Introduction

The difficulties of Gaelic spelling raised and discussed by the Sub-Committee did not all prove equally tractable. In some cases the Sub-Committee was able to recommend substantive changes with some confidence; these constitute the substance of the present document. Others, such as the problem of the forms of the article with the noun, appeared irreducible to such a degree that the Sub-Committee felt unable to make any recommendation. Some suggestions, such as on for a thorough-going simplification of consonant groups, proved to have such wide-ranging implications that the Sub-Committee considered they would create more problems than they would solve.

The Sub-Committee concentrated in the first place on the identification of general principles applying to its fields of investigation. These principles were considered in conjunction with detailed assessments of the areas of difficulty referred to above. It was decided, for example, that it would not be desirable to violate etymological principles to any considerable degree, or institute changes on such a scale as would make books written in the traditional orthography too difficult for new readers. As a result of this certain general rules were arrived at. These rules along with exemplificatory materials appear below.

Early in the Sub-Committee's deliberations certain factors concerning the nature of these rules became clear. The first and most important of those concerned the Sub-Committee's remit, viz "...to produce a set of standard orthographic conventions...". The Sub-Committee, while recognising the force of arguments for a norm, and in spite of pressure from some of its members, was unable to recommend singulary standard forms in all cases. Its position was that diversity of usage and the state of Gaelic literacy at the present time both conspire to make the prescription of a singulary standard for all cases unrealistic. Indeed it considered that such a rule would be self-defeating, being more honoured in the breach than in the observance.

Furthermore, the Sub-Committee was of the opinioin that were it to recommend a single form this would, in some cases, entail judgements that had nothing to do with orthography and were, therefore, outwith the Sub-Committee's remit. Such judgements would have left it open to charges of prejudice in preferring out dialect form rather than another (a course of action to be avoided in the present circumstances) or, indeed, open to charges of a lack of understanding of the range of appropriate forms concomitant with different levels of usage (which it is considered important to develop rather than curtail).

Having arrived at the principle of permitting plurality of forms, the Sub-Committee considered the problem of where and to what extent the principle should be applied and decided that it should operate reasonably widely. (This is probably best illustrated in section 8 on prepositional pronouns below.) At the same time it seemed necessary to recognise some degree of standardisation, within the range of alternatives, for particular purposes. For this reason it was agreed that where such a range was cited the form of the item most appropriate for formal written discourse should head the list of alternatives, and be cited in the alphabetical list of words appended. This compriomise which both avoids too narrow prescription and presents a standard form for a particular purpose is adhered to in the illustrative material which follows.

 
 
1996-03-10 CPD