Egilea: Ben Ó Ceallaigh

Neoliberalism and language shift : lessons from the Republic of Ireland post-2008

While "economic forces" are often cited as being a key cause of language loss, there is very little research that explores this link in detail. This work, based on policy analysis and ethnographic data, addresses this deficit. It examines how neoliberalism, the dominant economic orthodoxy of recent decades, has impacted the vitality of Irish in the Republic of Ireland since 2008. Drawing on concepts well established in public policy studies, but not prominent in the subfield of language policy, the neoliberalisation of Irish-language support measures is charted, including the disproportionately severe budget cuts they received. It is argued that neoliberalism’s antipathy towards social planning and redistributive economic policies meant that supports for Irish were inevitably hit especially hard in an era of austerity.

Ethnographic data from Irish-speaking communities reinforce this point and illustrate how macro-level economic disruptions can affect language use at the micro-level. Labour market transformations, emigration and the dismantling of community institutions are documented, along with many related developments, thereby highlighting an issue of relevance to communities around the world, the fundamental tension between neoliberalism and language revitalisation efforts.




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