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Language Policies and Language Ideologies: Comparisons between the Irish and Galician Contexts. Dr Bernadette O’Rourke, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh B.M.A.O’ February 2008. Irish and Galician Contexts. Linguistic Differences. Irish - Celtic English - Germanic.

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Language policies and language ideologies comparisons between the irish and galician contexts

Language Policies and Language Ideologies: Comparisons between the Irish and Galician Contexts

Dr Bernadette O’Rourke, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh


February 2008

Linguistic differences
Linguistic Differences

  • Irish - Celtic

  • English - Germanic

  • 7th Celtic Nation?

  • Galician/Castilian - Romance

Linguistic proximity and language shift
Linguistic Proximity and Language Shift

  • Dutch to English (Clyne 1988)

  • ‘dialectalization’ (Kloss 1967)

    • …the politically-motivated process which occurs when enough structural similarity exists between a dominant and a subordinate language to classify the latter variety as a substandard dialect

  • A language is a dialect with an army (Weinreich 1968)

    • Power relations

Demographic differences


1851 - 5% monolingual

1922 - 18%

2006 - 43 %

Active use

5 - 10 %


1877 - 88% monolingual

2001 - 91%

Active use

68 %

Demographic Differences

Euromosaic definition of minority language
Euromosaic Definition of Minority Language

  • The concept of minority by reference to language groups does not refer to empirical measures, but rather, to issues of power. That is, they are language groups, conceived of social groups, marked by a specific language or culture, that exist within the wider societies and states, but which lack the political, institutional and ideological structures which can guarantee the relevance of these languages for the everyday life of members of such groups (Nelde et al 1996: 1).

Who speaks the language
‘ Who ’ speaks the language

  • ‘ sociolinguistically naive ’ (Dorian 1981)

  • Profile of Galician speakers

    • Older age group

    • Rural

    • Lower socio-economic groups

Language tip
Language ‘ tip ’

  • In terms of possible routes towards language death, it would seem that a language which has been demographically highly stable for several centuries may experience a sudden ‘tip’, after which the demographic tide flows strongly in favor of some other language (Dorian 1981: 51)

Demographic tide in favour of castilian spanish
‘demographic tide’ in favour of Castilian Spanish

  • Symptoms of language decline (Joshua Fishman 1991, 2001)

    • Decline amongst younger generation

    • Intergenerational transmission of language

  • 43.9% drop in past 50 years (MSG 1994)

Socio political differences


Official language of State

Privileged - ‘state ostensibly dedicated to its protection ’ (Fishman 1991)


Co-official Autonomous Community of Galicia

Spanish official language of Spanish State

Galician ‘right’, Castilian ‘obligation’

Socio-political Differences

Language as symbol of political struggle
Language as symbol of political struggle

  • Irish context – independence ‘removed urgency’ (Paulston 1994)

  • Galician context - ‘militant’ form of ethnicity (Paulston 1994)

  • Galician Nationalist Party (Bloque Nacionalista Galego -BNG)

  • Galician language ---- nationalist ideologies (Iglesias 1998; O’Rourke 2005; 2006)

    • Increased language use

Similarities Shift

  • Socio-historical trajectories

    • Non-autochthonous centres of political, economic and cultural power

  • England (later Great Britain)

  • Castile (later Spanish State)

    • Language stigmatised

    • Similar socio-demographic profiles

Low prestige languages
Low-prestige Languages Shift

  • Languages are seldom admired to death but are frequently despised to death (Dorian 1998)

  • Language policy and planning focus

    • Raising low-prestige status

    • Changing negative language attitudes and ideologies

    • Removing deep-rooted stigmas

Language policies in ireland and galicia
Language Policies in Ireland and Galicia Shift

  • Irish - Post-independence (1922-present)

  • Galician - Post-autonomy (1981-present)

Language policies
Language Policies Shift

  • Language policy has to do with decisions (rules, regulations, guidelines) about the status, use, domains and territories of language(s) and the rights of the speakers of the languages in question (Schiffman 2000)

What does language policy look like

Overt Shift



White Papers


Language practices

Language beliefs

Laws, regulations, customary practices

What does language policy look like?

Who develops language policy
Who develops language policy? Shift

  • Government (top-down)

  • Institutions (schools, businesses, hospitals etc.)

  • Individuals (bottom-up)

Language policies and language ideologies
Language Policies and Language Ideologies Shift

  • Assumptions and beliefs about what kind of linguistic order is beneficial for a community or nation influence the foundation of language-planning goals (Rajend et al 2000)

  • Language policy reflects the ideological views or orientation of society, government, institution, individual…(Schiffman 2000)

  • [language policy reflects]…visions of language as a resource, problem, or a rights or ideologies of linguistic pluralism… (Woolard 1998)

Irish and galician
Irish and Galician Shift

  • Overt Language Policies

    • Top-down and Bottom-up Language Policies

  • Phases in Language Policy

  • Language Ideologies

Overt irish language policy
Overt Irish Language Policy Shift

  • Article 8 Irish Constitution

    …the Irish language as the national language is the first official language … the English language is recognised as a second official language

Overt galician language policy
Overt Galician Language Policy Shift

Article 3 of Spanish Constitution

  • 1. Castilian is the first official language of the State. All Spaniards have the duty to know it and the right to use it.

  • 2. The other Spanish languages are also official in their respective Autonomous Communities in accordance with their Statutes.

  • 3. The wealth of Spain’s different linguistic varieties is its cultural patrimony which will be the object of special respect and protection.

Language policy time span
Language Policy Time Span Shift

  • Irish - 1922 -present (8 decades)

  • Galician - 1981 - present (3 decades)

Phases in language policy for irish riag in 1997
Phases in Language Policy for Irish Shift(Ó Riagáin 1997)

  • 1922 – 1950s Revival

  • 1950s – 1970s Stagnation

  • 1970s –present Laissez-faire

1922 1950s revival
1922 – 1950s Revival Shift

  • ‘gaelicisation’

    • Irish key symbol construction and legitimisation of a collective national identity.

      • education system, media and public sector.

  • Implicit goal - Irish-speaking country

  • Ideology - strong intervention on part of the state

    • top-down control

    • Rewards for competence in Irish

1950s 1970s stagnation
1950s – 1970s Stagnation Shift

  • 1965 White Paper on the Restoration of the Irish Language

    • ‘bilingualism’ national aim

  • 1973 - end to compulsory passing of Irish

    • Teaching Irish as subject

    • Weakening of state policies

    • Move away from authoritarian implementation of policies

  • Ideology

    • De-emphasises traditional symbols of identity.

    • Modern element - language as a ‘right ’

  • 1970s present laissez faire
    1970s –present Laissez-faire Shift

    • Bottom-up policies

      • Gaelscoileanna movement

      • RnaG

      • TnaG – TG4

    • ...reluctance on the part of the government to clearly define policy and planning initiatives for the Irish language according (Ó Flatharta 2004)

    • ‘ Survival ’ policies (Ó Riagáin 1997)

    Recent language policy initiatives
    Recent Language Policy Initiatives Shift

    • The Official Languages Act 2003

      • First piece of legislation to provide a statutory framework for delivery of public services in Irish

      • Objective - ensure better availability and higher standards of public services through Irish

    A policy based on individual rights
    A Policy Based on Individual ‘Rights’ Shift

    • …the more language policy singles out Irish speakers as the target for language policies on the grounds of their rights as a minority group the less plausible it becomes to sustain existing policies to revive Irish (Tovey 1988: 67)

    • … the provision of state services to Irish speakers may find that such speakers do no exist in enough numbers nor are they sufficiently concentrated to meet the operational thresholds required to make the service viable (Ó Riagáin 1997)

    2006 government statement on the irish language
    2006 Government Statement on the Irish Language. Shift

    • The aim of the 20th century government policies was to reinstate Irish as the main language spoken by the people, but the Government now plan to focus firmly on the practical development of a bilingual society where as many people as possible use both Irish and English with equal ease (Taoiseach Bertie Ahern 2006)

    21 year strategy
    21 year strategy Shift

    • 13 objectives including...

      • Full implementation of the Languages Act

      • The provision of services to parents who wish to raise their children through Irish

      • The continued development of high quality Irish language programmes on TV and radio

      • Continued teaching of Irish as a subject at school

      • Further development of all-Irish secondary schools

    Language policy in galicia
    Language Policy in Galicia Shift

    • 1981- 2004 Laissez Faire

    • 2004- present Revival

    1981 2004 laissez faire
    1981- 2004 Laissez Faire Shift

    • Centre-right government

      • Lukewarm policies

      • Maintaining status quo

      • Non-interventionist

      • Equal co-existence of Castilian and Galician

    • Ideology – Harmonious bilingualism

      • Ignores socio-historical context - Galician subordinate

    • Bottom-up nationalist support

    2004 present revival
    2004- present Revival Shift

    • 2005 - change in socio-political context

      • Galician Socialists and Galician Nationalist Party (BNG)

    • Ideology – Language conflict

      • Positive discrimination

      • 2007 – Act (Decreto 124/2007) regulating use of Galician in education

      • Minimum 50% subjects in Galician – maths, history, geography, science

      • ‘Catalan model’ – Libertad Lingüística (Linguistic Freedom)

    Trends in top down language policy in ireland and galicia

    Irish Shift

    1922-1950s – momentum

    1950-1970 – stagnation

    1970-present – laissez faire

    …language policy in relation to Irish is at a critical stage (Ó Riagáin 2001)


    1980-2004 – laissez faire

    2005-present - momentum

    Trends in Top-down Language Policy in Ireland and Galicia