Endangered languages: The case of Irish Gaelic

Research into why some languages die and why other languages survive is an important area of linguistic and cultural research. Languages represent a culture and when the language dies, more often than not, the culture it expresses dies with it. Various factors influence language decline and the author identifies macro-variables which influence all endangered languages and micro-variables which are particular to a specific language community. However, research also suggests ways in which endangered languages may be revived and revitalised using Crystal’s six steps. This paper analyses the situation of one endangered language in the context of the use of Gaelic in the British Isles, focusing on Irish Gaelic. Its conclusion is that in spite of its status as the official language of Ireland and an official EU language, Irish Gaelic is in fact in decline and must be considered as an endangered language.

KEYWORDS: Gaelic, language endangerment, globalisation, language revitalisation, language shift, linguistic determinism, linguistic relativism

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