WORK on a landmark Gaelic dictionary which aims to secure the future of the language has taken a step forward with investment of £2 million from the ­Scottish Government.

The project will document the language and its history by tracing the development of every Gaelic word from its earliest written form to the present day.

The Scottish Government hopes the project will raise the profile of the Gaelic language and heritage. The £2m, distributed through the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), will pay for additional staff and computer software.

First Minister Alex Salmond said: "The Scottish Government is a strong supporter of our indigenous languages, including Gaelic, and recognises the important cultural and economic benefits these bring to a vibrant and modern Scotland.

"We're committed to working with a range of other public bodies to create a secure future for the Gaelic language. The dictionary initiative will play an important part in that work."

The project, entitled Faclair na Gaidhlig (Scottish Gaelic Dictionary), is managed by Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture on Skye, and which is a department of the University of the Highlands and Islands. It is being run in partnership with the universities of ­Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde.

SFC chairman John McClelland said: "The Faclair na Gaidhlig project is vital to securing the future of the Gaelic language and is an essential resource for people across the world with an interest in Gaelic and Celtic studies."

Professor Boyd Robertson, principal of Sabhal Mor Ostaig and convener of the Faclair na Gaidhlig steering committee, said: "The increased investment by the Scottish Funding Council, augmented by the subvention of funding from the research councils and the continued funding from Bord na Gaidhlig, recognises the national significance of this foundational project."

The Arts and Humanities Research Council will provide a further £100,000 and £50,000 is coming from the Economic and Social Research Council.

Bord na Gaidhlig has supported the project since 2004 and currently contributes £75,000 per year.

Professor Boyd added: "The award will expedite preparatory work for the dictionary which will, in time, give Gaelic a resource comparable to the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and the Oxford English Dictionary."

The aim is to produce a historical dictionary of Gaelic that will be comparable in value and status to dictionaries available for Scots and English.

It will provide a new understanding of the structure, variations and development of Gaelic through its use in speech, literature, song and place names.

The dictionary will be a freely accessible online resource, with a collection of written work of around 30 million words forming the basis for the analysis.

It is hoped it will be used by those working in Celtic and Gaelic Studies, students, teachers and parents in Gaelic-medium education to everyday Gaelic speakers. It also aims to improve opportunities for research in linguistics and Scottish history and culture.

The dictionary has been welcomed by academics in Celtic studies from America, Australia, Germany, Poland, France, and also by the Oxford English Dictionary.