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Linguist conducting Gaelic language research in NS

Stuart Dunmore, a professional linguist based at Edinburgh University, has been spending time in Nova Scotia for a research project on Gaelic language fluency and education efforts.
Richard MacKenzie
Stuart Dunmore, a professional linguist based at Edinburgh University, has been spending time in Nova Scotia for a research project on Gaelic language fluency and education efforts. Richard MacKenzie - SaltWire Network

So just how much Gaelic language education is going on in Nova Scotia?

That’s a question professional linguist Stuart Dunmore is trying to answer for a research project.

Based in Edinburgh University, Dunmore was in Nova Scotia last fall, for a number of weeks this May and into June, and will be coming back in August, to conclude his research.

“It’s going really well,” he said, in talking with the Casket June 6.

“I’ve talked to a lot of Gaels in the province, either in the HRM (Halifax Regional Municipality), Antigonish town and county or up in the Cape Breton Highlands. I’m finding out a lot of interesting things about the community here.”

He talked about his work in Nova Scotia being part of a “broader” project.

“Which I’m doing on new speakers of Gaelic, as we call them,” Dunmore said.

“Those who have learned the language, principally, outside of the home; whether through formal education or through immersion classes, that sort of thing.

“And trying to do a bit of a comparison between the two settings; the old country – what is going on in Scotland – and what is happening here.”

Dunmore said he has been struck by the “energy” exuded around the language; by both those fluent and those learning.

“Particularly by young people here,” he said of the positive energy.

“And connecting with the heritage and culture that comes with the language; we don’t see that quite as often in Scotland through the immersion schools. So that was what really piqued my interest as far as this place.”

He talked about Halifax interest in the language and culture emanating from the eastern part of the province and Cape Breton.

“There is a certain amount in Halifax, I suppose that just goes with the size of the place,” he said.

“Families who have their roots in Cape Breton or the eastern part of the province, such as here in Antigonish, but then move to Halifax,” he said, adding he’ll be spending a little more time in the HRM before heading back to Scotland in mid-June.

Dunmore talked more about his research and the end-goals.

“This is part of three-year Fellowship sponsored by the British Academy,” he said.

“I’m working on a couple of different researchpapers and a monograph, a book, on the basis of the findings.

“I’m 18 months into the project now so, probably, another 18 months. I’ll be presenting at a conference on my findings at the end of this month (June) in New Zealand; a big social, linguist symposium that is happening there. That will be interesting.”

Dunmore is still interested in hearing from Gaelic speakers in the area and welcomes those interested to contact him by email at Stuart.Dunmore@ed.ac.uk.

“I’ll be heading back here Aug. 14,” Dunmore said. “I’m not exactly sure of my schedule here yet, I’ll be in the province anyway, sort of tying it all together.

“[I prefer] face-to-face or group discussions - focus groups. I was able to conduct one of those at the Gaelic College with students who were doing an immersion course there,” he said of his research method, adding there is also an online survey he can direct people to as well.

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