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BY-NC-ND 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Mouton December 18, 2014

New speakers of Irish: shifting boundaries across time and space

Bernadette O'Rourke EMAIL logo and John Walsh


While traditional Irish-speaking communities continue to decline, the number of second-language speakers outside of the Gaeltacht has increased. Of the more than one and half million speakers of Irish just over 66,000 now live in one of the officially designated Gaeltacht areas. While “new speakers” can be seen to play an important role in the future of the language, this role is sometimes undermined by discourses which idealise the notion of the traditional Gaeltacht speaker. Such discourses can be used to deny them “authenticity” as “real” or “legitimate” speakers, sometimes leading to struggles over language ownership. Concerns about linguistic purity are often voiced in both academic and public discourse, with the more hybridized forms of Irish developed amongst “new speakers” often criticised. This article looks at the extent to which such discourses are being internalised by new speakers of Irish and whether or not they are constructing an identity as a distinct social and linguistic group based on what it means to be an Irish speaker in the twenty first century.

Published Online: 2014-12-18
Published in Print: 2015-1-1

©2015 O'Rourke, Walsh, published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.

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