Irish language enthusiasts and native speakers an uneasy relationship

Buy Gaelic Identities: Aithne na nGael 1st by Gordon McCoy, Maolcholaim Scott Irish Language Enthusiasts and Native Speakers: an Uneasy Relationship. In his article entitled Irish Language enthusiasts and. native speakers: An uneasy relationship, Lars Kabel ( ) records one of his. era which is characterized by new types of speakers, new forms of language and Irish language enthusiasts and native speakers: An uneasy relationship. In.

However, in making traditional native speakers the central focus of scholarly attention, such scholars may, unwittingly perhaps, have ignored the very ethical principles of inclusion that they set out to uphold in the first place, that is, by assigning legitimacy to only some language users and not others.

Traditional dialectology of minority language communities has tended to be based on a documentation of a narrow selection of speech samples, drawing on those speakers perceived to be the most authentic, traditional and untainted by interference from the contact language.

For this, they frequently drew on a small pool of rural, elderly, male individuals. As Bucholtz highlights, this re-assembling of the past is yet again a residue of Romanticism where rural peasant populations, supposedly untouched by urbanity, often came to be valorised as authentic sources of cultural and linguistic knowledge. However, this logic in fact again runs counter to the ethical principles of inclusion which prompted salvage linguists to take interest in such groups in the first place.

The language and not the speakers thus become the focus and to preserve the language, its speakers are often expected albeit implicitly to remain static. Similar to other forms of heritage, the native speaker community undergoes a process of what Choay refers to as museification, where the speakers become museum pieces rather than lived experiences. While such an approach can be criticized for its somewhat essentialist leanings, it needs to be understood within the historical context within which such revitalization emerged.

At various moments in the sociopolitical history of many minority languages this was a process which relegated these languages to the status of a sub-standard dialect of the dominant contact language. Therefore, demands for linguistic purity and keeping the language intact can be seen as a defense mechanism adopted by salvage linguists and minority language activists against the possible absorption and disappearance of the language altogether.

At the same time, however, and not unsimilar to a global language such as Englishnew profiles of speakers are also emerging. In many contexts, there are now as many if not more non-native speakers. This general trend across European minority languages is to a considerable extent the result of more supportive language policies at both regional and national levels.

Such policies are in many cases leading to increased provision for these languages through their inclusion in school curricula, the media and other public domains. Manx, on the other hand, points to a case where there are in fact no native speakers left. This has led many observers to declare the Manx language dead, equating the loss of the last reputed native speaker of Manx in with the loss of the variety itself.

Similarly, in case of Catalan, nearly half of Catalan users are not nativespeakers of the language Pujolar and Puigdevall, in press. These and similar sociolinguistic realities in other minority language contexts prompt us to re-think the Fishmanian-oriented model for reversing language shift which has focused primarily on maintaining or reviving the native speaker community.

Romainefor example, encourages scholars to consider what language survival might look like without the intergenerational mother tongue transmission that has for so long been the focus of models of language revitalization. Similarly, King and Jaffe propose a conceptualization of language revitalization as bringing the language to new speakers and new contexts of use instead of a reversal of the process of language shift and a restoration of the language to previous domains.

It is in this context that emerging research on minority language communities has begun to turn more explicitly to discussions of nativeness and the native speaker. This is a category which has also become the subject of focussed study amongst others working in the field of Catalan sociolinguistics such as PujolarPujolar et al.

As such there is nothing intrinsically new about the concept, nor is it even a category of speaker which is specific to minority language contexts per se. The term neofalante neo or new speaker is widely used in Galicia to describe a similar type of speaker, that is, someone who was not brought up speaking the minority language but who adopted Galician language practices as adolescents or as young adults. Similarly, the neo-bretonnant label is used to describe Breton speakers who acquire the language outside of the home and who have incorporated the language as part of their linguistic repertoire.

As well as an analytical category, the notion is also sometimes adopted as a self-defining label by new speakers themselves. Whether or not such labels are explicitly used, issues around legitimacy, authority and authenticity have emerged as recurring themes to describe issues around nativeness and new speakerness in minority language contexts. The ideology of authenticity, as Woolardp. In order to be considered authentic, she suggests that a speech variety needs to be seen as if it were from somewhere and if social and territorial roots cannot be established, then the variety is not valued.

Therefore, who gets to be defined as an authentic speaker in minority language contexts is often tied up with anthropologically romantic notions around the ideal of the native speaker whose origins can be traced to a bounded homogenous speech community within a particular territory and set against a clear historic past.

There is thus a frequent pattern across minority language contexts of contested legitimacy, authority, authenticity and ownership between and even within new speaker and native speaker groups.

Nevertheless, such new speakers are also seen as important agents in the creation of new spaces in which the language is being used and the production of a new type of Corsicanness which steers away from the ideals of localism, tradition, nationalism and linguistic purity Jaffe in press. The emergence of new speakers of Manx provides interesting insights into the ways in which a language continues to survive in the absence of a native speaker community.

In contexts such as Manx, the absence of native speaker models puts the onus on members of the Manx revitalization movement to become the new linguistic role models. Their participatory role in the networks they construct in turn allows for their positioning as language experts and in turn for a construction of a sense of community around this. In some cases, a native speaker ideology can prompt new speakers to feel denied of the right to claim linguistic authority in the absence of biological ties to the language through its intergeneration transmission.

New speakers of Basque, for example, generally accord greater legitimacy and authenticity to native speakers Ortega et al. In the case of Galician, a similar downgrading of their own way of speaking can be detected amongst new speakers of the language.

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In Galician and other minority language contexts, new speakers often take on such an activist role and a commitment to resolving what they perceive as a situation of social and political injustice for the language, positioning themselves as types of active minorities Moscoviciin many ways resembling stances taken by environmentalists and feminist movements.

Frekko has shown that native speakers, particularly amongst an older generation, do not always have access to standard Catalan and can often claim less authority over the language than new speakers can. In a classroom context of adult learners of Catalan in Barcelona, she observed that students with greatest ability to produce standard Catalan and to recite the grammatical and orthographic rules were awarded most authority, independently of their real ability to speak or interact in Catalan.

Traditionalist activists, comprising mainly of native speakers of Occitan and therefore, users of a more dialectal form the language, oppose the newly imposed standard variety which for them is far removed from the everyday speech of their community see Costa in press. Similarly, in the case of Breton, the source of conflict stems from demands for linguistic purity.

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In this context, new speakers are often accused of not adhering to these demands through an overly frenchicized way of speaking Breton see Hornsbyin press; Timmetc.

Even through new speaker profiles far outnumber those of traditional native speakers, explicit labels for this category of speaker are noticeably absent.

We do nonetheless find other kinds of labelling which at times are used to question the authenticity of the non-native speaker. Concluding remarks While the native speaker debate has received considerable attention in the context of English and its spread as a global language, as we have shown in this paper, the case of new speakers of minority languages and their role in the process of linguistic revitalization has only recently been explicitly explored.

As such, minority languages have tended to be conceptualized as bounded entities and as the expression of homogenous national collectivities. While discussions around nativeness in the context of a majority language such as English have been concerned with the linguistic, social and political implications of its spread as a global language, in the case of minority languages, the focus has been on language loss and a concern with preventing potentially threatened languages from dying out.

In difference to the contested privileges associated with being a native speaker of a global language, in minority language contexts, roles are reversed and the protection of the native speaker community became the focus of attention for language planners, revitalization movements and sociolinguists for revival.

The emergence of new speakers of minority languages has begun to challenge the position that a native speaker community needs to exist in order for a language to survive. Similar to the more long-standing debate in applied linguistics and in particular in relation to English, problematizing nativeness and the native speaker concept in the context of language revitalization and minority language research helps understand the ways in which specific social groups and linguistic forms acquire legitimacy.

This in turn connects with the ways in which national belonging and authenticity are defined and experienced and the multiple ways that social actors construct and negotiate their sense of ownership in relation to the language and the community of speakers to which they wish to belong. That barrier is, of course, is the reward worth the effort? Irish opened up a whole new world for me Irish will always remain my second language but I have to say it has opened up a whole new world for me, and has deepened my understanding of what it means to live in this country and to be able to partake in its multiple cultures.

I recognise, of course, that I have been exceptionally lucky, and only regret that far more people did not have the same opportunities. There is no doubt that Irish is now at a crossroads, and the next 10 years will determine if she lives or dies. I know from my own periodic visits to the Gaeltachts over the last 40 years that the language is now on its last legs in its traditional heartland. On the other hand, with the growth in Gaelscoileanna, the success of TG4 and other factors, there has been a revival of interest among a section at least of the urban middle class.

But the question remains: The Gaeltacht has always been the tobar well from which the language drank, and the experts all agree that when it runs dry the game will be up for Irish.

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Abject failure to provide services through Irish How did the situation in the Gaeltacht get so bad, especially over the last 30 years? One undoubted factor has been the abject failure of the State to provide services through Irish even in the strongest Gaeltacht areas.

In effect, a regime of compulsory English was imposed on native speakers. There have also been disproportionately severe Government cutbacks in the Irish language sector. In the circumstances the suspicion arises that the political establishment itself has now decided to cut Irish adrift.

It will begin at the Garden of Remembrance at 2pm and we are promised there will be a festive atmosphere throughout with lots of music and craic. The protest will be the first real test of whether the Irish language movement can succeed in garnering a significant level of support for their cause.

While opinion polls may show a majority of people sympathetic towards the language, in practice few will extend themselves beyond this generalised good will. In fairness to the movement, it is very difficult for them to get their message across in the English language media.