New Speakers of Minority Languages: A Dialogue

In many parts of Europe, traditional communities of minority language speakers are being eroded as a consequence of increased urbanization and economic modernization. While native speaker communities are dying out, at the same time, “new speakers” of these languages are emerging. To a considerable extent this trend is as a result of more supportive language policies at both national and EU levels. Such policies are in many cases leading to increased provision for these languages through their inclusion in school curricula, the media and other public domains. This is giving rise to new types of speakers on whom the future survival of these minority languages is likely to depend. To date, however, relatively little attention has been given to these speakers and their potential role in the future of these languages.

On Wednesday 28th September, over ten scholars from different parts of Europe came together at Heriot-Watt University to discuss the concept of the “new speaker” and to look at the role of these speakers in the future survival of Gaelic, Breton, BSL, Irish, Manx, Basque, Catalan, Galician, Monegasque and Yiddish.

The workshop was funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and organised by LINCS lecturer, Dr Bernie O’Rourke (expert in Irish and Galician) in collaboration with Dr Wilson McLeod (Gaelic-language expert) of Edinburgh University.

The participants on the day included experts from Scotland, Ireland, Galicia, Catalonia, the Basque Country and Poland. These included Dr Ane Ortega Etcheverry (Universidad de Deusto, Bilbao), Professor Graham Turner, (Heriot-Watt University), Dr Joan Pujolar, (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya), Professor Alan Davies (University of Edinburgh), Dr Tadhg Ó hIfearnáin (University of Limerick), Dr Fernando Ramallo (Universidade de Vigo), Dr John Walsh (National University of Ireland, Galway), Dr Michael Hornsby (University of Toruń, Poland),  Professor Rob Dunbar (University of the Highlands and Islands), Professor Alan Davies (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Alasdair MacCaluim (Gaelic Officer, Scottish Parliament).

A symposium on the topic is planned for the end of March 2012. Watch this space!

Bernie O’Rourke

Email – B.M.A.O’

Academia – Bernadette O’Rourke

Twitter – @BernORourke