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When X doesn’t mark the spot: the intersection of language shift, identity and family language policy

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Abstract

This article discusses the reflexive relationship between language shift and identity in the case of Scottish Gaelic on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, demonstrating how (Fishman, Joshua A. 1991. Reversing language shift. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.) concept of X versus Y as related to language is problematic in this particular context. The article posits that in many ways, the processes by which Gaelic has been alienated from a sense of Scottish identity at the macrolevel are reproduced at the microlevel and discusses the implications of this in terms of Family Language Policy (FLP). Using a nexus analysis approach, this article focuses on a second-generation member – referred to as “Seumas” (the children’s uncle) – of three generations of a Gaelic-speaking family and discusses how, although Seumas appears to see Gaelic as part of his identity in terms of “family” and “heritage”, other identity orientations often take precedence, ostensibly contributing to his high use of English. The article discusses the possible impact that Seumas’ linguistic practices have on the third generation, as well as the double-edged sword nature of using “identity” as a tool in language revitalisation.

Appendix

  Transcription conventions used

:Elongated sound
-Cut-off
wordEmphasis
WORDIncreased amplitude
°Decreased amplitude
=Latching speech
[[ ]Overlapping speech
(0.5)Pause (seconds)
(.)Micropause (less than two-tenths of a second)
@Laughter (pulse)
/Rising pitch
\Falling pitch

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Published Online: 2019-01-17
Published in Print: 2019-01-26

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