Seeing is believing? Public exposure to Gaelic and language attitudes

Fiona O'Hanlon, Lindsay Paterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In language planning for minority languages, policy often aims to positively influence attitudes towards the language by increasing its salience in key areas of public life such as broadcasting and signage. This is true for Gaelic in Scotland, where recent national initiatives have included the establishing of a Gaelic language television channel in 2008, and the launch, in the same year, of a bilingual brand identity for ScotRail (Rèile na h-Alba), resulting in Gaelic-English signage at railway stations across Scotland. However, there is a lack of empirical evidence on the effects of such an increase in national visibility of Gaelic on public attitudes towards the language. The present paper explores this using a national survey of public attitudes conducted in Scotland in 2012. Exposure to Gaelic broadcasting was found to be positively associated with attitudes towards the status of the Gaelic language (as a language spoken in Scotland, and as an important element of cultural heritage), and with attitudes towards the greater use of Gaelic (in public services and in the future). However, exposure to Gaelic signage was often negatively associated with such broader attitudes to the language and culture. The implications of the results for Gaelic language planning, and for future academic studies of language attitudes in Scotland, are explored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-101
Number of pages28
JournalScottish Affairs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Scottish Gaelic
  • language planning
  • language policy
  • broadcasting
  • public signage
  • language attitudes


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