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Emic and essentialist perspectives on Gaelic heritage: New speakers, language policy, and cultural identity in Nova Scotia and Scotland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 February 2020

Stuart S. Dunmore
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh, Scotland
Corresponding
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Abstract

The concept of the ‘new speaker’ has gained currency in the sociolinguistics of minority languages in the past decade, referring to individuals who have acquired an additional language outside of the home and who make frequent use of it in the course of their daily lives. Policymakers and language advocates in both Scotland and Canada make frequent reference to the role that new speakers may play in the future of the Gaelic language on both sides of the Atlantic, and Gaelic language teaching of various kinds has been prioritised by policymakers as a mechanism for revitalising the language. This article examines reflexes of this policy in the two countries, juxtaposing the ongoing fragility of Gaelic communities with new speaker discourses around heritage, identity, and language learning motivations. In particular, I consider Nova Scotian new speakers’ sense of identity as ‘Gaels’, an ethnonym largely avoided or problematised by Scottish new speakers. (Ethnolinguistic identity, heritage, language revitalisation, new speakers)*

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2020

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Footnotes

*

This research was generously funded by a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship held at the University of Edinburgh from 2016 to 2019. I am grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions on a previous draft of the article, and to several friends and colleagues for their valuable insights after reading the article.

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