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Minority language standards in Scotland (Scots and Gaelic): Language inequality, nationalism and the promotion of linguistic diversity (completed)

James Costa worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at MultiLing 2013–2015.

This project is a subproject of STANDARDS.


James Costa.

Photo: Nadia Frantsen

About the project

This research within the STANDARDS project (dir. Pia Lane) will look at both Scots and Gaelic in Scotland and will seek to investigate how issues of minority language standards are dealt with in a country that is officially aspiring for independence (from the United Kingdom) and where issues of national identity are instrumental in achieving this. While issues of language are traditionally thought to play little role in the shaping of Scotland as a nation, this can be disputed.

The main questions I ask are therefore:

  • How are standards created and issues of standard raised, circulated, contested or accepted, by whom, and in what conditions?
  • Who gains from the gradual establishment of the minority languages of Scotland in the current nationalist context?
  • What new social categories are created in the process, and who is excluded from them?

Those questions are now all at the centre of language standardisation as a social process in all parts of the world, but the possibility to investigate them in Scotland (through ethnographic fieldwork in Edinburgh, Skye and Shetlands) affords us an exceptional opportunity to analyse the interplay between ideologies pertaining to two minority languages and to a world language, English, at a unique historical moment. This particular conjunction will help shed light on and gain an understanding of the processes involved not only in Scotland and the United Kingdom but also throughout Europe and beyond.

Published Dec. 8, 2013 10:46 PM - Last modified Apr. 21, 2020 11:30 AM


James Costa