Galician and Irish in the European Context: Attitudes by B. O'Rourke

By B. O'Rourke

An exploration of the position of language attitudes and ideologies in predicting the survival customers of a minority language. It examines this function via a cross-national comparative research of Irish within the Republic of eire and Galician within the self reliant neighborhood of Galicia in north-west Spain.

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Extra info for Galician and Irish in the European Context: Attitudes Towards Weak and Strong Minority Languages (Palgrave Studies in Minority Languages and Communities)

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These developments within the upper class gave a decisive impetus to the process of language shift towards English (Ó Riagáin 1997: 4). There is also evidence that this shift was beginning to gradually filter down to the rest of society. O’Brien (1989: 153), for example, highlights that by the early seventeenth century the phenomenon of social mobility had become so entrenched that many indigenous Irish speakers regarded English as the tongue of advancement. Wall (1969) explains the situation in these terms: By 1800 Irish had ceased to be the language habitually spoken in the homes of all those who had already achieved success in the world, or who aspired to improve or even maintain their position politically, socially or economically.

Therefore, as Ó Riagáin (1997: 171) points out, by the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, proficiency in Irish was of little economic or social value and provided little incentive for remaining Irish speakers to maintain the language or for others to learn it. Many of the patterns identified in typical descriptions of the sociolinguistic history of Irish have clear parallels with the Galician context, a context in which attitudes towards the language would seem to have evolved in a similar way.

It thus follows that patterns associated with a particular language are culturally or locally rather than universally applicable. The predictive power of the ‘integrative’ or ‘solidarity’ dimension The literature on language maintenance and shift (see Fishman 1991; May 2001; Paulston 1994) highlights that support for a language as a symbol of ethnic or group identity does not necessarily prevent language shift. For some people, the language and identity link may be little more than a superficial marker of identity.

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