Edinburgh Research Explorer

William Lamb

Senior Lecturer

Profile photo

Willingness to take PhD students: Yes

Scottish Gaelic linguistics and dialectology
Traditional narrative and folklore
Scottish traditional song and music

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Edinburgh
Speech and writing in Scottish Gaelic: A study of register variation in an endangered language
Master of Science, University of Edinburgh
A diachronic account of Gaelic news-speak: The development and expansion of a register
Bachelor of Arts, University of Maryland

Professional Qualifications

Teaching Qualification in Further Education (Post-grad), TQFE (PG)

Area of Expertise

Research expertiseGaelic grammar and dialectology, Scottish traditional narrative, Gaelic traditional song and dance music


I am a Senior Lecturer in Celtic and Scottish Studies (School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures: LLC), concentrating on the fields of Scottish ethnology and Gaelic linguistics. Prior to joining the University of Edinburgh in 2010, I was a lecturer at the University of the Highlands and Islands (LCC Benbecula) and an Honorary Research Fellow of Glasgow University. 

Research Interests

My research interests lie within the two broad areas of Gaelic linguistics and Scottish oral tradition

Within Gaelic linguistics, I focus on corpus linguistics, dialectology and natural language processing. From 2013-2015, I was the PI for a Carnegie Trust and Bòrd na Gàidhlig funded project to develop a part-of-speech tagger and reference corpus for the language. In more recent years, I have helped to develop a handwriting recogniser for Scottish Gaelic and investigated the the grammatical variation of Scottish Gaelic, as found in the unpublished Linguistic Survey of Scotland (LSS) Gaelic materials. I've acted as the PI for a number of research projects associated with Gaelic dialectology and natural language processing. 

Within Scottish oral tradition, I have a strong interest in Gaelic song, traditional narrative and Scottish traditional music. Like many of the world’s instrumental traditions, the instrumental dance music of Scotland seems may have precursors in dance song. Although it is a hybrid form, Scotland’s national tune type - the strathspey - shows influence from vocal traditions. The characteristic rhythm behind it, rather being tied to any particular place, appears to be a vestige of Gaelic dance and work song aesthetics. 

Ongoing research (2019-2021) includes:

  • A DDI/SFC Beacon Open Call grant to expand speech processing technology for Gaelic and use it to transcribe a range of audio and video archive materials 
  • A Challenge Investment Fund grant to develop a handwriting recogniser for Scottish Gaelic
  • A Soillse Research Grant to pilot an automatic speech recognition system for Scottish Gaelic 
  • A co-edited book on formulaic language (Weathered Words: Formulaic Language and Verbal Art - HUP 2021)
  • Scottish Gaelic grammar and grammatical variation

I currently supervise 9 PhD students, working on topics ranging from Gaelic historical phonology to bagpiping in the East Asia. 

Administrative Roles

  • Departmental Director of Learning and Teaching (Sept 2019 - current)
  • Acting Head of Department, Celtic and Scottish Studies (July 2018-Dec 2018)
  • Senior Personal Tutor, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (2014-2017)
  • Progression Board Convener, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (2016, 2017)
  • Academic Misconduct Officer, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (2014-2015)
  • Library Committee Representative, Celtic & Scottish Studies (2013-2019)

Collaborative Activity

  • External Examiner, University of Aberdeen (2020-)
  • AHRC Peer Review College (2020-)
  • General Editor, Scottish Tradition Series
  • Stakeholder Forum Member, Centre for Data, Culture and Society (U of Edinburgh)  
  • Executive Council Member, Scottish Gaelic Texts Society
  • Steering Committee Member, Faclair na Gàidhlig
  • Board of Management, Soillse
  • External Examiner, University of the Highlands and Islands (2013-2018)
  • Advisory Committee Member, Soillse (2015-2017)
  • Subject Specialist Reviewer, Scottish Qualifications Authority (2011, 2012)


Course Coordination

  • Scottish Studies 1B: Creating Scotland (1st year)
  • Ethnological Fieldwork Methods (Honours)
  • Traditional Narrative: Theory and Practice (Honours)
  • Traditional Song: Gaelic (Honours)
  • Gaelic Dialectology (Honours)
  • Scottish Studies Dissertation Part A (Honours)
  • Oral Narrative: Theory and Performance (Postgraduate)


Additional lecturing: Undergraduate

  • Topics in Gaelic Culture (Gaelic 2A/2B: level 8)
  • Introduction to Gaelic Language and Culture (Level 8)
  • Linguistics and the Gaelic Language (Level 8)
  • Scotland and Orality (Level 8)
  • Scottish Studies 1A: Conceptualising Scotland (Level 8)
  • Traditional Music (Honours)
  • Ways of Listening (MA in Music: 1st year)

Additional lecturing: Postgraduate

  • Traditional Song in Scots and Gaelic: Topics and Issues
  • Dialectal and Register Variation in Gaelic
  • Research Methods and Skills in Celtic and Scottish Studies

Research outputs

  1. Dialect variation in Scottish Gaelic nominal morphology: A quantitative study

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  2. An online linguistic analyser for Scottish Gaelic

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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Research activities & awards

  1. External examiner

    Activity: Examination typesExternal Examiner or Assessor

  2. Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) (External organisation)

    Activity: Membership typesMembership of peer review panel or committee

  3. The Formula in Narrative Prose: Recent Research and Future Challenges

    Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk

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