Àdhamh Ó Broin

“the Gaelic dialect of SW Caithness”

Often regarded as having no Gaelic heritage at all, Caithness is spoken of as being very strictly “Norse”, when it fact, the western half of the county boasted two distinct Gaelic dialects, northern and southern, with locally born and bred people able to produce words and phrases of them into the present century. Your speaker will discuss the language of his mother’s people, MacLeods, Gunns and Sutherlands who hailed from a tiny 6 mile stretch of coast and its interior glens between Dunbeath and Forse and are noted en masse in census returns into the 20th century as being native Caithness Gaels. Their language was something of an isolate, quite distinct from its MacKay Country and East Sutherland neighbours, and so our time will be spent outlining the dialect’s salient features, considering interesting hyper-local words and reading aloud a passage of revived Latheron Gaelic for your delectation, making this perhaps the first time the dialect has been heard spoken at length in over 50 years.

Chris McCabe

Poems from the Edge of Extinction

A talk and poetry reading from Poems from the Edge of Extinction: An Anthology of Poetry in Endangered Languages (Chambers, 2019). This groundbreaking book brings together 50 poems from each continent who are writing in their indigenous language. The book makes a powerful statement for the role that poetry can play in the face of language endangerment. Despite the claim from linguists that half of the world’s 7,000 languages will disappear by the end of the century, poets continue to speak and write poetry in their mother tongues, activating their languages through linguistic innovation. The book is a showcase for the importance of translation, as a document for poets in exile and through providing evidence of the link between language and biodiversity.

This talk and reading will focus on the languages and dialects of the UK that are included in the book: Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, Manx and Scots. I will illustrate the talk with Readings from the book , as well as presenting my own poetry in my native Scouse dialect.

Frieda Morrison

The Challenges o Broadcastin in Scots

Although there has been a lot of presentation and debate around the topic of Broadcasting in Scots, there is still little or no provision in the broadcasting world in Scotland, for a dedicated programme delivered in the Scots Language – apart from Scots Radio.

If Ulster-Scots can be featured in Ireland – what is the problem in Scotland. Frieda Morrison, Director of Scots Radio tries to find the answer.

Gareth Popkins

Welsh language: Russian history

When I was an undergraduate history student I began teaching myself Welsh. It was a passion project, but it turned out to be a good career move. In this talk, I’ll explain why as a monoglot Yorkshireman I was attracted to learning the language and how I got fluent. There’ll be tips for you as you learn your minority language.

Little did I know that seven years after learning Welsh in Aberystwyth, I’d be back there, this time as a Welsh-medium lecturer in Russian history. What are the lessons if you want a career using languages? What were the challenges of teaching at university level in a language that is not often used as a medium of instruction for a discipline like mine? What can you expect if you seek to push the boundaries with your “indigenous” language?

Mark Atherton

What is Old English
and how did it sound?

Why learn Old English?
Present-day English has a wide vocabulary with many synonyms. Even a basic adjective derived from the word for a king is not straightforward: In French the noun is roi and the adjective royal; in German the connection is also clear: König and königlich. But in present-day English there is a choice of three or four words:

royal, regal, kingly, King’s (or Queen’s)

We say Royal Mail and Queen’s Counsel, and regal behaviour. The reasons for this are cultural and historical – they can be explained by the history of the English language.

In Old English the noun was cyning , which meant ‘son of the kindred’, later cyng or kyng; the adjective was cynelic.

Old English is the key to etymology of everyday English and the origin of words and phrases, the basis of our English grammar, a window on the past: on cultural and political history and on early poetry and literature.

How did it sound?
In this session we will learn to count 1-10, and discover some basic everyday words in Old English. We will look at some ordinary everyday Old English and show the connections with the present day…

We will consider images of artefacts, historical sources, manuscripts. We will play ‘tinker, tailor…’ we will attempt to solve an Old English riddle from the Exeter Book … and tackle a couple of lines from the famous Old English epic poem Beowulf.

Tony Fekete

The Private Polyglot Library:
The role of language books in the late 18th and 19th Century in establishing cultural, national and regional identities

I have a library of over 500 old books in about 110 languages and dialects from the sixteenth to the twentieth century which show the linguistic, political and cultural development of many, particularly smaller, countries in Europe and beyond. Every book in my library has to tell a story and I regularly post new acquisitions on my Facebook page, Private Polyglot Library.

Through getting to know these books certain important trends became clear:
-The church had a very important role in documenting less
-known languages and help develop rules and consistency for major languages as well.Religious books are the most signifiant texts in many languages.
-In the 18th Century the scholars of the Enlightenment sought to develop rules for grammar and consistent spelling. For smaller languages, such as Romanian or Hungarian, this gave the opportunity to assert cultural identity and dignity and for others, such as Irish, Scots Gaelic, Breton and Occitan it helped their survival.
-Literature only really started to be translated in the mid-18th Century. This created an exchange of ideas, richer vocabulary and new words and a desire to modernise languages.
-Language was not really used as a nationalist political weapon until the mid-19th Century.

In my talk I want to explore through illustrations from my library, the birth of modernised languages and national cultures. For example, Hungarian, Serbian, Croatian, Russian, Romanian, Flemish, Modern Greek and others like Gaelic, Maltese, Finno-Ugric dialects.In particular I want to show that the early national cultural movements were mostly focused on developing rich, internationally-respected, national languages with consistent grammar and spelling. Achieving political aims was only a secondary concern until the 19th Century.

Shereen Sharaan

What Is The Impact of Bilingualism on the Executive Function Skills of Children with Autism?
A Study of English-Arabic Children Using Direct Tasks.

There is evidence to suggest that certain executive function (EF) skills are impaired in children with autism, underlying several of autism’s characteristics. There is also evidence to suggest that the regular use of two languages has the potential to extend EF capacities. The evidence is mixed and much remains unknown about the impact of bilingualism on the EF abilities of children with autism, with less than five studies published worldwide to date. Our objective is to investigate the impact of bilingualism on the EF performance of Arabic-English children with autism and their typically developing (TD) peers, using both direct tasks of EF as well as informant-measures, thus contributing to the evidence-base surrounding bilingual children with autism. 120 children aged 5-12 years, from 10+ nationalities based in the United Arab Emirates, participated in this study. Findings indicate a bilingual advantage for children with autism in sustained attention using a direct task, and equivalent performances between autistic bilingual and monolingual participants in interference control, flexible switching, and working memory (using both direct and informant tasks). Findings suggest that bilingualism in autism can have differential influences in executive function depending on the task and outcome variables. The reality is, parents, therapists, and educators around the world lack sufficient evidence to support their language decisions and choices for children with autism. We can infer from the results that bilingualism does not negatively impact EF skills in children with autism (contrary to wide-spread notions), and can potentially advantage EF processes like sustained attention. This is the first investigation at this interface to use Arabic-speaking populations and the first to include sustained attention.


Carlos Yebra López

The Positive Impact of Digital Homelands on the Language Revitalization of Diasporic Languages: the case of Ladino

By virtue of their nature, diasporic languages often lack a unified geographical territory, which prevents their intergenerational transmission. However, in recent decades there has been a significant trend in the emergence of digital homelands (Held, 2010), i.e., virtual communities where the diasporic language in question is used as the only means of communication between users. According to Held, virtual communities are not just mere spaces for communication, but they have the potential to become “a territory where a culture may be revitalized after having faced a state of severe decline”, which has also been referred to as a “kingdom of the word” (Shandler, 2004), or “a national language of nowhere” (idem).

Simon Ager

Celtic Connections

The six modern Celtic languages are all thought to have developed from a single Proto-Celtic language and are grouped into two branches: the Goidelic languages, Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx, and the Brythonic languages, Welsh, Cornish and Breton.

The Goidelic languages are similar and to some extent mutually intelligible, while the Brythonic languages are more distant from each other. There are more connections within and between the two branches of the Celtic language family they you might expect, and even more when you look at the older versions of the languages and their extinct relatives.

This talk will discuss words that are cognate in all or some of the Celtic languages, and show how they have changed over time, and how their meanings vary from language to language.

Thomas H. Bak

Sex, Drugs and Bilingualism: Language Learning between Evolution, Ideology and Science

The question whether it is normal, healthy and beneficial for human beings to learn and speak different languages has been answered very differently across centuries and continents. In many parts of the world, learning different languages across the whole lifespan has been always considered as the norm. In Europe, learning languages was seen for a long time as the foundation of education. Then, over the last century, monolingualism started to be interpreted as the normal state of human mind and society and multilingualism as a source of social discord and cognitive confusion. In the last decades, the views changed again, with positive effects of language learning and use being demonstrated from childhood to the advanced age. These findings, in turn, have been criticised by some as biased. In my talk I will present the current “bilingualism debate” in the light of human evolutionary history as well as modern neuroscience.

Christopher Lewin

Back from the dead: the revival of Manx

In this talk, Christopher Lewin will draw on his personal experience as a member of the contemporary Manx-speaking community in the Isle of Man as well as his research as a scholar of the Celtic languages and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. Once considered a thing of the past following its demise as a community language in the nineteenth century and the death of the last traditional speaker in 1974, the Manx language has enjoyed a significant resurgence in recent decades, being learnt by hundreds of adults as well as school pupils, as well as a small number who have been raised in the language in the home. A significant development was the establishment in 2001 of a Manx-medium primary school, perhaps unique in Europe as a case of immersion education in a language which is extinct in its historical form. The revival of Manx raises a number of fascinating questions about the degree of continuity and rupture between traditional and revived forms of a language, and the role of individual speakers and the community in reimagining and remaking the language of their ancestors.

Hilbert Vinkenoog

Come Again? A History of Language in Early Medieval Britain

If you drove to Edinburgh from the South, as I often did as a child on family holidays, the likelihood is you passed over the Carter Bar Pass and were greeted by a big blue sign as you approached the border. “Fàilte gu Alba” it proclaims in Scots-Gaelic as you cross, and of course, the unwitting tourist might say, we are after all now in the Celtic-speaking nation of Scotland. But as many of you will know, the heartland of Scots-Gaelic lies far to the north and on the isles, while this border region has a much longer linguistic affinity with the rest of Northumberland and beyond. Recorded as “Ynglis” for much of this time, “Scots” was Gaelic and “English” was Scots. But neither of these was the language of those “original Scots”, the Picts, or for those living around the Clyde and further to the south west who were lovingly dubbed “Welsh” by Anglo-Saxon sources. Oh and the Scots, their original name was meant to denote “Irish.” Confused?

If so, that’s probably a good thing – I haven’t even got on to the Vikings or the Normans yet! The linguistic history of Britain is a wonderful, complicated mess of language, dialect, culture and identity that continues to this day. In truth there is still much academics don’t know about the situation here in the Early Middle Ages, though I hope I can shed some light on it with an introductory overview.

Michael Dempster

Cyberscots – Scots language in the age of the internet

Scots, the Germanic language closest to English, had remained largely an oral language until the dawn of the internet. With the ability to publish in their own hands Scots speakers, singers, and scholars began to communicate on usenet and put up wabsteids on the Warld Wide Wab from its inception. With the growth of web forums, wikis, and subsequently social media and smartphone apps, reading and writing the language has become a daily practice in the lives of speakers world-wide for the first time in a long time.

The increased visibility of the language feeds the general recognition that it be further included in school education. Online education resources such as those provided by the Scots Language Centre and the National Library of Scotland, and courses such as the Open University’s Scots Language and Culture Open Learn Course aim to support speakers in becoming literate and learners to acquire Scots.

Most speakers are approaching writing Scots with little or no education in their spoken language, what are the consequences of this online phenomenon linguistically and where may this take the language in the future?

Patricia Mac Eoin

The teaching of Irish – why all the confusion? The importance of a solid foundation

Children in Ireland begin learning Irish from their very first day at school, in the ‘naíonáin bheaga’ (junior infants), right up until they sit their final state exam some 13 or 14 years later. This talk will look at the way in which Irish is taught at both primary and secondary level in the Republic of Ireland. What levels of fluency are achieved? How confident are young people in their ability to speak Irish after some 13 years of instruction? Why is there often a lingering sense of confusion about the language, even among those students who have managed to achieve some mastery of the language? What are the advantages and disadvantages to the ways in which Irish is taught in schools at the present time? Could there be a simple way to remedy some of the gaps in learning which currently exist?

Towards the end of her talk Patricia will teach a short class, in which she will demonstrate a method of teaching which could be used to address the gaps in learning which have been identified. Prepare to be super impressed with how much Irish you manage to learn in just 20 minutes!

Language Learning Panel

Ermy Pedata

More Than a Language Exchange Partner: “Unconventional” Ways to Practise and Maintain a Foreign Language.

Trisha Dunbar

Good Mental Health and Language Learning.

Amanda Patterson

Feedback: The Give and Take – Improving High-Level Languages

The aim of the Language Learning Panel is to cover some ground in topics that intersect with considerations for a wide variety of language learners worldwide. Ermy, Trisha and Amanda will take 15 minutes each to present on the above topics related to language learning.

After the presentations have been delivered, there will be some QA time with the speakers.