She received her Ph.D from the University of Michigan and is a former professor in linguistics and anthropology at Bryn Mawr College. Working for the Linguistic Survey of Scotland in 1963, there was little expectation at the time of finding Gaelic locally spoken but Dorian found over 200 Gaelic speakers. Her study into the decline of Gaelic in East Sutherland is considered an important and detailed study of language death.
She studied young people who could speak Gaelic but didn't speak it often ('semi-speakers') and noted their ability to quickly return to fluency with effort.
She observed the discomfort and hostility shown by some of these speakers, 'Who wanted nothing more than to be inconspicuous'.
"The Gaelic-speaking East Sutherland fisherfolk have in one sense already been proven 'wrong', in that some of the youngest members of their own kin circles have begun to berate them for choosing not to transmit the ancestral language and so allowing it to die." ( Language Death, David Crystal, p106 )