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3 Making do with Less: Some Surprises along the Language Death Proficiency Continuum (1986)

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Chapter Summary

Over a number of years there exist the processes of reduction in a dialect of Scottish Gaelic approaching extinction in the extreme northeast of the Highland mainland, East Sutherland Gaelic (ESG). For the most part the processes dealt with have appeared, and been presented, as changes in the structure of ESG apparent in the speech of different age groups in a population divisible into a proficiency continuum. This chapter takes the proficiency continuum and the reductions and losses across its range as well-established, and discusses the two extremes of that continuum in different terms: the fully fluent speakers in terms of the occasional gaps and failings which appeared in their Gaelic, and the semi-speakers in terms of the sometimes surprising strengths or compensatory mechanisms which made their Gaelic more serviceable than its structural integrity (or lack thereof) might have seemed to warrant.

Keywords: death proficiency continuum; East Sutherland Gaelic (ESG); fully fluent speakers; Scottish Gaelic; semi-speakers



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