Theory, Research & Other Dirty Words In Language Policy & Planning [Prof Rob Dunbar]
Professor Rob Dunbar - who heads up the SOILLSE project - presents his inaugural lecture, the first in the UHI public lecture series presented fully in Gaelic. A common feature of minority language maintenance and revitalisation movements is the fundamental role that passionate activists have in them. Frequently, though, they have only a limited background in language planning theory or practice, and a lack of information to inform and to guide their development initiatives. In this lecture, the theoretical tools relevant to language policy and planning for minority languages such as Gaelic, the experience on which such tools are based, and the research needs and priorities which such tools help us to define will be considered. Can theory and research inform and support policy making and practice in ways that allow us to avoid the ‘culture clash’?
THEORY, RESEARCH AND OTHER DIRTY WORDS IN LANGUAGE POLICY AND PLANNING Prof. Robert Dunbar Introduction I would like to begin by thanking the University of the Highlands and Islands for arranging this inaugural lecture. It is an honour for me that the position of Senior Research Professor at UHI was offered to me, and in that position to take a leading role in the Soillse research project. And it is also an honour to be asked to deliver this public lecture. I recently attended the inaugural lecture of my colleague and friend Prof. Kristin Henrard, of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, where I learned that inaugural lectures date to the old days when professors were not paid by their universities but by the students, and that the inaugural lecture was essentially a marketing exercise to attract students to lectures. Clearly, there were no ‘research professors’ in those days, or they were pretty poor! I consider myself very fortunate indeed to be in a position where I do not have to worry about making money in this way. You will consider yourselves fortunate that I will not be sending around a collection plate as I am speaking! It is also a great honour for me to be part of the UHI, and, indeed to be based at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Most of my ancestors on my father’s side left the Highlands—many from districts around Inverness—for Nova Scotia in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They were part of the historical exodus from the region which has now, through institutions such as UHI, come to an end. ‘The wheel will turn’—a common motif in Gaelic folklore and poetry. I like to think that my ancestors would be pleased and honoured—and perhaps a little surprised—that I am standing here today, and I am too! For this opportunity to play a small role in the turning of the wheel, I am most grateful to UHI and SMO. I thought I would start by explaining my title. Clearly, it is meant to be ironic, and perhaps a little provocative. Remember, inaugural lecturers have to market their product! However, both the average person and even many practitioners of a discipline are often suspicious of anything called ‘theory’. Things which are ‘theoretical’ often suffer in comparison with things that are ‘practical’. We have all heard this: ‘You are right in theory, but . . .’. The average person and many practitioners of a discipline generally understand the need for research, but they also are a little suspicious that people in academe, especially ones with the title ‘Research Professor’, may have an unhealthy vested interest in research for its own sake. If you share these suspicions, I am not going to try to rid you of them; I myself understand why you would share them. I will try to show, though, that sometimes theories, even theories which are inadequate, can be very useful, particularly to practitioners of language planning and policy, and that some types of research are absolutely essential. In the context of minority language maintenance and revitalisation movements, like the Gaelic one, the suspicion attached to words like ‘theory’ and ‘research’ have added dimensions. Campaigns for such languages are seldom started by linguists, sociolinguists, language policy specialists or other theoreticians and researchers, but by activists who simply care about their languages and the communities which speak them. The appearance of language experts on the scene can create problems. The experts might not always actually speak the beloved language. Their qualifications, earned through post-graduate degrees and scholarly publications, things that, like the dominant language, have status in the wider world, often pose an implicit challenge to the authority of leaders of the language movement, whose credentials are often only based on the fact that they care about their language and have been willing to dedicate huge amounts of time to its preservation. Things become more difficult when the experts point out that the activists’ initiatives may have little theoretical basis; that, as Samuel Johnson said about second marriages, the activists’ projects and strategies represent the triumph of hope over experience. They become more difficult when the experts’ research shows that the activists’ initiatives are not, in fact, producing the results that are expected or needed. It is not just a question of bruised egos, either. Institutional support and funding for language movements is often limited and tenuous, particularly in the early stages, and because of prevailing ideologies—often, little more than prejudices—against the language and its speakers in the wider society, there is an understandable and often justified fear that the findings of the experts can be used against the language campaign. And often, the concerns of activists are justified. Once the research project is done, the experts often move on to the next case to be studied. Often, the ambitions and pressures which are nurtured in academe result in a lack of sensitivity to needs and concerns of the real people being studied. Also, good theorising and sound research usually requires perspective and an element of detachment; without single-minded determination and passionate commitment to their languages, there would be no activists, and no language campaigns. Theorising and research take time; as activists watch a generation of native-speakers disappear, without enough young speakers to take their place, they know very well that time is fleeting. Specialists always want yet more information to improve their understanding; activists know that they need to act now, even with incomplete information and no theories. And, of course, there is another type of ‘culture clash’ that is frequently typical in the minority language area: experts often come from a different social, cultural, intellectual and linguistic world. They might be fascinated by the language, and yet be perplexed, or even uncomfortable, with its speakers. Of course, these tensions should not be overstated. Many activists are themselves also experts, or become experts. And many experts are speakers of the minority language, and are from the minority language communities. This has certainly been true of the Gaelic movement in Scotland. And such tensions tend to decrease as language movements become institutionalised, particularly when expert research or advice can assist in moving particular language initiatives forward. Gaelic again provides many good examples. Twenty years ago, Comunn na Gàidhlig enlisted Dr Cento Veljanovski, a well-known economist, to strengthen the case for government support for Gaelic television broadcasting. Since then, Gaelic broadcasting has continued to promote considerable research, particularly on monitoring viewership, in which Lèirsinn, based at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, has played a key role. When in the 1990s CNAG began making the case for language legislation, they drew on the expertise of specialists such as Sheriff Roddy John MacLeod, who is, as many of you know, Chair of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s board of Trustees, Professor Donald Meek, Dr Wilson McLeod, and me. Since its creation, Bòrd na Gàidhlig has strongly supported research of relevance to its work, including a number of important tenders, some of which I shall return to in this lecture. And, of course, it has provided important support to the Soillse research project, of which I am a Director and about which I shall also be speaking in this lecture. While organisations such as CNAG, MG ALBA and BBC ALBA, and Bòrd na Gàidhlig cannot be described as language ‘campaigns’, they are all, to a certain extent, the product of such campaigning, and many of those involved in these organisations have been important grass-roots activists. Some have also been experts in language matters. However, the potential for tension, not only between experts and activists, but between experts and organisations such as these, continues to exist. Although they certainly see the value in expertise and research, that does not necessarily mean that expert advice is always welcome, or that all research is viewed as useful, or greeted warmly. What is Language Planning and Policy for Minority Languages and to What Disciplines is it Related? It might be useful to begin by considering what we mean by language planning and policy, and how it arose as a distinct subject of academic enquiry. First, though, what precisely do we mean by the phrases ‘language planning’ and ‘language policy’? Usually, ‘language planning’ refers to attempts by some actor to modify the linguistic behaviour of some group of people for some purpose. In this sense, language planning takes place all the time, and is something that all of us do, and have experienced. How many of you have scolded your children for using bad words, or corrected their pronunciation or grammar? By trying to modify their use of language, you have been engaged in language planning. Governments have also always engaged in language planning, for example through their choice of a particular language, and a particular form of language, to use for official purposes. Once that standard is chosen, governments usually work very hard to ensure that it is acquired by citizens, and the education system has always played a central role in promoting linguistic uniformity. France is a well-known example. Today, wherever you travel in France, everybody speaks French, and tend to speak it in a fairly uniform way. This, however, is relatively new. In his book The Discovery of France, Graham Robb noted that a linguistic survey of France in the early 1790s showed that only about a tenth of the population of France spoke standard modern French; over twenty percent could barely hold a conversation in it and another twenty percent or more were completely ignorant of it. After the French revolution, successive French governments promoted linguistic uniformity based on the dialects of French spoken around capital, Paris. Even before the French revolution, one of the most famous of language planning bodies, the Academie Française was standardising those dialects. Of course, Britain has also engaged in language planning of this sort, though we have never had a body like the Academie Française. As we all know, there are many types of English still spoken in these islands. However, there is generally only one standard that is used in our daily news broadcasts, in our courts and by our government. It is the same English that is taught in our schools. This has not happened by accident; it is as a result of a large number of language planning decisions and a consistent language policy. Generally, language planning by governments has not been beneficial to languages other than the official language. In France, 200 years of language planning have meant that many French dialects have disappeared, and most of its non- official languages, such as Breton, Basque, Occitane, Catalan, Corsican, Flemish and German, are very weak. The French education system played a crucial role in this transformation, and schools have always been a crucial institution for language planners. Many of you will be familiar with the Education (Scotland) Act of 1872. It was the law which introduced universal publicly-funded education in Scotland. It had no place for education through the medium of Gaelic or even the teaching of Gaelic. Most scholars are agreed with the conclusions of Professor Kenneth MacKinnon, one of the foremost scholars of the demographics and sociolinguistics of Gaelic, that this law played a very important part in the subsequent decline in numbers of speakers of Gaelic—from about a quarter of a million in 1891 to only about 58,000 today. Thus far, I have been speaking about ‘language planning’. My title also refers to ‘language policy’. What is ‘language policy’, and how does it differ from ‘language planning’? In the literature, the terms language ‘planning’ and ‘policy’ are often used together and sometimes as synonyms. In my own work, I have suggested that there is, or at least there should be, a difference between them. If language planning is the attempt by somebody to modify the linguistic behaviour of some group of people for some purpose, language policy should be understood to be the purpose which the modification is intended to achieve. The language policies of most governments have historically aimed at some form of standardisation. They have sought to ensure that all citizens could speak a single common language, usually the official language of the state. They have pursued such policies based on certain assumptions or beliefs. Some of these are about practical matters; for example, the belief, still very strong, that a single common language is more efficient. In the nineteenth century, the British philosopher John Stuart Mill thought that it was not possible to have a political community without a single common language; in spite of a lot of evidence that suggests this belief is not true —my native country of Canada is an example that a stable political community can exist without a single common language—it is also still widely held. And, of course, language policies aimed at promoting a single common language are also often based on nationalist ideologies, and the superiority of the official language and the culture and society of those who speak it. Even liberals like Mill were not free from such ideologies: he famously noted that the Basques would be better participating in the great French-speaking culture of France and that the Scottish Gaels and the Welsh would be better participating in the great English-speaking culture of Britain than to be ‘sulking on their own rocks, the half-savage relics of past times’. These sorts of beliefs about the inferiority and backwardness of Gaelic are still with us, as many discussions of Gaelic in the Scottish and British press usually demonstrate. British language policy has been influenced by all of the foregoing beliefs and assumptions, and has been described by Professor Viv Edwards, a prominent British sociolinguist, in this way: Inasmuch as a language policy existed in Britain in the first half of the twentieth century, it focussed on the unacceptability of Celtic languages and non-standard dialects of English in education, and the importance of teaching the standard. British schools were monolingual, monocultural institutions, one of whose functions was to enlighten those who departed from received linguistic and cultural norms. Such policies tend to result in assimilation of speakers of minority languages—that is, the minority language is generally completely replaced by the official one within a few generations. Some states have gone so far as to prohibit and even punish the use of the minority language in some settings, for example by banning its use in newspapers, and while it has never interfered with private communication in this way, even Britain has not been free of some coercive language planning measures: older Gaelic-speakers can still recall being punished for using Gaelic in the school room. Fortunately for Gaelic, official policy has changed quite significantly over the last generation. One place where policy is expressed is in the law. In 2001, the United Kingdom ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Under this treaty, the government agreed to base its policies, as well as its legislation and practice, on a number of important principles, including ‘the recognition of Gaelic as an expression of cultural wealth’, ‘the need for resolute action to promote Gaelic in order to safeguard it’, and ‘the facilitation and/or encouragement of the use of Gaelic, in speech and writing, in public and private life’. Under the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, policy is directed, through the work of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, to promoting the use and understanding of Gaelic, and of Gaelic education, in order to secure its status as an official language of Scotland, commanding equal respect to English. Of course, one of the insights gained through research that has been done by scholars such as the Israeli sociolinguist Elana Shohamy is that there can be a difference between explicit language policies found in laws such as these and the implicit policies that are actually implemented. This would be something our ancestors understood well, because the Gaelic proverb captures the idea well: ‘The mouth talks, but the act proves’. As I have suggested, language planning and policy is a very old activity—very likely engaged in as soon as humans began talking to each other—but as an academic discipline, it is relatively new. Strictly speaking, it emerged as an aspect of sociolinguists, although now sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, education and law contribute important insights to the subject. A very basic definition of sociolinguistics is study of how society affects language, in terms both of the language itself, such as its pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and so forth, and of its use. The study of sociolinguistics came into its own in the late 1950s and the 1960s through the work of scholars such as William Labov, Dell Hymes, John Gumperz, Einar Haugen, Charles Ferguson, and Joshua Fishman. Almost from the beginning, these and others dealt with issues relating to language planning and policy. Initially, scholars involved in language planning and policy were concerned with problems posed by linguistic complexity in newly-independent states of the developing world. They assisted in gathering information on the languages of these states for the purposes of describing them, and then developing grammars, orthographies (that is, writing systems) and dictionaries. They were also engaged in determining which language or languages should be used for official purposes, as part of a conscious effort at nation building through linguistic integration . From the 1970s to the 1990s, scholars from a wider range of disciplines became involved in language policy and planning, critically analysing, for example, whether language policy and planning choices being made in the developing world (and in the developed world) contributed to social and economic inequality. In the last quarter of a century or so, increasing attention has been focused on the role of language policy and planning in maintaining linguistic diversity, and on the global spread of English. This is the part of the story which is most relevant to Gaelic, language policy and planning for minority languages, and as we shall see, one scholar in particular, Joshua Fishman, has been particularly important in this area. However, our work on language planning and policy for minority languages such as Gaelic would not be possible without the insights and concepts that have been developed over the last fifty or so years in sociolinguistics and language planning. From the beginning, bilingualism and multilingualism, both in their societal form—the presence of two or more languages in a given social group—and their personal form—the ability of an individual to communicate in two or more languages—has attracted the attention of scholars. A key tool in our understanding of processes of changing uses of language was the observation by Charles Ferguson that in bilingual situations, different languages tend to be used for different purposes, something that we call diglossia. Closely related to this is the concept of linguistic ‘domains’. Fishman was a pioneer here, too. He suggested that domains are the different social contexts in which language is used, and are defined by three main features: the location, the participants and the topic of any communication. Major domains are the home, the neighbourhood, the church, the school, the workplace and so forth. When different languages are used in different domains, diglossia exists. The choice of language in these circumstances depends on a variety of factors, including the linguistic abilities of participants in any domain—where some are bilingual and some are not, the common language tends to be used—and, especially, the status of the languages—sociolinguists have observed that, regardless of linguistic competence, the higher status language tends to be used in more formal, higher status domains. In minority language situations, the patterns of diglossia tend to be unstable: over time, the majority language tends to be used by speakers of minority languages in more and more domains. This process has become known as language shift. Scholarship in sociolinguistics has also helped us to understand why language shift takes place, and has begun to suggest ways in which the health of a particular language can be measured. Scholars such as John Edwards, Lenore Grenoble and Lindsay Whaley have attempted to define typologies of language endangerment. A concept which has emerged in this regard is that of ethnolinguistic vitality, first discussed by Howard Giles, Richard Bourhis and Donald Taylor in the 1970s. Giles, in particular, has proposed three broad types of factors by which the vitality of a language can be assessed. The first are status factors, which include the economic status of its speakers, its social status, in terms of prestige, and is symbolic status as an important symbol in the identity of the ethnic group which speaks the language. The second set of factors are demographic factors, and include the geographic distribution of speakers, the actual numbers of speakers, and their ‘saturation’ or concentration in particular areas, thereby supporting lively social networks of speakers, as well as factors such as family formation with non-speakers. The third set of factors are institutional support factors, and relate to the extent and nature of the language’s use in a wide variety of institutions, such as mass media, public administration, and education. In 2003, an expert UNESCO working group produced a report on how the vitality of a threatened language could be measured. They suggested that nine factors were relevant: Intergenerational Transmission of the Language, which involves the degree to which parents pass the language on to children naturally, in the home, a factor which, as we shall see, is of particular importance The absolute number of speakers of the language The proportion of the speakers of the language in the total population Trends in existing language domains, which focuses attention on whether domains are being lost The responsiveness to, and presence of the language in, new domains and media The availability of materials for language education and literacy Governmental and institutional language attitudes and policies, including official status and use The attitude of the members of the language community toward their own language, and The amount and quality of documentation, by which is meant things like grammars, dictionaries, but also literature and other forms of written, sound and video recordings. The concept of vitality is an important one, because it reminds us that the health of a minority language is not determined simply by overall numbers of speakers, although this is certainly a relevant factor, but also by how the language is used, how it is perceived by its own speakers, and how it is supported from important institutions within society. The study of language planning has also equipped us with key analytical tools. Of particular importance has been the categorisation of different types of planning activity. There are now three sorts of planning activity that are generally accepted in the literature. The first is ‘corpus planning’, which involves the sorts of activities that preoccupied the early work in the area, namely the development of an orthography or writing system for the language, the creation of spelling norms, the development of dictionaries and the creation of new terminology, the development of grammars and the modification of grammatical rules, and so forth. Corpus planning can even extend to the development of written texts of all sorts in the language. Corpus planning is particularly important for minority languages, because such languages have often been excluded from domains such as the education system, the media, and the public sphere more generally, the very domains where corpus development usually takes place. A second form of planning activity is ‘status planning’, which relates to modifying the functions for which a language is used, or, to put it another way, to modify the domains in which the language is used, as well as the prestige of the language. This form of planning is also of great importance to minority languages, because, as we have seen, they have tended to be used in fewer and fewer domains over time, and generally have less prestige than the official language of a state. In recent years, reference has also been made to ‘usage planning’ as distinct from ‘status planning’. Indeed, important recent language planning documents of both the Welsh Language Board and Bòrd na Gàidhlig have used this concept in reference to planning for the increased use of the minority language in particular domains which are of particular importance to the regular use of the language in daily life, such as the home, the neighbourhood, and in the workplace. When usage planning is included, status planning focuses more on use of the language in official settings and by powerful institutions. In truth, usage planning is clearly simply an aspect of status planning, but it is still probably useful from a language planning perspective to separate those activities which involve actual use of the language in speech and writing and those which enhance the prestige of the language in other ways, through, for example, its use by important social institutions and greater presence in the visual landscape. Finally, there is ‘acquisition planning’, a concept first developed about twenty years ago by the sociolinguist Robert Cooper. This involves planning for the increase in the number of speakers of a language. Certainly, the school is very important in acquisition planning; in addition to developing the language skills of students who already speak the language, it allows for the creation of new speakers, something to which experts refer to as ‘production’ of speakers. However, acquisition can also take place outside of the school, and this is particularly important for adult learners who, as we shall see, are very important in any strategy for strengthening a minority language. Thus, acquisition planning must also focus on adult education. Finally, acquisition of the language within the family, sometimes referred to as ‘intergenerational transmission in the home’ or, simply, ‘reproduction’ of the language, is, as we have already seen and as we shall see again, absolutely critical for any minority language. Experts have learned that acquisition planning must also focus on and reinforce what happens in the home. What Theoretical Tools Do We Have? All of these insights and concepts are very important to us in trying to understand the task of minority language maintenance and promotion, and to engage in language planning for that purpose. However, in the title to my talk, I make reference to ‘theory’, and these insights and concepts do not really amount to a theory of language planning or, indeed, a theory of language planning for the promotion of minority languages such as Gaelic. Do we have such theories? Before answering this question, it may be useful for us to consider briefly what we mean by ‘theory’. ‘Theory’ has different meanings, depending on whether we are referring to sciences, social sciences or humanities. Generally, though, a theory is a tool which helps us to understand, explain and, importantly, make predictions about a particular subject. While the very sizeable literature on language planning and policy has produced many important insights and concepts, the sociolinguist Thomas Ricento observed in an important 2006 collection on language planning that there had not yet emerged an overarching theory. In some ways, this is not surprising. The more research that is done, the more clear it has become that language planning is a particularly complex area because of the large number of factors and fields of knowledge that are involved. Also, it is a relatively young discipline, and grand theories take time to emerge. In 2009, the great Israeli sociolinguist Bernard Spolsky produced a book, entitled simply Language Management, with the goal of ‘outlining a theory’ of language planning—Spolsky himself prefers the term ‘management’ to ‘planning’, but he is generally talking of the same activity. He himself raises the possibility that ‘the sociolinguistic ecosystem’ may be too chaotic to allow for a theory that will allow for predictions as well as explanations, and concludes with the hope that his book constitutes ‘a useful step towards the development of a theory of language management’. Nonetheless, the book is a valuable collection of observations on language planning or ‘management’ efforts in a variety of domains, including in the family, the workplace, the ‘public linguistic space’, schools, legal and health institutions, and by local, regional and national governments. Ricento did note in his 2006 book that a theory or model has occasionally emerged in relation to specific aspect or type of language planning. One of these is in the area of revitalisation of minority languages, and can be found in Joshua Fishman’s work on ‘Reversing Language Shift’, or RLS as it is sometimes called, with which many of you will already be familiar. Developed in a series of articles culminating in his 1991 book Reversing Language Shift, Fishman developed the ‘Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale’ (GIDS). On one level, it is a framework for analysing the degree to which a minority language is threatened, and in this sense it is similar to the measures of language vitality which I have already discussed. Where it differs is that it not only describes the condition of a minority language, but serves as the basis for language planning by suggesting both measures that need to be taken and by attempting to prioritise such measures. The GIDS has eight stages, with Stage Eight representing a minority language in the most threatened circumstances and Stage One representing a minority language in the most secure circumstances. Fishman emphasises that the most crucial Stage is Stage 6, the stage at which the minority language is passed from one generation to the next and is used in the local community. We have seen intergenerational transmission in the home, or ‘reproduction’ of the language, already in this lecture. Without it, Fishman argues, it is impossible to stabilise the minority language. Other Stages which are perhaps of particular importance are Stage Four, where school education is available through the medium of the minority language, Stage Three, where the language is used in work environments in which speakers of the majority language are also present, Stage Two, where the language is used in locally-supplied governmental services and in local mass media such as local radio and television, and Stage One, where some use is made of the minority language in higher education, central government and the national media. Fishman does not suggest that initiatives at higher stages should not begin until lower stages have been reached. He does, however, emphasise that actions at higher stages should not be substitutes for action at the crucial Stage Six, and that initiatives at higher stages should be aimed at strengthening what is happening at the lower stages, and particular at Stage Six, the use of the language in the home and in local community interaction. This is particularly important for education. He warns that the acquisition of the minority language in the school cannot be a substitute for acquisition in the home, reinforced by use in the wider community environment. He suggests that few students who have acquired the minority language only through the school will use the language later in life, and in particular in raising their own children, without considerable support and incentives for its use outside the school. An important theme running through Fishman’s work is that language maintenance is closely linked to identity and to the social networks into which speakers are embedded. Institutions operating at higher stages on the GIDS play an important role in creating and reinforcing a sense of group belonging to which the language is a central element. Based on a long and outstanding career in sociolinguistics and close observation of many examples of language loss and minority language revival initiatives, Fishman’s observations must be given very careful consideration by all who engage in language planning in support of minority languages. His approach to RLS is not, however, without its problems. First, as he himself acknowledges, the crucial Stage Six is perhaps the most difficult one for language planners to affect. It involves changing patterns of behaviour in the home and in the local community, and these are very difficult to do. Making such changes requires changing people’s abilities—in many minority language contexts, not all members of the community or even the household speak the language—but also their attitudes and beliefs. These do not change by themselves, and are themselves likely to be affected by acquisition planning and status planning at higher stages in the GIDS. Producing change at Stage Six is therefore likely to require other action at higher stages, perhaps in combination. However, Fishman does not offer any clear prescriptions on what combinations of actions at which combination of stages is likely to have an impact on Stage Six. Some critics, including Spolsky, Padraig Ó Riagáin, and Nancy Hornberger and Kendall King have argued that the GIDS places insufficient emphasis on broader economic and social processes that affect language maintenance, particularly the economic and social incentives which must be present to encourage both production and reproduction of the language. Partly in response to these observations, the important Catalan sociolinguist Miquel Strubell has created a model which he calls ‘The Catherine Wheel’, to, as he says, ‘convey the objective of a self-perpetuating change’, in which he seeks to incorporate these ‘instrumental’ elements. There are several stages in the circle. First, the greater supply of goods and services in a particular language leads to the greater consumption of goods and services in the language. Second, greater consumption leads to the greater perception of the usefulness of the language. Third, improved perception of usefulness leads to greater motivation to learn and use the language. Fourth, this increase in motivation leads to more learning of the language. Fifth, acquisition of the language leads to more demand for goods and services in the language. Sixth, greater demand takes us back to yet greater supply of goods and services in the language, and so on, creating a dynamic ‘virtuous circle’. Strubell recognises that the chain of causes and effects described here can be subject to a blockage at any of the six steps, and this is where language planners need to concentrate their attention; they need to identify then develop strategies and specific measures for overcoming the causes of the blockage. The problem is that it is not clear that all potential blockages can be overcome, particularly for minority languages that are not in as strong a position as Catalan. There are particular problems with the argument that greater supply of minority language services will lead to greater consumption of those services. There is now considerable evidence from Wales, for example, that Welsh-speakers often do not take advantage of the Welsh-language services now available to them. Monitoring of the implementation of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages repeatedly also reveals that greater supply often does not lead to greater demand. Speakers of minority languages are often more comfortable in continuing to receive services in the language they are now used to, the majority language. They are often concerned that the minority language services may not be of the same quality. They are often concerned that, if they ask for such services, they will be viewed as troublemakers. Perhaps even more problematic is the argument that greater provision of and demand for minority language services will increase in the long run the acquisition of the language. In places like Catalonia, being able to speak Catalan has now become almost essential for most public sector jobs, and a good number of private sector jobs—your chance of being Chairman of Barcelona FC is not good if you don’t have Catalan. The incentive to learn Catalan is therefore very great. For relatively weak minority languages such as Gaelic, however, the situation is much different. Even if there are increases in jobs requiring Gaelic language skills, this may not lead to a great increase in acquisition. This is because there will still be very many more jobs, including many more high prestige jobs, in which Gaelic is not a necessary job skill. Clear career paths and chances for progression will likely continue to be more limited in Gaelic jobs than in comparable English ones. Finally, Strubell’s model has little to say about actual language use outside of the workplace and the place of language acquisition. Even if the model works to produce more speakers and to promote greater use in the acquisition of goods and services—use of the language for instrumental reasons—it is far from clear that speakers will use it in informal settings. In Canada, many English-speakers have learned French and use it in their jobs. They tend not to use it outside the workplace, though, and crucially tend not to use it at home and with family. While he has not propounded a theory, or even a model, the Swiss economist François Grin has proposed three conditions which need to be met to achieve greater societal use of the minority language (which he views as the ultimate goal to which Fishman’s model is directed), and his analysis has been employed, for example, in the recently released Twenty Year Strategy for the Irish Language. The three conditions for greater societal use of a language are, first, the capacity to use the language, second, opportunities to use the language, and, third, the desire or willingness to use the language. ‘Capacity’ implies an adequate degree of linguistic competence, requiring at very least oral fluency in the language, and the development of capacity implies the use of measures to equip both speakers and non-speakers with the necessary levels of fluency. With regard to ‘opportunities’ to use the language, Grin suggests that the state often has a crucial role to play, through, especially, the provision of minority-language services. With regard to ‘desire’, Grin notes that usually speakers of minority languages are fully bilingual, and therefore measures need to be put in place to encourage them to use their language where the opportunities to do so exist. To conclude this discussion, Fishman, Strubell and Grin, among others, have all made an important contribution to the way in which language planners understand how the process of RLS may work. However, all are in some way inadequate or at least incomplete as explanations or prescriptions. Insights Provided by Theory and Research Where does all of this leave us? Existing theories, though limited, key concepts, and the large and growing amount of research on which such theories and concepts provide us with a range of tools and insights. First, research has given us information and insights that allow us to challenge certain widely-held beliefs which have been unfavourable to minority languages such as Gaelic. Take, for example, long held assumptions about how certain languages are inferior and unsuitable for use in the modern world—usually languages of minorities or of indigenous peoples—a belief sometimes referred to as linguistic Darwinism. There is a connection between such beliefs and the idea that minority languages are tied to ways of life that are going out of existence, and that those languages must also disappear. Such ideas are held both by people who are generally supportive of the language and those that are less so. There is now general agreement amongst linguists and sociolinguists that all such assumptions are simply incorrect. Every language is capable of dealing with every situation. If a language or its speakers have greater difficulty in dealing with the modern world, this is due to social factors, including the continued exclusion of the language from certain domains, usually high ones. Second, those of you who were at the conference on Gaelic education held last month in Edinburgh will have heard an important presentation by Professor Antonella Sorace of Edinburgh University on the benefits of bilingualism. As she showed, there is now much evidence that bilingualism is often associated with stronger cognitive and linguistic competences. Several generations of minority language speakers were told the opposite, that bilingualism was disadvantageous. Similarly, building on research done by Professor Dick Johnstone, who, I am happy to say, is also a Director of the Soillse project, recent research conducted by an Edinburgh University team and commissioned by Bòrd na Gàidhlig has shown that Gaelic-medium education generally does not leave children worse off, and may offer certain cognitive benefits. This research is generally in line with that from many other countries. This information be used to challenge deeply-held beliefs, including beliefs amongst minority language-speaking parents, about the superiority of English-medium education. It might also be used to lessen resistance to the promotion of Gaelic-medium education. As we have seen, researchers now have a good idea of the factors which affect the vitality of minority languages, and there is general agreement that the concept of vitality, rather simply overall numbers of speakers, is what we should be focusing on in our language planning initiatives. There is not yet, however, a common understanding of which factors are most important in explaining loss of vitality. Also, when we look at languages such as Gaelic, we see that they lose vitality in different places at different rates. Even in the same communities, language shift has taken place in some families and not in others. We have more to learn about why these differences occur. We have seen that we still do not have a theory or detailed model to guide our language planning efforts for minority languages such as Gaelic, there is general agreement amongst experts on certain aspects. One example is how important intergenerational transmission in the home, reinforced by social use of the language in the neighbourhood, is for maintaining and revitalising a minority language—what is also called ‘reproduction’ of language. Related to this is the recognition that a certain density of speakers in the immediate community is important if reinforcement is to occur. The importance of transmission in the home is supported by considerable evidence that students who have acquired a second language in the school, without support outside of the school, often tend not to continue to use the language after school education finishes. This has important implications for models, such as our own in Scotland, which place considerable emphasis on schools to produce speakers where reproduction in the home is weak. Bòrd na Gàidhlig is about to commission an important project to look more closely at this research, and its implications for Gaelic-medium education. Also, work of some of the researchers on the Soillse project will be focusing on these sorts of questions. Another example of general agreement is the importance which most experts attach to language beliefs, or what could be described as ideology, though again there is much still to be learned regarding how beliefs about language can be changed. This topic is one which my colleague at SMO, Tim Armstrong is particularly interested in and will be an important part of his work as part of the Soillse team. Yet another example is the recognition, based on research findings, that economic development strategies for areas in which minority languages are spoken can actually have an adverse effect on the language unless language planning measures are built into these economic development strategies. What Don’t We Know Yet Finally, in spite of the large and growing amount of research relevant to minority language policy and planning, there is still a great deal that we do not know. For example, most minority language maintenance and revitalisation strategies, and much language legislation, promote the greater use of the minority language, particularly by public sector bodies. Gaelic language plans of public bodies are at the heart of the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005 and of Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s work. And yet we know relatively little about the real impact of such policies. The first question is the extent to which they are actually being put into practice, and Bòrd na Gàidhlig has recently released a tender for analysis of implementation to be done of the first five statutory plans. Important research on implementation in this narrow sense has recently been done in Wales, Ireland and Finland, for example, by Professor Colin Williams, who is one of three outstanding international experts who will be advisors to the Soillse project. However, even if they are being implemented, how are such laws, plans and similar measures actually changing language behaviour, and the language beliefs that underlie such behaviour, of the organisations themselves, the general public, and speakers of the minority language? Are they having any wider impact on language practices and beliefs? As someone with a background in minority language legislation, I have a particular interest in these issues, and they will be an important part of my research. Part of most Gaelic language plans are provisions on signage and other use of Gaelic in the visible environment. As in Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s statutory guidance on the preparation of Gaelic language plans, the justification for this is in part based on assumptions about the positive impact that this will have on the prestige of the language. Once again, though, we know very little about what the actual impact of such signage is on language beliefs and practices. Members of the Soillse network will be exploring this area, on which much work has been done recently by Durk Gorter of the University of the Basque Country, one of the international experts involved as advisors to the Soillse project. Very similar questions arise in respect of broadcasting, including television broadcasting. In spite of Joshua Fishman’s scepticism about the emphasis placed on television, in particular, a significant presence in this media is a key goal of most minority language maintenance and revitalisation projects. However, the various behavioural effects of broadcasting are still not well understood. There is a growing interest in such important but complex issues, with important work being done by the likes of Professor Tom Moring at the University of Helsinki, a colleague with whom I have worked closely on minority language broadcasting issues and whom I hope will be able to participate in Soillse in some capacity. In short, there is, in spite of the advances in the fields of sociolinguistics and language policy and planning, much still to be done, and much to be learned. These subjects have already greatly increased our understanding of the processes by which languages lose vitality, and have provided important insights into how such loss of vitality can be addressed. They have given us a better understanding of the benefits and the weaknesses of some of the tools that language planning bodies, governments and communities are using. Such information may not always be pleasant to hear, but I hope I have shown that it is useful for language planning bodies, governments and communities to hear. I hope I have also been able to show that this is an exciting and dynamic field of study, and one in which we in Scotland, and we at UHI, can become international leaders. Even more importantly, we can play an important role in maintaining and promoting Gaelic, and I look forward to working closely with language planning bodies such as Bòrd na Gàidhlig, governments, out Gaelic language communities, and individual Gaelic speakers in this effort. I am grateful to UHI for giving me the opportunity to play at least a small part in this. Thank you very much.