Space for all? European perspectives on minority languages and identity
  • ISSN 1878-9714
  • E-ISSN: 1878-9722
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Language plays an important role in fashioning the identity of ethnic groups. This article explores a minority language – Irish – in Northern Ireland. Given the society’s longstanding ethnic divisions, matters revolving around the Irish language are capable of generating heated debate. However, unlike some other minority languages, Irish is somewhat peculiar in that it is not used as a form of linguistic communication between speakers on a daily basis. Hence it lacks instrumental (but not symbolic) relevance in this sense and supporters of the language can be observed trying to create rather than maintain a community of speakers. This fact sets Irish apart from some other minority languages which have generated emotive political debate, for example, Afrikaans in South Africa and French in Canada. The article considers the language debate that has emerged in Northern Ireland in the light of such factors.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): division; ethnicity; ethno-linguistics; minority language; Northern Ireland
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