‘The city is yours’ — the Pop Up Gaeltacht and new speakers of Irish

Stiofán Seoighe


This article centres on the new speaker concept, developed in critical sociolinguistics over the last number of years to challenge some of the historic understandings and ideologies which viewed language and their speakers as homogeneous, invariant and bounded entities (Bucholtz 2003; Doerr 2009; O’Rourke et al. 2015). New speakers are defined as people who make regular and active social use of a language that is not their ‘native’ language (O’Rourke et al. 2015). It is estimated that there are up to 200,000 new speakers of Irish in Ireland (Walsh et al. 2015) and, according to census figures (2016), 72% of daily speakers of Irish live outside traditional Gaeltacht areas.

New social spaces for the use of Irish have emerged in cities throughout Ireland over the last number of years. This article focuses on one such space, Pop Up Gaeltacht in Dublin. It has been recognised that new speakers of minority languages actively seek out and develop such social spaces in order to become part of a community of practice (Walsh agus Lane 2014). I argue, therefore, that it is important to develop a better understanding of new speakers attitudes towards these spaces. This article draws on data collected from new speakers of Irish during a series of semi-structured biographical interviews, a useful method to trace the language ‘itineraries’ or ‘trajectories’ (Busch 2016; Woolard 2016). Particular attention will be paid to questions of new speaker authenticity, legitimacy and identity, as they emerged often in participants’ narratives. The ‘legitimization process’ of new speakers is a continous one (Ortega et al. 2016). To that end, the potential impact of Pop Up Gaeltacht on the legitimization process of new speakers of Irish, and its function as a community of practice, will be investigated. Some of the languages ideologies and discourses circulated by Pop Up Gaeltacht will also be discussed.

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ISSN: 2009-8626