New Speakers of Irish in the Global Context : New Revival? book cover
1st Edition

New Speakers of Irish in the Global Context
New Revival?

ISBN 9781032173634
Published September 30, 2021 by Routledge
212 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

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.

Table of Contents



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




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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).