perceived between the approach [taken by themselves] to learning Irish and to learning other languages. Finally, a number of BALLI (Horowitz 1983) items to identify students' beliefs about language learning with a view to correlating relatively these beliefs with the findings on the use of learning strategies e.g. if the connection of specific belief related to a choice or deployment of a particular learning strategy.

Preliminary Data

Not all students in the bilingual group would perceive themselves as being good at languages.A majority reported themselves as being not good at languages. This contrasts somewhat with the monolingual students' approach to L3 where a majority (65%) stated that they would perceive themselves as being good at languages. When students in the bilingual group, were asked as to why they considered themselves not so good at language- 33.4% replied that they rely more on English (the lesser used language in the Gaeltacht) more than on Irish, when approaching the L3 and that they did not perceive Irish to be of any extra help.

Interestingly, when students in the bilingual group were asked to consider their best skill in the language, most of them recorded writing as the best skill. This contrasted starkly with the monolingual group who reported listening to be the best skill. There was a marked contrast among the bilinguals when asked to consider what aspects of the language they most enjoyed or found easiest. Those who had reported themselves to be good at languages highlighted the following:

Those who had said that they were not so good at languages listed the ability to read and understand a text as being the most enjoyable and easiest skill as well as learning about the culture of the target language country. They also listed that they liked getting feedback. Interestingly enough, the latter aspects of language learning were predominantly listed by the monolingual students. There was also significant variation within the bilingual group when asked what aspects of language learning in L3 they found easiest. Those who had professed themselves to have been good at languages mentioned learning new vocabulary and recognising vocabulary in new contexts. Those bilinguals who saw themselves as being less successful learners listed those aspects expressed by the monolingual group almost in the same frequency:

If there were a certain degree of confidence and initiative towards the active use of the target L3, it was only to be found among the bilingual positive learners. This finding coincided with a low rate of dependency on teacher or tutor-led activities.

Bilinguals and L3

Students in the bilingual group were then asked if they found the L3 easier because they were bilingual. Here students were 100% affirmative in their perception of the facilitative role of bilingualism. Reasons given as to why and how being bilingual facilitated the study of L3 are worthy of inclusion here: Some mentioned that they thought that there was a link between all languages and all vocabularies, while others mentioned cognates between Irish and French. And others specified that similarities between sound patterns in Irish and German helpful in German as L3! Significantly, many of the students (both positive and negative bilinguals) implied that over time they felt that they would indeed master the language. So of this bilingualism is born a certain confidence and predisposition towards success as they approach the L3.

This confidence factor was not present in the monolingual group however, where under 40% said that learning Irish was of any help in learning the L3; stating that Irish and the approach they took to learning it was completely different and had no bearing what so ever on their approach to learning the L3. All of the bilingual group as opposed to the 60% of the monolingual group stated that they had a good ear and a good memory for language. The bilingual group also said that they would prefer to analyse the language themselves in the case of difficulty in comprehension, rather than have the difficulty explained to them. This contrasted with monolingual group who demonstrated less of a preference for analysis of the language Those who were bilingual also stated that they wanted less guidance by the lecturer and expressed a confidence in working on their own which was not present in the monolingual group.

The most interesting finding was the reply by bilingual learners to the question: Do you know how the language works even though you don't fully understand the grammar?. All of the bilingual students replied yes - where as only 3 of the 15 monolingual speakers stated this to be the case. This was an interesting finding worthy of further exploration because it would suggest that bilinguals are at some potential advantage as learners of another language, although research would show that they may need explicit instruction to encourage them to be aware of language as a system before they can develop a facility for learning L3 (Thomas 1988:236)

Again a surprising finding was that those bilingual learners who professed to be good at languages stated that when confronted with a difficulty in L3, they would never compare or contrast the target L3 features neither to Irish nor to English. Those who had perceived themselves to be less successful learners stated similar to the monolingual group that they used English more to compare contrast and analyse features of the target L3 and thus facilitate learning.

Learning strategies

While no clear pattern has yet emerged in bilinguals' deployment of strategies, it is clear nonetheless that this group on the whole including the self-reported less successful learners use more strategies than the monolingual group when approaching L3. One interesting example here might suffice to demonstrate this: when both sets of learners were asked to report on strategies they deployed in learning to speak the language or to communicate,

The following strategies were mentioned more by bilinguals. Speaking the target L3 to other students. This was mentioned by 10 out of the 15 bilingual students compared with 2 out of 15 in the monolingual group. The bilingual students also scored higher in specifying the following:

Tentative Conclusion

These figures indicate that the bilingual students do in fact use more strategies than the monolingual students as they approach the learning of L3. Preliminary findings from this small scale study would suggest that bilinguals have a more awareness of language which when made explicit may translate into confidence and a sense of language usage not demonstrably present in monolinguals' learning style.

While the findings here lend support to the generally held belief that bilinguals have a facility for approaching the learning of L3, obviously potential contributory factors to the data yielded here such as motivation, intelligence etc will need to be analysed in all further studies before any scientific conclusions can be drawn.


Abraham, R. G., Vann, R, J (1987) Strategies of two language learners: a case study in Wenden, A, Rubin, Learner strategies in language learning. New York: Prentice Hall, 85-102

Bialystok, E (1987) Influences of bilingualism on metalinguistic development Second Language Research 3, 154-66

Bialystok, E (1994) Representation and ways of knowing: Three issues in second language acquisition. In Ellis, N (ed) Implicit and Explicit Learning of Languages London: Academic Press

Bild E, Swain, M (1989) Minority language students in a French immersion programme Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 10(3) 255-274

Chamot, A, U (1987) The learning strategies os ESL students in in Wenden, A, Rubin, Learner strategies in language learning. New York: Prentice Hall, 71-83

Chamot, A. U., Küpper, L (1989) Learning strategies in foreign language instruction. Foreign Language Annals 22, 13-24

Gombert,J. E (1990) Le développement métalinguistique. Presse Universitaire de France

Horowitz, E.K. (1983) Beliefs about language learning inventory. Austin: University of Texas

Karmiloff- Smith, A (1986) From meta-processes to conscious access: evidence from metalinguistic and repair data. Cognition 23, 95-147

O' Malley, J, Chamot, A (1990) Learning strategies in second language acquisition. Cambridge:CUP

Oxford, R (1990) Language learning strategies: what every teacher should know. Rowley, Mass: Newbury House

Thomas, J (1988) The role played by metalinguistic awareness in second and third language learning. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 9 (3) 235-246

Wenden, A, Rubin, J (1987) Learner strategies in language learning. New York: Prentice Hall

The Role of Language Models in Culture Maintenance:

The Challenge of Teaching Gaelic in Nova Scotia

Catriona NicIomhair Parsons

The Celtic Department

St. Francis Xavier University

Antigonish, Nova Scotia,


cparsons@stfx.ca Email

1 902 867 2206 Tel

1 902 867 5395 Fax


Bidh cànainean is culturan ag atharrachadh ach, aig am sam bith, feumaidh cultur a chànain fhein. Ann a bhith teagasg chànainean mar a'Ghàidhlig a tha ann an cunnart dol a mach a sealladh troimh bhuaidh na Beurla smachdail, 's an cultur leatha ann an ùine nach bi fada, tha feum aig an luchd-ionnsachaidh air am bogadh ann an sampaill mhath, làidir, brìoghor, troimh chòmhradh agus troimh sgrìobhadh. Ann an Albainn Nuaidh, gheibhear sampall dhen t-seòrsa sin ann a'Mactalla.


In writing of the disappearance of Gaelic from the "Scotch Communities" of the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Margaret Bennett says of the descendants of the Gaelic settlers: "They usually begin by emphasizing how strong the Gaelic language once was --- Next comes reference to the culture that went hand-in-hand with the language - the songs, stories and the general way of life. Nowadays, however, fewer and fewer people can comprehend how much their forebears valued Gaelic culture and, surrounded by a world of materialism, may ask the question 'What do we mean by culture?' " (279)

As I understand it, those who participate in a culture experience both a sense of belonging to it and a sense of difference from other cultures; traditionally rooted in ethnicity, this experience of belonging and difference may be realised in other oppositions, e.g. Youth v. Everybody else. Participants in a culture discover within it a sense of self-worth, self-value, possibly the most important characteristic. Additionally, a culture is expressed by means of a language and customs, including way of life and modes of artistic expression, which reinforce these senses of belonging, difference and self-worth. That a language is necessary to the expression of belonging to a culture, witness Western Youth Culture with its own vocabulary and linguistic expressions, as well as its own music, ornament and dress; consider Afro-American Culture which, having lost long ago its connection with indigenous languages, proclaims its difference from the mainstream with its own language, "Black English".

Highland Gaelic culture, transplanted to Nova Scotia, continued to find its sense of belonging in kinship, in rural community and local identity, in language and customs which it had experienced in the "old country". But as in Scotland, the pressures of an evergrowing "cultural imperialism" (Cohen's words) of the ever widening English-speaking world, with its promise of greater opportunity and affluence, with its "industrialised political economies" and alluring "metropolitan centres", steadily eroded the Nova Scotia Gael's sense of self-worth which he sought to recover by participating fully in the "mainstream culture". On the wrong-headed principle that it would hold them back in an English-dominated world, many Gaelic-speaking parents made a conscious effort NOT to pass on the language to their children.

Paradoxically, globalisation has inspired reaction to its juggernaut propensities, and created cause for some optimism in what, to many, is an increasingly pessimistic situation, with the expected demise of Cape Breton's older, native speaking population within the next 20-40 years. As Cohen puts it: "---the strength of local culture thus does not necessarily diminish as the locality becomes increasingly precarious: quite often the reverse seems to be the case, when the maintenance of the culture becomes the effective raison d'être of the peripheral community"; and again "---Locality is anathema to the logic of the modern political economy and, perhaps for precisely that reason, is increasingly vocal in almost all spheres of contemporary life." (7) Nova Scotia Gaels, among them serious young learners, have become increasingly more vocal in seeking educational opportunities in Gaelic, as one of the founding partners in the "multiculturism" which Canada has espoused. They importuned government (always a sleeping partner); founded the Nova Scotia Gaelic Council (Comhairle na Gàidhlig, Alba Nuadh), dedicated to activism; instituted May as Gaelic Awareness Month; began holding local Féisean, and achieved the teaching of Gaelic in two more schools besides Mabou, where Gaelic has been taught almost continuously since the early seventies. Other school teaching opportunities are in view. Numbers in Gaelic classes at St-Francis Xavier University have been increasing annually, swelled by the Gael's descendants from at home and throughout North America. Some young couples, themselves learners, are seeking to bring up their children in Gaelic. The necessity for immersion in good language models, both oral and written, is urgent for the successful transmission and continuance of Gaelic cultural mores within the current modern, global context. Oral models are available in the extensive folklore audiotape collection done by Dr. John Shaw for St. Francis Xavier University in the seventies, and in the living native speakers, from whom oral material continues to be collected. Within the corpus of authentic written material, I'd like to single out as model, or touchstone of the culture, Cape Breton's own MacTalla.

Mactalla as Language Model

MacTalla ("Echo") was the name of a Gaelic newspaper/magazine published weekly - latterly bi-weekly - in Sydney, Nova Scotia, between May 28, 1892 and June 24, 1904, around 540 issues in all. Its editor Jonathan MacKinnon (1869-1944), a Gaelic scholar, born in Inverness Co., Cape Breton, was twenty three years old when he launched his newspaper, at the time the only such Gaelic publication in the world. Its store of news, local, national and international, letters to the Editor, Gaelic proverbs, poetry/song, stories, translations, articles is a repository of Gaelic cultural ideas, more often than not couched in pithy, well-turned phrases. Some of the attitudes, such as advocacy of teetotalism, no doubt seem old-fashioned nowadays; but many are NOT outmoded precisely because they reveal the Gael's responses to situations which, with a modern gloss, could obtain today. And it is precisely the emphases which Gaelic language structure and lexis can impart that are most revealing. Here is a brief story from Vol. VI of MacTalla, called "Mar a fhuair Domhnall bean" where the wise fool, a favourite topic in Gaelic lore, courtship, and ultimate marriage come together, with apt use of language, particularly of the pun, whose play on words at once reveals and harmonises opposite meanings.

Mar a fhuair Domhnall bean

Bha Gilleasbuig Aotrom, a bha anns an t-seann dùthaich, mar a tha fhios aig móran de luchd-leughaidh MhicTalla, 'na dhuine air leth deas-bhriathrach, agus glé thric cha b' e chuid a b' fheàrr de 'n chainnt a bhiodh aige. Air eagal a dhiumb a chosnadh, bha gach neach airson an taobh a b' fheàrr dheth a chumail.

Bha coimhearsnach aig uair a ghabh mór mheas air caileig òig , bhòidhich a bha comhnuidh dlùth do 'n àite 's an robh e a' fuireach. Am measg gach còmhradh eile a bh' eatorra, bhruidhinn e rithe airson i 'ga phòsadh; ach cha ghabhadh i e-oir mar a bha iomadh tè roimpe agus na déigh, bha dùil aice ri fear a b'fheàrr. Co-dhiúbh gheibheadh gus nach fhaigheadh i sin mar a bha i, thachair mì-fhortan dhi a lughdaich a miadh gu mór. B'e sin gu 'n do bhuail gobhar a h-adharc oirre anns an t-sùil, 'ga leòn cho dona 's gun do chaill i gu buileach i.

Bha fios aig Gilleasbuig còir air gach cùis dhe seo. Ma bha gus nach robh aon eile 'ga h-iarraidh, cha do phòs i. Ged a bha i air leth-shùil, bhiodh Domhnull riaraichte leis na bh' ann dhi, agus 'se bh' ann gu' n do chuir e e-fhéin 'na tairgse a rithist, agus bha ise làn-thoileach a ghabhail air an turus seo.

Rinn iad banais mhór, aighearrach, agus fhuair Gilleasbuig Aotrom cuireadh; agus tha mi a' creidsinn gu robh fhios aige glé mhath gu 'm b 'e a shìth a bha dhìth orra agus nach b' e a chuideachd. Bha fear-na-bainnse a' riarachadh drama uisge-bheatha, agus a' tighinn gu Gilleasbuig, thuirt e ris, "Seo, òl deoch-slainte bean agus fear-na-bainnse." Rug Gilleasbuig air a' ghloine, agus ag éiridh 'na sheasamh, thuirt e, "Tha mi 'g òl seo air slàinte na gaibhre a choisinn a' bhean mhath dhut-sa agus a' bhanais mhath dhomh-fhìn".

The English translation (see page 5), even if it were racier, falls flat. Why is the story peculiarly Gaelic? Well, all Gaels present have heard of Gilleasbuig Aotrom, and know that "aotrom" implies much more than can be caught in translation: it means lacking decorum, not behaving as one should in a given situation. In this version of the story, there is even a suggestion of malice aforethought about Archie's pronouncements in the propitiatory efforts of individuals not to provoke him into speech. At the same time, there is truth in his bizarre toast to the goat, even if it is not in the best of taste at such a time.

Other words impossible of one-word translation: "riaraichte" means accepting what has been prepared for one: "riarachadh" must precede the condition of "riaraichte" (And indeed Gilleasbuig Aotrom's recognition of the crucial role of the goat in bringing about a conclusion satisfactory to all illustrates this point); and best of all, one word in particular will illustrate the point of Gaelic contextual vibrations, those reverberations that are untranslateable. That word is "miadh" in the clause "thachair mì-fhortan dhi a lughdaich a miadh gu mór." "Miadh" means honour, esteem, respect and is found in the alliterative phrase "meas agus miadh": respect and approbation. But there is another word in Gaelic, not quite homonymous with it, "mì-adh", usually translated misfortune, ill-luck. So paradoxically, the very misfortune that befell her was bad and good luck at the same moment. And that is what is implicit in Gilleasbuig Aotrom's toast. Outrageously perhaps, he has hit the crux of the matter.


Immersion by learners in such models of Gaelic expression is essential to the maintenance of Gaelic culture, which I have interpreted to include attitudes-of-mind, world-view, and other psychological intangibles belonging to a particular culture and most clearly expressed in the language of that culture. The "Gaelic-ness" of Gaelic culture is defined in and by its language. Gaels by birth and Gaels by choice - those learners discovering their roots in the language of their ancestors - in this "multiple-choice" world, can discover that they belong, take a pride in difference, achiee a sense of self-worth, practise customs, be creative, all in the Gaelic language, the best expression of Gaelic Culture.


Barnett, H. G. Innovation: the Basis of Cultural Change (N.Y., Tor., Lon., 1953)

Bennett, Margaret Oatmeal and the Catechism (Edinburgh, Montreal, 1998)

Cohen, Anthony P. "Belonging: the experience of culture", in Belonging: Identity and Social Organisation in British Rural Cultures, Anthony P. Cohen (ed.) (Manchester and Newfoundland, 1982), pp. 1-17.

Delbanco, Andrew "The Decline and Fall of Literature", article in The New York Review of Books, Vol. XLVI, No. 17; Nov. 4, 1999. [describes how the Hydra of cultures has largely displaced the chaste Goddess Culture since market forces have invaded the universities.]

Foster, George M. "What is folk culture?" in American Anthropologist, Vol. 55, 2:1; April-June, 1953, pp. 159-173

MacTalla Jonathan MacKinnon (ed.) (Sydney, Nova Scotia, 1892-1904).

Appendix - Translation of 'Mar a fhuair Domhnall bean'

How Donald got a wife.

In Scotland, as many of MacTalla's readers are aware, there was a man known as Simple Archie, who was always ready to open his mouth and speak, and too often it wouldn't be quite the best comment that he would make. For fear of earning his enmity, everybody wanted to keep on his right side.

A neighbour of his once took a great fancy to a beautiful, young girl living nearby. In the midst of the rest of their conversation, he asked her to marry him but she wouldn't have him: like many a woman before and after her, she expected to find someone better. Whether she would have done so or not as she then was, something unfortunate happened that lessened her chances. A goat had struck her in the eye with its horn, wounding her so badly that she lost it completely.

Dear Archie knew all the ins and outs of what happened. Whether anybody else wanted her or not, she didn't marry. Although she had only one eye, Donald would be satisfied with her as she was; finally, he offered himself to her again, and she was delighted to have him this time.

They made a big, joyful wedding and Simple Archie got an invitation; I'm sure he knew full well that it was his silence they wanted, not his company. The bridegroom was distributing drams of whisky, and coming to Archie, he said to him: "Here, drink a toast to the bride and groom."

Archie grasped the glass and rising to his feet, he said: "I'm drinking this to the good health of the goat who won for you a good wife and for me a good wedding".

E-Celtic Language Tools: The Latest Developments

from Wales

Delyth Prys

Menna Morgan

Centre for Welsh Terminology and Canolfan Bedwyr,

University of Wales, Bangor

d.prys@bangor.ac.uk Email

m.e.morgan@bangor.ac.uk Email

www.bangor.ac.uk/ar/cb URL

+44 1248 382800 Tel

+44 1248 383990 Fax


This paper gives a broad overview of the spelling and grammar checkers and other tools for the Welsh language that have been developed at the University of Wales, Bangor, and details new projects currently being undertaken in this area. It also discusses the lexicographical and terminological work taking place there and the way two teams originally working independently of each other have increasingly come to share computational resources, leading to new and better electronic language tools.


The University of Wales, Bangor, has a long tradition of providing grammar and lexicographical aids for the Welsh language. This is where Sir John Morris Jones wrote his definitive Welsh Grammar: Historical and Comparative (1913), and his Orgraff yr Iaith Gymraeg (1928), which established the modern spelling of the language. Following in this illustrious tradition came The Welsh Academy English-Welsh Dictionary, edited by Dr. Bruce Griffiths of the University's French department, and Dafydd Glyn Jones, of the University's Welsh department. This was finally published in 1995 after twenty years labour, and was hailed as a major step forward in lexicographical aids for students of Welsh, since this was the first truly comprehensive English - Welsh dictionary, with entries running to many columns in some instances, and including translations of idioms and dialect forms as well as the standard literary language. Some use was made of computational aids during the production of this dictionary, notably for sorting the entries in alphabetical order, but it was still essentially a traditional, paper-based dictionary. However, this may have been the last such traditional dictionary to be produced at Bangor, since work was already under way, even before it was finished, to create new language tools which would bring Welsh into the electronic information age.

CySill - the Welsh Spelling and Grammar Checker

Strangely enough, the first major project using computer technology and intended as a language tool for computer users in this field was undertaken, not at a traditional language department in the University, but rather at the School of Psychology. There, a team under the leadership of Dr. Nick Ellis and Dr Cathair O Dochartaigh, conceived the ambitious plan of a spell-checker, which would also be able to check some elements of Welsh grammar. This work began in 1991 and by 1995 the first version of CySill appeared on the market. One important feature of Welsh grammar, which it holds in common with other Celtic languages, is that the initial consonant of a word may change, following specific grammar rules. Thus a word, which in its radical form begins with the letter 'c', may under certain conditions begin with either 'g' 'ch' or 'ngh'. In order for a spelling and grammar checker for the Welsh language to be of practical use it had to be able to deal successfully with this and other grammar peculiarities. It also had to be able to deal with all the many verb endings and plural noun forms possible in Welsh, and with a combination of these elements, for example, to recognise 'ellir' as the mutated impersonal present tense of the verb 'gallu', and correct it if wrongly mutated. These features were incorporated in CySill from the beginning, and is one of the main reasons for the program's huge success.

An other reason is the facility to adapt the program to different language registers. The user is able to modify some of CySill's default spell-checking and grammar-checking rules to control the style of language used to check documents. For example, the program can be set generally for either formal or an informal language, and it can be further refined to accept or reject specific preferences, such as colloquial verb ending (eg -es instead of -ais for the first person past tense), the feminine and plural forms of adjectives, and even whether to mutate proper nouns as is the conservative custom (eg 'i Ddafydd') or the more modern custom of leaving proper nouns unmutated (eg 'i Dafydd'). Of course there are still complex grammatical structures which are difficult for a computer programme to recognise, but progress is still being made in this area, and CySill is now used as a standard tool in many professional situations in Wales, as well aiding Welsh learners and those who are not fluent in the written language. Since its launch in 1995, over 3,000 single-user copies of the program have been sold together with site licences for 8,500 machines.

Having built the necessary foundations for the CySill project, through developing appropriate algorithms and analytical work on the language, this basis was then used for further applications. Two projects were carried out on the back of the software developed for CySill. The first was the CEG database project, where the software was adapted to carry out a word-frequency analysis on a corpus of one million words in a representative sample of modern Welsh prose. This is still the only large-scale language corpus we have for Welsh. The second project, of particular interest to teachers of Welsh as a second language was Rhugl - a computer assisted language learning course. The computing side of this project was similarly based on the same algorithms, with appropriate modifications to allow for the needs of Welsh learners. Further work needs to be done on Rhugl before it can be commercially available.

CysGair - an Electronic Bilingual Welsh and English Dictionary

At first glance, this may seem a very different product from the Welsh spell-checker mentioned above. This is a substantial dictionary, developed by Bill Hicks, who had previously worked on the CySill project. It contains over 48,000 entries, running in Windows, and can be accessed from within standard word processors. It will usually recognise a word as being either English or Welsh and show it in the appropriate place in the word list. It only needs a click of the mouse to change from an English>Welsh view to the Welsh>English format. However, one of its main strengths is the way it will identify a mutated word, or a conjugated verb, or both, if highlighted in a document, and give the unmutated, unconjugated original form in the dictionary table. This is an invaluable aid to the student of Welsh, and is also recognised as an important tool on the translator's workstation, improving the speed and accuracy of lexical searches.

Despite appearances, this programme shares many features with the CySill spelling and grammar checker. Like CySill, it has algorithms to deal with mutations, and to conjugate verbs. It can give the plural of nouns, and plural and feminine forms of adjectives and has a vast store of irregular forms. As CysGair is an English and Welsh dictionary, the team have become increasingly conscious of the difficulties of bilingualism and the consideration of the needs and requirements of potential users. Although it does not include definitions or illustrative phrases, an attempt has been made to distinguish between homographs in order to assist a learner or non-Welsh speaker to use the dictionary. The entry for the noun 'jam', for example, shows 'jam n, jam'; 'jam (of people) n, torf, tyrfa' and 'jam' (of traffic) n, tagfa'. The multiple translations of a headword such as 'jam' have also been arranged so that the most common translation appears first. The database which is the foundation of this dictionary was recognised as providing a basis for the development of other language technology tools in the future, without having to start each new project from ground level. The newly formed Canolfan Bedwyr, set up by the University to oversee the development of Welsh language and bilingual initiatives, now provided a home for both the CySill and CysGair projects.

Y Termiadur Ysgol

While work on electronic spelling and grammar checkers and dictionaries was taking place at Canolfan Bedwyr, other developments at the School of Education at the University would lead to the creation of a Centre for the Standardization of the Welsh Terminology. In December 1993 a project was established to standardize technical terminology used in school subjects such as the sciences, mathematics, history, geography, art, technology and sports for pupils up to the age of 16. The output from this project was to be in the form of a traditional paper dictionary, and this was published in 1998 as Y Termiadur Ysgol - Standardized Terminology for the Schools of Wales. However, the team had been asked to use a computer database as a working tool, and this proved vital for further developments.

One immediate advantage was that from this database, printouts could be produced showing an English>Welsh dictionary list and also a Welsh>English dictionary. Additional information could be kept in the database, such as notes on decisions taken on specific terms, and tags as to sources or subject areas, which need not appear in the printed version. More importantly, this database had a concept-based structure rather being word based. Each separate concept therefore had its own entry, in contrast to the traditional lexicographical approach of listing different meanings as 1, 2, 3 etc under the same header word. Therefore, an English term such as 'grain' which had been listed as '1. grawn (cnwd) 2. graen (mewn craig/pren) 3. gronyn (tywod etc)' in an earlier dictionary were given three separate entries, as 'grain (food crop) grawn' 'grain (in rock, wood, cloth) graen' and 'grain (=particle) gronyn'. This made it much easier for a non-Welsh speaker to choose the correct entry, and also was the first step towards providing word-sense disambiguators for the Welsh language. Also the grammatical information given with each entry, such as the part of speech, and the plural form in full, meant that material from this database could be used in some of the other language tools being developed at Bangor.

Pooling Resources

Although Y Termiadur Ysgol had been originally envisaged as a paper dictionary, the fact that it was held as an electronic database meant that it could very easily be produced in electronic form. The platform used to produce CysGair was an obvious choice for this. The databases used for CysGair and Y Termiadur Ysgol were already similar in structure, and conscious efforts were now made when equipment was being upgraded to bring both databases closer together. A new version of Y Termiadur Ysgol was published on CD Rom in May 2000, the first major English/Welsh dictionary to be produced in this format.

Other benefits from this co-operation was that the vocabulary in the spell checking tools could be greatly enlarged. Since the Terminology Centre was mainly concerned with specialized, technical vocabularies, its database contained a large number of terms not found in more general dictionaries. It also recorded new terms as they came into the Welsh language, and was able to feed these directly into the language tools under development. A striking example of this is the way technical terms in Y Termiadur Ysgol were fed into a new Welsh spell-checker and autocorrect feature for Word being developed for Microsoft. These additions caused the beta version to score highly in evaluation of the Welsh technical terminology the programme could successfully recognise. It also points the way to an integrated approach in developing future products. Sharing resources is a very cost-effective way of working, and for a small language such as Welsh it is one way of overcoming the lack of commercial power.

Other Developments in Terminology Work

Increasing demands for the services of a centre dedicated to standardizing terminology in Welsh meant that what started as a one-off project began to take on a more permanent aspect. The establishment of devolved government from Westminster to Wales in the form of the National Assembly for Wales in 1999 was an additional impetus to this process and added legal terminology to a list which already included Nursing and Midwifery Terms, Archaeology, Social Work and Social Care, Finance, the Environment etc. The Terminology Centre took care from the beginning to work to international ISO standards, both for the content of its terminology work and the structure of its databases, and although this may have seemed overelaborate at the time for those customers who were only interested in the end product of a paper dictionary, this approach has been vindicated in the way each new project has added to the Centre's database and fed through into other applications.

It has also been important for the terminology work in Wales to match up to the current international best practice. This is a time of rapid development in the field, with an international infrastructure being established to facilitate co-operation and the exchange information. A conference in Paris in March 2000, arranged by TDCNet and the Union Latine, at which representatives from Bangor were present, addressed this issue. Through developments such as these Welsh has been able to take advantage of some of the new technology of the Information Age, rather than being sidelined in some minority language backwater.

Dictionaries and Terminology Lists on the Web

The culmination of much of the activity in the field of computational lexicography and terminology in Bangor may be seen in its contribution to the Melin project (Minority European Language Information Network). This project was designed to establish a centralized World Wide Web site for the provision of language resources to users of minority and lesser-used languages in the European Union. Existing language resources - terminology lists and monolingual/bilingual dictionaries, including some which were already held at Bangor, were converted to a standardized storage format and hosted in a database containing several hundred thousand terms. A standardized multilingual interface was designed to provide web access to the database in each of the participating languages.

The website initially caters for 4 languages - Irish, Welsh, Catalan and Basque and contains resources for each language. These initial resources are a mixture of general purpose dictionaries and terminology lists. Since all lexicographical and terminological work being undertaken at Bangor now follows our own guidelines for such databases, any new dictionaries and terminology lists being produced here may, with the minimum of additional labour, be placed on this web site to ensure world-wide access. It is hoped to extend the service to other lesser-used European languages, including other Celtic ones. This site may be found on http://www.melin.bangor.ac.uk .

Future Developments

It is hoped that this paper has shown how many disparate projects have been brought together to provide improved language tools for Welsh. The resources held at Bangor in the form of lexicographical and terminological databases with all the additional grammatical and conceptual information they contain may be used and reused to create new products. Further enhancements in the area of lexicography using these resources are already underway. The CySill team are currently creating a Welsh thesaurus of about 18,000 words using the Microsoft thesaurus API. Hopefully, it will be accepted as a part of the Welsh proofing tools included in Microsoft Office. This thesaurus will also be available as a standalone program for other word processing packages.

The next important computational aids for the Welsh language will be machine-aided translation and machine translation. This is already well developed for most of the major world languages, and Welsh is determined not to be left behind. Professional translators in Wales are already using translation memory software, such as Trados, and terminology databases from Bangor have been adapted to work in the Multiterm template within Trados.

Using the resources and expertise already at hand in the University at Bangor, the dream of full machine translation does not seem so unattainable. Although more work needs to be done on parsing tools for Welsh, many of the other components required for machine translation are already in place. From a situation a hundred years ago where the very survival of the Welsh language was in doubt, we are now able to look forward to the new millennium when Welsh will be able to participate fully in the Information Society.


Griffiths, Bruce & Jones, Dafydd Glyn. (1995). The Welsh Academy English-Welsh Dictionary. University of Wales Press. ISBN 07083 1186 5

Prys, Delyth (20000) Termau Gwaith a Gofal Cymdeithasol / Social Work and Social Care Terms CCETSW ISBN 1 857192117

Prys, Delyth (2000) Termau Hybu Iechyd / Terms for Health Promotion North Wales Health Authority ISBN 1 844220 009 7

Prys, Delyth & Jones, J P M. (1998). Y Termiadur Ysgol - Termau wedi'u safoni ar gyfer ysgolion Cymru / Standardized terminology for the schools of Wales ACCAC. ISBN: 1 686112 180 6. Now also available on CD Rom.

Prys, Delyth a Jones, J P M. (1998). Termau Deddfwriaeth Priffyrdd / Highways Legislation Terms Welsh Language Board. Parts of this report may be found on the Board's web site at www.netwales@uk/byig .

Roberts, Gwerfyl & Prys, Delyth. (1997) Termau Nyrsio a Bydwreigiaeth / An English-Welsh Dictionary of Nursing and Midwifery Terms. University of Wales, Bangor. ISBN: 09045567 958

Williams, J Ll & Griffiths, Bruce & Prys, Delyth (1999). Geiriadur Termau Archaeoleg / A Dictionary of Archaeological Terms in English and Welsh. University of Wales Press. ISBN: 07083 16069

Further information on CySill, CysGair and related products may be obtained from the Canolfan Bedwyr website at www.bangor.ac.uk/ar/cb

Welsh Number Talk

Gareth Roberts

School of Education

University of Wales, Bangor

Gwynedd, LL57 2PX

h.g.f.roberts@bangor.ac.uk Email

www.bangor.ac.uk URL

+44 1248 383000 Tel

+44 1248 383092 Fax


Mae siaradwyr Cymraeg yn gallu dewis o dair ffordd i fynegi rhifau ar lafar - gallant ddefnyddio'r dull traddodiadol ugeiniol neu'r dull degol mwy diweddar neu gallant fynegi'r rhif yn Saesneg. Awgrymir bod y dewis yn dibynnu ar gymhlethdod o ffactorau addysgiadol a chymdeithasegol.


According to the 1991 census, 18.5% of the population of Wales is bilingual in Welsh and English. That Welsh continues to be a vigorous and healthy language at the commencement of the third millennium, given the geographical location of Wales relative to the centre of one of the world's most dominant languages, is a phenomenon of some noteworthiness and interest (Baker and Jones, 1998). This paper explores a particular aspect of that bilingualism, the use of number in bilingual Wales, and draws some comparisons with other Celtic languages. It builds on a more extensive analysis of the situation in Wales to be published elsewhere (Roberts, 2000).

Mathematics in Welsh

There is now no impediment to the study of mathematics in Welsh from the kindergarten through to university. However, the availability of teaching expertise and opportunity varies according to geographical location and level of study. In this paper we confine our attention to one of the most basic components of mathematics - the counting system.

The traditional Welsh counting system is vigesimal (based on counting in twenties). Some of the additional idiosyncracies within the system include the use of fifteen as a further reference number (for example the number 37 is referred to as 'two on fifteen on twenty'). This modified vigesimal (MV) system remains in everyday use. However, a more recent development has been the adoption of a parallel decimal (D) system (based on counting in tens). The table below provides a sample of numbers using both systems to illustrate their differences and diversity.

The D system is used almost universally in the context of the teaching of mathematical concepts. That system is in fact more strictly decimal than is the case in English and there has been interest in the possible influence of the D system in Welsh on the levels of understanding of number achieved by children who pursue their early work in mathematics through the medium of Welsh ( e.g. Bryant and Nunes (1996)).

We argue elsewhere (Roberts, 2000) that the availability of two different counting systems within the same language cannot be interpreted simplistically. Children and adults are, typically, familiar with both systems. These systems interplay and have overlapping linguistic domains of use, the choice of system being influenced by a plethora of educational and sociological factors.

Vigesimal systems are fairly common. In particular there are parallels between the Welsh MV system and those to be found in the other Celtic languages - Breton, Cornish, Irish, Manx and Scots Gaelic - all of which (in their traditional forms) are vigesimal. Some, but not all, of the other Celtic languages have also developed parallel decimal forms of counting.

EnglishD System Welsh MV System Welsh
fourteenun deg pedwar

one ten four

pedwar ar ddeg

four on ten

eighteenun deg wyth

one ten eight



twenty-threedau ddeg tri

two ten three

tri ar hugain

three on twenty

thirty-eighttri deg wyth

three ten eight

deunaw ar hugain

two nines on twenty

forty-fivepedwar deg pump

four ten five

pump a deugain

five and two twenties

fiftypum deg

five ten

hanner cant

half hundred

fifty-twopum deg dau

five ten two

hanner cant a dau

half hundred and two

sixty-fourchwe deg pedwar

six ten four

pedwar a thrigain

four and three twenties

seventy-onesaith deg un

seven ten one

un ar ddeg a thrigain

one on ten and three twenties

eighty-sixwyth deg chwech

eight ten six

chwech a phedwar ugain

six and four twenties

ninety-sevennaw deg saith

nine ten seven

dau ar bymtheg a phedwar ugain

two on fifteen and four twenties





Cardinal numbers to 100 (a selection)

The Religious Heritage

The Bible was translated into Welsh in 1588 by Bishop William Morgan. Morgan's translation had a profound influence not only on the language of religion in Wales but also on the more general development of the Welsh language. The health of the language today can be attributed in no small measure to this translation. A modern translation was published in 1988 to celebrate the quatercentenary but also to update the original in terms of modern usage, syntax and idiom. Nevertheless it is remarkable the extent to which the original remains accessible to people in modern Wales. In particular the rhythmic poetic quality of Morgan's translation is deeply ingrained in the Welsh psyche and, although the new translation is widely used, the original is often referred to as well. In terms of number conventions Morgan used, quite naturally, the MV system throughout. The new translation adopts a mixed approach. When the numbers are large and cumbersomely expressed in the MV system the translation opts for the D system. For example, in the account of the storm on the sea of Galilee in the Acts of the Apostles we read in Morgan's translation (chapter 27, verse 37):

Ac yr oeddem yn y llong i gyd, yn ddau cant ac un ar bymtheg a thrigain o eneidiau

And we were in all in the ship two hundred and one on fifteen and three-twenties souls

(It is interesting to note that the King James Version of the English Bible includes the construction "three score and sixteen souls".) In the new Welsh translation we have:

Rhwng pawb yr oedd dau gant saith deg a chwech ohonom yn y llong.

We were in all two hundred seven ten and six in the ship.

General Observations

Based on a range of observations of the use of modern Welsh in the fields of religion, broadcasting and the media, education, business and commerce as well as everyday conversational contexts, the following general conclusions have been suggested (Roberts, 2000).

Firstly there is a tendency to use the MV system when expressing ordinal numbers and the D system when expressing cardinal numbers. Concepts of time are very often expressed within the MV system and there is a clear sense in which time has a strong ordinal flavour and the use of the MV system within various time contexts is a natural consequence of this link. Time is the only measure which has not been metricated. Implicit within this measure are a number of base systems (for example, sixty seconds in a minute, twenty-four hours in a day) and the Welsh MV method rests comfortably within this system. The MV system was also commonly used in the context of other measures, including money. The latter was decimalised in Britain in 1971 and the D system is now commonly used in this context. Equally one of the side effects of metrication of other measures has been to erode the use of the MV system.

System Choice

In Wales virtually all Welsh speakers are also fluent in English. When they use number words they have, typically, three choices - English, the Welsh decimal system and the Welsh modified vigesimal system. All three choices are used both in everyday conversation and in the particular domains referred to above. For example, a bilingual's experience of the number 18 includes 'eighteen', 'un deg wyth' and 'deunaw'. The three forms are commonly used in Welsh speech - including the English form in an otherwise Welsh sentence. The choice of the form used will be influenced by a multiplicity of factors. These include age and educational background (for example, the medium through which mathematics was learned at school). A further factor is the sociological context in which the conversation takes place. For example, a person being interviewed on the radio is more likely to use one of the Welsh systems in order to be heard to be linguistically consistent. That same person may use the English form in a more informal social gathering where the use of the Welsh form might be perceived by peers as being over formal or even pretentious. However the nature of the mix of factors is necessarily complex and easy generalisations are difficult to sustain.

In a recent pilot research programme, the author presented a set of sentences to be read aloud by a variety of volunteers. Each sentence included a numeral (e.g. 18) to be read aloud in context. The pilot quickly established that the presence of the experimenter inhibited the free choice of the system chosen by the reader - traditional vigesimal Welsh, modern decimal Welsh or English. The reader instinctively gauged the expected response or, rather, that response which the reader perceived would be most likely to 'satisfy' the experimenter. Despite exhortations to be as natural as possible it proved impossible to glean a reliable set of responses. The sociological pressures are very strong.

Concept development

We conclude by posing general questions which are worthy of further study. All bilinguals in Wales are trilingual in the language of number. Does this affect their perception of the nature of number? Does it, for example, enhance their understanding of number, by having three perspectives on their articulation? Williams (1994) shows that concept understanding in the classroom in Wales can be enhanced when children process the same material in more than one language. Can this claim be applied equally to the learning of number? Does it transfer to other bilingual contexts, particularly in other Celtic nations?


Baker, C. and Jones, S.P. (1998), Encyclopedia of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education, Multilingual Matters

Bryant, P., and Nunes, T. (1996), Children Doing Mathematics (Chapter 3) Blackwell

Roberts, Gareth (2000), Bilingualism and Number in Wales, International Journal of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education Vol 3:1 (to appear)

Williams, Cen (1994), Arfarniad o ddulliau dysgu ac addysgu yng nghyd-destun addysg ddwyieithog. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Wales, Bangor. The relevant work is summarised in Baker and Jones (1998, pp 592 - 595).

If We Drill Them, Will They Learn Them?

Sheila Scott

Harold Kenny

Dept. of Linguistics,

University of Ottawa, Canada

Dept. of Physics,

Royal Military College of Canada,

Kingston, Canada

sscott@magma.ca Email

+1 613 562 5800 Ext. 7221 Tel

+1 613 541 6000 Ext. 6042 Tel

+1 613 541 6040 Fax


Recognition testing of mutated forms of Irish nouns has been conducted in Canada among secondary school students. Average recognition of known basic words which have undergone mutation remained as low as 77% even after four months. Results for eclipsis were consistently lower that those for lenition We conclude that word-initial mutations are a major impediment to comprehension. We suggest that new vocabulary be taught by highlighting the three forms of the word until such time as the mutation rules have been internalized by the students.


An experiment has been conducted in Irish vocabulary acquisition among secondary school students in Canada pursuing an introductory Irish language course of 125 hours (September 1999 - January 2000). Vocabulary items were presented and drilled in one of two ways: with word-initial mutations (lenition and eclipsis); or without. Students were then tested for their recognition of the words in their basic, lenited and eclipsed forms. Results discussed here include rates of recognition for each of the vowel and consonant mutations, and patterns in which particular sounds seems more easily processed by the students. It is hoped that these results may yield clues as to how the mutations are being processed by the students. These clues in turn may guide the teacher's approach to this aspect of the language.

Current methods

Current methods for teaching Irish to the adult learner outside Ireland typically provide a list of the consonants and vowels that undergo the different mutation forms, along with a brief number of examples. It is left to the teacher to point out the specific contexts in which the mutation is occurring. Alternatively, learners venturing out on their own are left to figure out the mutations and to create links to basic word forms. Such methods may be adequate in written comprehension, where orthographic cues exist to suggest that mutation has taken place. Difficulties arise, however, in oral comprehension where the learner is left to decipher the incoming message (often tape recordings accompanying the textbooks) with no accompanying cues. It is our opinion that the incoming message cannot always be deciphered using the basic lexicon that the learner is building.

Speech Processing

In the area of speech processing, the term "word recognition" refers to the end-point of the selection phase when a listener has determined which lexical entry was actually heard. It is widely accepted that listeners generally recognize words, either in isolation or in context, before having heard them completely (Grosjean 1980; Marlsen-Wilson 1984). The exact recognition point of any given word depends upon a number of factors including its physical properties (e.g. length), its intrinsic properties (e.g. frequency), the number and nature of other words in the lexicon that are similar to this word (competitors or fellow cohorts), and the efficiency of the selection process. As a sequence of discrete segments (phonemes or syllables) is being put through a selection process, only lexical entries matching this sequence are retained. A word's recognition point corresponds to its uniqueness point, in other words, the point at which the word's initial sequence of segments is common to that word and no other. How does this work for Irish when there are potentially three word-initial sequences of segments? How does the learner reconcile the heard segments with those in his internal lexicon? Is this a difficult process to learn when this phenomenon does not exist in the first language of the learner?

It is our hypothesis that the learner is developing a "lenition/eclipsis menu" of the potentially mutated forms, and that to assist the learner in developing this menu, the base word along with its mutated forms should be taught in tandem using word drills. This hypothesis would imply that:

  1. The learner needs to be exposed to the different mutated forms as part of the learning process in order to improve his listening comprehension skills (speech processing skills).
  2. In an environment where there is little or no access to oral input in Irish outside of the classroom, it is necessary to artificially expose the learner to the mutated forms through word drills.
  3. If the learning process simply involves the internalization the mutation rules, it should be possible to extend these rules in other languages ("Kingston" becomes "i gKingston" = "in Kingston").

The New Method for Teaching Vocabulary

The method tested involves the drilling of the mutated forms of new vocabulary items immediately upon introduction. The objective of the method is to assist the learner in developing a menu of mutated forms for all new vocabulary items. Because the mutations are most often triggered by a preceding word, the mutated forms should be taught with an appropriate trigger word for the given mutation (lenition or eclipsis). The pattern would be similar to irregular verb lists for the learner of English as a second language who learns, take, took, have taken, the learner of Irish learns cara, mo chara, ár gcara.

The Experiment

In an effort to bring the Irish language into the high schools in Ontario, a credit program in Irish Studies was offered for the first time at Kingston Collegiate Vocational Institute in September 1999 to a group of sixteen senior high school students who qualified for the program. The students had never been exposed to the Irish language prior to joining the program. The mutation patterns of lenition and eclipsis were taught formally in the first week of class and were reinforced throughout the semester as new words were introduced, and mutated words appeared in various grammatical constructions. Vocabulary was introduced at a regular pace of 10 new words per day, 50 words per week. Approximately the same amount of time was spent each week drilling the new vocabulary. Every other week, however, part of this time was spent drilling the words in their mutated forms. Mutated forms were always presented with appropriate trigger words: the lenition trigger was the second person singular possessive adjective "do"; and the eclipsis trigger was the first person plural possessive adjective "ár". In effect, during weeks that mutations were taught, the students were learning 150 new words (50 basic, 50 lenited, and 50 eclipsed).

The Tests

Eight tests were administered over the five month duration of the course, and fell into two categories: English tests (2) and Irish tests (6). English tests involved the recognition of English words with Irish mutations. Irish tests involved words drilled in class. Words drilled with mutations were treated in different tests than words drilled without mutations, however the structure of the tests was the same in both cases.

The English Test

Inference (3) above suggests that the internalization of Irish mutation rules should permit the student to apply the mutation rules in new contexts, even within other languages. The English tests were consequently designed to measure the degree of rule acquisition, and the role of acquisition in creating a "lenition/eclipsis menu".

English words were selected to represent each of the word-initial sounds in Irish which experience mutation, e.g. /a/, slender /b/, broad /b/, slender /c/ etc. For simplicity, only nouns were included. This implied, for instance, that the same trigger words could be used in all cases, viz. the second person singular possessive adjective "your" for lenition, and the first person plural possessive adjective "our" for eclipsis. A database constructed of all common nouns beginning with appropriate consonants and vowels was generated based on the Concise Oxford Dictionary. The nouns were then selected randomly to build each test. For each of the 18 word-initial sound classes, three different words were chosen, one for each of the basic, lenited and eclipsed forms. The tests therefore included a total of 54 words.

During testing, students were instructed to write out the basic form of the word regardless of whether it was actually presented in basic, lenited or eclipsed form. Since 18 words were presented in their base form, students should at least have been able to get 33% of the test correct. Further, the lenited form of vowel-initial words is identical to the basic form, and therefore students might have been expected to recognize words of this type The possessive adjective "your" (lenition marker) in English does not contract before a vowel, while the corresponding marker in Irish "do", contracts to "d'".

Results of the English Test

Success Rate (able to give the basic word form)
Test 1
Test 2


The rate of recognition failure is higher for the English words than for the Irish words (see below). This situation may arise because the acquisition of the mutation patterns was not complete. Other factors may also come into play, e.g. the fact that the students' entire lexicon of English was testable, while only a limited number of Irish words were testable. Further, some of the lenited and eclipsed forms yielded perfectly acceptable words in English and thus created a certain degree of confusion for the students. The improvement by approximately 10 % in the second English test would suggest that the students were internalizing the mutation patterns and that they were becoming better able to apply these rules in recognizing words that they had never previously encountered in mutated form.

The Irish Test

A primary purpose of testing was to determine if recognition rates were higher when the mutated forms had been drilled as part of the vocabulary acquisition process. Again only nouns were included, drawn from the course textbook Is Feidir Liom 1, as the class worked through the chapters. The lenition marker was the second person singular possessive adjective "do" while the eclipsis marker was the first person plural possessive adjective "ár". Students were instructed to write the English translation of the word as this would mean that the students were able to correctly identify the base form of the word in Irish. In the Irish word lists, only one of the two possible mutated form was given per basic word form. In each test, the basic form was given for each of the mutated forms.

In tests 1 and 2, the words were listed randomly. In other words, the basic forms and the mutated forms did not occur in any particular order within the list. In tests 3, 4, 5 and 6 all of the mutated forms occurred at the beginning of the list and the basic forms at the end of the list. The students were instructed not to go back to earlier items in the test if they recognized a word once they heard the base form. The differences in testing procedures between the first two tests and the remaining four make it difficult to compare results between them. Therefore the success rate for mutated forms for tests 1 and 2 (73% and 89% respectively) are not listed with the other results in the table below.

Results of Irish Tests

Tests Drilled mutations Success rate on basic words Success rate for mutated forms

(% of mutated form recognized of the basic words in column 3)

1no 63%-
2yes 66%-
3no 75%83%
4yes 59%77%
5no 63%87%
6yes 78%86%


There appears to be a correlation between the success rate in the basic words and the ability to recognize mutated forms of known basic words. Specifically, it appears that when the students are more familiar with the words, they are more likely to recognize the mutated forms even if they have not previous been exposed to the mutated forms (no drilled mutations). In test 4, for instance, where the success rate for the basic forms was low, suggesting a lower overall familiarity with the words in the list, there was also a lower recognition rate for mutated forms.

Our results suggest that word-initial mutations in Irish represent a major impediment to word recognition. Even after four months of daily instruction in Irish, recognition failure of the mutated forms continued to be quite high, almost 20% of the words were failed to be recognized in their basic form. This 20% figure is an average, which includes a number of students with essentially perfect scores. Some students had failure rates as high as 80%. If word recognition is a significant problem in simple word lists, it can be expected to be all the more serious in rapid speech.

Since our test procedure treats initial word-sounds by class, it is possible to examine whether some sounds are more easily processed than others. If this is indeed the case, it will have implications for both the learner and the teacher. We anticipated that lenition, which causes the sound to shift from a stop to its corresponding fricative, would be more difficult to reconcile to the basic form than the effects of eclipsis, which involves the switching from the feature [- voiced] to [+ voiced] or [-nasal] to [+nasal]. Similarly, we anticipated that a relatively larger difficulty in reconciliation when word-initial vowels were eclipsed, (a consonant is inserted) and where the lenited /f/ disappears completely and a vowel sound is now in word-initial position. An additional difficulty in parsing was expected where the lenited sound was one that is not found in this position in the first language of the learner.


A preliminary analysis of our results suggests that in general, lenited sounds (voicing change of the voiceless consonants) are more easily recognized than eclipsed sounds (nasalization). This was not predicted and requires further study in order to provide a suitable explanation. Certain exceptions to this general pattern were obvious, including the case of the broad /g/ which was almost universally recognized. The statistics may have been skewed however by the inclusion of some very well known words with distinctive eclipsed forms, e.g. "grá" (love) which becomes "ngrá" (pronounced "nraw").

Predictions made concerning the processing of the vowel sounds seem to have been borne out. The recognition rates for the vowels in general is lower than it is for the consonants. The recognition rate for the eclipsed vowels is however higher in most cases than for the vowels in the lenition environment. It is unclear what is causing this since vowels do not lenite. One suggestion is that while the vowel itself does not undergo a change, the possessive adjective "do" contracts to "d'" and attaches itself to the vowel-initial word. The resulting word would appear to be one that begins with a /d/ sound and so students who have learned the patterns of eclipsis may be attempting to work back to a non-eclipsed form of a word beginning with /t/ (e.g "ár dteach" maps back to "teach" " house"). Another possible explanation is that the student will recognize the second person possessive adjective as the trigger for lenition, may think that he recognizes the word but because of the contracted "d'" doubts himself and does not give an answer.


We conclude that word-initial mutations in Irish are a major impediment to oral comprehension. Although our preliminary results are not sufficiently sensitive to establish a correlation between the drilling of mutated forms, and recognition success rates, it is clear that some adjustment in normal teaching techniques is appropriate to address the mutation problem. Our results hint that particular attention may be appropriate in teaching eclipsed forms, and the environment which causes contraction of consonant sounds where lenition in not anticipated for vowels. Further research is planned to determine more clearly which sounds are typically processed correctly and which sounds are inherently difficult.


Christian Brothers (The), New Irish Grammar, Dublin: C.J. Fallon

Duffield, Nigel, 1990, Movement and Mutation in Modern Irish Papers from the Second Student Conference in Linguistics M.I.T. 31-45, M.I.T. Working Papers in Linguistics, VOL 12 edited by Thomas Grenn and Sigal Uziel

Duffield Nigel, 1997 Canadian Journal of Linguistics 88-109 42 (1-2)

Frauenfelder, Uli H. and Lorraine Komisarjewsky. Eds. Spoken Word Recognitoin. MIT press edition 1987.

Grijzenhout, Janet, 1995, Irish Consonant Mutation and Phonological Theory, PhD Dissertation, OTS Dissertation Series

Gussman, Edmund. 1986, Autosegments, linked matrices, aand the Irish lenition, in Linguistics across Historical and Geographical Boundaries, ed. D Kastovsky and A. Szwedek, 891-907, Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter

Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann, The Linguistics Institute of Ireland, Cogar, produced by Radio Telefís Éireann, 1989

MacGabhann, Risteard, 1991, Cúrsa Closamhairc Gaeilge, A Self-Instructional Course for Adults, Ogmios, Derry N. Ireland

Ó Báille, Ruaidhrí. Is Féidir Liom. School and College Publishing, Dublin, 1995

Ó Dónaill, Niall, Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla, Oifig an tSoláthair, Baile Átha Cliath, 1977

Ó Sé, Diarmuid and Josef Sheils, 1994, Teach Yourself Irish, NTC Publishing Group Lincolnwood, (chicago) Illinois

Rotenberg, Joel. 1978, The Syntax of Phonology, Doctoral Dissertation, MIT.

Manx Gaelic in the Year 2000

Brian Stowell

Scrudeyr ny Sheshaght Ghailckagh

16 Hilary Road

Douglas, Isle of Man


bstowell@mcb.net Email

+44 1624 623821 Tel


Ga dy dooar y Ghaelg baase myr çhengey theay Vannin mysh keead blein er dy henney as cha row y chooid smoo jeh ny Manninee coontey veg jee, ta sleih dy liooar ayns foayr jee nish. Ta'n Ghaelg myr cooish reihyssagh ayns scoillyn Vannin as ta possan-cloie Gaelgagh jannoo dy mie. Ta Reiltys Vannin arryltagh dy chooney lesh y çhengey. Agh cha nel ee sauçhey foastagh.


Manx, or Manx Gaelic is the native language (Refs. 1 & 2) of the Isle of Man, or Mann, a quasi-autonomous miniature country in the north Irish Sea between Ireland and Britain. Mann is governed by its own ancient parliament, Tynwald, and is not part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, nor is it part of the European Union. The present population of Mann is about 74,000, about half of whom were not born there.

1974 saw the death of the recognised last native speaker, Ned Maddrell, of what might be called 'traditional Manx'. Linguists duly pronounced Manx to be 'dead' (Ref. 3). However, while mourning Ned's death, Manx language activists continued their efforts to promote the native language of the Isle of Man.

Manx Gaelic as an optional subject in schools

In 1990, a Manx government-commissioned quality of life survey showed that thirty-six percent of those interviewed were in favour of Manx as an optional subject in schools in Mann. And in the 1991 census the number of those claiming to speak Manx was 643, a significant increase on the previous census figure.

For a variety of reasons, the Council of Ministers of the Manx Government decided to appoint a Manx Language Officer along with two full-time peripatetic teachers of Manx. The language would be offered as an option in schools. This meant that for the first time ever Manx Gaelic was in the schools on something approaching a regular basis, albeit about a hundred years after its demise as a community language.

The Manx Language Officer (Brian Stowell) and the two teachers (Peggy Carswell and Phil Kelly) took up their posts in January 1992. In the virtually complete absence of teaching material which was suitable for children, the newly created Manx Language Unit had to create courses from scratch. It was not known what the response to an offer of Manx language tuition would be, but advisers in the Manx Government's Education Department had assumed that Manx would be taught in a similar way to instrumental music. School pupils opting to learn to play the violin, say, often come out of classes to be taught for twenty to thirty minutes per week by a peripatetic violin teacher. Typically, two or three pupils out of a group of twenty-five may be learning to play an instrument.

The Manx Language Unit, which was given a large degree of freedom within the government's Education Department, decided to offer thirty minutes of tuition to each pupil. This was thought sufficient to give an effective taster course while not causing undue upsets in schools. With reluctance, it was recognised that Manx could not be offered to pupils aged between four/five and seven: when consulted, infant teachers had expressed marked disquiet about younger children leaving other classes to take Manx.

The instrumental music model was shown to be inappropriate when parents were canvassed in May 1992 as to whether their children wanted to study Manx. The numbers were much higher than had been guessed at. About forty percent of those primary school children aged between seven and eleven and an average of seven percent of secondary school pupils (aged eleven to seventeen/eighteen) wanted to take Manx. Out of a total school population of roughly 10,000, there were 1,949 potential students of the language - more than two teachers and the Manx Language Officer could possibly cope with. The Language Officer's job description had not included teaching: his brief had been to establish optional Manx in the schools and then carry out a wide range of duties promoting the language in general. The very positive response to the offer of Manx language tuition meant that he had to teach in the schools, there being no prospect of appointing any more teachers.

Few teachers voiced outright opposition to the introduction of Manx, but there was appreciable unease on the part of some teachers about the advent of yet another subject in schools. Shortly beforehand, the Isle of Man Department of Education had embarked on an ambitious scheme of compulsory French for all primary school pupil aged seven and over. This came on top of the imposition of the English National Curriculum in Manx schools, causing considerable resentment among teachers (and significant numbers of early retirements).

In spite of these negative factors, optional Manx was introduced surprisingly smoothly. The Manx Language Unit observed primary school French lessons in the spring and summer of 1992 to enable them to teach Manx in a similar way - using the target language and games and other activities. Because of the large demand for Manx, arbitrary decisions had to be made which were educationally undesirable. In larger primary schools, tuition had to be delayed for many potential students of Manx. And in many cases, pupils were limited to just two years of study of the language. For this purpose, a two-year course called 'Bun Noa' ('New Base' or 'New Meaning') was prepared. The course is divided into six modules, one for each school term of roughly twelve weeks. For each module, pupils are issued with booklets.

Formal Manx language tuition started in September 1992, with 1,141 primary school pupils and 314 secondary school pupils. In many primary schools there were pupils with ages ranging from seven to eleven in the one class (this did not cause appreciable problems.) Overall, the numbers in the classes ranged from ten to thirty, highlighting the fact that peripatetic Manx teaching could not really be operated in the same way as peripatetic music teaching with the numbers wanting to take Manx being so much higher. By clever timetabling, staff in some schools avoided the undesirable feature of pupils' leaving other classes to take Manx. But in many cases, pupils had to face the often embarrassing routine of informing teachers they were leaving to go to a Manx class. This has been the major negative feature in the whole scheme of Manx language tuition in schools. While most teachers have been supportive, a minority have openly expressed their opposition to having Manx in the schools. In spite of these and other difficulties, almost all pupils took to Manx with great enthusiasm and enjoyment, irrespective of whether they were from old established Manx families or from recently arrived families.

Initially, secondary school pupils took the same course as those in primary schools - Bun Noa. Later, a separate course was developed for secondary schools. This is a conversation based course called Bun-Choorse Gaelgagh (Basic Manx Course).

In secondary schools, the very full curriculum meant that there were significant problems in introducing Manx, leading to a much higher dropout rate than in primary schools. When parents realised that many pupils were leaving other classes to take Manx, it often happened that they persuaded their children to give up Manx, even when Manx was timetabled to minimise clashes.

Nevertheless, in Manx terms, the introduction of optional Manx Gaelic into schools has been a success. In January 1996, a move to greatly increase the number of peripatetic teachers of Manx was defeated by just one vote in Tynwald. Significantly, no politician openly expressed opposition to the language in the preceding debate, showing the realisation by politicians of the general popularity of having Manx as an optional subject in the schools. A comprehensive Education Department report on the future of the language was received by Tynwald at this time.

In September 1996, Brian Stowell retired and Phil Kelly was appointed as the Manx Language Officer. Another teacher of Manx (Catreeney Craine) was recruited, increasing the staff of the government Manx Language Unit to four (the Language Officer plus three full-time teachers.)

In the first few years of the Manx language scheme in the schools, the Manx Language Unit agreed to attempt to teach about one thousand pupils per year under the tacit assumption that more teachers of Manx would be appointed. This did not happen, so recruitment was cut back to give the present figure of about eight hundred pupils. The popularity of Manx shows no sign of declining, but the future of the language in the schools remains very vulnerable to changes in the political climate.

Qualifications in Manx Gaelic

Until recently, Manx Gaelic was the only Celtic language in which it was not possible to gain formal qualifications. In the early 1980's it was possible to take an Ordinary Level General Certificate of Education (O-Level GCE) in Manx under the auspices of the English examinations system. However, the academically inclined GCE O-Levels (taken mainly by 16 year olds) were phased out and replaced by General Certificates in Secondary Education (GCSE's) which, for languages, are orientated towards conversation and the spoken language. For various reasons, a GCSE in Manx Gaelic was not developed to follow the GCE O-Level.

In 1997, a course leading to Teisht Chadjin Ghaelgagh (General Certificate in Manx) was made available in secondary schools in Mann and in adult evening classes in various locations round the island, as well as to individuals taking it by distance learning (some via the Internet). This qualification is equivalent to a GCSE and is validated by a committee in association with the Manx Government's Department of Education.

A course leading to Ard-Teisht Ghaelgagh (Higher Certificate in Manx) is being prepared. This will be equivalent to an Advanced Level GCE in the English system.

Manx Gaelic playgroup

In February 1997, the officially approved Manx language playgroup Mooinjer Veggey ('Little Folk') was formally opened by the President of Tynwald, Charles Kerruish, in a disused schoolhouse at Braddan, near Douglas. This important step for Manx was largely due to the initiative of Phil Gawne, a prominent language activist. A playgroup leader and assistants were recruited, it being most important that their command of spoken Manx was good enough to run the playgroup entirely through Manx.

Mooinjer Veggey caters for children aged between three and five and operates between 9 am and 12.15 pm on weekdays in schools terms. Under government regulations, up to ten children can attend any one session. Parents pay by the hour, but external financial assistance has been needed to get the playgroup under way. This assistance has come from the Manx Heritage Foundation, a government funded body which supports Manx culture.

Children attending Mooinjer Veggey take part in games and activities through the medium of Manx, thereby gaining an understanding of aspects of the spoken language. Although some of the children originally attending the playgroup were essentially new native speakers of Manx (they are being brought up through Manx as well as English), most parents with children in Mooinjer Veggey know little or no Manx.

Naturally, a demand has arisen from parents with children at Mooinjer Veggey for some form of continuity as regards Manx when their children leave the playgroup to attend primary school at the age of five. The Department of Education agreed to designate a school where parents could take their children for one half-day's schooling through Manx. This represents a tentative step towards Manx medium education, following in the footsteps of the movements in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Brittany.

Manx Language Development Officer

In 1997 a proposal was made by the committee of Yn Çheshaght Ghailckagh (Manx Gaelic Society) that a part-time Manx Language Development Officer be appointed to work on aspects of Manx not involving the schools and the Department of Education. It had been known since 1992 that the job description of that department's language officer was too broad to be practicable, since the demand for Manx tuition in the schools had proved much higher than had been guessed at.

The Education Department's language officers (Brian Stowell followed by Phil Kelly) had succeeded in fulfilling various wider functions, such as some public relations work in Mann and outside, establishing Manx language summer schools, making contact with the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages and presenting papers on Manx at conferences. But there was clearly work for more than one Language Officer.

Phil Gawne was duly appointed part-time Manx Language Development Officer, being paid jointly under a three year contract by the Manx Heritage Foundation and Manx National Heritage (the trading name for the Manx Museum and National Trust). Phil Gawne's main briefs are to look at language policy and planning in other countries and to work for Manx in a way implied by the Manx Gaelic title for ths job - 'Yn Greinneyder' ('The Encourager'). He has strengthened links with language activists in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, in particular with Finlay Mac Leod, a major driving force behind the Gaelic medium education movement in Scotland. This strengthening of links is complemented by the work of Phil Kelly, the Education Department's language officer, in organising attendance at Scottish Gaelic courses at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig for the Manx Language Unit, participation in international language conferences, etc.

Before becoming Yn Greinneyder, Phil Gawne had initiated the higly successful Feailley Ghaelgagh (Manx Language Festival), a week long event of lectures, song and music now held every November. The festival includes the annual Ned Maddrell Lecture, named in honour of the last native speaker of traditional Manx.

More recently, Yn Greinneyder has been instrumental in enlarging Coonceil ny Gaelgey (Manx Gaelic Advisory Council). This is a quasi-governmental body which was set up by Tynwald in 1985 to supply the Manx translations of summaries of laws passed by Tynwald, as well as titles of government departments, street names, etc. In 1999 the membership of the council was increased from three to eleven and the work of developing new words and terms assigned to sub-groups.

Coonceil ny Gaelgey is chaired by Rev. Robert Thomson, who is, overall, the leading academic authority on Manx Gaelic.


1. R.L. Thomson and A.J. Pilgrim, Outline of Manx Language and Literature (Douglas 1998), ISBN 1-870029-04-6.

2. B. Stowell and D. Ó Breasláin, A Short History of the Manx Language (An Clochán, Belfast 1996), ISBN 1-900286-02-5.

3. Broderick, George, Language Death in the Isle of Man. (Niemeyer, Tübingen, Germany, 1999), ISBN 3-484-30395-6).

Language Ideologies in Brittany, with Implications for Breton Language Maintenance and Pedagogy

Lenora A. Timm

Department of Linguistics

University of California

Davis, CA 95616 USA

latimm@ucdavis.edu Email

+1 530 752 4540 Tel

+1 530 752-3156 Fax


This paper explores ideologies underlying the construction of "neo Breton,"the 20th-c. "standardized" form of Brittany's traditional Celtic language, considers the benefits and losses of the establishment of this variety as the standard one, and raises pedagogical questions and concerns for its long-term viability.


'Language ideology' has emerged in recent years as a distinct area of inquiry within a variety of disciplines in the social sciences and humanities. Its appearance is timely for anyone working in the context of minority languages and cultures, whether in Europe or elsewhere, for the perspectives offered by this emergent field have clear relevance for understanding issues pertaining both to language planning efforts and to teaching of minority languages. The purpose of this paper is to explore some aspects of language ideology in Brittany, and to consider their impact on present-day efforts to promote the learning and use of Breton in the schools and in wider society.

There is probably no universally agreed upon definition for 'language ideology'. As Woolard (1998:4) points out, there are several senses in which this phrase is invoked by scholars concerned with issues at the intersection between attitudinal, epistemological and aesthetic stances on language, on the one hand, and with language praxis on the other. For this paper, I am using 'language ideology/ideologies' to refer to notions regarding linguistic distinctiveness, value, "purity" and standardization, and the relation of these to the realities of language use in Brittany today.

Brief Overview of Breton and of Language Ideologies & Language Planning in Brittany

Modern spoken Breton consists of four major dialects that correspond, grosso modo, to former dioceses boundaries. There are three northern dialects - léonais, cornouaillais, and trégorrois - that are closer structurally and phonologically to each other than any of them is to the fourth, southern dialect known as vannetais. In reality, the situation is far more complex, for each large dialect area is itself comprised of numerous more localized subdialects, and all field researchers in Brittany are familiar with the almost legendary claim by native speakers that their Breton is "not the same'" as the Breton spoken down the road, or over the hills, at 10-15 kms. distance.

As a written language, Breton has been codified in several different versions. Middle Breton (11th-16th c.) produced two written "standard" languages based on the Breton used by the Carmelite and Franciscan priests in the Tregor dialect area, especially around the Bay of Morlaix; these became, in the early 17th c., the basis of the Breton used in the Jesuit colleges of Quimper, in the cornouaillais dialect area, and Vannes, in the vannetais dialect area (Le Dû 1997). Following the French Revolution, the former bishoprics of Brittany were reorganized as départements, and a third written standard emerged for the newly formed Côtes-Du-Nord - comprising the trégorrois dialect area (ibid.). In spite of the anticlerical bias of the revolutionary government, in Brittany, these three written standards were used principally for the production of devotional materials for the common people.

In the 19th c., another sort of movement was launched in favor of written Breton. This came in the wake of the 'Celtomane' fervor of the mid 1800s (Dietler 1994), when certain Breton enthusiasts sought to establish Breton as the original human language and to assert the primacy (and superiority) of the Celtic 'race'. Numerous reforms in the orthography were introduced to normalize the orthographic representation of the initial consonant mutations and to eliminate a large number of French-derived words replacing them with native stock. Clearly operative during this epoch was the drive for purification and expurgation of French influence.

The 20th Century Situation

Language ideology of the Breton literati. As one Breton linguist has observed (Le Dû 1997:423), the labors of the 19th-c. purists were not truly aimed at the construction of an official standard language, a project that would only take shape with the emergence of Breton nationalistic fervor and organizations of the early 20th c. It was during the latter period that language promoters would call for a "unified" Breton to serve all the people. This would be difficult to achieve given the divergence among dialects and especially the linguistic distance between the southern dialect vannetais and the other three, and in reality was never successful beyond positing certain spelling reforms in 1941, including, the famous digraph ZH, which was to be pronounced in the three northern dialects as [z] or [s] (depending on position in word) and as [h] in the southern dialect. This orthography was dubbed, because of the ZH innovation, 'zedacheg', and was destined to become symbolically potent to subsequent generations.

The new cohort of reformers had in mind a rather complete overhaul of Breton grammar and lexis, which were judged too deficient and French influenced to serve as a proper basis for renovation. The most renowned of the reformers, Roparz Hemon (1900-1978), was forthcoming about their intentions to create "A brand new language for Lower Brittany, simple and pure, in which you can work with the truth more than in the old languages of the world" (1972:52). Le Dû detects the influence of Esperanto in this project (1997:424). But unlike the Esperantists, who wanted a universal language to facilitate cross-cultural communication, the Breton reformers had a much more focused goal in mind, for they were ideologically committed, as nationalists, to create "A literary language first, from 1925 to 1941. From 1941 on, a language of State" (ibid.:425).

The prevailing standard language today - neo Breton. The construction of this "brand new language" of a state-to-be was based on logic and abstraction. Hemon, an urban Breton who learned the language as an adult, devoted the rest of his life to perfecting the new literary language and to its propagation via the publication of scholarly essays, reviews, translations of world literature and the creation of a new secular literature. The language on which he toiled was not strictly speaking "brand new" but rather built on inherited forms of written Breton , for which the process of dialect leveling and normalization that had been going on since the 16th c. Thus, Hemon's 20th-c. literary Breton could be described in part as a pan-dialectal koine, with a bias toward léonais pronunciation - for example, no palatalization of velar consonants before front vowels, which is widespread in vannetais as well as certain subdialects of cornouaillais. In addition, the structural and linguistic differentiation of Breton vis-à-vis French was emphasized by these reformers, with the goal of achieving a purer "Celticity" in syntax and lexicon. At the same time Breton was promoted for symbolic purposes in public domains where it had not historically had much of a role. Finally, the Romantic 19th-c. notion of one people=one language was dusted off and given a new sheen in the context of 20th-c. Brittany.

Since the 1970s Hemon's version of Breton has been taught at the University of Rennes and in bilingual K-12 schools, of which there are several dozen in Brittany. As a result it has become the principal variety of the language learned by younger people, and this means - given the current demographics of the native speaker population of the language - that this is the variety with the best chance of perduring in the 21st century.

Mari Jones has recently characterized neo Breton as a "xenolect," following Holm's definition of xenolects as "slightly foreignized varieties spoken natively which are not creoles because they have not undergone significant restructuring" (Holm 1988 quoted in Jones 1998:323). The "slightly foreignized" features presumably arise because neo Breton is being taught to learners by adults who did not learn it as a first language and have learned it imperfectly, which may imply influence of French word order, simplification of the mutational system, and loss of varous tense/mode distinctions. Jones observes that

The creation of the Neo-Breton xenolect may have repercussions for the field of language death for it is possible that such a variety...may represent the pre-terminal phase of some dying languages in particular socio-political contexts (1998:323).

This could be true, though it is also very possible that the neo-Breton xenolect would stabilize over time and, if learned by enough people over several generations, would simply go its own way - no longer a xenolect, but simply the way 21st century Bretons speak Breton; perhaps it would not be very intelligible to 20th. c. native speakers of Breton, but neither would it be comprehensible to French monolinguals.

Language ideology among the Breton people (in the 20th c.). Long accustomed to a functional and status differentiation between French as the H(igh) and Breton as the L(ow) language, this diglossic relationship (Timm 1980) was scarcely contested by the mass of the Breton speaking population, though arguably attitudes about Breton pejorated at an increasing rate as the century progressed through and beyond WW II. The efforts of the literati, outlined above, to maintain and promote the language began finding wide public acceptance in the 1960s, but probably did not obtain adherence of noteworthy numbers of people (mainly younger generations) until the late 1970s and early 1980s.

At the turn of the 21st c. popular support among the middle classes for the promotion of Breton in the schools has become widespread. Working class Bretons seem distinctly less interested, while the older generations - including the great bulk of native Breton speakers - mainly cleave to the diglossic model and are faintly bemused by efforts to expand the functionality of neo Breton. They may also be repelled by it, in part because of the mismatch between their own Breton and the Breton that is now heard in the media and from school children (see below).

Breton Language Pedagogy

Given its position as the L language in diglossia, there was little impetus historically to develop pedagogical materials for the teaching/learning of the language. This lacuna began to be filled in by Hemon and his group in the 1940s and beyond, as rudimentary teach-yourself books began to appear, as well as that indispensable reference tool, a bilingual dictionary. More self-help guides to Breton became available in the 1960s and 1970s, bolstered by the technology then available of cassette tapes. Most of this was material was targeted at adolescents (in terms of content of dialogues) but was probably mainly studied by adults.

In the late 1970s, a new initiative of language promotion was launched - Diwan. This began as a very modest effort on the part of a handful of parents, teachers and students to provide bilingual (Breton-French) instruction for very young children. Over the years, this effort has expanded remarkably, moving from private to semi-public status, and encompassing nearly 2000 students a year in a network of K-12 schools located throughout Brittany. Its ideology is premised on the idea of producing accomplished bilinguals; this seems eminently sensible, but is this being achieved?

Here is where pedagogical intentions may founder on the shoals of puristic language ideology, for there are non-trivial issues of intelligibilitiy between the variety of Breton being taught and propagated in the school system - the neo-Breton "xenolect" discussed earlier - and the traditional Breton still being spoken by native speakers. (There are similar issues with many of the professional broadcasters.)

This problem is probably familiar to anyone working with the Celtic languages, but it may be more acute for Breton than for Irish or Welsh, inasmuch as the pool of native Breton speakers consists almost exclusively of older people whose attitudes about Breton are very different from those of the young cohorts learning it as a second language. These older speakers accepted the ideology they inherited from their parents and authorities - that Breton was not suitable for wider society, that French was the only language for social and educational advancement. Breton stubbornly remains for them an L language, but with even more restricted functionality here - mainly as the language for conversation and banter with friends and close family of the same generation (or older).

These older cohorts of speakers who should, ideally, serve as community resources for learners aspiring to improve and perfect their Breton, remain instead outside the circle of pedagogy, which is, for its part, largely closed and self-perpetuating. There is probably self-exclusion by the native speakers from the process too: given the privileging of the academic world, in the eyes of a post-peasantry (which many of the older speakers represent), they are likely to judge their native Breton to be not as "good" as what the children now learn in school.

Still, it might be argued, languages change and the neo-Breton that is emerging from the school children will simply be the Breton of the future, and one should not worry overly whether or not this version of Breton is comprehensible by older speakers, many of whom will not live long into the 21st century. If enough children of Brittany end up in Diwan or other bilingual schools where they acquire a workable knowledge of neo Breton, then this is a possible scenario. At present, though, this not the case, as made clear in a poignant film released in Britanny in May 1999, which followed the lives over two or three years of several students who were the first to earn their "bacs" in Breton-medium and bilingual schools. What we see from that film, unfortunately, is that these young people, deeply committed to Breton, find it difficult to maintain social relationships in that language, in large measure because they are so diffusely scattered through the population of Brittany. Yet, ironically, encounters with native Breton speakers are scarcely more productive (linguistically) than with French monolinguals.

Balance Sheet

It is altogether too easy for outsiders to critique the well-meaning and indeed heroic efforts of language activists in Brittany (and in other Celtic countries) to restore and promote their heritage language, and I wish to make clear that any observations I make here or elsewhere are meant only in a most positive way. There have been both benefits and losses in the construction and propagation of neo-Breton over the past century. These will be briefly described here.

Benefits. The benefits of the development of neo Breton are several: it affords a means of communicating in Breton across traditional dialect areas; at least this is true of the written variety. It has acquired symbolic value as a marker of Breton identity, and has helped eradicate the centuries-old self-stigmatization of Breton by its native speakers. As part of this, some sectors of the public domain, previously closed to Breton, have opened up. This is truest of education; Breton presence on TV and radio are more than in the past, but still not great. The re-worked lexicon - though still too puristic - has nonetheless brought Breton into the modern world, as has the creation of a substantial secular literature.

Losses. The linking of a divergent koiné variety of Breton with a movement of linguistic restoration and the establishment of a an elitist bretonnant literary tradition has had several consequences:

  1. The very existence of the new prestige variety further stigmatized the vernaculars - a double inferiorization effect, which may have influenced more people to rely on French; this was happening before, but the process accelerated after the Second World War.
  2. It further distanced the native speaker population from the high variety of the language. Many older native speakers claim, with some testiness, not to be able to understand neo-Breton.
  3. It meant that language planning was entirely in the hands of a select few intellectuals, highly motivated, but also with a political and ideological agenda; in a way this could be called a self-appointed language-planning oligarchy. Many at the core of the early movement were not native speakers of the language (Hemon, Taldir, Meavenn, Mordiern, Mordrelle).
  4. The language moved from a rural to an urban basis in terms of whose perspectives and whose interests would be encoded in the emerging, enriched lexicon. This is not surprising of course, and indeed, was needed if Breton were to be recognized as a language of European, if not international, scope. However, what was downplayed, or benignly ignored, in the forging of the new variety was much of the richness of the vernaculars' expressive repertoire - idioms, proverbs, sayings, riddles, salutations, address terms, invectives. Consider, for example, such idioms as Hennez a zo digor e skrin 'He's hungry' or Uhel eo an avel gantañ 'He's arrogant'. While certain ones were incorporated, the majority were forgotten, overlooked, or excluded. Curiously, certain commonplace turns of phrase were reformulated as Breton translations of French models - e.g., Devez mat! ('Good day!') Aotrou ('Sir'), Itron ('Madam'), Dimezell ('Mademoiselle'); Aoutrounez hag Itronezed ('Gentlemen & Ladies' [cf. French Messieurs et Madames])

Moreover, in every society, the universal aspects of human existence are to be found, and we find them commented on in such expressive language as proverbs and sayings. These are generally readily comprehended in translation, and it is not uncommon to find quite parallel expressions of this genre across languages and cultures. Thus, it would have benefitted new generations of learners of Breton had more figurative expressions been incorporated into updated versions of Breton grammars and dictionaries. There are pedagogical reasons for so doing: often the sayings are rhymed, and this may facilitate the learning process. Perhaps originators of sayings were aware on some level that rhyming could assist children in learning the values and perspectives contained within them. There are also linguistic lessons in sayings for a learner of Breton, which shares with the other Celtic languages a complex morphophonemic system in its initial consonant mutations, for it is likely that repetition of proverbs and sayings provided juvenile learners easily remembered models for these mutations; their repetition could do the same for adult learners.


Language ideologies in Brittany in the past century have promoted an emphasis on a form of Breton, the one currently being taught as a second language, that is in many ways quite different from the native, spoken forms of the language. Deliberately constructed to avoid any appearance of French influence, the teaching of neo-Breton has produced new cohorts of speakers who do not share many of the same expessive and creative resources with the native speakers; a sort of linguistic dissonance is the result when neo- and paleo-speakers attempt to engage in conversation. I have suggested that more attention might have been paid, and might still be paid, in the construction of grammars and dictionaries to some traditional genres in vernacular forms of the language - e.g., conversational styles that incorporate more idioms, proverbs, and sayings to help provide a bridge between the native and neo Breton speakers. The conversational and age gap between younger and older speakers may already be so great as to render the crossing of this bridge impracticable or impossible. An unanswered question (and unanswerable at present) is whether or not the neo-speakers will become sufficiently numerous to propagate their own version of the language and to promote, through time, its further elaboration as a set of vernaculars as expressive and creative as the ones that are currently being lost.


Dietler , M. (1994). "Our ancestors the Gauls": Archaeology, ethnic nationalism and the manipulation of Celtic identity in Modern Europe. American Anthropologist 96:584-605.

Hemon, R. (1972). Ur breizhad oc'h adkavout Breizh. Brest: Al Liamm.

Le Dû, J. (1997). Le Breton au XXXe siècle: renaissance ou création? Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 49-50: 414-431.

Jones, M. (1998). Language Obsolescence and Revitalization. Linguistic Change in Two Sociolinguistically Contrasting Welsh Communities. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Timm, L. (1980). Bilingualism, diglossia, and language shift in Brittany. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 25:29-41.

Woolard, K. (1998). Introduction: Language ideology as a field of inquiry. In B. Schieffelin, K. Woolard, & P. Kroskrity, eds., Language Ideologies: Practice and Theory. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 3-47.

Welsh Medium and Bilingual Teaching in the Further Education Sector

Cen Williams

Canolfan Bedwyr,

University of Wales, Bangor

cbs002@bangor.ac.uk Email

http://www.bangor.ac.uk/ar/cb/cb.htm URL

+44 1248 383292 Tel

+44 1248 383293 Fax


Astudiaeth ragarweiniol o ddulliau cyflwyno a dysgu yn y Sector Addysg Bellach sef 16+ galwedigaethol ac academaidd yng Nghymru. Manylir ar y cyd-destun dwyieithog ar draws y sectorau er mwyn gosod y cyd-destun ieithyddol ar gyfer yr astudiaeth, a rhestrir rhai o'r dulliau cyflwyno dwyieithog mewn ysgolion uwchradd. Yna dadansoddir y sefyllfaoedd dysgu dwyieithog cadarnhaol a welwyd gan gynnig argymhellion sy'n berthnasol i unrhyw wlad lle defnyddir methodoleg ddysgu ddwyieithog i ymestyn y defnydd o'r iaith leiafrifol.

The Welsh Context

This is an indication of language shift which has happened during the second half of the twentieth century, whereby the education system and the State rather than the hearth and home have increasingly become guardians of the Welsh language.

This national figure of 2.31% fails to disclose the institutional or geographical propensity. 38.4% of the 4419 students assessed through the medium of Welsh came from one institution and 24.4% from another institution.

Bilingual Teaching Methodologies at Secondary School Level

Williams (1994) noted that 32% only of the classrooms he visited during part 1 of his research in traditional bilingual secondary schools adopted a loosely bilingual methodology. The situations observed could be categorised as:

  1. a mechanical, slavish practice of translating from one language to the other throughout the lesson
  2. a selective transition from one language to the other
  3. groups within a class choosing and using one language only,
  4. the native Welsh speakers taught through the medium of Welsh with the L2 pupils being taught through the medium of English
  5. oral work in one language (usually Welsh) with written work in the other language
  6. a structured policy where some units or modules being presented by the teacher, discussed and reported in one language, and others studied through the medium of the other language.

Within these situations, two common practices which undermined any attempt at establishing a coherent policy were evident.

Category (6) above implies a more deliberate bilingual teaching policy and the more successful teachers within this classification demonstrate certain common characteristics in their planning and teaching strategies. They:

(Williams, 1994 p 259)

The Context, Aim and Objectives of the Present Study

The main aim of the study therefore was to identify and disseminate good practice in bilingual delivery and learning within the sector.

The main objectives were:

  1. to categorise examples of a range of teaching methods used in a bilingual context in Further Education Colleges;
  2. to analyse these examples and identify models of good practice;
  3. to use the good practice identified as a foundation for an in-service training programme in order to encourage more lecturers and colleges to adopt a variety of bilingual teaching methods.

Method of Research

The study was ethnographic in nature, concentrating on what happens usually and naturally in the classroom. No attempt was made to manipulate the situation in any way or to interfere with lecturers' normal teaching methods regarding presentation nor their use of bilingualism.


The results are broadly divided into two sections; the first short section addressess the conditions affecting bilingual setting and the second more detailed section concentrates on the classification and typology of teaching styles within each setting.

Conditions affecting bilingual settings

Individual lecturers had a tendency to interpret bilingual teaching according to the linguistic conditions prevalent in the class at any given time. Amongst these conditions were:

  1. the language of the majority of the students;
  2. the lecturer's own first or preferred language;
  3. the language in which the course was to be examined in the case of the majority of students;
  4. the consideration of whether one or more of the student group were non-Welsh speakers or were recent in-migrants into the area;
  5. the strength of personality of individual students, some of whom were insistent on changing the language of discussion.

Classification and Features of the Teaching Styles

The observed situations were categorised into seven main types of teaching settings, three of which were deemed to be positive. For the purpose of this paper positive settings and features only will be discussed.

Positive Settings

Positive Features

  1. Respect was accorded to both languages.
  2. Written material was available in both languages.
  3. The lecturers were using the appropriate terminology consistently and frequently in both languages; students were also familiar with their usage in their own preferred medium.
  4. The students accepted bilingualism as a natural phenomenon and saw it as an advantage rather than a problem:
  5. There was a clear tendency to vary the teaching and learning activities and to set 'real,' purposeful tasks for the students
  6. Oral bilingual presentations, which can become burdensome if overdone, were restricted and students worked more extensively in their chosen language
  7. The sessions tended to be more student centred.
  8. One common model: - a bilingual presentation > group work or 1:1 instruction.
  9. An advantages of 1:1 communication was that bilingual lecturers responded to individuals in their chosen language medium.
  10. There was a tendency for those same students to ask for English notes and to perform all their written tasks through the medium of English. This is a form of additive bilingualism. (Lambert 1974)
  11. One of the most positive situations bilingually was a session where the official language was English, but where Welsh was used to strengthen and reinforce comprehension; and vice-versa.


There are many influences that can affect the success or failure of bilingual teaching in any sector. Each of these should be considered in the context of Further Education and any weak aspects should be strengthened. The main considerations are noted below, together with some recommendations for effective practice.

1 The educational philosophy which forms the basis of the language medium policy should be transparent to members of staff and students alike.

The purpose of bilingualism within the Further Education sector should be established; either:

  1. to create practical conditions to enable students to follow their subjects through the medium of Welsh or English, i.e. administrative and organisational purposes only, or
  2. using and developing the bilingualism of each student (or group of students) further, i.e. creating curricular, professional and vocational purposes.

2 The attitude of lecturers is vital for the effective operation of the policy.

If lecturers do not fully understand the aims of the institutional policy, unfavourable conditions are created in the way that policy is put into effect in the classroom. It is this lack of understanding, rather than outright objection, that leads to negative thinking and lack of respect for the value of a bilingual policy.

3 The attitude of students is a key factor in the success of bilingual teaching.

In some classes, short-term considerations tended to outweigh long-term issues. Students' unfavourable attitudes towards the Welsh language because of previous educational background, a lack of confidence when expressing themselves in Welsh and personal prejudices were all evident. The accumulative effect was that many students used English when completing written work. They did not consider that there is an increasing demand both locally and nationally for a bilingual workforce, and that their bilingualism needed to be practised in order to develop. They were often willing to use their bilingualism orally but not in writing.

4 The linguistic nature of a class can affect the governing medium.

Where a class contained one or more students who had not been educated under the local bilingual system, there was a marked tendency for the language medium to change to English. The policy adopted by a department or institution should govern; not the linguistic nature of a particular class.

The aims of each bilingual class should include using and developing a student's existing bilingual ability.

5 One of the major obstacles to successful bilingual teaching is the lack of minority-language resources and materials.

The fact that most of the printed material used during the sessions that were viewed for this study was in English affected the language of discussion and/or terminology used by lecturers and students alike. Where teaching material is available in the majority language only, students who are following those courses in the minority language are disadvantaged by their departments. Their work-load is heavier as they have to translate their own notes and, in some instances, devise their own terminology.

6 There is a need to consider the quality of language and the use made of terminology.

A student who has chosen to study his topic entirely through the medium of the minority language has a right to expect that that language is used suitably and correctly, including an extensive use of suitable terminology.

7 The adopted teaching and learning methodologies may influence effectiveness.

If a lecturer keeps to a lecturer-centred methodology, where oral knowledge transfer and concept explanation is the main teaching method, the effort of maintaining bilingualism in the class will become oppressive for the students. During the sessions viewed, a student-centred approach with purposeful material provided in both languages, proved to be a more successful and less oppressive teaching strategy.

8 A lack of specific training for teaching in a bilingual setting hampers professional development in this area.

There is a need for careful planning and presentation of an initial in-service training

scheme which prioritises the elements of teaching in the bilingual setting outlined above. This could be done on a national basis with a view to establishing a certificate or diploma qualification.


Lambert, W. E., 1974, Culture and Language as Factors in Learning and Education. In F. E. Aboud & R. D. Meade (eds.) Cultural Factors in Learning and Education. Bellingham, Washington: 5th Western Washington Symposium on Learning.

Welsh Office, 1997, Statistics For Education and Training: Schools. Cardiff: Welsh Office/Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

Williams, C., 1994, Arfarniad o Ddulliau Dysgu ac Addysgu yng Nghyd-destun Addysg Uwchradd Ddwyieithog. Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, University of Wales, Bangor.