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2 The Fate of Morphological Complexity in Scottish Gaelic Language Death: Evidence from East Sutherland Gaelic (1978)

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Chapter Summary

This chapter pursues the issues of simplification and confluence in language death by examining closely the fate of morphological complexity in a terminal Scottish Gaelic dialect. The structures chosen for investigation represent the extreme in morphological complexity for this dialect and for Scottish Gaelic in general. The noun plural and the gerund in Scottish Gaelic are particularly high-frequency structures, and they are formed in a rich variety of ways. This richness is essentially gratuitous. Some of the devices for the formation of plurals and gerunds are phonotactically or morpho phonemically capable of operation with only certain groups of nouns or verbs; but others are potentially capable of extension to all nouns or verbs. East Sutherland Gaelic (ESG) is spoken by fewer than 150 people, all of them bilingual in English, on the east coast of the county of Sutherland in the extreme north of mainland Scotland.

Keywords: East Sutherland Gaelic (ESG); English; gerunds; language death; morphological complexity; noun plural; Scottish Gaelic dialect



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