Edinburgh Research Explorer

Dr 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. I serve on the steering committee of the inter-university project Faclair na Gàidhlig (Historical Dictionary of the Gaelic Language) and am an external examiner for the University of the Highlands and Islands (Sabhal Mòr Ostaig). I also serve on the Editorial Board of Scottish Studies and the Executive Council of the Scottish Gaelic Texts Society. 

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.  I am currently using a dialectometric approach to investigate nominal morphological variation in Scottish Gaelic, as found in the unpublished Linguistic Survey of Scotland (LSS) Gaelic materials. 

I have also done some work on the transmission and function of formulaic language in Gaelic oral narrative.  One of the more promising methodologies in this area this is deploying plagiarism detection algorithms on a large, on-line corpus of texts.  This gives us the potential to uncover otherwise hidden links between tradition bearers and their shared, contextualised lexicon. 

Within Scottish oral tradition, I am interested in the song traditions underlying much early Scottish and Irish instrumental dance music.  Like many of the world’s instrumental traditions, the instrumental dance music of Scotland and Ireland 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. 

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

  • General Editor, Scottish Tradition Series
  • Executive Council Member, Scottish Gaelic Texts Society
  • Advisory Committee Member, Soillse
  • External Examiner, University of the Highlands and Islands (Sabhal Mòr Ostaig)
  • Steering Committee Member, Faclair na Gàidhlig
  • 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 (2nd year)
  • Scotland and Orality (2nd year)
  • Scottish Studies 1A: Conceptualising Scotland (1st year)
  • Traditional Music: The Modern Day and Recent Past (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. A Picasso of perspectives on formulaic language

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

  2. From motif to multiword expression: The development of formulaic language in Gaelic traditional narrative

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

  3. Weathered Words: Formulaic Language and Verbal Art

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

View all (24) »

Research activities & awards

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

    Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk

  2. The Curious Case of Cluas-chiùil: Evidence for Early Musical Semantics?

    Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk

  3. Standardising Gaelic Grammar: Perturbations from the Linguistic Survey of Scotland

    Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesOral presentation

View all (45) »

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