Ken MacKinnon

Ken MacKinnon was born in the London Docklands in 1933 to parents whose families came from the Scottish Isle of Arran and Northern Ireland.[1] He is known as the father of Scottish Gaelic sociolinguistics.

Ken MacKinnon
Known forScottish Gaelic sociolinguistics
Scientific career
Fieldssociolinguistics, Celtic studies
InstitutionsHatfield Polytechnic, University of Hertfordshire, Open University,University of Aberdeen Bòrd na Gàidhlig

Early life and career

During the London Blitz he was sent to Cornwall as many other children of the time and later in life settled in the nearby town of Southend-on-Sea where he became, in time, chairman of the council's planning committee and mayor.[1] He took a double degree in sociology and economics at the London School of Economics, followed by National Service in Germany.[1] Following his return from Germany, he taught in Essex secondary schools and technical colleges, and was the head of department at the Barking College of Technology and subsequently was senior lecturer and reader at the Hatfield Polytechnic amongst various other appointments.[1]

Scottish Gaelic

Although not a native speaker of Gaelic, he taught himself Gaelic when he took an interest in the language.[1] He subsequently took a master's degree and was made a senior research fellow of the Social Science Research Council and used the opportunity to embark on studying the sociolinguistic situation of the Isle of Harris between 1972 and 1974[1] and has been heavily involved in the discipline ever since.

He was also a member of MAGOG between 2002 and 2004, a body providing advice on Scottish Gaelic to Scottish ministers, and which produced the Meek Report(2002), and was made a member of Bòrd na Gàidhlig in 2004.[2] He was also on the board of MG Alba between 2008-11.[2]

He has an honorary professorship at the University of Aberdeen, and is a reader emeritus at the University of Hertfordshire. He tutors for the Open University in social sciences, education and language studies.[3]


Prof MacKinnon published numerous papers and books from the 1970s onwards, most of them on Gaelic in Scotland and Nova Scotia, minority languages and demographics, including:[2]

  • (1974) The Lions Tongue
  • (1991) Gaelic A Past & Future Prospect
  • (1998) Gaelic in Family, Work and Community Domains Euromosaic Project 1994 1995 in Scottish Language 1998, No. 17
  • (2000) Neighbours in Persistence – Prospects for Gaelic Maintenance in a Globalising English World in McCoy, G. and Scott, M. (eds) Aithne na nGael – Gaelic Identities


  1. MacKinnon, Kenneth The Lion's Tongue (1974) Club Leabhar Ltd SBN 902706-29-2
  2. The Scottish Government - Bòrd na Gàidhlig
  3. Bòrd na Gàidhlig - Buill a' Bhùird

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