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Smith-Christmas, C and Smakman, D
International Journal of the Sociology of Language
Gaelic on the Isle of Skye: older speakers' identity in a language-shift situation
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This article examines age and identity in the context of language shift occurring in a community on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Via a language ability test and a language usage survey, 19 speakers were assessed; it was determined that the older (40+) and the younger speakers (<40) in this community are distinguishable on the basis of language ability, particularly in terms of synthetic forms, conditional forms, and post-nominal possession. The usage survey revealed a decline in older speakers' longitudinal use of Gaelic, and although younger speakers are making an effort to speak Gaelic and are not accommodated by older speakers switching to English, we can still conclude that, to some degree, older speakers are somewhat linguistically isolated in this community. Finally, we propose identity negotiation and the possibility of the age and identity correlation as perpetuating factors in the language shift.
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