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Case Studies
Irish
Children show off artwork created at Casadh na Gráige.
Photo courtesy of OChD

Irish is one of the six Celtic languages. Although it is Ireland’s primary official language, the number of daily speakers outside the education system is estimated at less than 80,000. This reality stems from centuries of language shift, the underlying causes of which share similarities with other minority language communities worldwide. One of the key initiatives in Irish language planning has been the designation of areas where Irish is a community language as “Gaeltacht areas.” This study is situated in Corca Dhuibhne, in western County Kerry.

About the Project

Our project will use qualitative and ethnographic methods to gain a deeper understanding of the trajectory of a community-level language planning agency in Ireland—Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne (OChD)—and how it has responded, and continues to respond, to an evolving social, political, and economic landscape in a Gaeltacht area. In doing so, the project will help us gain a deeper understanding of the role that community-level language planning initiatives play in cultural and linguistic maintenance, which in turn will allow us to effectively target key areas for further development.

The project consists of three main work components, each of which focuses on a specific area of language revitalization: 1) families, as a lens to examining intergenerational language transmission and language attitudes, 2) how OChD’s mosaic of initiatives complement each other strategically, 3) “new speakers” of the language. Cumulatively, the knowledge gained will lead to the design of a targeted language planning initiative, which is intended to benefit not only the Corca Dhuibhne community, but to be adapted as a template for endangered language communities worldwide.

Principal Researchers

Originally from Virginia, Cassie Smith-Christmas received her PhD from the University of Glasgow in 2012. Her research has centered primarily on a long-term ethnography of a Scottish Gaelic-speaking family on the Isle of Skye, undertaken during fellowships with the University of the Highlands and Islands and the Institute for the Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh. She is the author of Family Language Policy: Maintaining an Endangered Language in the Home (Palgrave, 2016).

Orlaith Ruiséal has been the coordinator for Tús Maith, Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne’s early years and home language support program, since 2005. She has wide experience in management and coordination and has worked in diverse areas such as publishing and medicine. From 2012 to 2015 she also provided research assistance for a bilingual acquisition project conducted by researchers at the University College Cork and University College Dublin.


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