Irish language, language and emotions, multilingualism, new speakers, positionality
Aims and Objectives/Purpose/Research Questions: The aim of this paper is to describe and analyse the emotional experiences and positionality of ‘new speakers’ of Irish, fluent and regular speakers who were not raised with Irish in the historical Irish-speaking heartland known as the Gaeltacht. The role of emotions in facilitating the transition to new speakerhood is considered, as is their influence on the speakers’ continued use of Irish and on their positionality in relation to other speakers.
Design/Methodology/Approach: The paper is based on semi-structured narrative interviews conducted with participants identified as active and competent new speakers of Irish. It is part of a larger European project on the topic of new speakers.
Data and Analysis: The sample size is 46 interviews from a database of 100 Irish speakers and was analysed using NVivo qualitative analysis.
Findings/Conclusions: Becoming a new speaker of Irish is a deeply emotional process, both before and after the transition, as subjects grapple with additional obstacles to acquisition and use
due to the language’s minoritised status. The emotions involved in adopting a minoritised language such as Irish appear to be qualitatively different from other languages because of the additional
obstacles involved in mastering a language with a weak sociolinguistic profile.
Originality: The paper’s originality stems from the fact that it is the first systematic study of emotions and positionality among new speakers of Irish and is distinct from existing quantitative studies of language attitudes. An additional innovation is its theoretical framework which aims to
guide understanding of emotions and positionality among new speakers of minoritised languages in particular rather than majority languages in general.
Significance/Implications: The paper is theoretically significant because existing work on language and emotions has not focused on minoritised languages. Significance attaches to the related finding that the emotional process is not the same for minoritised languages and other
more dominant languages.