Presentation abstracts are listed by their presenters, in alphabetical order.

Ashton, Kit: Language “status planning” through music: Jèrriais in the island of Jersey

Linguists and activists often discuss the importance of careful and deliberate language planning as vital to the success of revitalisation projects. Practical actions often fall into three interdependent types of activity: ‘corpus planning’ deals with the language itself – i.e. documentation etc; ‘acquisition planning’ deals with teaching and learning; and ‘status planning’ which is more concerned with social issues – i.e. how the language is perceived in the community, how it is taken to heart.

This paper will propose that whilst music can play a useful role in corpus and acquisition planning, its greatest potential for language revitalisation lies in the area of status planning. In particular, the power of music to inspire and unite social groups has the potential to positively influence cultural identity and language beliefs as part of an effective status planning strategy.

The author’s ongoing PhD research in the British Channel Island of Jersey is exploring the ways in which music can aid the island’s endangered language of Jèrriais. Rooted in the hands-on experience of carrying out applied ethnomusicology projects that engage with both folk and contemporary popular music practice, this paper aims to show how music can play a useful strategic role in language activism via creative musical interventions and collaborative community projects. These include a collaborative songwriting project, work in local schools, a children’s choir, and a pop-folk band. Jèrriais hangs in the balance, but music is helping to renew hope for its future.

Britton, Màiri and Mary Jane Lamond: “Language in Lyrics: Documenting the Nova Scotia Gaelic Song Corpus”

Language in Lyrics is a three-year project that aims to create a comprehensive database of Gaelic songs made or known in Nova Scotia, to transcribe and digitize the texts of a large number of these songs, and to make them accessible to the Gaelic community via various platforms. This database can be understood as a type of ICH inventory, one that provides new resources for safeguarding activities, including the creation of paid jobs for Gaelic speakers and a tool that will allow community members to find recordings and transcriptions of Gaelic songs. Moreover, we have developed a method of crowd-sourcing Gaelic song transcriptions rooted in social learning and the traditional aesthetics of the céilidh that provides much needed support for advanced Gaelic learners.

This workshop will provide an overview of the project within the context of Gaelic culture today, situated alongside other Gaelic mentorship and social learning programmes in Nova Scotia. We will describe our processes for sourcing, cataloguing and digitizing song material along with some of the technological and linguistic challenges we have faced along the way. 

Cormack, Arthur: Fèisean nan Gàidheal

Through my work with Fèisean nan Gàidheal, I have supported the Fèis movement to embrace Gaelic language and music tuition.  Some of Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s strategic work includes aspects of:

  • teaching language learners to transcribe song recordings in another language or write original songs in another language (See Fuaran)
  • integrating language instruction into music lessons (We deliver some music lessons in Gaelic and we also try to ensure some Gaelic is used in all our musical instruction)
  • drawing on movement or sound to learn language or linguistic elements (such as rhythm) (we do a lot of Gaelic teaching in schools using song, movement and drama to reinforce skills through our Fèisgoil service)
  • using traditional music contexts (such as the ceilidh) to inform language learning contexts and methods (We do a lot of work in this sphere and have also introduced a scheme called Beairteas which is like your Bun is Bàrr programme in so far as young people are involved in language enriching experiences with elders)

Our 2018 Annual Report is available here and our Programme Plan here

Crouse, Liam Alastair: “Dìleab EOST”: the European Oral Song Tradition project and its legacy

In 2013-14, the European Oral Song Tradition project saw 5 arts and music organisations from across rural Europe working collaboratively to research, record and support their local singing traditions. Cooperation consisted of preservation and transmission of intangible cultural heritage of the areas, folk music research and pedagogical materials.

In Uist, three researchers were employed by Ceòlas to collect and research songs known in the oral tradition. In total, over 1,000 songs were catalogued into the Ceòlas song archive; around 200 songs had been previously unpublished. In 2014, ‘An t-Eilean Beag Lurach Mu Thuath’, the songs of Anndra Laing, was published, followed in 2015 by ‘Bho Ghinealach Gu Ginealach’, a selection of songs by the Campbell family of South Lochboisdale. In addition, two CDs were produced featuring local singers performing a selection of the songs, and a poetry resource for North Uist was compiled to support in-school arts education in the island. Since 2014, there has also been an annual springtime song conference/festival which helps to support the singing scene locally.

‘Guthan an Iar’, a Uist singing group, was also established as part of this project. The group has helped bring the Gaelic songs of Uist to a wider audience, performing regularly in Uist, and further afield in Glasgow during Celtic Connections, Edinburgh during the Fringe, London and Donegal, Ireland. At the heart of this group’s vision is the reinvigoration of lesser sung Uist songs.

From its inception in 2013, the EOST project continues to support the oral song traditions of Uist and is a valuable example of a research-driven project, both by and for the community, which has generated a positive influence on the cultural contexts within the island.

Echeverria, Begoña: “Basque-ing Through Music: Teaching Basque in the Diaspora”

Basques have a long history of singing about life and death, history and war, daily life and work, religion, friendship, family and love. Songs date to the 15th century and include all varieties of Basque; they have been critical in transmitting the language (“Euskera”). Most Basque speakers were illiterate well into the 20th century, and informal singing of Basque songs has been a key way that the language has been passed on. This is true in the diaspora as well as in the Basque Country itself. Indeed, as there are few structural or financial supports for Basque language instruction in the diaspora, informal revitalization efforts are particularly important.

One of these informal spaces is the annual “udaleku” (summer camp) for 10-15 year-olds, hosted by the North American Basque Organization (NABO). As part of my trio, NOKA (www.ilovenoka.com), I have used music as a way to teach the Basque language at Udaleku. As a native speaker of Euskera and a scholar of Basque language revitalization efforts in the Basque Country, I am keenly aware of the difficulties students often have in learning Euskera. Thus, I have used English language supports and popular music to scaffold Basque language learning through music. In this presentation, I will share songs I have written to teach children Basque terms for colors, days of the week, months of the year; as well as those which teach more difficult grammatical aspects of Basque, such as the unusual (“allocutive”) way Basque marks gender grammatically.

Haughian, Meaghan: The choir as a medium for socialization in Irish: A case study on Cór Cois Sionna

One of the most difficult aspects of trying to preserve a minority language is in creating socia lsituations for the language to exist. Choirs are uniquely well-suited to this challenge: the structure and purpose of a choir can make it more productive than looser-arranged ciorcail chomhrá (conversation circles); the act of singing in Irish incorporates a built-in language element that can make it more approachable for those with limited language abilities; public performances give the language a presence within the wider community; and choirs themselves have been shown to improve well-being and social cohesion, leading to a positive and stress-free language experience for participants.

This presentation will look at the concept of the cór Gaelach (Irish language choir) and its usefulness in Irish language revitalization in general, as well as more specifically through the experiences of Limerick-based cór Gaelach Cór Cois Sionna.

Jacob, Michael: Musical Bodies: Symbols of Power and Community in Irish Language Music Videos

Since the Irish immersion school Colaiste Lurgan began its TG Lurgan project in 2010, they have accumulated more than two hundred music videos all in the Irish language. While the videos and performances are fun and exciting ways for the students to demonstrate their language learning, the symbolic elements rooted in their gestures, choreography, and settings demonstrate a united front against English dominance in both body and mind. Willis (2000) argues “the body also exists as a material and acting entity, both knowing and known in sensuous ways not fully internal to language, often ‘knowing’ things the latter suppresses, evades, hides, or misrepresents” (p. 22). In this way, TG Lurgan enables students to empower themselves through a critical pedagogy approach which “grapple[s] with the ways in which youth resist the dominant culture at the level of their bodies because in so doing, the utopian moments to which such resistance points can be transformed into strategies of empowerment” (1988, p. 70). 

By viewing schools and learning as political acts, I will show the ways the student’s performances in the videos are not arbitrary, but designed to symbolically illustrate their pride and commitment to their language and cultural identity. Through call-and-response, unstructured play, and creating rhythms with their bodies to accompany lead singers, the students at Colaiste Lurgan transform themselves and their world through an Irish language that expresses and revitalizes itself in both body and mind, percussion and melody.

Splatsin Tsm7aksaltn (Rosalind Williams, Aaron Leon, and Brianna Leon): Splatsin Teaching through songs and turning them into a musical

We are from the Splatsin Tsm7aksaltn and at our centre we have brought together our elders and our children in a traditional family style teaching model that has incorporated language learning through song. Rosalind Williams, who has headed our language and culture program, has developed songs to teach various topics mostly around the seasonal curriculum and house terms. We have been using these songs to teach and recently Williams and written a script to turn these into a Secwepemc musical, that is based on 17ish songs that we teach in the centre and woven theme into a script. This presentation will cover our uses of song in teaching of our Secwepemc language, as well as by the time the conference happens we will have performed our musical and can report on the experience of making a musical featuring Secwepemc language songs.

Lightbody, Abi: Cluas ri Claisneachd – An Ear to the Ground: The Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic’s Audio Archive

Cluas ri Claisneachd aims to make all the recordings in the possession of Celtic and Gaelic at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, available online for free. The archive contains recordings that were made during the collection process for the Historical Dictionary of Scottish Gaelic and other tapes that have been donated to Celtic and Gaelic over the years. Cluas ri Claisneachd currently (in April 2019) has 40 hours of audio material available online, including 94 Gaelic songs, with two members of staff currently working on the project.

The transcriptions gathered from the Cluas ri Claisneachd audio files will be fed into the Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic’s corpus, which is being developed to form the basis for Faclair na Gàidhlig or The Dictionary of the Scottish Gaelic Language, which is an inter-university initiative. 30 million words have been digitised by DASG from Gaelic texts and manuscripts and the focus is now on the inclusion of the spoken words and dialects into the corpus.

Although Cluas ri Claisneachd is of great academic value and its contribution to Faclair na Gàidhlig will be important it is, at its heart, an online archive which can be accessed all around the world, at any time, granting access to Scottish Gaelic language, folklore, history and culture.

Lowe, Jenefer: Pyboryon wethugh in scon! Pipers, play diligently!

Cornish is one of the family of Celtic languages. Having virtually died as a community language in the nineteenth century, the number of speakers is far less than that of any other of the languages, yet the revival continues to grow. Much of the work in recent years has been around normalising the language and introducing it in as many different contemporary contexts as possible to encourage learners. The language revival in the 20th century was mirrored by a revival of music and dance traditions and although the two revivals sometimes travelled on parallel paths, they are now more integrated than ever before. Over the past few years we have seen a significant increase in the use of Cornish by choirs, shanty groups, school ensembles, folk bands, rock bands and others, while the dance revival has given us performance groups and ceilidh bands, an increasing number of which use Cornish in their presentations and teaching. The thriving festival scene has embraced Cornish and this year sees the first Fest Kernewek – a one day festival devoted to music and poetry in Cornish. This greater visibility is increasingly impacting on public awareness of the language. The challenge now is to ensure that musicians, singers and dancers working in and with Cornish are supported and that interest in that work is harnessed in such a way as to positively impact on increasing numbers of learners and speakers.  This paper will look at what has happened, the effect and plans for future strategy.

MacDonald, Lisa: Linguistic Powerpacks: the value of songs in language acquisition

Songs combine linguistic content and emotional memory enhancement in one irresistible package for learners of any age. The communicative and sociolinguistic aspect anchors the language in context, giving purpose and meaning, whilst positive engagement and feedback lead to the priority tagging of memories. The high buy-in factor invites voluntary repetition, or ‘overlearning’, deepening the trace left on the brain. Enjoyment further leads to relaxation and unguarded attentiveness: the singer is thus even more receptive to learning.

Studies show that the decoding of musical and linguistic constructs engage overlapping processes in the brain. A shared syntactic integration resource in the Broca’s area of the brain’s left hemisphere may explain the interconnectedness of phrasing, pitch and understanding.

Children love to sing and the Bakhtinian concept of ‘carnivalesque’ can be employed to excellent effect with the very young. In the Early Years sector, which caters for children from 0-3 years of age, songs are a fundamental and daily learning tool. This is particularly true of second-language settings.

Gaelic Parent and Toddler groups in Scotland are of crucial importance in the work of strengthening the language and building the number of young Gaels by encouraging and supporting families into Gaelic medium education. The complex task of meeting the needs of children and parents within a high quality play environment can be accomplished by recognising the unique linguistic abilities of very young children. Research offers powerful opportunities for innovative approaches which would place Gaelic Scotland at the forefront of modern practice.

MacKenzie, Fiona: Facal, Fuaim is Faileas: The Canna Collections – An holistic approach to language learning

“Great authors of great works such as Shakespeare did not hesitate to use the themes of folktales and folkmusic – the Taming of the Shrew is an example…And every great composer has had access to a living tradition of folkmusic for their themes….” So wrote folklorist John Lorne Campbell, Fear Chanaigh, in the 1950’s in a personal letter about language preservation. Canna House, on the Isle of Canna, was the home of Campbell and his wife, musician and folklorist Margaret Fay Shaw and today it contains one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of Hebridean Song and Folklore.  The Campbells’ left us a diverse jigsaw of archive resources collected in the Hebrides in the 1930’s and 40’s depicting a disappearing way of Hebridean life and crucially, a record of aural and visual resources, collected to preserve and promote a fragile language.  

John Lorne Campbell undertook the first comprehensive survey of the Gaelic language in Nova Scotia in 1932 and this formed the entire focus of his folkloring career which spanned 60 years. This paper describes and features the sound, film, paper, photographic and linguistic resources available to language professionals, tutors and musicians alike, and provides examples of how they can be used as a stimulus to the core of language learning, for all ages. It will also feature live Gaelic song, performed by the presenter

Newton, Michael: Minding the Gap: Making Existing Gaelic Musical Resources More Helpful For Learners

There are a number of linguistic characteristics of the texts of songs that could be leveraged to help learners of Scottish Gaelic, including:

  • Learning the semantic nuances of words in specific contexts
  • Learning the gender of words due to their effects on other words
  • Learning the inflections of words due to their position in phrases
  • Learning dialectical variations of words, pronunciations, and usages

A number of excellent archives of Gaelic songs have already been prepared and made available online, but none of them with these specific pedagogical purposes in mind.

This talk will provide an overview of how transcribed archival materials could be utilized to provide additional resources for Gaelic learners and those attempting to master nuances of the language and local dialects, and what additional technologies would be needed to make this possible and efficient.

Ó Conluain, Reuben: Exploiting the Pop-song as a Teaching Resource in the Irish Language Classroom and also as a Tool to Promote a Positive Attitude towards the Language in the Wider Community

Reuben Ó Conluain’s MA thesis investigated the role of the translated pop/rock song in changing attitudes towards the language in the teenage classroom, and it’s influence in changing the image of Gaeilge in wider Irish society. He also looked critically at the potential of these songs as a teaching resource. To this end he interviewed members of the DES’s Inspectorate, teachers, well known songwriters and singers, well known radio and tv presenters, and individuals involved in language policy in Wales, Scotland and Ireland North and South.  Since then there has been a veritable revolution in the production of popsongs in Irish and their reception among the young in Ireland, with some Irish language pop videos clocking up millions of hits on YouTube. Each year sees the issue of a CD containing translated and original songs by renowned Irish and even international artists. Original modern songs in Irish now feature on the Specification for Irish at Junior Cycle. Ten years since his last investigation Reuben wishes to revisit the issue and would like to present his findings in Cape Breton.   

Oladipo, Olufunmilola Temitayo: Music Pedagogy for teaching Yorùbá language in Nigerian Primary Schools 

Language is an integral part of people’s culture. It reveals their identity and cultural heritage. Yorùbá language is becoming uncommon among Yorùbá youths in Nigeria, as most Yorùbá parents communicate in English language with their children. It is observed that children in most Yorùbá homes find it difficult to communicate in their mother tongue, as a result of this, generations to come; Yorùbá language may go into extinction in Nigeria. A man who loses his language, loses his values and culture, because, culture makes living meaningful and makes a man to understand his true identity. Appreciation of one’s culture develops tolerance for others. Language and music are related, and language learnt through music can be easily remembered. Nigerians need to make provision for curriculum of music aimed at meeting the cultural needs of their children. This paper describes music as a cultural subject and a medium of teaching Yorùbá language in Nigerian primary schools. It suggests Yorùbá traditional songs, traditional dances and musical instruments, most especially, the dùndún drum, as instructional materials in primary schools. The dùndún drum is the most eloquent of the Yorùbá instruments, it communicates in Yoruba language. Yorùbá language is tonal in nature, it has three tone marks, ‘doh, reh, me’ a word can have three different meanings, depending on the tone marks. My paper describes how the dùndún drum, Yorùbá songs, and music generally can be used in teaching Yorùbá language, transcription and composition. It notates various songs in Yorùbá language and their meanings.   

Sleeper, Morgan: Singing Synthesizers: Language Revitalization through UTAUloid

Music can play an important role in language revitalization, from attracting and engaging learners and speakers (Griffiths & Hill 2005:219) and fostering speech communities (Cotter 2001) to supporting language learning (Tuttle & Lundström 2015). Notably, however, the labour which enables these positive effects – including creating music and organizing performances – is largely independent from the specific skillset which linguists bring to language revitalization contexts. To that end, this talk introduces one concrete way in which linguists can apply specialized skills – especially phonetic and phonological analysis – to support musical language revival efforts, illustrated through the creation of a Cherokee UTAUloid: a combined speech and music synthesizer for collaborative vocal songwriting.

Through their focus on ‘massive collaboration’ (De Sousa 2014) (allowing interested speakers, learners, musicians, and wider community members to all work together on the same project), low-resource music production (both in terms of cost and physical space), and youth involvement (by virtue of their existing popularity in youth culture in many countries with ongoing language revitalization efforts), UTAUloids are uniquely well-situated to serve as both literal and figurative instruments for language revitalization. Music created with UTAUloids can provide new directions for linguistic research, as well as all of the tangible benefits that music brings to language revitalization, and the step-by-step methodology demonstrated in this talk aims to make creating an UTAUloid as accessible as possible for those interested in incorporating UTAUloid into their own work.

Orlaith Ruiséal and Cassie Smith-Christmas: Sicín Mise Go Sona Sásta:  Integrating Children’s Song into Intergenerational Language Transmission in the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht

This presentation will look at intergenerational language transmission in the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht in Ireland and in particular will centre on the production and dissemination of the children’s song and rhyme CD Sicín Mise Go Sona Sásta as a language revitalisation strategy.  The presentation will look at how the CD forms part of the multifaceted and hands-on approach of Oidhreacht Corca Dhuibhne’s Tús Maith (‘A Good Start’) programme, which is designed to support families and children in speaking Irish in the home and in the community.  This paper draws on multimodal data—including participant observation, an interview with the singer on the CD, and natural recordings of children interacting with CD—in looking at the potential role the CD plays in facilitating ‘saibhreas,’ which translates to ‘richness.’  Here, we employ the concept of ‘saibhreas’ as a means to look at the intersectional and multidimensional nature of intergenerational transmission:  Irish that is ‘saibhir’ is Irish that is competent, affective, and local.  Through exploration of the multimodal data, we look the role of the CD in facilitating ‘saibhreas’ and consider the importance of song and rhymes in fostering intergenerational transmission of a minority language.  We then turn to locating the CD into the wider landscape of Corca Dhuibhne’s rich musical culture and other efforts at integrating music into language revitalisation, such as the annual winter music school Scoil Cheoil an Earraigh.