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Re: THEORY: Irish, and language death

From:Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>
Date:Saturday, June 21, 2003, 1:54
Quoting Aquamarine Demon <aquamarine_demon@...>:

> >> That would seem to put it right around 1800. The reason is quite > straightforward: it is only with the extremest rarity that a government > policy is ever able substantially to change linguistic behavior; it > usually requires physically pointing a gun at someone's head before they > will willingly change. The language reforms under Atatürk in Turkey are > the usually cited example, but many more could be produced. Almost always, > short of genocide, the impetus behind language death is economic motive to > improve one's every-day well-being.<< > > I don't dispute that. The language restrictions placed on the Irish people > by the British quite possibly restricted monolingual Irish speakers > economically, though.
Well, they may well have. Personally, I think a better answer is the forced colonization of Ireland by English speaking protestants, especially but not exclusively in the North. We know they were there, and thus we don't need to grasp for abstract answers to the problem: if you want to talk to your (possibly hated) neighbor down the street, you'll need to do it in English.
> >>Equally, language revitalization programs almost always fail, because > the people meant to "reacquire" (i.e., acquire for the first time) their > ancestral tongue usually have a much easier alternative available which > will work for all their daily needs. In the case of the Irish, it was > English. Hebrew is an exception to the general trend, and it is (to > oversimply somewhat) a result of having no one other language which all > Jews in Palestine could easily pick up without going to great lengths > (though note that it is in many ways a new language, not at all like that > of King David).<< > > Again, I can't argue against this. My only point, really, was that Ireland > began its downhill journey of losing its native tongue earlier than 1800, > both because of government policies.
Began, yes. But my understanding was that the debate was about when the "tipping point" occurred -- correct me if I'm wrong. (I don't always have time to do more than scan posts.)
> I also said that the main loss of > Irish speakers came from the Potato Famine, from death or emmigration.
Given that the potato famine happened at a time when almost the entire population of Ireland spoke English, I think this hardly constitutes a primary reason for the decline of the language. The bulk of the latter phenomenon had already been done and over with decades before.
> In > the case of emmigration, their language loss most definitely came from > economic factors, as they emmigrated to English-speaking countries. (Of > course, that was assuming they could actually get a job.)
This may have had some impact, true. Irish and Scots-Irish immigration to Britain's colonial possessions overseas had been a large part of the early base of those colonies'. ========================================================================= Thomas Wier "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally, Dept. of Linguistics because our secret police don't get it right University of Chicago half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of 1010 E. 59th Street Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter. Chicago, IL 60637