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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


Peter McGee. Applied linguist, University of London, UK. Has been involved in language teaching and learning for over 40 years, in Italy, Japan, Spain, France, Norway, Russia and the UK. Has conducted many teacher training workshops, especially in Spain and England and has taught for British Council overseas teaching centres. Research interests cover Forensic Linguistics, Sociolinguistics and Cross-cultural Pragmatics. Has taught EFL, ESP and EAP for many years. Was responsible for English for Architecture courses at the University of East London. Taught on English for Diplomacy programmes at the University of Westminster. Received his postgraduate qualifications in Applied Linguistics and Communication from the University of London. Was awarded the Genghis Khan Gold Medal by the government of Mongolia for educational services to the Ministry of Education. Currently researches the field of vague language and preparing two books, one on Communication Skills for Architects and the other an English Course for Wine Professionals.


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