DASG (Dachaigh airson Stòras na Gàidhlig)

This month, we’re giving you an overview of the largest digital resource for Scottish Gaelic – DASG. We’ll have a look at its components and how both researchers and language learners can use them and benefit from them.

So, first things first – what is DASG?

DASG stands for Dachaigh airson Stòras na Gàidhlig, or Digital Archive of Scottish Gaelic. It is an online repository for digitised texts (Corpas na Gàidhlig), lexical resources (Faclan bhon t-Sluagh), and audio recordings (Cluas ri Claisneachd).

In addition to these three main components (which you can find along the top of the website), the website also contains background information on the project, such as “Aims of DASG”, “Publications” (about the project in general and research that used DASG as a resource), “Gairm Online” (a Gaelic periodical that is being digitised and uploaded. This is a work in progress, but you can already flip through copies of the first view issues!), and an introduction to the “DASG Team” and their contact details if you would like to get in touch with them.
You can view the website in Gàidhlig or English, but the search interfaces are only in English.

Now, let’s have a closer look at the three main components.

Corpas na Gàidhlig is a comprehensive corpus of digitised texts covering the textual history of Scottish Gaelic, from the first evidence we know to have been written in Scotland (the Gaelic notes in the Book of Deer) up to the present day. It is an invaluable resource for researchers and students of Gaelic language, literature, and culture, as well as for language learners. The corpus forms the textual basis for Faclair na Gàidhlig, an active project producing a historical dictionary of Scottish Gaelic.

Corpas na Gàidhlig is hosted on CQPweb, which means that you have to create an account to be able to login and use it. But accounts are free, quick, and easy to create, so don’t let that deter you! Once you’re logged in, you can simply run a “Standard Query” if there is a specific word or phrase you’re trying to find in the corpus. This is something I regularly do as a language learner to, for example, see which prepositions are commonly used in certain constructions or which grammatical form I need after a specific word. In the screenshots below, you can see that ‘deich bliadhna’ returns a lot more results than ‘deich bliadhnaichean’. So, it’s safe to assume that ‘deich bliadhna’ (using the singular of the noun) is the correct form here (FYI – this is a peculiarity of ‘bliadhna’, there are other nouns that are used in the plural after ‘deich’). The corpus will also list the examples it found, giving you a bit of context on either side of the search term. If you click on the underlined part of any of the examples, the corpus will show you more of the context. Hovering the cursor over the text number, will provide some more information about the text, such as when and where it was written. Clicking on the number opens the complete metadata file for this text.

In addition to these basic searches, there are a number of other functions. I’m not going to go into all the functions in detail here. CQPweb has a Help page as well as Video tutorials that cover all its functions. But just to give you a couple of examples, you can also run a “Restricted Query” if you’d like to refine your search to a sub-set of the corpus and, for instance, only see results from the 20th century, or only results in verse and so on.

You can also run additional queries based on your initial search results, such as having a look at a term's collocates (words occurring within a certain window to the left and or right of it) to get further insight into how it is used. You can run such queries based on a standard or restricted query – depending on what you’re looking for.

Moving on to Faclan bhon t-Sluagh (the Fieldwork Archive). This is a collection of vernacular Gaelic consisting of thematic questionnaires on topics relating to traditional Gaelic society (e.g. agriculture, herring fishing, peat working) and additional wordlists on a range of other topics. The majority of it is word lists with English translations and explanations for Gaelic terms, but it also includes some hand-drawings to illustrate certain terms.

You can either search this database, if you have a specific word that you’re curious about and would like to see where and how it is used, or browse it by topic, location of informant, fieldworker who collected the information and so on. This provides a great resource for researchers looking at regional variation in vocabulary, but also for language learners wishing to build their vocabulary on a specific topic.

Last, but certainly not least, there is Cluas ri Claisneachd (the Audio Archive). The archive includes recordings with full downloadable transcriptions, subtitles, and detailed lists of contents (with the ability to jump ahead/back to individual items). The recordings are in Gaelic and English and cover a wide variety of dialects and accents. They’re grouped into sub-archives with brief descriptions of these sub-archives and the option to either search for specific terms in the recordings, or just browse the collection. As the recordings cover various dialects and accents, they provide opportunities for researchers to investigate regional linguistic variation. But they’re also good sources of folklore and discussion of daily activities. For learners, they provide good opportunities to practice your listening skills.

I hope this has given you an idea of how you can use DASG for your own research and/or language learning (I certainly use it for both!). There’s more things you can do with it, that I didn’t have space to go into here, so it's worth just having a go and exploring it.

If you want to stay informed on what DASG is up to, you can find them on Facebook or X.

Did I leave out one of your favourite things to use DASG for? Feel free to leave a comment and tell us how you use it!


Rebecca Madlener

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig / University of the Highlands and Islands


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