Imaginative play, code-switching, double-voicing, Irish, family language policy
Through analysis of a video recording of two bilingual siblings playing with rubber ducks, this article explores the concept that imaginative play can serve as a potential site for language shift. The article argues that the siblings use English as a means to ‘double voice’ (Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination (C. Emerson and M. Holquist). Austin: University of Texas Press) their imaginary narrative, thus transmuting the adult world and demarcating their play from the ongoing interaction with their mother. By triangulating this microinteractional analysis with interviews with the siblings’ mother and Irish immersion pre-school leader, the paper further argues that the dominance of English in imaginative play may relate in part to the pro-Irish Family Language Policy (FLP) enacted by their mother and the robust Irish language ethos of the pre-school; in other words, the siblings’ sense of agency is heightened by using English, the language they are not ‘supposed’ to speak. The paper concludes by discussing the conundrum this explanation poses for language maintenance efforts, as it is only through initiatives such as pro-minority language FLPs and minority language immersion classrooms that children are able to acquire the minority language in the first place.