1st Edition

New Speakers of Irish in the Global Context New Revival?

By Bernadette O'Rourke, John Walsh Copyright 2020
    212 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    212 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume is the first full-length publication to systematically unpack and analyze the linguistic practices and ideologies of "new speakers" specifically in an Irish language context. The book introduces the theoretical foundations of the new speaker framework as it manifests itself in the Irish setting, describes its historical precedents, and traces its evolution to today. The book then draws upon a rich set of data and research methods, including participant observation and ethnographic fieldwork to examine the new speaker phenomenon in Irish in greater detail. Areas of analysis include new speakers’ language practices and usage and the ways in which they position their linguistic identities both within their respective communities and in juxtaposition with "native" speakers. While the book’s focus is on Irish, the volume will contribute to a greater understanding of new speaker practices and ideologies in minority language contexts more generally, making this key reading for students and scholars in sociolinguistics, applied linguistics, language policy and planning, anthropology, and Irish studies.



    Figure 1 Map illustrating Language Planning Process

    Figure 2 Transcription protocol

    Chapter 1: Re-thinking the Sociolinguistics of Irish


    Disrupting old ideas, creating new tensions

    Giving a voice to new speakers

    John’s story

    Bernie’s story

    Outline of book

    Chapter 2: New speakers, new paradigms? Building a theoretical framework


    New speaker research: origins and developments

    New speakers and broader debates around language and society

    Native speaker ideologies in language revitalisation movements

    New speakers, new paradigms?

    New speakers of minority languages: questions of authenticity, authority, and legitimacy

    Rethinking new labels and frameworks


    Chapter 3: National, official and minoritised: the context and background of Irish


    Revival period and new speakers

    Phases of language policy and new speakers


    Legal and administrative status

    Irish in the education system


    Irish in Northern Ireland

    Recent policy initiatives and Irish language networks


    Chapter 4: Becoming a new speaker of Irish


    Fieldwork conducted by John






    Fieldwork conducted by Bernie







    Chapter 5: New speakers of Irish and identities


    Irish speakers and identities

    Primary Irish-speaking identity

    Irish language identity linked to standard language or dialect

    Ambiguous or mixed linguistic identity

    Primary English-speaking identity

    Intersection of linguistic and sexual identities


    Chapter 6: Ciorcail chomhrá – ‘safe spaces’ for the cúpla focal


    The ciorcal comhrá phenomenon

    Safe spaces and ‘breathing spaces’ for the language

    New speakers at Cluain Lí

    Tá cúpla focal agam – ‘I have the few words’

    The ciorcal comhrá as a ‘safe place’ to use Irish

    Expert speakers and the native speaker ideology

    Beyond the ciorcal comhrá: the Gaeltacht as an authentic space


    Chapter 7: Conclusions

    New speaker stories

    Theoretical insights from the study

    Policy implications

    New speakers and the Gaeltacht





    Bernadette O’Rourke is Professor of Sociolinguistics and Hispanic Studies at the University of Glasgow. She is author of Irish and Galician in the European Context (Palgrave 2011) and co-author (with Gabrielle Hogan-Brun) of the Palgrave Handbook of Minority Languages and Communities (2019). She was Chair of COST Action on New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe (2013-17). She is a Fellow of the Smithsonian Institute for Folklife on the Sustaining Minoritized Languages in Europe (SMiLE) project (2018-present).

    John Walsh is a Senior Lecturer in Irish in the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He is author of several publications in Irish and English about Irish language policy, Irish language media, Irish and socioeconomic development and new speakers of Irish. John was a leading member of the COST Action on New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe (2013-17) and jointly led two Working Groups (on new speakers and indigenous minority languages and on new speakers and subjectivities).