Sunday, 10 August 2014

Isn't the University of Edinburgh's Gaelic language plan wonderful?

Impertinent Gaelic blogger firmly put in place by august institution  

As is well known, Gaelic language plans can claim so much of the credit for the great strides recently made by our ancient Celtic tongue.

This is especially true of those prepared by our great seats of learning.

It was with some puzzlement, therefore, that the University of Edinburgh recently was the recipient of the following criticism of its language plan:

Dear Professor O'Shea
The Gaelic version of the Language Plan contains a very large number of incongruous and unidiomatic words and phrases, many of them calqued straight from English, 
and some apparently completely made up. This includes the foreword ascribed to yourself! I would be pleased to try and detail some of these for you if that would be helpful.

For example, the use of the bizarre made-up phrase “leigheas ainmhidhean” for veterinary medicine is particularly galling (I qualified as a vet from the Dick Vet in 1983). Not 
a single native speaker of Gaelic would recognise or use this term; the universally-recognised Gaelic term is simply “bheataireachd”. 

I am certain that the University of Edinburgh would not publish an English-language document full of deficiencies certain to estrange its readership, and as such this lack of
care in relation to Gaelic signals a lack of respect for the language. The number of native speakers is of course very small now, but this does not mean that this group is not 
worthy of respect.

I urge you to issue a revised and corrected version of the Gaelic Plan and take appropriate steps in the future to make sure that any Gaelic documents published by the 
university are prepared with due care and regard to the language as it is still spoken. 

Yours sincerely

Neil McRae BVM&S, Cert VA, MRCVS

After a period of time, suitable for an august seat of learning, had passed the University's Gaelic Plan Officer replied in the following terms:

Dear Mr McRae ...
… In respect of the substantive points which you have raised, the Gaelic version of our Plan was prepared by a native speaker of Gaelic with many years' experience as a translator.  It was also proofread by an experienced Gaelic Officer with another organisation and by two senior members of our academic staff. We are, therefore, surprised by your assertion that it contains "a very large number of incongruous and unidiomatic phrases . . . some apparently completely made up".  This is not an opinion on our language use with which we concur.  A document of this kind necessarily involves a certain number of neologisms, but this is inevitable as Gaelic is developed for a wider range of uses.

More specifically, your complaint about the use of the formal term 'Leigheas Ainmhidhean'  in place of the colloquial term 'bheataireachd' seems ill-judged. The Gaelic term used is a neologism, certainly, but a transparent one that would be understandable to any Gaelic speaker; while 'bheataireachd'  looks more like a thin Gaelicisation of an English term (and one that breaks the fundamental rules of Gaelic morphology, with its pseudo-Gaelic initial bh-). For the formal name of an academic unit, 'Leigheas Ainmhidhean'  seems much more appropriate, particularly as it aligns with the term 'Leigheas' for 'Medicine' in the title of the College.
We do accept that it is possible that, despite the care that was taken in the production of the Plan, some typographical errors or other technical errors may remain. If you would like to detail some of the other deficiencies you feel to be present in the document we would be pleased to consider them ...

Exit impertinent blogger, suitably abashed! That's him telt! He, and all the (admittedly dwindling) band of native speakers with which he uses the term bheataireachd, have to get with the programme! 



  1. Bha Mgr. McRae dìreach beagan arsey* na litir ge-tà, nach robh?


  2. Carson a bhiodh e air a chaochladh?

  3. John Murdo Grosvenor20 June 2015 at 18:42

    cha tuigeadh Mrs Togneri leigheas ainmhidhean. Theireadh ise dotair bó. Hì-hòmh mar a thuirt an t-asal.