Historical dictionaries require meticulous editing and research and take many years to produce. The first challenge is how to maintain continuous major funding for such a huge task. This has been tackled by breaking the project up into discrete elements, each a vital part of the whole but also with its own free-standing output.

The first phase is currently underway and will provide the editorial and textual foundation for the dictionary project. The output will be

  • An assessment of existing dictionaries of the language. This provides guidance to those wishing to know what is available and which dictionary will best serve their needs.
  • An editorial manual outlining the editorial policy for the dictionary. This will be a training and reference tool for future lexicographers compiling the dictionary. It will also be made available for use by colleagues working on other lexicographical projects.
  • A text manual describing key texts in terms of their usefulness to the dictionary. This will be a training and reference tool for lexicographers beginning work in a field where there is no historical lexicographical tradition. It will also provide the basis for a history of written Gaelic.
  • A textual database from which the dictionary will be compiled, and digitisation of written works for inclusion in the database.

When this foundation is established, work will begin on the dictionary itself. It will be compiled on historical principles similar to those applied in the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and the Oxford English Dictionary.

  • Definitions will be in English to maximise accessibility to the history of the language.
  • Senses will be illustrated by quotations from texts from the earliest examples to the present. Thus, the history of the Gaelic language and Gaelic culture will be told in the words of its speakers.