Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


Spellbinding development for Gaelic

Half a million words are helping to ensure that Gaelic continues to cement its reputation as a language of the future, not the past.

The Gaelic spell-checker, launched today, has over 525,000 words and is designed to provide a useful everyday tool as well as helping to unite Gaelic-users behind a nationally-agreed standard.

Despite having twice as many words as expected, The European Language Initiative’s spell-checker project – Pròiseact an Dearbhair – took less than three years to complete.

Education Minister Peter Peacock, who has ministerial responsibility for Gaelic, said:

“Gaelic has a proud history and we want it to have a flourishing future. The launch of this spell-checker is proof, if proof were needed, that Gaelic is a living language.

“For the growing number of people who are learning and using Gaelic, I’m sure this will quickly become an invaluable tool in their daily lives.”

Project director Clive Leo McNeir, head of The European Language Initiative (TELI), said:

“I would like to make it clear that the spell-checker is being offered as a support to the Gaelic community, not an imposition. Its first year of operation should be regarded as a consultation period. We invite everyone to participate and contribute to the project. We would like to know if there are extra words that should be added, or if any errors are spotted. No database of this size can expect to be perfect. Working together we can make a good tool even better.”

Bòrd na Gàidhlig chairman Matthew MacIver said:

‘This is a very welcome development for Gaelic and is a great achievement by TELI. Recently, a number of important initiatives have been put in place to strengthen the Gaelic language and ensure its consistency and relevance in the modern world and other bodies such as LTS, SQA and HIE should also be commended for their role in this.

“This spell-checker should be widely publicised and I am confident it will be of great use to Gaelic speakers and learners at all levels and is another important step forward for Gaelic.”

The spell-checker is available to download free-of-charge from the Gaelic Online website, run by Learning and Teaching Scotland, at The version being launched is designed to operate on computers using Microsoft Word. Versions for use with other types of software, including open source, are currently in development and will be announced shortly.

The spell-checker was produced by The European Language Initiative, the same team which created the official English and Gaelic dictionary for the Scottish Parliament – Faclair na Pàrlamaid – and its associated interactive online service. TELI has worked with colleagues at Dublin City University and the Irish Institute of Linguistics, who had previously devised the spell-checker for Irish.

The spell-checker cost £105,500, including the technical infrastructure as well as the linguistic aspects of the project. Funding was provided by Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Comunn na Gàidhlig, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Executive Education Department. The Microsoft Corporation provided the search engine, valued at $23,000, which had been developed for use with Irish. The publishers Hodder Headline also allowed the database of their Teach Yourself Gaelic Dictionary to be used free of charge as part of the core material.

The spell-checker follows hard on the heels of the second edition of the Gaelic Orthographic Conventions which was launched by the Scottish Qualifications Authority in January. The conventions aim to provide consistency in the standard of written Gaelic –

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