Is It Possible to Revitalize a Dying Language? An Examination of Attempts to Halt the Decline of Irish


This paper evaluates the attempts to revitalize the indigenous language of Ireland. It examines how the number of native Irish speakers declined under British rule, and how this trend continued even after independence, when Irish was declared the country’s official language. Successive Irish governments have used two main strategies to reverse language shift. The first was to protect the small Irish speaking areas in the west of the country, the Gaeltacht. The second was to rely on schools elsewhere to produce new generations of fluent Irish speakers. By the 1970s it was apparent that neither policy was working. However since then, somewhat improbably, an increasing number of people have begun to use Irish, both inside and outside the Gaeltacht. This paper examines whether this revival constitutes reverse language shift. In particular, it asks to what extent Irish is now being passed on as a mother tongue to a new generation of children.

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Bradley, M. (2014) Is It Possible to Revitalize a Dying Language? An Examination of Attempts to Halt the Decline of Irish. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, 4, 537-543. doi: 10.4236/ojml.2014.44047.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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